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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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Peyton gets paid $105,000 to speak at Oklahoma State

Peyton AP

Alabama coach Nick Saban got Peyton Manning’s time for free.  Oklahoma State had to pay a bit more.

According to the Tulsa World, Manning received $105,000 for a 30-minute speech and a 30-minute question-and-answer session in Stillwater.  The money was paid by the OSU Speakers Board.

So what did they get in return?  Apparently, a laundry list of fairly obvious lines that appear in any of the various motivational books that can be purchased for 99 cents on the clearance shelf.

“I challenge each of you in this arena tonight to invest your time to become a game-changer.  A gamer-changer looks deeper and senses something others don’t and then acts on it.”

“You either get better or worse every day.  You don’t stay the same.”

“Enjoy the journey, not the destination.”

“This is your world.  Own it.”

Actually, this isn’t our world.  It’s Peyton’s world.  The result of us are just paying the rent.  At $105,000 per hour.

Seriously, though, we’ll never complain about a guy finding a way to get paid for his time.  We’re all worth whatever someone will pay, and OSU’s Speakers Board decided Manning is worth $105,000 per hour.  There’s not a thing wrong with Peyton collecting the cash.

But here’s the bigger issue.  At a time when the NCAA and various member institutions are fretting about how to afford the inevitable obligation to pay student-athletes, the fact that $105,000 can be scraped together by Oklahoma State for 60 minutes of cliché and rah-rah reconfirms that, when the time comes to cough up fair market value to the kids who are bringing in millions, the schools will find a way.

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Newton in a boot, still recovering from ankle surgery

Newton AP

It’s been a month since the surprise announcement that Panthers quarterback Cam Newton needs ankle surgery.  So how’s he doing four-plus weeks after having the procedure?

Darin Gantt of PFT, who covered the Panthers 14 years before joining this establishment nearly two years ago, reported during Friday night’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN that Newton remains in a boot — and that the team remains hopeful Newton will be back to 100 percent in time for training camp.

Of course, Newton may still miss all of the practice reps of the offseason program, which becomes more critical as the Panthers break in a bunch of new receivers.

The next time we hear Newton’s name inevitably will be when the Panthers exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, which will pay him $13 million for 2015.  It’s only a matter of time before the Panthers pay him a lot more than that.

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Dominik predicts a slide for Manziel

Manziel Getty Images

Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the only 2014 quarterback prospect who received a dire prognosis from former Buccaneers G.M. Mark Dominik on Friday.  Via Rotowold, Dominik also had some bad news for Johnny Manziel.

Dominik, who now works for ESPN, said on the air that Manziel “will fall a little more than people think” in the draft.

This assessment presumes that a consensus currently exists as to where Manziel will go.  It doesn’t.

As time passes, it seems less likely the Texans would use the first overall pick in the draft on Manziel.  After that, it gets fuzzy.  Could a team spring in front of Jacksonville (No. 3) and Cleveland (No. 4) to get Manziel with the No. 2 selection currently held by the Rams?  Possibly.

If he gets past No. 2 (and he likely will), the hot spots become Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland at No. 5 (very unlikely), Tampa Bay at No. 7, Minnesota at No. 8, and Tennessee at No. 11.

The Cowboys at No. 16 could be very intrigued by Manziel.  Perhaps sufficiently intrigued to trade up.

If Manziel makes it past the first half of the round, the question then becomes whether a team from round two would trade up in front of the Browns at No. 26, if the Browns don’t take a quarterback at No. 4.  After the Browns, it then becomes possible if not probable that a team springs into the first round, where a four-year contract and a one-year option would apply.

We’d be shocked if Manziel isn’t taken in the first round.  His actual placement in round one, whatever it may be, won’t be a surprise.

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Reggie Wayne: If you say I’m over the hill, I’ll prove you wrong

Reggie Wayne AP

As Colts receiver Reggie Wayne recovers from last season’s torn ACL, one thing is motivating him to work harder than ever: Knowing that people doubt he can do it.

Wayne told Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star that “naysayers” in the media are pushing him through his rehab.

“It’s you guys,” Wayne said. “You guys motivate me. You guys say that I can’t do it. I’m 35. I’m over the hill. No way I can come back the same. I wasn’t a big newspaper reader, but I’ve become one. Next time I read it maybe you’ll be saying I’ve found the fountain of youth.”

Wayne has previously said that he believes he’ll be ready to go full-speed during offseason workouts, but that Colts coach Chuck Pagano is telling him to take it easy and not to push himself too hard. Whenever Pagano is ready to let Wayne go, however, Wayne sounds ready to show that he still has a lot left in him.

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Colts sign two fullbacks from Super Regional Combine

Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The Colts have added a pair of fullbacks who took part in last week’s NFL Super Regional Combine in Detroit.

The club said Thursday it had signed Stephen Campbell and Cameron White, each of whom was not in the NFL in 2013.

Campbell (6-1, 245) played for West Virginia Wesleyan from 2009 through 2012. He participated in the NFL’s New York/New Jersey Regional Combine on February 15, then was invited to the Super Regional Combine.

