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PFT’s Week 17 picks

Charles Tillman, Eddie Lacy AP

After a pathetic, season-worst 6-10 showing by yours truly and a four-game sweep by MDS, I was tempted to try to guess which team he’d pick for each of the 16 games to end the regular season, and then hope for the best.

But the spirit of this game is to try to get as many games right as possible, even if my outcome from last week would suggest that the better approach for me would be to select a winner — and then to do the opposite.

This week, we disagree on three games, which means MDS will win the regular-season competition by at least nine games.

For the year, MDS has generated a record of 157-83.  I’m 145-95.

The only good news is that it all resets to 0-0 for the postseason picks competition.

Panthers at Falcons

MDS’s take: Give the Falcons credit for playing competitive football against good teams, as they did on Monday night against the 49ers. This Atlanta team hasn’t quit. But the Panthers’ defense should shut down the Falcons’ offense as the Panthers clinch the NFC South.

MDS’s pick: Panthers 20, Falcons 10.

Florio’s take:  The Panthers need a win to nail down the No. 2 seed.  An immature, undisciplined team would stumble in this spot.  If nothing else, the 2013 Panthers have proven that they are both mature and disciplined.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 27, Falcons 20.

Packers at Bears

MDS’s take: As of the time I’m making this pick I don’t know if Aaron Rodgers is playing, so this is a tough one. But I’ll go with the Bears to clinch the NFC North in a high-scoring affair.

MDS’s pick: Bears 31, Packers 27.

Florio’s take:  If Aaron Rodgers can play, the Packers have a chance to peak in January.  If they can get to January.  If Rodgers plays on Sunday, the Packers will get to January.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 34, Bears 30.

Ravens at Bengals

MDS’s take: The Ravens suffered a huge letdown last week against the Patriots, and I see the defending champions’ season ending on Sunday in Cincinnati.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 24, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take:  The Bengals need a win and some help in order to secure the No. 2 seed.  The Ravens need a win and some help to extend their streak of playoff appearances to six.  While the Bengals are unbeaten at home, the Ravens have the greater incentive and enough talent to capitalize.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 20, Bengals 17.

Jaguars at Colts

MDS’s take: The Jaguars aren’t going down without a fight, but the Colts showed last week against the Chiefs that they’re real contenders. Indianapolis will win this one and head into the playoffs with a full head of steam for a likely rematch with Kansas City.

MDS’s pick: Colts 34, Jaguars 20.

Florio’s take:  Indy is building some momentum in the hopes of advancing beyond the wild-card round.  The Jaguars have shown enough progress to create plausible hope for 2014 — if they can find a decent quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 30, Jaguars 20.

Jets at Dolphins

MDS’s take: Last week the Dolphins laid an egg, while the Jets kept fighting despite having no shot at the playoffs. This week, however, I think the Dolphins’ pass rush will get to Geno Smith and Miami will win a low-scoring game and the right to play in the first round of the playoffs, probably at Cincinnati.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 20, Jets 10.

Florio’s take:  After his first season as Jets coach, Rex Ryan gave the finger to a Miami MMA crowd.  On Sunday, in perhaps his final act as Jets coach, he can give a figurative finger to Fins fans by knocking the home team out of the playoffs.  Rex will pull out all the stops, and the Dolphins will follow two wins in games they should have lost with two losses in games they should have won.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 23, Dolphins 20.

Lions at Vikings

MDS’s take: After appearing to be in control of the NFC North for much of the season, the Lions have gone into free fall. The fall will continue in Minnesota.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 24, Lions 17.

Florio’s take:  The final game at the Metrodome coincides with what likely will be the final game of Jim Schwartz’s tenure and Lions coach.  Adrian Peterson won’t let his team exit its 31-year home with anything other than a victory to cap a lost season.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 31, Lions 23.

