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PFT’s Week Nine picks

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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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Robert Woods reiterates his plan to be Rams’ No. 1 receiver

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The new-look Rams need a game-changing receiver. Free-agent arrival Robert Woods recently reiterated his belief that he can be that guy.

After saying in March, “I feel like I definitely am a No. 1,” Woods explained this week that “I always come in attacked the season trying to be the No. 1 receiver,” via Gary Klein of the L.A. Times.

The former Bills (and USC) receiver became the Rams’ top priority in free agency after Pierre Garςon picked the 49ers. Now, Woods has a chance to make a major impact in the stadium where he played college football, given the departures of Kenny Britt and Brian Quick.

Woods will likely be one of the top options on a depth chart that includes Tavon Austin, Pharoh CooperMike ThomasCooper Kupp, and Josh Reynolds.

Woods has been clicking with quarterback Jared Goff, working out together on their own and developing chemistry during OTAs.

In four seasons with the Bills, Woods caught a total of 203 passes for 2,451 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best performance came in 2014, with 65 catches for 699 yards and five scores.

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Tom Brady files for a host of TB12 trademarks

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It’s not clear when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will retire from football. When he does, it is clear what he’ll be doing: Making a ton of money by selling products and services that carry the TB12 brand.

Via Mark Shanahan of the Boston Globe, Brady has filed for a wide variety of trademark protections for potential products carrying his TB12 brand, from foam exercise rollers, to athletic bags, shirts, sleepwear, and meal kits. Applications also have been filed for TB12 resistance bands, medicine balls, kettle bells, and jump ropes.

The clearest indication of Brady’s plan to take his methods for staying fit and healthy to the public comes from his effort to obtain trademark protection for TB12 educational services, described (per the Globe) as “seminars for certification of instructors, personal and athletic trainers, consultants, therapists, and medical professionals in the fields of diagnostic medical testing, physical therapy, physical rehabilitation, sports medicine, health, nutrition, cognitive training and development, and concussion awareness.”

Brady has said he plans to play at least until he’s 45. It’s possible that the widespread rollout of products bearing the TB12 trademark will happen before he has stopped playing.

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Jim Caldwell isn’t interested in Kaepernick, but believes in him

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The Lions don’t have a veteran backup to quarterback Matthew Stafford. They’re nevertheless not interested in adding Colin Kaepernick.

Via Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press, coach Jim Caldwell recently said that Kaepernick won’t be pursued by the team.

“[W]e have the guys that we want at this point in time,” Caldwell said.

Who they have other than Stafford is 2016 sixth-rounder Jake Rudock and 2017 sixth-rounder Brad Kaaya. That doesn’t mean Stafford believes Kaepernick to be unable to play well.

“I don’t think there’s any question he’s capable,” Caldwell said. “I was on the other side of the field [with the Ravens]. Actually, I was in the press box, but nevertheless when he was playing for the 49ers in the Super Bowl. That was only a couple years ago. So, I don’t think that his skill level has diminished to the point where he would be completely ineffective in this league, so we’ll see.”

If Stafford gets injured, Caldwell will be facing more pointed questions about why the team doesn’t have a quarterback with playing experience, whether it’s Kaepernick or someone else. For now, the “someone else” list is down to the likes of Robert Griffin III, Christian Ponder, Shaun Hill, Luke McCown, and Dan Orlovsky.

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Former Packers president dies at 98

Judge Robert J. Parins, a former Packers president credited with transforming the franchise after 20 years of struggles, has died. He was 98.

Upon his retirement, Judge Parins pushed for the hiring of Bob Harlan to take over the team. It marked a dramatic shift in the 66-year practice of entrusting the publicly-owned company to a local civic leader. Under Harlan, the franchise became a perennial contender, winning a pair of Super Bowls and appearing in another.

That was one of the great things he did,” Jack Koeppler, a deceased member of the Packers’ board of directors, said in 2006, via Cliff Christl of Packers.com. “It’s too big a business.”

Judge Parins also was responsible for removing full authority over the football operations from the head coach, instituting the current strong-G.M. arrangement.

Judge Parins is survived by his wife of 76 years, five children, 11 grandchildren, and 27 great-grandchildren. We extend our condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Judge Parins, and to the Packers organization.

[Photo credit: Packers.com]

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Jalen Robinette faces “non-criminal disciplinary proceeding” at Air Force Academy

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The mystery regarding NFL hopeful Jalen Robinette’s omission from graduation at Air Force Academy is a bit closer to being resolved. But not by much.

Via the Denver Post, Robinette’s football agency has disclosed that Robinette “is currently awaiting a determination on a non-criminal disciplinary proceeding.”

