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Scott Tolzien will start for Packers in Week 12

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Aaron Rodgers won’t be back at quarterback for the Packers when they face the Vikings at Lambeau Field next Sunday.

Coach Mike McCarthy announced at his Monday press conference that Scott Tolzien will make his second straight start. Sunday’s game will mark three weeks since Rodgers injured his collarbone in a loss to the Bears, just short of the 4-6 week timetable that was given when Rodgers got hurt.

Tolzien was 24-of-34 for 339 yards against the Giants in his first NFL start, but three of those incompletions found their way into the hands of the Giants. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul returned one of them for a touchdown that stopped the Packers short just after they’d closed within one score in the second half. The Packers couldn’t run the ball at all against the Giants, something that will have to change in order for the Pack to come up with a better result as long as Tolzien is under center.

The Packers play again on Thanksgiving, which will be their next chance to get their starting quarterback back into the lineup.

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Tom Brady’s selling more jerseys in Florida than Florida teams

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Tom Brady already owned the Dolphins.

So throwing the Buccaneers and Jaguars in the mix only seems reasonable.

According to Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald, the Patriots quarterback has the highest-selling jersey in the state of Florida, which has three NFL teams not the Patriots.

The numbers from NFLShop.com say that Brady’s the top-seller in 16 other states as well, so it isn’t just the fans nearest the Dolphins ordering them.

Brady is 20-9 all-time against the Dolphins, so at least they’ve beaten him occasionally. He’s 7-0 against the Jaguars (including playoffs), and 3-0 against the Buccaneers.

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Justin Pugh: Giants are “ready to win tomorrow”

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The Giants returned to the playoffs last season after making major changes to their defense during the offseason and reaping the benefits of those moves during the regular season.

They didn’t go on the same kind of spending spree this offseason, but they did make a couple of tweaks to an offense that fell short of reaching the desired results last year. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Rhett Ellison are both new to the unit and guard Justin Pugh cited them when asked if the Giants are set to win tomorrow or if it will take longer than that.

“We’re ready to win tomorrow,” Pugh said on NFL Network, via the Giants’ website. “I think that you look at the NFC, we’ve brought some guys in, bringing in Brandon Marshall, a guy who’s my size, we brought in Rhett Ellison, a tight end. His numbers aren’t going to jump off the board, but he comes in and blocks. If you look at our personnel last year, we were, 95 percent of the time, three wide receiver sets [with] one tight end, one running back. Now we can switch up personnel. We can get in multiple formations. I think our offense is going to be better, and our defense returned everybody besides Johnathan Hankins. So I think we’re going to be a pretty good team to play.”

A more versatile scheme should be a good thing for the Giants, but questions remain about how well Pugh and his fellow offensive linemen will fare after the Giants left the group alone this offseason. Pugh said left tackle Ereck Flowers is “light years” ahead of where he was last season and similar growth for the entire unit would provide even more reason to believe in the Giants’ chances in 2017.

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Rob Gronkowski gets in his workout at “random high school” in Texas

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It is not often that Rob Gronkowski goes unnoticed, but he managed to sneak into a Dallas-Fort Worth high school for his workout Tuesday. He documented his workout with two friends.

“We snuck onto some random high school, baby … Because we gotta get that work in … No days off, baby … Let’s go,” the Patriots tight end said in a video.

He thanked the school, Southlake Carroll, “for a great workout” as he exited the field through a gate.

Southlake, an affluent Fort Worth suburb, might take issue with “random high school.” It has created a football powerhouse at its only high school, annually competing for a state championship. Quarterbacks Chase Daniel, Greg McElroy and Kenny Hill played there.

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Chip Kelly: Titans wanted Marcus Mariota, not interested in trade

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Chip Kelly disputes reports from 2015 that the Eagles offered the Titans a package of picks and players to trade up and select Marcus Mariota. Kelly, who coached Mariota at Oregon, said the Titans made it clear all along that they were holding on to the No. 2 choice.

That question didn’t come up very often,” Kelly told Adam Schefter’s Know Them From Adam podcast, via Matt Lombardo of NJ Advance Media. “With Tennessee, they weren’t moving off the pick. Rightly so. They were looking for the same thing we were, to get themselves a really top-quality quarterback. It really wasn’t like…. We didn’t really get into a conversation of what we can offer or what we can’t offer, because they made it known that they really weren’t looking to trade the pick. 

“That’s all speculation that’s out there, you hear stories that ‘we offered this; we offered that.’ We didn’t offer anything because they weren’t taking any offers for it.”