Bills at Patriots

MDS’s take: Buffalo isn’t going anywhere, but the Bills’ defense is a lot better than most people realize, as the Dolphins found out the hard way last week. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Bills pull off the upset, but I expect the Patriots’ defense to shut down the Bills’ offense to win a close, low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 14, Bills 10.

Florio’s take:  The Pats still have a shot at securing the No. 1 seed — and also at having to play in the wild-card round.  Either way, a home loss wouldn’t be the best way to embark on a playoff run in a wide-open AFC.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 38, Bills 20.

Buccaneers at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints are a bad road team but a good home team. That’s a bad thing to be if you’re going to the playoffs as a wild card, but in New Orleans on Sunday, the Saints will clinch a playoff berth.

MDS’s pick: Saints 27, Buccaneers 17.

Florio’s take:  The Saints could end the day as the No. 2 seed.  The Saints also could end the day out of the playoffs.  If Carolina wins earlier, forcing the Saints to leave the Superdome in the wild-card round, they may be tempted to not delay the inevitable.  Coach Sean Payton won’t let that happen.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 27, Buccaneers 13.

Redskins at Giants

MDS’s take: Both of these teams stink, but Washington is a much lower level of stink. This game will be ugly, and the Giants will win.

MDS’s pick: Giants 23, Redskins 16.

Florio’s take:  The Giants hoped to finish their season with a win at MetLife Stadium in February.  They’ll have to settle for finishing their season with a win at MetLife Stadium in late December.

Florio’s pick:  Giants 28, Redskins 17.

Browns at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers dug a deep hole for themselves with their lousy start to the season, but they’re playing good football now. They probably won’t get all the help they need to make the playoffs, but the Steelers will take care of business against the Browns.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 34, Browns 13.

Florio’s take:  If the Steelers get to the playoffs, they’ll be tough to beat.  But not as tough as they’ll be to beat in the game that can help get them to the playoffs.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 34, Browns 17.

Texans at Titans

MDS’s take: The Texans will clinch the first overall pick in the draft by losing to the Titans. And draft order is the only reason to pay any attention to this game.

MDS’s pick: Titans 20, Texans 13.

Florio’s take:  New Houston meets old Houston at a time when both Houstons have a problem too big for one meaningless game to fix.  If Mike Munchak is leaving after more than 30 years with the Oilers/Titans franchise, he’s going out with a win.

Florio’s pick:  Titans 24, Texans 17.

49ers at Cardinals

MDS’s take: The Cardinals have had an impressive season, and there’s a good team being assembled in Arizona. I think the Cardinals will make a big statement by defeating the playoff-bound 49ers, although Arizona won’t get the help it needs to make the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 20, 49ers 17.

Florio’s take:  Arizona finishes laying the foundation for a run at the top of the division in 2014.  The 49ers will be happy to get out of Arizona healthy enough to function the following weekend.

Florio’s pick:  Cardinals 20, 49ers 17.

Broncos at Raiders

MDS’s take: With home-field advantage throughout the playoffs on the line, Denver will cruise to an easy win in Oakland.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 38, Raiders 14.

Florio’s take:  With 265 yards passing on Sunday, Peyton Manning emerges from the 2013 season with the record for passing touchdowns and passing yards.  With more points than the Raiders on Sunday, the Broncos emerge from the 2013 season with the No. 1 seed, again.  What they do with it remains to be seen.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 41, Raiders 20.

Chiefs at Chargers

MDS’s take: The Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC and are therefore the only playoff team with nothing to play for. As a result, I think they’ll take it easy on Sunday and the Chargers will cruise to a win.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 30, Chiefs 20.

Florio’s take:  By the time this one starts, the Chargers will know whether a win gets them in the playoffs.  Chances are they’ll be done.  But with the Chiefs likely resting starters, the Chargers will finish on the right side of .500.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 31, Chiefs 21.

Rams at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Rams are playing competitively and this won’t be easy for the Seahawks, but Seattle will be highly motivated to win this one and clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 31, Rams 20.

