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PFT’s Week Ten picks

Divisional Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Usually Florio writes the introductions to our weekly PFT picks segments. But with the thorough beating I’ve been giving him in our weekly picks, it’s time for me to take the reins.

Neither one of us had a great week picking games last week, but I went 3-for-3 on the games about which we disagreed. For Week Nine, I went a mediocre 8-5. Florio went a worse-than-mediocre 5-8. That makes me 89-44 on the season, and Florio 82-51.

The good news for Florio is that this week we disagree on a whopping six games, meaning he could close the gap all the way down to one game. Then again, the good news for me is that we disagree on a whopping six games, meaning I could widen the gap all the way up to 13 games, which would be a nearly insurmountable margin through ten weeks.

Read on to see where we agree, where we disagree, and whether Florio is ready to concede that I’m the superior NFL prognosticator.

Redskins at Vikings

MDS’s take: Thursday night’s game matches up two bad teams, but Washington is playing a little bit better recently and is motivated by the slight chance of getting back into the NFC East race. Minnesota is going nowhere but last place in the NFC North.

MDS’s pick: Redskins 24, Vikings 20.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings are teetering on giving up as Washington is inching toward making a run at a second straight division title.  At this rate, some Vikings fans may want to implode the Metrodome with the team inside it.

Florio’s pick:  Redskins 24, Vikings 20.

Seahawks at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Seahawks haven’t been playing particularly well recently, but they’re playing well enough to beat bad teams. That will continue in Atlanta, where the Falcons have totally collapsed.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 17, Falcons 10.

Florio’s take:  Seattle returns to the scene of its January playoff loss, and these two teams couldn’t be in more different situations.  But the Seahawks recently have been flirting with upsets, and beating the Seahawks in November likely will be the closest the Falcons get to another playoff win in 2013.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 20, Seahawks 17.

Bengals at Ravens

MDS’s take: The Bengals are going to struggle down the stretch because they’re missing their two best defensive players, tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall. Unfortunately, the Ravens can’t get out of their own way on offense, and with this loss we can pretty much write off the defending champs.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 20, Ravens 17.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals are a different team away from home, and the Ravens now have their backs firmly against the wall.  I’m still not ready to give up on a team that has made it to the playoffs five straight times.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 27, Bengals 20.

Lions at Bears

MDS’s take: With the NFC North currently in a three-way tie, this game is huge. I think the Lions, who beat the Bears handily in Detroit, will make it a season sweep and take a big step toward winning their first division title since Barry Sanders was a Lion.

MDS’s pick: Lions 27, Bears 24.

Florio’s take:  With Aaron Rodgers injured, the NFC North could be up for grabs.  While the Lions may be better than the Bears, the Bears have the home-field edge and the boost that comes from knocking off the Packers.  With or without Jay Cutler, the Bears get it done at home, where they’ve beaten the Lions seven of eight times.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 17, Lions 13.

Eagles at Packers

MDS’s take: If both of these teams had their starting quarterbacks, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick Aaron Rodgers’s Packers over Michael Vick’s Eagles. But the Seneca Wallace vs. Nick Foles quarterback matchup makes it a lot tougher to call. This one could go either way, but I think the Eagles’ defense has enough holes in it for Packers running back Eddie Lacy to have a big day, and the Packers to overcome the loss of Rodgers.

MDS’s pick: Packers 21, Eagles 17.

Florio’s take:  Philly is 4-1 on the road, 0-4 at home.  More importantly, they head to Lambeau to face a team that has lost its franchise quarterback for a month.  The injuries finally have caught up with the Packers, who’ll suffer the rare indignity of losing twice at home in six days.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 30, Packers 23.

Rams at Colts

MDS’s take: The Colts don’t always look great, but they usually find a way to win. The Rams don’t always look terrible, but they usually find a way to lose. Form will hold in Indianapolis.

MDS’s pick: Colts 27, Rams 17.

Florio’s take:  The family that once owned the Rams now hosts them, and the Rams limp into town with a backup quarterback and a season of failed expectations.  The Colts are rolling, and it’ll take a better team than the Rams to knock them off.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 28, Rams 17.

Raiders at Giants

MDS’s take: Both of these teams stink, but the Giants have been playing competitively recently, while the Raiders are coming off an ugly blowout loss. Throw in the Giants’ home-field advantage, and this looks like a pretty clear third consecutive win for New York.

MDS’s pick: Giants 30, Raiders 20.