White took part in the Chicago Regional Combine on March 15 before moving on to the Super Regional Combine. He is a Hillsdale (Mich.) College product (2009-2012).

Both rookie fullbacks have shown they can catch the ball; White hauled in 94 passes in his collegiate career, while Campbell recorded 65 receptions.

The Colts now have three fullbacks on the roster, with veteran Stanley Havili the club’s other blocking back.

The Colts’ willingness to explore all available outlets for talent has been one of the trademarks of G.M. Ryan Grigson’s tenure.

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Report: League installing real-time fiber optics for replay review

Eagles Cowboys Football AP

One of the key ingredients for a centralized replay function is the latest in real-time fiber optic technology.  The NHL has it.

According to John Kryk of the Toronto Sun, the NFL will soon have it, too.

Per Kryk, the league will have the ability this year in the league office to view the games as they happen, which will allow V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino to better assist the referees as they engage in the formal replay review.

With the technology in place to see things happen as they happen, it could be that the ability of Blandino to guide the referees through the review process in 2014 ultimately becomes Blandino and company actually conducting the replay reviews from New York City.

That’s the way we’d prefer it to be.  The process could be much more efficient if the referee were removed from the process and the review happened quickly at the proverbial situation room.

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Ex-Jag Richard Collier is “on cloud nine” nearly six years after being paralyzed

Jacksonville Jaguars Training Camp Getty Images

It’s a slow Friday in the football world, which gives us a bit of time to catch up on some stories that don’t have to do with the draft or the coming season.

Vito Stellino wrote one of them in the Florida Times Union about former Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier. Collier’s NFL career came to an end after just nine games when he was paralyzed after being shot 14 times by a man who has since been sentenced to life in prison.

Collier went on to have part of one leg amputated as a result of the 2008 shooting, but told Stellino that he has forgiven the shooter while forging ahead with a fulfilling life that no longer includes football. Collier speaks against gun violence, runs a foundation called The Spirit Strong, rehabs diligently and plays father to twin sons he had with his wife earlier this month. It’s all part of a life that Collier says “keeps getting better” almost six years after his football career and much more were cruelly taken away from him.

“It was a bad situation, but no one can ever take away my joy. I am still smiling, just enjoying life,” Collier said. “It was hard at first, but I got around to smelling the roses. I take every day and appreciate it. I could have died. Somebody was looking over me. I don’t take it for granted. Life is great. No matter what the situation is, I’m on cloud nine. Everything I want, I have right in front of me.”

Collier remains hopeful that medical advances will help him make even more progress and we share that hope for him and anyone else in a similar position, but remains positive that everything will work out even if they don’t. After reading Stellino’s profile, it’s hard not to share that feeling.

 

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Mark Dominik: Teddy Bridgewater’s problems go beyond Pro Day

Teddy Bridgewater AP

Former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s draft stock has appeared to decline dramatically in recent weeks, as a disappointing Pro Day has led to talk that he’s not the potential No. 1 overall pick that he was proclaimed to be during the 2013 season. But one NFL personnel man says that in reality, Bridgewater’s stock was never that high to begin with.

Mark Dominik, the former Buccaneers general manager who now serves as an analyst for ESPN, said on NFL Live that he doesn’t believe Bridgewater’s Pro Day is a problem so much as his skinny frame, as well as the fact that Bridgewater didn’t always look like an elite passer on tape.

“There were things you saw on tape when you watched him,” Dominik said. “Something that scouts internally, we talked about it in Tampa with Teddy Bridgewater last year. Is he really the premiere quarterback? I like the young man, I think he’s a quality individual, he’s got character and leadership and those things. But this is a quarterback, and you’re judged by what quarterback you draft, and I think Teddy Bridgewater might not have all the pieces you’re looking for.

Dominik indicated that if teams with Top 5 picks like the Texans, Jaguars and Browns are interested in Bridgewater, their interest is in hoping Bridgewater falls all the way out of the first round and is still available early in the second round. That’s a long fall from where most people thought Bridgewater would be drafted.

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Report: Rams to pick up fifth-year option on Robert Quinn

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v St Louis Rams Getty Images

The Rams will reportedly add a fifth year to defensive end Robert Quinn’s contract.

According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the club will pick up the 2015 option on Quinn, their 2011 first-round pick and one of the NFL’s top pass rushers, by the May 3 deadline.

Quinn, 23, notched 19 sacks in 2013 and garnered Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Professional Football Writers of America.

When the Rams pick up the 2015 option, Quinn will be due a base salary of $6.969 million, according to Albert Breer of NFL Media, who reported the 2015 salary numbers for first-rounders selected with picks Nos. 11-32 on Friday.

Quinn was picked one spot before the Dolphins took center Mike Pouncey 15th overall in 2011. Were the Dolphins to pick up Pouncey’s option, the Pro Bowl center would make $7.438 million in 2015, according to the figures reported by Breer.

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Carr believes there’s a “very good chance” he’ll go in round one

Carr Getty Images

Today’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN includes a visit from former Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr.  The younger brother of 2002 first overall pick David Carr, some think Derek could be a first-rounder, too.