Florio’s take:  Last Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals gave the Seahawks a much-needed wake-up call.  They’ll answer the bell by roughing up the Rams and locking up the No. 1 seed.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 27, Rams 10.

Eagles at Cowboys

MDS’s take: Even with Tony Romo I’d lean toward the Eagles to take this one, but with Romo’s back injury this looks to me like a game the Eagles take to clinch the NFC East.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 31, Cowboys 17.

Florio’s take:  With or without Tony Romo, the Cowboys don’t have the defense to once again hold Philly to three points — especially without Sean Lee available.  Another year, another 8-8 finish, another loss in the de facto NFC East championship game.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Cowboys 23.

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Jack Steadman, former Kansas City Chiefs GM, dies at 86

Kansas City Chiefs v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Jack Steadman, the general manager in charge for the only Super Bowl victory in Kansas City Chiefs history, has died at the age of 86.

The team announced Steadman’s passing on Sunday with a statement from team CEO Clark Hunt.

“My entire family is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jack Steadman. Jack was more than a dedicated and talented businessman, but a dear friend to my family. He was one of my father’s greatest business associates and the two of them accomplished much during the more than four decades they worked together. Jack played a key role in the development of the American Football League and was also an influential figure in the success of the Chiefs. During his tenure as General Manager, the team won four championships including Super Bowl IV.

“I had the privilege of knowing Jack my entire life, and he taught me much about both business and life. He always brought a strong, innovative perspective to the room. Jack was an outstanding man of character, who greatly valued his faith and family. While today we are saddened by his passing, his contributions to the Chiefs, the Kansas City community and my family will never be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Judy, and the entire Steadman family.”

Steadman was a member of the organization from the founding of the franchise in the AFL in 1960 as the Dallas Texans until his retirement in 2007. He also served as the team’s president, vice president and chairman during his 47 years with the organization.

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Florida State dumps DeAndre Johnson

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Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has developed plenty of quarterbacks into NFL prospects. De’Andre Johnson won’t be one of them.

Johnson has been dismissed from the school. The move was announced tonight.

Florida State previously suspended Johnson indefinitely. After Monday’s footage surfaced of Johnson punching a female at a Tallahassee bar, Johnson was kicked out.

Named Florida’s Mr. Football as a senior in Jacksonville, Johnson now will have to look for another school to give him a second chance. But second chances in sports have become far less easy to obtain for men who commit violence against women — especially when the violence is preserved via video.

If no major college gives Johnson a second chance, it becomes easier for the NFL to avoid giving him a first chance. But even if Johnson goes the Randy Moss route, transferring from Florida State to an FCS school, playing right away, and becoming a superstar, Johnson will still have a very hard time getting an NFL team to roll the dice on a guy who punched a member of the opposite sex while a camera was rolling.

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Report: Packers plan to keep Andrew Quarless

Quarless Getty Images

With Packers tight end Andrew Quarless likely headed for leave with pay, the Packers apparently don’t intend to ask him to leave without pay.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, citing two unnamed sources, reports that the Packers have no plans to release Quarless after a July 4 arrest including allegations that he fired a gun twice during a dispute with a car full of females.

Per Demovsky, the gun was legally registered to Quarless. This doesn’t change the fact that Quarless used the gun in an illegal way, allegedly or actually.

The Packers have issued the perfunctory no-comment comment about Quarless, and the NFL has said nothing about the situation.

It’s unclear when Packers G.M. Ted Thompson will say something about the situation, or whether a member of the Green Bay media will appropriately ask him what happens if Quarless fires his gun into the air in Wisconsin and kills someone?

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Rivers hopes PED suspension doesn’t hurt Gates’ reputation

Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers believes Antonio Gates when he says that his four-game suspension was the result of accidentally taking a banned substance.