Florio’s take:  The Giants are climbing in to the NFC East hunt just as the Raiders are fading out of the chase for the No. 6 seed in the AFC.  While the Raiders have shown periodic flashes of a promise, the Giants have won two in a row, and they’re gradually getting healthier.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 28, Raiders 17.

Bills at Steelers

MDS’s take: With EJ Manuel back against a bad Steelers defense, I like the Bills to go on the road and pull the upset.

MDS’s pick: Bills 24, Steelers 17.

Florio’s take:  The struggling Steelers are playing for pride.  There’s a chance that may not be enough.  If they lose this one, it really could be time to clean house.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 17, Bills 13.

Jaguars at Titans

MDS’s take: The Titans are coming off a big win and are, at 4-4, in the AFC playoff hunt. That’s especially true because they still get to play the Jaguars twice. Tennessee will have no trouble with the worst team in the league coming to town.

MDS’s pick: Titans 34, Jaguars 7.

Florio’s take:  The Titans continue to make a play for a postseason appearance.  The Jaguars continue to compete for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 34, Jaguars 9.

Panthers at 49ers

MDS’s take: Both of these teams have been playing good football, and if the playoffs started today (which they don’t) the 49ers and Panthers would be the two NFC wild card teams. This should be a tough, physical football game and should show off two of the NFL’s most talented young quarterbacks. I like the 49ers to win in an exciting game.

MDS’s pick: 49ers 30, Panthers 27.

Florio’s take:  The Panthers have beaten five teams with a combined 8-33 record.  Their next two foes are a combined 13-4.  And they’ll each have an extra week to prepare.  And the 49ers are one of the best teams in the league right now.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Panthers 13.

Texans at Cardinals

MDS’s take: I like the spark that Case Keenum has provided the Texans, but the Cardinals’ defense is a lot better than most people realize, and Keenum is in for a rough day in Arizona.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 17, Texans 13.

Florio’s take:  The Cardinals deserve more credit than they’ve gotten.  They can get plenty by delivering what would amount to a knockout punch to the Texans.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 23, Texans 20.

Broncos at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chargers are one of the many AFC teams in the hunt for the final wild card spot, and if they could pull off the upset of the Broncos they’d firmly establish themselves as playoff contenders. But it won’t happen. The Chargers’ defense just isn’t good enough to keep the Broncos in check.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 42, Chargers 27.

Florio’s take:  Last year, the Broncos used a Monday night comeback for the ages in San Diego to launch an 11-game winning streak.  This year, the up-and-down Chargers have the talent to pull the upset — and they just might.  If they can hold the Broncos under 40 points.  But they can’t.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 41, Chargers 34.

Cowboys at Saints

MDS’s take: This could be an NFC playoff preview, as the Cowboys lead the East and the Saints lead the South. Unfortunately for Dallas, it’s also going to be a preview of the beatdown the Cowboys can expect to get in the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Saints 28, Cowboys 14.

Florio’s take:  Rob Ryan gets his revenge against the team that made him a scapegoat in January.  Especially since the Cowboys can’t/won run the ball and can’t/won try to take away what the opponent does best on offense.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 31, Cowboys 21.

Dolphins at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: It’s the battle of the team whose players get bullied in the locker room against the team whose players get infected in the locker room. Even aside from the off-field issues, this is an ugly Monday night game in a season that seems to have had an inordinate number of ugly prime time games. I see the Dolphins’ defense keeping the score down enough to win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 17, Buccaneers 14.

Florio’s take:  The Dolphins already have won a game since the Jonathan Martin situation began to unfold.  Like the 2007 Patriots post-Spygate, the situation could pull the team together in an us-against-the-world approach.  But there are still four days to go until the Dolphins and Bucs play, and the off-field distraction could intensify.  It’s fitting that a team like Tampa gets a crack at Miami when it’s dealing with as big a mess as any that Greg Schiano and company have faced this year.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 20, Dolphins 14.

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Wilf family pledges additional $19.5 million for new Vikings stadium

Vikings AP

The Wilf family, owners of the Minneosta Vikings, has pledged an additional $19.5 million toward the construction of the new Vikings stadium.

According to the Associated Press, the additional funds will go toward enhancements in the plaza, food service equipment, entertainment areas in the stadium, upgrades to retractable seating and a deck that will overlook downtown Minneapolis.

The extra money brings the total contribution from the Vikings to $551 million, which is approximately 52 percent of the total cost of the project.

The team announced the extra contribution Thursday night.

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Hearing over Hardy exhibits is postponed

Next Tuesday, the dispute between the NFL and North Carolina prosecutors over documents introduced into last July’s trial in Greg Hardy’s criminal case had been scheduled to go to court.  That now won’t happen.

