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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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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

Montreal Alouettes v Hamilton Tiger-Cats Getty Images

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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