Rivers says that although he can’t be positive that Gates wouldn’t cheat by taking performance-enhancing drugs, he thinks he knows Gates well enough to know that’s not the kind of person Gates is.

“Can I 100 percent say that? I don’t know that I can, but I feel like our relationship is such that if it was intentional, he would say, ‘I messed up. I’ve been doing this, I made a mistake, I just couldn’t do it anymore the way I was doing it.’ You know what I mean? I feel like he would say that to me. So that’s why I say I know, and that’s the only reason I say it. Could I be wrong? I guess. But I don’t think so. I don’t think so. The trust and relationship and the friendship that we’ve built over 12 years, he’d have no reason to tell me anything but the truth,” Rivers said on The Mighty 1090 AM.

Rivers said Gates told him before the suspension was announced on Thursday. Rivers said he and the Chargers will have a tough time with the loss of their longtime starting tight end.

“I knew it was coming, I had talked to him beforehand. It’s really tough,” Rivers said. “Any time you lose one of the top tight ends to ever play, and one of our best players, for four games, it’s certainly going to have an effect.”

Rivers said he hopes Gates’s reputation isn’t tarnished.

“As a friend you just hate it for him. I feel for him as a friend. I really do,” Rivers said. “You hate it for him because of what perception and what thoughts people are going to have that you can’t really change their minds on. And me, knowing him, the kind of guy he is, I know it was without knowing that he was doing that. He’s first class in every way. So it’s tough knowing that he’s going to have that tied to him in some way and some people will always think something about it.”

Whether or not Gates’s reputation around the NFL has taken a hit, it’s clear that Rivers remains a big believer in his longtime tight end.

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Fireworks injury could force Jason Pierre-Paul to miss start of season

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Getty Images

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul suffered serious hand injuries while setting off fireworks over Fourth of July weekend, 10 weeks before the season opener. And it’s looking like those injuries might take more than 10 weeks to heal.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, there’s concern that Pierre-Paul could miss the start of the regular season. At this point the team is still awaiting more medical information, but his availability for Week One against the Cowboys is in doubt.

If Pierre-Paul’s injury keeps him off the field, the Giants can put him on the non-football injury list and decline to pay him for any games he misses. Pierre-Paul is currently not under contract, and the Giants have placed the $14.8 million franchise tag on him. If he plays the 2015 season under the franchise tag but misses some games because of the fireworks injury, each game he misses will cost him more than $870,000 in lost salary.

Pierre-Paul led the Giants with 12.5 sacks last season and was expected to be their top pass rusher this year as well. He’ll be hard to replace, but it’s looking likely that the Giants will have to replace him, at least at the start of the season.

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Michael Irvin Jr. heading to The U

Miami Hurricanes v Florida State Seminoles Getty Images

Michael Irvin is one of the greatest players in the history of the University of Miami football program before going on to a Hall of Fame career with the Cowboys.

His son is going to try to follow in his father’s early footsteps. Michael Irvin Jr. announced on Monday that he will attend his father’s alma mater after finishing high school next year.

“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” Irvin Jr. said, via 247Sports.com. “I like the coaches. They told me I would play all over for them. In the backfield, at tight end and at receiver. [My father] was proud of me when I told him of my decision and he thinks it will work out for me just like it did for him going there.”

Irvin Sr. is the Hurricanes’ all-time leader in touchdown catches and finished his career as their all-time leader in catches and receiving yards, although Reggie Wayne and Santana Moss later topped Irvin’s numbers in those categories.

Irvin Jr. is ranked as the No. 80 wideout in his class by Rivals.com and the No. 27 tight end prospect by 247Sports.

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Russell Wilson says God spoke to him right after Super Bowl interception

Wilson Getty Images

That new Russell Wilson interview, nearly a full hour in all, contains plenty of interesting things. Along with multiple examples of Wilson hearing the voice of God, directly and audibly.