Via David Newton of ESPN.com, the two sides agreed to delay the effort.

“The hearing was postponed so that we could discuss an amicable resolution of our request for documents,” said Monroe Whitesides, Jr., a Charlotte lawyer hired to handle the case for the NFL.

The NFL wants to review the documents (possibly including photographs of the alleged victim’s possible injuries) before reaching a conclusion regarding Hardy’s punishment, if any, under the personal conduct policy.

Hardy spent 15 games last season on the Commissioner’s-Exempt list, receiving his full base salary while not playing.  The criminal charges against him were dismissed after the alleged victim failed to show up for a February jury trial; Hardy reportedly reached a civil settlement with her.

He signed last week with the Cowboys.  Owner Jerry Jones told PFT Live on Wednesday that the team received no indication regarding Hardy’s fate before adding him to the roster.

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City, county uniting in effort to keep Chargers

la_g_qualcomm_stadium_b1_300 Getty Images

In the Bay Area, the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda have come together in an effort to keep the Raiders in town.  In the southern end of the state, the city and county of San Diego likewise are joining forces to try to retain the Chargers.

Via Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced Thursday that the two governmental entities will work together in an effort to device a solution to the stadium situation.

“This partnership helps make it official, that the entire San Diego region is united,” Faulconer said.  “We are coming together, and there is real progress that is being made.”

But making progress and reaching the goal are two different things.  With Faulconer determined to put any proposal to a public vote (a simple majority is necessary if the project requires no public money; if taxpayer funds are involved, two thirds of the voters must approve the measure), the project necessarily will take time — perhaps more time than the Chargers currently have to make a decision on whether they’ll leave San Diego.

And the buzz at the league meetings was clear and unmistakable.  The Chargers believe San Diego has had more than enough time to fix this problem, and that any effort now is simply too little and too late.

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More countries could be hosting regular-season games

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The NFL’s international series has focused in recent years on building a presence in London.  But that’s not the only foreign country in which the league is willing to ignore that “N” is for “National.”

Via Albert Breer of NFL Media, the league is considering the staging of regular-season games in Mexico and Germany, in addition to the recent suggestion that the 2017 Pro Bowl could be played in Brazil and ongoing efforts to play in Canada and China.

“The work we’re doing now is to ask, ‘How do we accelerate the agenda in Mexico, Canada and China?'” NFL executive V.P. of international Mark Waller told Breer.  “Those would be our next stage, and we have offices in those three countries.  And then, after those, where should be our focus?  I think we’ve concluded that Brazil and Germany are the next two frontier markets, which is where the Pro Bowl idea comes from.”

Ten years ago, more than 103,000 fans showed up for a Cardinals-49ers game in Mexico City, but the league has not yet played another game there.  Security concerns often have been cited as one of the reasons for no sequel, yet.

If the league decides to play games that count while playing three games per year (and possibly more) in London, the league will need more teams to give up home games.  Apart from the fairly new rule that teams hosting a Super Bowl must give up a home game, Breer points out that teams relocating to a new market must sacrifice one home game per year while playing in a temporary venue pending the construction of their new stadium.

This could give the NFL up to two extra exportable games per year for several seasons, if two teams move to L.A. in 2016.

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Jerry Jones believes Darren McFadden can be a difference maker

Raiders running back McFadden is tackled behind the line of scrimmage by Texans linebacker Reed during NFL game in Houston Reuters

The Cowboys let running back DeMarco Murray, a third-round pick in 2011, walk away via free agency.  They replaced him with running back Darren McFadden, the fourth overall selection in 2008.  Murray led the NFL in rushing last season, with a franchise-record 1,845 yards.  McFadden, in contrast, sputtered to a mere 534 yards in 2014.

So why do the Cowboys regard McFadden as a competent replacement?

“[Y]ou’ve got a good chance to not live up to expectations,” Cowboys owner and G.M. Jerry Jones told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio regarding the lackluster career of McFadden, who has only one 1,000-yard campaign in seven seasons.  “Because when you are drafted that high, people think that you are going to be the next Jimmy Brown.  So, yes he would have liked to have had a more productive career.  But the kinds of skills that got him drafted with the fourth pick in the draft, he still has.

“You worry about injury, but we were worried about injury with Murray.  In eight seasons, four in Oklahoma and four with the Cowboys, Murray only had two injury free seasons.  And so the position is one you have to take into consideration no matter what the skill level is, they take a lot of hits, lot of punishment, and you got a good chance to have an injury issue.  And that’s why we couldn’t make that kind of commitment of dollars to that position.”