“Due to privacy-related concerns, we are unable to comment on the circumstances,” the Air Force Academy said in a statement issued to the Post. “We can say that the circumstances do not involve any allegations of criminal wrongdoing and are unrelated to cadet Robinette’s professional football pursuits.”

Since the NFL draft, the unselected Robinette participated in rookie minicamps with the Bills and Patriots. He did not receive a job offer from either team.

The resolution to his status with the Air Force potentially could allow him to pursue professional football unfettered by the new requirement that at least two years of active duty be served. If Robinette is deemed ineligible to graduate or be commissioned as an officer in the Air Force, he could be given the option to reimburse the government for his education (valued at more than $400,000) and exit the military or enlist as a non-officer.

Ultimately, the final decision on Robinette’s graduation and commissioning will be made by the Air Force. After that, more will be known about whether Robinette will be permitted to play pro football.

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Spike Lee is 0-for-1 as NFL reporter

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Spike Lee, Rob Lowe. Rob, Spike. (It’s not quite as poetic as the time David Letterman introduced Oprah and Uma.)

Five years after Rob Lowe incorrectly “reported” that Peyton Manning would retire, Spike Lee has “incorrectly” reported that the Seahawks have signed Colin Kaepernick.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Seahawks have not signed Kaepernick.

Lee has deleted the Instagram post that makes the claim. The tweet is still up.

Just as Lowe eventually was right (four years later), Lee could eventually be right, too. Kaepernick recently visited the Seahawks, and the Seahawks are the only team that has brought him to town in more than two months since he became a free agent.

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Vikings are looking for a kick returner

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The Vikings have had great kickoff returners for most of the last decade, with first-round receiver yielding to first-round receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Now, for the first time since Harvin arrived, it’s unclear who will be returning kickoffs for the Vikings.

“We’ve been fortunate to have some very talented returners who have played for us here in Minnesota,” special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer recently told the team’s official website. “I think when you have a good returner, that makes everyone else around them better. They listen more attentively during the meetings, they study harder.”

The Vikings currently may have a good kickoff returner. They just don’t know who it is.

“At the end of the day, there’s been a lot of talented guys that have been here and they’re fun to coach, but we’re going to find someone that’s a pretty special kickoff returner,” Priefer said.

The candidates include fifth-round receiver Rodney Adams and seventh-round receiver Stacy Coley, along with veteran punt returner Marcus Sherels (pictured).

“Maybe it’s by committee,” Priefer said. “We have several candidates and I’m excited about that. We drafted two guys who could do it. We’ve got guys on the roster that want to do it.”

Every team has guys on the roster that want to do it. The question is whether they can catch the ball, make a good decision as to whether to bring it out of the end zone (where applicable), gain enough yardage to give the offense the boost it needs, and not cough the thing up.

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Michael Vick plans to sign a one-day contract, retire as a Falcon

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It’s been a decade since Michael Vick went from a Falcons superstar to a convicted felon, and after his release from prison he’s been an Eagle, a Jet and a Steeler. But he’ll be remembered for his greatness in Atlanta, and that’s where he wants his career to come to an official end.

Vick told CBS Radio in Atlanta that he has talked with the Falcons about signing a one-day contract and officially retiring with the team that chose him first overall in the 2001 NFL draft.

Hopefully soon,” said Vick.

Vick hasn’t actually officially retired yet, but he said he has now turned his attention to working with young people. He regularly makes appearances at schools and youth organizations to urge children not to make the kinds of decisions that he made, which landed him in prison.

“I think I got my fill,” said Vick. “Working with the kids allows me to decompress.”

Although Vick’s exit from Atlanta was ugly, 10 years later a one-day return to Atlanta would be a day that many Falcons fans would celebrate.

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William Gay is still at corner for the Steelers

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32-year-old cornerback William Gay could be moved to safety or, possibly, released by the Steelers. As noted by Chris Bradford of the Beaver County Times, neither has happened — yet.

Gay continues to be the slot corner for the Steelers, with Artie Burns on the outside. That could change in time, based on the development of Senquez Golson and/or rookie Cameron Sutton.

Gay participated in 80.7 percent of the snaps in 2016 for a team that won the division and nearly got to the Super Bowl. He spent five years with the Steelers (winning Super Bowl XLIII) and one with the Cardinals before returning to Pittsburgh in 2013.

Last year, Gay went from starter to slot corner. He’s due to earn $2 million this year and $1.75 million in 2018.

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Saturday one-liners

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Cowboys RB Alfred Morris is still driving the 1991 Mazda that he bought for $2. (Take that, Vanny Woodhead.)

Is Cris Carter a mentor or an enabler for Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr.?

Eagles DE Brandon Graham is ready to mentor rookie Derek Barnett.