The one that surely will get the most media attention comes from Wilson’s claim that God told Wilson not to have premarital relations with his new girlfriend, Ciara. But Wilson also says God spoke to him after that fateful interception at the end of Super Bowl XLIX.

“The play happens, and they pick the ball off. And I take three steps,” Wilson said. “And on the third step God says to me, ‘I’m using you. . . . I want to see how you respond. But most importantly I want them to see how you respond.”

Plenty of athletes and non-athletes over the years have claimed to have a direct pipeline to God. For those of us who believe in God but haven’t heard Him speak in an audible voice but have felt His nudge at a more vague and visceral level, a claim that He uses actual words with others can be both confusing and a bit off-putting. For those who believe that God doesn’t care about the outcome of sporting events, a claim that He is preparing an athlete for similar situations in the future can be both confusing and off-putting.

Regardless, Wilson seems to be saying that, above the din and the chaos of the moment, he heard God say, “I want to see how you respond. But most importantly I want them to see how you respond.”

I’m not sure I want to see how some of you will respond in the comments.

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Rob Konrad rejects chance to make movie out of odyssey at sea

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Former Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad’s story seemed like it was something out of a movie, which is why a lot of people thought it would be one.

But Konrad told Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald he had turned down a movie offer and several book deals, refusing to cash in on the tale of his 27-mile swim to safety after he fell off his boat six months ago.

“There were some big name folks involved,” Konrad said. “But I made the decision I wasn’t going to go that route. It’s nothing I want to capitalize on. I don’t have the time and desire. I’m running three [financial] companies in Florida and one in Chicago.”

Konrad said he’s writing a long “memo” to detail the incident, since he wants his children and grandchildren to read about it. But he said his plan right now is to not turn it into a book.

And even though being adrift at sea for 16 hours would be enough to make most people move to Oklahoma, Konrad said last week he was taking his boat to Cape Cod for the Fourth of July weekend.

“I’ve been on a boat a bunch since then,” he said. “My wife has made me upgrade the technology and promise to always bring someone with me.”

And if he’s in the Atlantic right now, hopefully he takes the shark repellent as well.

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Russell Wilson’s preference between football and baseball? “Both”

Rangers vs. Phillies Getty Images

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson continues to do a lot of talking, and he’s talking more and more about baseball.

Following last week’s admission to Jimmy Kimmel that Wilson would consider playing football and baseball at the same time if his baseball rights were traded to the Seattle Mariners, Wilson spent the better part of an hour at The Rock Church in the San Diego area on Sunday, and he once again talked about playing baseball.

So which does he prefer? “Both,” Wilson said.

Will he ever play both?

“I have no idea,” Wilson said. “I believe if anybody could do it, I could. And I believe God’s put me — gave me the ability to do it. I’ve done it my whole life.”

Wilson also pointed out that he turned down the opportunity to make a million dollars when first drafted to play baseball, opting to play football and baseball at the same time in college. Given that things worked out fairly well with that million-dollar gamble, perhaps Wilson will be even more inclined to make a $1.5 million gamble this year, turning down whatever the Seahawks offer him before the season, realizing that if he plays for $1.5 million this year, he’ll make a lot more on the back end.

And for those of you who ask why we keep writing about Wilson’s situation, here’s the answer: Unlike the vast majority of quarterbacks in similar situations, Wilson keeps talking about it.

This time around, the discussion about baseball came fairly early in the interview. So there may be more to come from this one.

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Graphic De’Andre Johnson punch video likely means no NFL for him

Johnson Getty Images

As noted earlier today regarding the lingering lack of interest in running back Ray Rice, we all know what an assault looks like. But when we can see it, that changes everything.

For Florida State quarterback De’Andre Johnson, who in theory could have become the next NFL quarterback groomed for success by coach Jimbo Fisher (joining the likes of first-rounders JaMarcus Russell, Christian Ponder, EJ Manuel, and Jameis Winston), Johnson’s chances of ever making it to the NFL have decreased dramatically now that visual evidence has surfaced of the violent blow he delivered to the head of a woman at a bar in Tallahassee last month.