The team’s position on not investing a lot of cash in an injury-prone position would also suggest that the Cowboys won’t make a play for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  But Jones wouldn’t confirm that Peterson won’t be a Cowboy.

“I get in enough trouble in a lot of areas anyway with this mouth but I’m not going to talk about that,” Jones said.

He doesn’t need to say it.  There’s no way the Cowboys will make a major financial investment in the tailback position with Adrian Peterson or anyone, hoping instead to get the most out of underpriced talent running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

Regardless of how it works, it will be one of the great experiments of the 2015 season.

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Buccaneers LB Danny Lansanah signs ERFA tender

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Buccaneers’ second-leading tackler in 2014 has signed his contract offer from the club.

Linebacker Danny Lansanah, an exclusive-rights free agent, has officially signed his one-year tender from Tampa Bay. The transaction was listed in the NFL’s Thursday personnel notice.

The 29-year-old Lansanah comes off the best season of his career. The fourth-year pro from Connecticut notched 82 tackles (61 solo), starting 11-of-16 games. He could compete for a starting role at strong-side linebacker next season, with Orie Lemon potentially also in the mix.

Lansanah was one of the success stories of the United Football League, playing a three-year UFL stint (2010-2012) after five regular season games with the Green Bay Packers in 2008. He has been with the Buccaneers since December 2013.

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Reports: Vikings reach deal with Terence Newman, who’s likely to sign Friday

Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Vikings will reportedly soon finalize a contract with a cornerback whom head coach Mike Zimmer knows well.

According to Darren Wolfson of KSTP-TV in St. Paul, Minnesota is likely to sign Bengals corner Terence Newman on Friday.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports Newman has agreed to a deal worth $2.5 million ($750,000 guaranteed).

Newman, 36, played in Zimmer-led defenses in Dallas (2002-2006) and Cincinnati (2012-2013). He notched 72 tackles, 14 passes defensed and one interception in 2014 for the Bengals. The Cowboys’ No. 1 pick in 2003, Newman has started at least 10 games in all 12 of his NFL seasons.

Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson are the primary holdover options at cornerback in Minnesota, and Newman’s experience in Zimmer’s scheme would figure to give him a solid shot at a contributing role.

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Derrick Shelby signs restricted free agent tender with Dolphins

Derrick Shelby AP

Defensive lineman Derrick Shelby has signed his restricted free agent tender with the Miami Dolphins.

The team announced the signing on Thursday.

Miami placed a second round tender on Shelby prior to the start of free agency that is worth $2.4 million. The tender is non-guaranteed. Shelby can no longer negotiate with other teams.

Shelby has missed just one game in three seasons with the Dolphins. For his career, he’s appeared in 47 games with 68 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.

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Vikings waive Justin Anderson, Jordan McCray

New Orleans Saints v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Vikings have parted ways with two second-year pros signed to reserve-future contracts after the 2014 season, waiving linebacker Justin Anderson and offensive guard Jordan McCray on Thursday.

The roster moves were disclosed in the NFL’s Thursday personnel notice.

Anderson and McCray were originally signed to Minnesota’s practice squad in December. Anderson (6-2, 232) played colleglately at Louisiana-Lafayette, while McCray (6-3, 322) is a Central Florida product. Both entered the NFL as an undrafted free agents in 2014. Anderson also played for the Giants last year, with McCray seeing time with the Packers in 2014.

The Vikings currently have 71 players on the roster. This does not include tailback Adrian Peterson, who is on the commissioner’s exempt list.

Also on Thursday, the Vikings signed offensive tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi, who has quite the unique back story.

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Hernandez’s fiancée due to testify on Friday

Jenkins AP

Apart from Thursday’s bomb threat, the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial hasn’t generated much news in recent weeks.  The circumstantial evidence points to Hernandez as the killer (or at least present during the killing) of Odin Lloyd, but there’s still no clear motive apart from Hernandez being generally reckless, completely unpredictable, and randomly violent.

Things could get far more interesting soon, when Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, shows up to testify.  Per multiple reports, Jenkins is due to take the stand on Friday.

Jenkins has received immunity, which gives the prosecution the power to compel her to testify — or to put her behind bars for contempt of court.  The question becomes whether she goes out of her way to be helpful, or whether she has truly flipped on the father of her child.

One factor that could make Jenkins flip?  A babysitter testified earlier this month that Hernandez once hit on her.  Coincidentally (or not), Jenkins hasn’t been seen in court since March 6.