WR Terrelle Pryor Sr. is fitting in nicely in Washington.

The Bears are still searching for their next Devin Hester.

Lions offensive players are getting more comfortable playing Cooterball.

Former Packers TE Mitchell Henry, 24, is battling leukemia.

The Vikings’ top two draft picks remain unsigned due in part to a disagreement over contract language.

The 2017 rookie class in Atlanta has graduated from Falcons University.

The father of Panthers rookie FB Alex Armah hoped Carolina would draft his son, and they did.

The Saints’ cornerbacks are “ready to roll.” (Which is better than being ready to be rolled, again.)

Here are the top 10 photos to come from the first week of Buccaneers OTAs.

Cardinals WR Jaron Brown wants to reward the team for its faith in him.

Commissioner Roger Goodell will speak at a Rams event on June 15; tickets are $550 or $5,000 for a table of 10.

The late Cortez Kennedy had his best season after switching his Seahawks number from 96 to 99 in honor of Jerome Brown.

49ers LB Navorro Bowman is back at full strength and ready to compete in the team’s new defense.

Bills S Joe Powell’s quest to make the roster was aided by a good decision in Tuesday’s OTA practice.

Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill and WR DeVante Parker are developing great chemistry.

Patriots LB Jonathan Freeny continues to work his way back from a season largely lost to injury.

New Jets OT Kelvin Beachum isn’t healthy enough to participate in OTAs.

Steelers rookie LB T.J. Watt has been taking first-team reps at ROLB, but James Harrison continues to own that spot.

Browns QB DeShone Kizer will spend time between OTAs and training camp working with Tom House, at the suggestion of coach Hue Jackson.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants the offensive line to “prove a lot of people wrong.”

The Bengals are breaking in some new linebackers.

Texans DE J.J. Watt approves of the promotion of Mike Vrabel to defensive coordinator.

Former Colts DT Cory Redding allegedly was swindled out of $4.5 million.

Titans WR Rishard Matthews has changed his mind about Colin Kaepernick.

Jaguars WR Allen Hurns hopes to rebound from a season plagued by drops and injuries.

Jon Gruden claims he had no influence over former colleague and current Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s decision to trade up and draft QB Patrick Mahomes.

Raiders WR Amari Cooper is keenly aware of the major dip in production in the second half of each of his first two NFL seasons.

Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy says that rookie receivers Carlos Henderson and Isaiah McKenzie are “swimming” in their effort to pick up the offense. (Which is always better than “sinking.”)

Chris McCain could be the answer for the Chargers at the LEO position in Gus Bradley’s defense.

 

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Cowboys plan “significant” role for Ryan Switzer

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The Cowboys drafted a slot receiver when they already have a slot receiver. But rookie Ryan Switzer won’t simply be the backup to Cole Beasley.

Via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys plan to put both players on the field at the same time.

“He’s a classic slot receiver,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said, via Machota. “He has a similar game [to Beasley], but he has his own things. We would really like those two guys to be able to complement each other and run real similar route trees. Certainly a huge bonus with him is his ability to be a returner in our special teams.”

With Beasley taking care of a sore hamstring, Switzer has been getting first-team reps in the slot.

“His role is significant,” Lineman said. “You can see right now he’s getting reps that we wouldn’t have . . . if he wasn’t here. He complements Beasley and also gives us some big-time needed depth at that position.”

Switzer also has big-time skill. Earlier this week, he made a one-handed catch at the sideline and got both feet in before stepping out.

It makes sense to have two slot receivers, beyond depth concerns. There are two slots, and the notion of having Beasley on the inside of one wideout and Switzer on the inside of the other creates fascinating possibilities for the offense, regardless of whether Ezekiel Elliott is lined up in the backfield or Jason Witten is playing tight end.

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Lions add Matt Asiata to running back depth chart

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A month after passing on running backs in the draft, the Lions have decided to add one in free agency.

Former Vikings running back Matt Asiata has agreed to terms with the Lions, who worked him out early this month.

“Anybody knows who has seen him work, he’s a good special-teamer,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said of Asiata. “He’s tough. He’s a very good pass protector and he carries the ball. He runs behind his pads. He’s always been a very, very effective player in this league.”

Asiata is, along with John Kuhn, one of only two running backs in the NFL who has averaged less than four yards a carry in each of the last five seasons. So it’s safe to say the Lions won’t be counting on Asiata to break many long runs. But as a short yardage back and special teams contributor he may be able to help the Lions. He joins a depth chart in Detroit that also includes Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington.

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OBJ drops a hint as to his mindset, otherwise remains silent

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Let me begin by saying this: Odell Beckham Jr. has every right to not show up for voluntary workouts. The problem at this point isn’t his absence but his failure to provide any explanation for it.