The Tallahassee Democrat has obtained surveillance video showing Johnson punching the female (fast forward to roughly 1:50 to see the full exchange), who apparently was trying to buy a drink and past whom Johnson was trying to push.

Local authorities had come under fire for releasing the victim’s name but redacting Johnson’s name from the police report that was made available to the public.

“[W]e had to release the victim’s name because she did not fall into an exemption, and we’re not allowed to just take their names out,” Tallahassee Police Department spokesman David Northway told the Democrat on Friday. “And we had to — we had — to redact the suspect’s name in the case because it’s an ongoing investigation.”

Regardless of what Florida State does with Johnson, whatever he accomplishes on a football field at FSU or elsewhere, or however the prosecution is resolved, the NFL likely will have to shun Johnson, simply because anyone can see what we already knew he did.

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Bengals DC Paul Guenther impressed by Steelers offense

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The AFC North has generally been a strong defensive division over the years, but 2015 saw things go the other way.

None of the four teams ranked higher than 18th in total defense and the Steelers won the division thanks to their potent offense putting up enough points to overcome a lagging defense. Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther will be tasked with trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again this season and it’s a task that he believes will be difficult.

One of the lead reasons why is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who Guenther thinks became even more effective last season. Roethlisberger was sacked less frequently in 2014 than in any other year of his career, leaving him able to take full advantage of the weapons at his disposal.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for him,” Guenther said, via ESPN.com. “He’s taken a lot of shots and keeps getting up … He was getting hit a lot in the past while trying to throw some stuff downfield. The ball’s coming out a little faster, particularly on third downs. That’s probably part of it. He’s not running as much and he has enough pocket presence where he keeps a play alive. You’re talking about tight ends and wide receivers and running backs and an improved offensive line, that’s a pretty good combination. They’ve gotten better up front and run the ball effectively, which helps them. The ability for them to run the ball, mix it up and keep teams honest probably got him more looks.”

The Steelers beat the Bengals twice last season, including a Week 17 win that clinched the division for Pittsburgh and left the Bengals as a Wild Card visitor to Indianapolis. The Steelers gained 889 yards in those games, 667 of them through the air, and Guenther will need to come up with a better answer this time around to keep Cincinnati ahead of their rivals.

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Three Colts linemen pose naked to show they’re not fat slobs

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Colts offensive lineman Todd Herremans is listed at 321 pounds. Anthony Castonzo is listed at 311. And Jack Mewhort is listed at 308. But unlike most 300-pounders, they have athletic bodies that they’re happy to show off.

The three linemen appear together, naked, in the ESPN Magazine Body Issue, saying they jumped at the chance because they want the world to see that offensive linemen are athletes, not just fat guys.

“I think the view of offensive linemen from the public is that we are all just fat slobs,” Herremans said. “Which is what it used to be, kind of. But now the game has evolved into more fit, athletic offensive linemen. So I would say that Anthony is probably the leanest out of all of us, and I’m probably the chubbiest. Jack is somewhere in the middle.”

Mewhort says his body moves much more fluidly than you’d expect for a guy his size.

“I’m pretty good at yoga, actually,” he said. “I’ve been getting into it recently. Anthony got me into it. I did a back bend the other day. I had some assistance from the instructor, but I still thought it was pretty cool.”

It’s pretty cool that these three big guys are willing to show off their physiques. They may not have washboard abs, but they have bodies to be proud of.

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Teddy Bridgewater: We have high expectations, but a long way to go

Teddy Bridgewater, Cordarrelle Patterson AP

Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner was among the people impressed by the way that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater wound down his rookie season in Minnesota.