The Titans ended up selecting Mariota, who has shown promise as a potential franchise quarterback. The Eagles traded Nick Foles to the Rams for Sam Bradford in March 2015, which didn’t work out for either Bradford or Kelly.

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Report: Clinton Portis was ready to kill a man who lost his money

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Former NFL running back Clinton Portis wouldn’t have been the first player to have lost most of his career earnings.

But he came perilously close to making things much worse.

According to a story by Brian Burnsed of Sports Illustrated, Portis was considering killing one of his former managers who was responsible for losing millions of dollars.

Portis was sitting outside a building with a gun, and had to be talked out of shooting the man by a friend.

“It wasn’t no beat up,” Portis told the magazine. “It was kill.”

He added that if he hadn’t been calmed down before seeing the man: “We’d probably be doing this interview from prison.”

Portis made $43.1 million during his career with Denver and Washington, but most of it was either spent or lost through bad investments and alleged withdrawals from his accounts without his consent.

He’s filed multiple lawsuits against former financial advisers, and was caught up in a Ponzi scheme. He filed for bankruptcy in 2015, and acknoweldged that he spent too lavishly during his heyday.

“Portis was on a different level,” former teammate Santana Moss said. “He didn’t think about tomorrow.”

At least someone intervened before he made matters worse, or his tomorrows might have been spent behind bars. Portis is now living in an apartment in Virginia, where he does some television work for his old team.

“Most people would have offed themselves if they had to deal with what I had to deal with,” Portis said. “Life is so much clearer after coming out of that storm.”

The story features a number of disturbing details, and should serve as a cautionary tale to other players.

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Bruce Smith wants to mentor Myles Garrett

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After watching film with Myles Garrett on draft day, Bruce Smith’s observation, according to Garrett, was that the former Texas A&M star is “slow off the ball.”

Smith said it was intended as constructive criticism. He wants to help Garrett live up to expectations.

“There were occasions in which he was just a little slow off the ball, and that fraction of a second of being slow off the ball is the difference of whether that offensive lineman is set in a certain position to be able to take you on,” Smith told Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “If you get off the ball simultaneously to that ball being snapped, sometimes you’re going to beat that offensive lineman out of his stance, and then on other occasions, it’s going to be the difference of whether you get a sack, forced fumble or just a hit on the quarterback or just a hurry.

“Then there are some other areas where the play went away from him, and those are situations that he potentially could have had an impact on the play. But I think sometimes we as players take for granted that someone else is going to make the play, and we can’t do that.”

The Hall of Fame defensive end wants to mentor the No. 1 overall pick. Smith likes what he has seen from Garrett both on and off the field, believing that Garrett can become something special.

“He’s got all of the physical talents, the God-given talents,” Smith said. “He just needs to learn how to be a pro now. There’s a difference between being a college player and being a pro in the NFL. That’s the process that he has to undergo. We all had to go through it.

“He’s going to be successful. It’s just the level of success that he reaches could be contingent upon the decisions that are made for him at an early stage of his career. The advice, the coaching, the tutelage that he gets right now could determine whether he’s an impact player in his first or second year or his fourth or fifth year.”

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Michael Vick throws eight touchdowns in inaugural flag football game

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Michael Vick is still capable of putting up big numbers.

The former Falcons quarterback led his team of retirees to a 64-41 win over the team led by wide receiver Terrell Owens in last night’s debut of the American Flag Football League in San Jose.

Via JuliaKate Culpepper of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Vick threw for 547 yards and eight touchdowns. And that may or may not really mean anything within the context of flag football (one game, small sample size, and we haven’t seen opposing quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s stat line), but it’s a big number so it’s the kind of thing that catches your eye.

Amazingly, numbers like that weren’t enough to win him MVP honors for the game. That would be former Bears, Bills and Buccaneers tight end Evan Rodriguez, who had nine catches for 210 yards and four touchdowns.

“Tonight’s game was a massive success and displayed how exhilarating and competitive flag football can be when played by the best athletes in the world,” AFFL founder Jeff Lewis said. “Every player was very dedicated to this brand of football out on the Avaya Stadium field. They had that competitive spirit it takes to be a pro athlete – Michael and Evan’s performances were outstanding.”

Last night’s game was a test-drive for the launch of the league next year, and in the middle of the summer when nothing else is happening, if they can put an entertaining product on the field, people will probably watch it.

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Will Zachary Orr pass a physical?

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So why did recently-retired linebacker Zachary Orr unretire? As one league source put it on Wednesday morning, “He found a doctor who told him what he wanted to hear.”

The real question is whether Orr will find a doctor with one of the NFL’s various teams that will do the same thing. If the Ravens’ doctors thought Orr could have played without an unacceptable degree of risk due to a rare neck condition that could result in a serious, life-changing injury, he wouldn’t have been “forced” to retire in January.