Derek believes it could happen, based on everything he has been hearing.

“I would say there’s a very good chance,” Carr said in an interview to be played on Friday’s broadcast.  “Just from what coaches have told me, something I’ve heard from General Managers.  I’d say that the chances of it happening are very good.”

The chances of the full interview being shown during Friday’s show are very good, too.  The chances of Ravens defensive lineman Chris Canty joining the program as a guest analysis are even better.

The chances of you answering the poll question posted below will be 100 percent, at the moment you answer it.

The chances of you tuning in at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN are hopefully closer to 100 percent than zero.  The chances of me holding my breath or any other bodily function for it are precisely zero.

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Dolphins thinking about shaking up linebackers

Koa Misi, Joe Philbin AP

The Dolphins spent a lot of money on free agent linebackers last year, and they appear to be set to shuffle some of those guys around.

According to Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post, the Dolphins are planning to move outside linebacker Koa Misi to the middle, replacing Dannell Ellerbe.

Ellerbe would then move to the weakside, and Phillip Wheeler would play the strongside spot.

Misi signed an extension last fall, after former General Manager Jeff Ireland spent on Ellerbe and Wheeler last offseason.

Such a move would be a huge admission that last year’s moves were a mistake, but since Ireland was fired, they’re the kind that are easier to admit.

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Patriots, Browns, Steelers and Jets reportedly showing interest in Andre Williams

Boston College v Maryland Getty Images

Running backs might not be a first round staple anymore, but teams are still going to be selecting the top collegiate runners from 2013 at some point over the three day draft process.

One that should be off the board near the top of the list is Boston College’s Andre Williams. Williams was a Heisman finalist last year after running for 2,177 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns and has drawn good reviews as a pass blocker, but he will need to show he can catch the ball after going the entire 2013 season without catching a pass for B.C.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that four AFC squads are showing particular interest in Williams making that growth as a member of their roster. Wilson names the Patriots, Browns, Steelers and Jets as showing the most interest, although it’s hard to see the Jets spending an early pick on a back after signing Chris Johnson this week.

The same could be said of the Steelers, who signed LeGarrette Blount to create an opening for a back with the Patriots. The Browns signed Ben Tate, but could use Williams or another young runner as a complement to their free agent acquisition.

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Dolphins’ Brandon Gibson has no doubts he’ll be ready Week One

Brandon Gibson, Brian Hartline AP

Dolphins receiver Brandon Gibson had his season ended by a torn patellar tendon last year, the kind of knee injury that often prevents a receiver from being ready to return for the start of the following season. But Gibson has no doubts that he’ll be ready to go when the season starts.

Gibson told ESPN he’ll “definitely” be ready for Week One, and he’s already jogging six months after the injury.

“The important thing is to not overstress your patellar tendon; It’s involved in everything you do, really,” Gibson said. “It connects a lot, your knee and your quad. So I basically was on bed rest for a while, a couple months. The only thing I was doing was just rehabbing and little bit of upper-body work. You don’t want to cause too much heavy stress on your knee, but I’m slowly getting into things.”

There’s been some talk that Gibson might not be with the Dolphins when the season starts, but a report from the Miami Herald Gibson will stay in Miami, not least because he would still cost the Dolphins $2 million against the salary cap even if he’s not on the roster. Gibson was off to a good start last season, with 30 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns in seven games, and from all indications he’ll be a contributor to the receiving corps in Miami this year.

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Report: Ravens, 49ers plan joint practice before preseason game

Jim Harbaugh, , John Harbaugh AP

The Harbaugh brothers are scheduled to face one another in a rematch of Super Bowl XLVII in the exhibition season this summer and it sounds like they’ve figured out a way to spend some time together ahead of the contest without infringing on practice time.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports that the Ravens and 49ers are planning to join up for practice and a scrimmage ahead of their August 7 preseason opener. Those practices would give both teams a chance to see their players against outside competition in a controlled setting, something that several teams do to change up their practice schedule in the summer.

It would also make for a more productive trip across the country for the 49ers, who would get to give frontline players a bit more time in a scrimmage than they would normally get if they were just playing a handful of snaps in the first preseason game.

And then there’s the chance to ask “Who’s got it better than us?” to sweeten the deal all the more.

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Henry Melton settles lawsuit regarding alleged bite of bar owner

Henry Melton AP

Just before defensive tackle Henry Melton signed with the Cowboys, he was sued by a Texas bar owner for more than $1 million for allegedly biting the man in the back during an incident December of last year.

Melton, who countersued with a claim that he was attacked by employees of the bar, called it a “money grab” after signing with Dallas and it may have been a successful one. Jeff Mosier of the Dallas Morning News reports that a court filing on Thursday said both parties agreed to dismiss all filings against each other. No details of the settlement have been announced.

None are likely to be announced, so we’ll just go ahead and assume that someone’s serving as a butler.

According to Mosier, the settlement does not apply to anyone named in Melton’s counterclaim other than the owner of the bar. There are four others and a company named in addition to the bar owner in Melton’s claim and Melton still has a hearing this month related to criminal charges stemming from the incident.

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