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PFT’s Week One picks

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It’s a new year; everyone is 0-0.  That includes MDS and yours truly.  Which is good since he whipped my butt in 2013.

But this could be my year to do the whipping in the 256-game PFT Picks showdown.  We disagree on four of the first 16 games, so there’s a chance I’ll establish an early lead.

There’s probably an even better chance I’ll land in a pothole.

For all the picks, keep doing what you’ve been doing for the last four paragraphs.

Packers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Seahawks have been so dominant at home that the NFL tries not to schedule prime time games in Seattle because the Seahawks jump out to such big leads that viewers turn off the games early and go to bed. I think the Packers’ offense is good enough to prevent that from happening and keep Green Bay in the game, but Seattle will win it.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 27, Packers 20.

Florio’s take:  After the Super Bowl champion won every Thursday night opener since the format was adopted, the last two have lost.  The trend ends at CenturyLink Field.  Getcha Richter scale read; the Seahawks may be even better this year.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 27, Packers 20.

Saints at Falcons

MDS’s take: The Saints are my pick to win the NFC South, and they’ll take a big step toward that title by starting the season with a divisional road win.

MDS’s pick: Saints 31, Falcons 20.

Florio’s take:  Losing the first game of the season doesn’t create a major problem unless the loss comes at home to a division rival.  The Falcons need to hold serve if they hope to rebound from a disastrous 2013.  But the Saints may be even better than last year.

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, Falcons 24.

Vikings at Rams

MDS’s take: Shaun Hill is going to surprise a lot of people and turn in a solid season in place of Sam Bradford this year. I’m not picking another Kurt Warner/Trent Green situation, but I am picking the Rams to be better than anyone thinks, and to get it started with a win over a rebuilding Vikings team.

MDS’s pick: Rams 24, Vikings 20.

Florio’s take:  The Vikings finally will have balance on offense.  The Rams suddenly won’t.  Sometimes, it’s that simple.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 16, Rams 10.

Browns at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers are preparing to see both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel on Sunday. I think Pittsburgh’s defense will do just fine against both of them.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 17, Browns 10.

Florio’s take:  Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Bernie Kosar, Brian Sipe, Otto Graham.  It won’t matter on Week One in the year the Steelers are honoring the late Chuck Noll.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 20, Browns 7.

Jaguars at Eagles

MDS’s take: The Jaguars have taken a bigger step forward this offseason than most people realize, and they won’t be pushovers anymore. But Philadelphia will be a tough place to play this year, and the Eagles will take this one.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 28, Jaguars 23.

Florio’s take:  The Eagles ended the 2013 season with a disappointing loss at home.  They’ll start 2014 with one of their easier home dates, especially since the Jaguars have the wrong guy at quarterback.

Florio’s pick:  Eagles 27, Jaguars 20.

Raiders at Jets

MDS’s take: The Raiders made the right call by starting rookie Derek Carr at quarterback, and the Jets’ cornerback situation is bad enough that Carr should hit on some big plays in his first NFL game. However, Rex Ryan’s defensive schemes will pressure Carr into at least three turnovers, and that will be the difference.

MDS’s pick: Jets 20, Raiders 17.

Florio’s take:  The Raiders haven’t won a game on the East Coast since December 2009.  Coming to town a few days early likely won’t change that.  Especially since the Raiders are breaking in a rookie quarterback and are featuring a bunch of veterans who were available this offseason for a reason.

Florio’s pick:  Jets 17, Raiders 10.

Bengals at Ravens

MDS’s take: All the offseason talk has been about Andy Dalton, but I expect the Bengals to have one of the NFL’s best defenses this season, and that’s why they’ll be the best team in the division, starting Sunday in Baltimore.

MDS’s pick: Bengals 17, Ravens 14.

Florio’s take:  Cincinnati is breaking in a pair of new offensive coordinators.  Baltimore is breaking in a new offense.  Steve Smith may break someone’s jaw.  Advantage home team.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 20, Bengals 17.

Bills at Bears

MDS’s take: In Marc Trestman’s second year as head coach, the Bears will have one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses. The Bills just won’t be able to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Bears 31, Bills 13.

Florio’s takeEJ Manuel won’t be wearing a “C” on his jersey.  But he will be wearing a Jared Allen.

Florio’s pick:  Bears 28, Bills 13.

Washington at Texans

MDS’s take: J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney will be chasing Robert Griffin III all over the field, and the Texans will get off to a 1-0 start after losing their last 14 games in 2013.

MDS’s pick: Texans 20, Washington 10.

Florio’s take:  A couple of new coaches of teams that combined for five wins last year square off.  Somehow, one of these two squads will emerge with a “W”.  While Washngton could have the better season, Houston will have the better day.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 17, Washington 10.

Titans at Chiefs

MDS’s take: I think the Chiefs will take a step backward this season after their surprising playoff berth last year, but starting at home against the Titans should be one of the easiest games on their schedule.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 21, Titans 13.