Whether Orr will be able to continue his career will hinge on whether a doctor is willing to sign off on Orr’s ability to perform in a safe and adequate manner, without risk of a serious neck injury. Although some doctors will say whatever the person paying them wants the doctor to say, most won’t be inclined to put their name on a document that could become the gateway to a debilitating injury.

Surely, the Ravens would have liked to keep Orr around. He went from undrafted free agent to the team’s leading tackler in 2016. In Baltimore, doctors were able to set that aside and opt for a recommendation aimed at ensuring the player’s long-term health and safety. If any other doctor with any other team comes to a different conclusion, it will be interesting to hear the reasoning for it, because that doctor will essentially be saying the Ravens doctors got it wrong.

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Could other RFAs follow Zachary Orr’s lead?

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Linebacker Zachary Orr’s decision to try to play football in 2017 was an unexpected one based on his January announcement that he was halting his playing career because of a neck injury and the timing of that announcement has left him as an unrestricted free agent at this point in the offseason.

That probably would not have been the case had Orr waited a little longer to share his initial plan for the future. Just before Orr announced his “retirement,” there was a report that he and the Ravens were discussing a long-term contract and, failing that, Orr was set to be a restricted free agent who likely would have received a tender offer from Baltimore.

As a source with knowledge of the situation told PFT, the team did not do that because Orr said he was retiring. The source also asked “what would stop [another] player from doing that to escape” restricted free agency?

Players could try it, but the Ravens or another team could shut the loophole by simply tendering them at the lowest level regardless of their stated desire to stop playing. The player might not sign the tender, but if they aren’t going to play for another team because their original club would still hold onto their rights if they file retirement paperwork from the league.

The Ravens didn’t do that in this case, which may mean Orr winds up playing somewhere else in 2017 and should mean that teams approach any similar situations differently in the future.

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Report: Zachary Orr to visit Lions

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Linebacker Zachary Orr reversed course on Wednesday morning when he announced that he wants to play in 2017 after saying earlier this year that he planned to retire from the NFL due to a neck injury.

Orr was set to be a restricted free agent with the Ravens, but the team didn’t tender him a contract as a result of his initial plan to walk away from the game. That means he’s an unrestricted free agent now and his announcement has led to a quick response around the league.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reports that Orr will visit with the Lions on Thursday and that he has heard from eight teams since his appearance on NFL Network Wednesday morning. Medical checks will likely be a big part of his visit with Detroit and anyone else who brings Orr in for a meeting in the coming days and weeks.

The Lions drafted Jarrad Davis in the first round in April and he’s slated to start in the middle of the Detroit defense. Tahir Whitehead is expected to start on the weak side, but was limited this spring because of a knee injury. Paul Worrilow, Antwione Williams and 2017 fourth-rounder Jalen Reeves-Maybin are also in the mix at linebacker for Detroit.

 

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St. Lucie Mets already cashing in on Tebow effect

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The St. Lucie Mets already are witnessing the Tebowmania, even if he still hasn’t played a game for the Single-A affiliate of the New York National League team.

Tuesday’s debut, which was rained out, had 500 advance tickets sales, via David Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Typically, the St. Lucie Mets have no advance ticket sales.

“This is to see if he can walk on water,” said one fan who showed up for the game that wasn’t played due to the weather.

And so the ice cream stand that was opened for the first time this season will have to wait a day, as will the tables of No. 15 T-shirts at $28 a pop. Likewise, Tebow will have to wait until a Wednesday doubleheader for the next step in what started last year as a One-Man Fantasy Baseball Camp.

I’ve got a long way to go,” Tebow said, via Hyde. “But I’ve come a ways, too.”

Not as far as his recent elevation would suggest, however. As Hyde notes, Tebow’s .220 batting average with the low-A Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies was higher than only 10 other players in the entire league. Tebow also struck out 69 times in 64 games, against low-A pitching.

The real question is whether he can do enough to pass the eyeball test at this level to go the next one. Eventually, chances are he’ll land against a level of competition that puts him not only on the wrong side of the Mendoza line, but also dangerously close to the Blutarski line.

Wisely, Tebow isn’t obsessing over that possibility.

“It’s a scary place to get caught up in, the ‘Where’s this going to lead?,’ ‘What’s going to happen to my future?’, ‘What is the next day?'” Tebow said Tuesday, per Hyde. “I get today. Tomorrow’s not promised. I’m going to make the most of today.”

The mindset is admirable. The circumstances remain daunting. For as much as he has overcome to get to this point, it’s about to get a whole lot harder. As long as it remains profitable for the minor league teams that will see an influx of cash thanks to Tebow’s presence, that may not matter.