If Jenkins has indeed flipped, she could testify that she disposed of a box that contained the murder weapon that still has not been found.  Prosecutors believe that’s exactly what she did.

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Brandon Magee still committed to football despite trip to spring training

Brandon Magee Getty Images

While Brandon Magee is joining the Boston Red Sox for the next few weeks to participate in spring training, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker is still fully committed to pursuing his football career.

Magee was waived by the Buccaneers this week and once again elected to join the Red Sox in spring training. Magee did the same a year ago while he was a member of the Cleveland Browns.

Blake Baratz, Magee’s agent, says Magee is healthy and ready to sign with another NFL team as soon as possible with his commitment being to his NFL career.

“There have been rumors circulating that Brandon Magee, who was recently released by Tampa Bay, has given up football with the intention of playing professional baseball. This could not be further from the truth,” Baratz wrote in an email to PFT. “While he does attend spring training for a few weeks up until the beginning of the NFL off-season program, he is 100% fully committed to playing in the NFL.”

Magee appeared in nine games for the Buccaneers last year while primarily serving on special teams duty. Magee recorded seven tackles before landing on injured reserve in December. Magee also appeared in eight games for the Cleveland Browns in 2013, recording five tackles.

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49ers cut Jonathan Martin

San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Jonathan Martin, the offensive lineman best known for leaving the Dolphins after he was bullied by teammate Richie Incognito, has been released by the 49ers.

The 49ers announced the move today. Martin will be placed on waivers, which means all 31 other teams have the right to put in a claim for him. If he does not get claimed, he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

San Francisco gave up this year’s seventh-round draft pick to acquire Martin last year. He started nine games for the 49ers last season and had a strong supporter in former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, who also coached Martin at Stanford. Now that Harbaugh is gone, it’s no surprise that Martin is gone, too.

The Dolphins took Martin in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. He started his first 23 games in Miami before leaving the team in his second season.

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Vikings sign a gigantic Polish offensive tackle named Babatunde

polish-flagjpg-ac6047a34c8b723b AP

The Vikings signed a big man who helped the Giants win a championship.

OK, so it was the Wroclaw Giants of the Polish American Football League, but this guy is already an early favorite here at PFT.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press, the Vikings signed Babatunde Aiyegbusi, a 6-foot-9, 351-pound offensive tackle, who also played for the Dresden Monarchs of the German league.

The native of Olesnica would be just the fifth Polish-born player in the NFL if he made it, along with defensive tackle Jason Maniecki and kickers Chester Marcol, Rich Szaro and Sebastian Janikowski.

He’d also be only the second guy in league history named Babatunde, after former Browns sixth-rounder Babatunde Oshinowo, a defensive tackle from Stanford.

For that reason alone, we hope the big fella makes it.

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Rex Ryan is surprised the Bears didn’t want to hire him

rexryan AP

After Rex Ryan was fired by the Jets, and before he was hired by the Bills, he was expecting the Bears to call him and ask him to interview for their head-coaching vacancy. But that call never came.

Ryan said at the league meeting that he expected the Bears to interview him and was surprised they didn’t.

“I actually did, but they got a great coach there with John Fox,” Ryan said. “I did. I thought, It made sense to me. But apparently it never made sense to them. So that’s the way it is.”

Ryan, who worked as a ball boy for the Bears when his father Buddy was Chicago’s defensive coordinator from 1978 to 1986, said he isn’t sure why the Bears wouldn’t want him.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I must have done a bad job as a ball boy there or something.”

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Vinny Testaverde working as quarterback tutor for ECU prospect

Testaverde Getty Images

When Chris Weinke left IMG to take a job as the Rams quarterback coach, he was replaced by another old guy who once played for the Panthers.

According to Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review, East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden is under the tutelage of former Bucs, Browns, Ravens, Jets, Cowboys, Patriots and Panthers quarterback Vinny Testaverde.

Testaverde thinks he’s smoothed out the delivery of Carden, a mid- to late-round prospect.

The longtime NFL quarterback said Carden had an “awkward-looking delivery, if you will.”

But the use of a quarterback tutor isn’t the only thing that has changed about the pre-draft process when Testaverde was chosen first overall in 1987.

“When I ran my 40, two days before I had our strength coach show me how to do a 40 start,” Testaverde said. “So I worked on it for a day. Went to the combine, ran the 40, so we didn’t have all that specific training.”

Testaverde said he ran his 40 in 4.72 seconds, which is a lot faster than most of us might have thought.

But the thing he should teach Carden is longevity, after 21 seasons in the NFL.

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