Florio’s take:  While the Chiefs likely will take a step back in 2014, it won’t begin against a team that has all the sizzle of a bowl of unflavored gelatin.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 27, Titans 17.

Patriots at Dolphins

MDS’s take: We’ve heard a lot about how the Dolphins have changed their offense to run at a faster pace, but I just don’t think Miami has the personnel to match up with New England, which remains the best team in the AFC East.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 24, Dolphins 10.

Florio’s take:  With a much better defense and a still-potent offense, the Patriots launch the 10-year anniversary of their last Super Bowl-winning season with a performance that could put them back there, again.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 34, Dolphins 24.

Panthers at Buccaneers

MDS’s take: Carolina got worse this offseason and Tampa Bay got better. The Lovie Smith era will start with a win that provides Tampa with some optimism, which was sorely lacking during the Greg Schiano era.

MDS’s pick: Buccaneers 23, Panthers 20.

Florio’s take:  Of all the divisions in the NFL, the NFC South has featured the most bottom-to-top turmoil.  It starts early this year, with last year’s basement dweller topping last year’s champion in a showdown between Panthers coach Ron Rivera and the guy who fired him in Chicago.

Florio’s pick:  Buccaneers 21, Panthers 17

49ers at Cowboys

MDS’s take: I think the Cowboys are going to be better than most people expect this year, with DeMarco Murray running behind a good offensive line and giving them a balanced attack on offense. And I think the 49ers are going to be worse than most people expect this year, with the absence of NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith at the start of the season hurting their defense. So I’m picking Dallas.

MDS’s pick: Cowboys 28, 49ers 24.

Florio’s take:  It’s been a long time since these were the best two teams in the NFC.  The Cowboys could take a major step back from their perpetual 8-8 record, and the 49ers may be unable to get close to another NFC title game.  In fact, there’s a chance that the Cowboys could win this one.  I thought about making that pick.  And then I remembered how bad the defense is.

Florio’s pick:  49ers 24, Cowboys 20.

Colts at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Broncos’ offense won’t be quite as good this year as it was last year, but it will still be plenty good. And I see big holes on the Colts’ defense. Indianapolis won’t be able to keep up.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 30, Colts 20.

Florio’s take:  Last year, former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning returned to Indy and lost.  This year, the Colts travel to Denver and Manning gets a measure of revenge.  Along with a lot of yards and touchdowns.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 34, Colts 21.

Giants at Lions

MDS’s take: There are major concerns about the Lions’ secondary, and Eli Manning may be able to take advantage of Detroit’s cornerback situation. But Matthew Stafford has so many weapons that he’ll put up even bigger numbers than Manning, and the Lions will win a high-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Lions 35, Giants 31.

Florio’s take:  New York’s new offense is a work in progress.  But it’s not making much progress, and it isn’t really working.  The Lions have the talent to score a lot more points than whatever the Giants can muster against a Detroit defense that still has plenty of question marks.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 30, Giants 20.

Chargers at Cardinals

MDS’s take: Carson Palmer is going to have a better season than most people expect, and it starts in the late Monday night game against a Chargers defense that is going to have a rough year.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 33, Chargers 27.

Florio’s take:  Arizona has become a trendy pick for those willing to forget that Karlos Dansby, Darryl Washington, and Darnell Dockett are gone for the year.  The Chargers flew under radar for most of 2013.  They won’t in 2014.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 27, Cardinals 23.

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Cowboys quarterbacks coach: It’s “fun to speculate” about Prescott injury opening door for Romo return

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What if Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffers a serious injury early in the 2017 season? Would Tony Romo return?

It’s a topic that most fans don’t want anyone to entertain, for fear of jinxing the second-year signal-caller. Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson nevertheless opted recently to go there.

It’s fun to speculate about that, if Dak were to go down in Week Two, would Tony come back?” Wilson recently said, via Scout.com. “I don’t know the answer to that. I just don’t know. Do I think he’s capable of coming back and playing? Most definitely. Does he want to or what his commitment is to the network? I don’t know that, so it’s fun to think about, and it’s fun water-cooler topics to talk about [even without] information to make a definitive answer on that.”

Cowboys fans likely wouldn’t say it’s “fun” to think about what would happen if Prescott were to blow a tire in Week Two, regardless of whether Romo would or wouldn’t return. If Prescott were to go down, the Cowboys surely would try to lure Romo back, with owner Jerry Jones doing his damnedest to get CBS to ensure that Romo’s spot as the No. 1 analyst would remain safe and secure in 2018.

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Morris Claiborne aims high

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Cornerback Morris Claiborne entered the league five years ago as the sixth overall pick in the draft. His time in Dallas was largely a disappointment, largely due to the fact that he was unable to play far too often due to injury.

Now a Jet, Claiborne believes he can be successful. Highly successful. Extraordinarily successful.

I feel like I can be the No. 1 corner in this league if I’m healthy . . . when I’m healthy,’’ Claiborne recently told Mark Cannizzarro of the New York Post. “When I’m out there playing and I’m healthy and I’m on my game, I don’t feel like there is anybody better than me.’’