Turner said Bridgewater was “much more decisive” in his final six starts last season and complimented the rookie for making gains while playing behind a shifting offensive line and without running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson’s return from suspension, guard Brandon Fusco’s return from injury, the presence of a healthy Kyle Rudolph at tight end and the arrival of rookie T.J. Clemmings join the acquisition of wide receiver Mike Wallace as reasons for optimism that Bridgewater will continue on an upward trajectory this season.

Bridgewater said in early June that he was excited about the team’s offseason, but cautioned that it was too soon to talk about them as a contender. The final practices of the offseason didn’t do anything to make him change his mind about avoiding overly rosy projections well before the season gets underway.

“I have high expectations for myself, and this team has high expectations also,” Bridgewater said, via USA Today. “Right now, we’re not as good as what we think. We know that the ceiling is very high and the expectation level is very high — not only for the players, but from a coaching staff also. We know what’s being asked of us, but we have a long way to go.”

It’s not the kind of pom-pom waving we often see when the regular season is still somewhere over the horizon, but that’s not a bad thing for a Vikings team that has posted losing records four of the last five years. The Vikings have to prove they’re good before they can talk about being good, even though the need to toot their own horns won’t be too great if their on-field work lives up to expectations.

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Albert Haynesworth: Washington cost him his “passion for football”

Albert Haynesworth AP

Albert Haynesworth was happy to take the money. But in hindsight, he wouldn’t have taken it from Dan Snyder.

The former defensive tackle, who was known as differently motivated during his playing career, wrote a first-person letter to his younger self for The Players Tribune in which he admits regrets over taking the $100 million contract Washington offered in 2009, saying: “You will lose your passion for football in Washington, and it will be impossible to get back.”

“If nothing else, listen to me on this, Albert: Do not leave the Tennessee Titans,” he wrote (such that players write for themselves there). “Your defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is a mastermind. No matter how much I tell you this, you’ll probably never realize it until your career is over, but it’s true. You’re like a system quarterback. You thrive in a very specific scheme.”

Haynesworth also said the Buccaneers offered him a $135 million deal, but called the contract a “huge burden,” saying: “Take less and stay in Tennessee where you belong.”

Haynesworth suggests that he was dismayed when then-coach Mike Shanahan asked him to clog up the middle of the field rather than rush the passer as he had done with the Titans.

“You’re going to look at this famous NFL head coach in total disbelief and say, “You want to pay me $100 million to grab the center?” the letter read. “And he’s going to say, with a straight face, “Albert, if you have more than one sack this season, I’m going to be pissed.”

“The last thing you’ll say before walking out of the office is, “Can’t you just pay someone $300,000 a year to do that?”

The piece also mentions the fact that much of that money was gone, blaming an unscrupulous financial advisor. But it also portrays a player who now realizes the grass isn’t always greener, years after he took all the green.

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Giants yank long-term offer Pierre-Paul wasn’t inclined to accept

JPP Getty Images

With Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul still hospitalized two days after a fireworks accident, the Giants have commenced the process of protecting the franchise from its current franchise player.

Via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Giants have removed the pending offer on a long-term deal for Pierre-Paul.

And so the $60 million deal is gone; whether a five-year or four-year package, Pierre-Paul wasn’t going to accept it, not with $14.8 million for 2015 and $17.76 million for 2016 as a starting point. That’s $32.56 million over two years on the franchise tag, and quarterback money or $25.5 million for 2017. Which equates to nearly $60 million in only three years.

The question now becomes whether the Giants will make another run at signing Pierre-Paul to a contract that takes the uncertainty regarding his health into account, or whether he’ll sign the franchise tender and play for $14.8 million this year and, if they tag him again, 20 percent more than that in 2016.

The possibility that the Giants could place Pierre-Paul on NFI and not pay him a single penny for the 2015 season could prompt Pierre-Paul to stay away until he gets a clean bill of health, missing regular-season games not as a leverage play against the Giants but to ensure that, when team doctors examine his fingers, they’ll give him a thumb’s up.

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