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Drew Brees wants to “save the game of football” with flag football

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A bunch of retired guys played flag football in San Jose last night, in hopes of creating a product someone will watch on television.

But Saints quarterback Drew Brees is aiming even higher with his attempt to popularize the safer version of his sport.

According to Mike Triplett of ESPN.com, Brees is launching a co-ed youth flag football enterprise called the Football ‘N’ America League with an eye toward the future of the game.

“I think that this has the opportunity to really save the game of football, honestly,” Brees said. “I think we’re filling a void that is much-needed.

“We felt like, you know what, we have the opportunity here to really create what will be the premier youth co-ed flag football league in America.”

Brees said he came upon the idea while coaching a kids team in San Diego the last few offseasons. The league will begin in New Orleans and around Louisiana this fall, before expanding to other states next year.

Brees played flag football as a kid in Texas and didn’t play tackle until his freshman year in high school And he’s turned out OK. But now that he has four kids, he’s even more sure of the need for such programs.

“I would not let my kids play tackle football right now, because I don’t think that’s necessary, and I don’t think it’s as fun at this level, and I just think there’s too much risk associated with putting pads on right now at this age,” Brees said. “So how can I still allow them to enjoy the game and learn about the game and develop a passion for the game and enjoy everything it has to offer? Well, flag football.

“I think that flag football is the perfect alternative to the parents who have concerns about concussions and the injuries around football. Because you’re still able to enjoy the game of football, but in a very fun, safe and yet competitive environment. And you can still learn all the same life lessons and values from a game of flag as you would tackle.”

Between concussion concerns and the cost of equipment and insurance, it’s possible that the move toward flag football becomes a trend anyway. But while Brees is getting in this is as a business venture, he also raises some valid points, and his support can only help the movement.

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Report: LeGarrette Blount gets 50K if he weighs 240-245 pounds at start of camp

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After running back LeGarrette Blount signed with the Eagles in May, he said that he was the “weight I need to be at” when asked about his physical condition.

He reportedly has some financial incentive to get to the weight the Eagles want him at for the coming season. Field Yates of ESPN reports that Blount will make $50,000 if he weighs between 240-245 pounds when he reports to training camp next month.

Blount was listed at 250 pounds while with the Patriots last season, which doesn’t leave him with a tremendous amount of weight to drop if he was around that number this offseason. A minimal drop in weight makes sense as Blount’s greatest value to the Eagles comes as a battering ram and the team wouldn’t want to make him less effective in that role by losing too much of his bulk.

Players start reporting to Eagles camp on July 24 with the first full-team practice set for July 27.

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Dak Prescott joins special edition of PFT Live on Wednesday

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The curious decision of FOX Sports to completely dump online written content carries at least a grain of non-stupidity: People are consuming video content via the Internet more frequently and zealously than ever.

The challenge for those generating the video content will be to provide something that’s relevant and interesting, and not simply a couple of dudes fake-yelling at each other about the latest low-hanging fruit of the day. Here’s something that should be relevant and interesting: Later today, we’ll be posting an interview with Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott’s appearance will occur in conjunction with the campaign dubbed “Ready. Raise. Rise.” It’s a Bristol-Myers Squibb initiative aimed at raising awareness of Immuno-Oncology, a rapidly-evolving area of research that seeks to offer renewed hope for people with cancer. Dak lost his mother to colon cancer, and chances are that everyone reading this has had a close family member or friend who has battled cancer in some form or fashion.

Stay tuned to PFT throughout the day for the interview to be posted. That’s not a deliberate device for getting you to keep coming back all day long looking for it. But if you do, I won’t complain.

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Todd Downing “pleasantly surprised” by Marshawn Lynch

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The true measure of how much running back Marshawn Lynch has left in the tank after sitting out the 2016 season will come once the Raiders take the field in September, but it sounds like what the team has seen so far is a bit more than they may have been expecting.

During an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio with Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan, Raiders offensive coordinator Todd Downing was asked about the impression the running back made during his offseason work with the team.

“This is being as genuine as I can be,” Downing said. “He has pleasantly surprised me at every turn. It’s been really neat to be around him. … So everything that we’ve seen on him thus far — and, of course, we’ve only been in pajamas out there practicing — but what we’ve seen has been fantastic. And I’m as excited as the rest of Raider Nation to see what he’s got.”

Lynch will have to continue to impress once he’s out of pajamas and into full pads, but his past success and the quality of the Raiders’ offensive line provide reason to believe Downing won’t have to seriously downgrade his read on Lynch down the line.

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