Often, players stay away in order to exert leverage, with the goal of getting a new contract. Also, and as PFT has recently pointed out, if all players were to band together and boycott voluntary workouts, they’d quickly get a major concession from the league in order to make those mandatory-as-a-practical matter practices truly mandatory. The problem as it relates to Beckham’s decision to treat voluntary-in-name-only workouts as optional is that he has provided no information, directly or via leaks from his representatives to the media, as to the reason(s) for his absence.

Regardless of whether no player must be present, Beckham’s teammates are. As they do things they’d probably prefer not to do but feel like they should do in order to properly prepare for the coming season, it would be useful to at least know why one of their highest-profile teammates believes he doesn’t need to join them. (If any of them had access to Beckham’s reasoning and wanted to knock down the criticism of Beckham, those teammates would be the ones sharing with the public the reason(s) for Beckham’s absence.)

Instead, Beckham has built a mystery, opting to work out with people like Johnny Manziel and Cris Carter in the very same week that OTAs began. The obvious reaction to the timing is why wait until the very week when OTAs began to work out with Manziel and Carter?

Likewise, and as noted here on Friday, Beckham’s decision to engage in workouts and drills away from the team puts his 2017 salary and his fifth-year guaranteed-only-for-an-injury-happening-at-work option a risk. As a result, more than $10 million is riding on Beckham not suffering, for example, a Teddy Bridgewater-style catastrophic knee injury while not on Giants property.

And yet the silence from Beckham as to the reason(s) for his absence continues. Most recently, Beckham has added a twist of defiance and hinted at his mindset, retweeting via his Twitter page messages attacking those who have criticized Beckham for not showing up.

Consider these tweets from Roland Martin that were repeated by Beckham: (1) “If the workouts are VOLUNTARY, then he doesn’t have to show up“; (2) “I’m sick of folks acting like star athletes must always do what a coach asks“; and (3) “When training camp is mandatory, then show up.”

At a time when the Giants have made it clear that they expect Beckham to mature, it’s fair to ask whether Beckham is handling his business in a mature way. Yes, he has every right to stay away. But his stubborn silence has created a vacuum for hot takes, assorted speculation, and ultimately another distraction.

If Beckham were to simply announce his plans and, if he doesn’t plan to show up until the workouts become mandatory, some tangible reason other than “it’s voluntary,” the cottage industry arising from trying to figure out where he is and what he’s doing and why he’s not with the team and whether he’s going to join his teammates will grow. As will the questions for his coach and teammates who are left to explain that which Beckham, for whatever reason, won’t.

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Gronk is “full-go” at OTAs

AP

With so much time spent this week focusing on players not participating in OTAs, one of the best players in the NFL quietly made a major impact in his return to offseason workouts.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, fresh from signing a new deal that gives him the chance to make up to $5.5 million in extra cash for 2017 with no quo for the quid and less than six months removed from back surgery, was “full-go” during a Thursday workout in the rain, via Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.

“He looks like Gronk,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said, via Guregian.

Coach Bill Belichick was more circumspect (shocker). “I mean, we’ll see how it goes,” Belichick told reporters regarding Gronkowski. “We’ve only practiced a couple days. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Gronkowski also took no drills off, participating in everything the team did. So he’s currently healthy. The real question is whether he can stay healthy.

Gronk has up to $5.5 million riding on it, along with a desire to have a direct hand in achieving what would be the third large ring he places on it.

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Cris Carter explains OBJ’s poor performance in playoffs

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As it turns out, Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter is serving as something more than a mentor for Odell Beckham Jr. Carter also is acting as a mouthpiece, of sorts.

In his comments to Gary Myers of the New York Daily News regarding Carter’s new role, Carter provides an explanation for Beckham’s subpar-by-far performance in a playoff loss to the Packers. Many believe that Beckham was trying too hard to silence critics who questioned his decision to take a day-off trip to Miami for a boat party as the game approached. Carter says that’s not the case.

“He realized he was too hyped for the game and put too much pressure on himself after he dropped the first pass,” Carter said. “That created anxiety. He didn’t play well. He thought he was going to have a great game against Green Bay and destroy them. He tried to do too much after the first drop and that’s when the anxiety came. . . . What about all the [Giants] who didn’t go to Miami and played like horse manure?”

So, to summarize, Beckham has opted to hang out and/or work out with Carter, Johnny Manziel, and Iggy Azalea in lieu of being with his teammates for the first three days of OTAs, Beckham has provided no explanation for his absence, and Beckham’s new mentor has thrown various teammates under the bus for playing “like horse manure” in the postseason.

Will anyone be surprised if the next step is a leak from a source close to Beckham that the player would like to be traded to a new team?

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