The problem is that he hasn’t been healthy, missing 33 of 80 regular-season games — one more than two full seasons of the five he has been in the league.

“When I was young, I felt like I had everything in front of me,’’ Claiborne said. “I felt like nothing can stop me. I was going to go do whatever it takes to succeed and be a Pro Bowl player that first year with the Cowboys. But, God had other plans for me, and I ended up taking a different route than most guys do.

“I don’t care where my career has been, I will never quit, I will never stop.’’

He knows that he needs to not stop playing in order to get what he wants.

“[T]hat’s the No. 1 goal,” Claiborne said. “Everything else comes after that. . . . Because when you’re on the field you can make those plays. But when you’re not, you have zero chance.”

Whether Claiborne can make plays for th eJets remains to be seen, as does whether he can stay on the field. It’s easy for a body to feel good in May. Once the regular-season rolls around, and the bumps and bruises pile up before existing ones can heal, it becomes a problem.

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Kirk Cousins on Terrelle Pryor: He’s a joy to work with

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When discussing Terrelle Pryor’s transition from quarterback to wide receiver, the focus has often been on how much catching up Pryor has had to do compared to players who have been wideouts for their entire career.

Pryor’s 77 catches for 1,007 yards for the Browns last season is evidence that he has done pretty well on that front. That work helped him land a free agent deal in Washington and Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins recently pointed out how another aspect of Pryor’s quarterback background, seeing the field like a quarterback, is playing out with his new team.

“I like it because I’ve never had a conversation with a receiver like I’ve had with him where he said, ‘Yeah, it was two-invert, so I took it to the post. It was quarters on the backside,'” Cousins said, via CBS DC. “He really can see it and he’s going to hold me accountable, so you take the good with the bad. I love it. He’s an enthusiastic guy. He’s always wanting to run another route. ‘Let’s try it again, let’s do it again,’ just a positive attitude and he’s been a joy to work with thus far.”

Pryor signed a one-year deal, which speaks to some of the doubts that appear to exist about him around the league. Another strong year should erase some of those and he’ll be in position to have one with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon leaving a hole at the top of the Redskins’ depth chart.

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Does the Terrible Towel curse transfer to hockey?

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More than eight years ago, the Tennessee Titans sealed the No. 1 seed in their conference by winning a showdown with the Steelers, the other candidate to secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. In their exuberance, however, the Titans took things too far, desecrating the Terrible Towel.

The Titans promptly lost to the Ravens in the divisional round, the Steelers won the Super Bowl, and talk emerged of a Terrible Towel curse. And in the eight seasons since 2008, the Titans haven’t made it back to the playoffs.

So now with Nashville’s hockey team facing Pittsburgh’s in the Stanley Cup Final, a question arises: Is the curse transferable from football to hockey?

If that seems like a stretch, it is. But I needed to have some way to tie the two sports together, and to justify the posting of Monday’s PFT Live segment with NBC’s Pierre McGuire regarding Game One of the Stanley Cup Final, which starts tonight on NBC at 8:00 p.m. ET, with coverage for an hour before that on NBC and more coverage another hour before that on NBCSN.

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Jim Caldwell: Eliminating cut to 75 players good for teams, players

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Among the changes to the game approved by NFL owners last week was the move to eliminate the cut from 90 players to 75 players after teams played their third preseason game of the summer.

That interim step left teams with 22 more cuts to make before the start of the season and pared down rosters ahead of a final exhibition game that tends to feature few, if any, first-string players on the field. Lions coach Jim Caldwell thinks having 15 more players on hand for that game is a good thing for everybody involved.

“It gives us a chance to look at guys a little bit more, another ballgame under the belt,” Caldwell said, via MLive.com. “I think it helps us from a player safety issue, too. Sometimes you get rather thin that time of year, so you’ll have a few more guys to still work with.”

There probably won’t be too many players who would have been part of an initial round of cuts who wind up making a 53-man roster because of the shift, but it never hurts to get a chance to make a strong final impression when you’re on the fringes of the league.

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How much contact is too much contact at OTAs?

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Offseason workouts consist of football players on a football field having football practice with a football present. Coupled with the fact that up to 90 players are trying to both keep their current jobs and ascend to the final 53-man roster, contact during these practices is inevitable.

So how much is too much? The Collective Bargaining Agreement creates a bright line that is as clear as it is unrealistic.

From Appendix G to the CBA: “Contact work (e.g., ‘live’ blocking, tackling, pass rushing, bump-and-run), is expressly prohibited in all offseason workouts.” Also from Appendix G: “The intensity and tempo of drills should be at a level conducive to learning, with player safety as the highest priority, and not at a level where one player is in a physical contest with another player.”

And lest there be any confusion, this from Appendix G: “No live contact; no live contact drills between offensive and defensive linemen.”

The problem is that live contact happens. In some cities, too much of it has happened. Both the Seahawks and the Falcons have lost a week of 2017 OTA sessions due to excessive contact in 2016. The Falcons went to the league office to determine what is and isn’t allowed; the Seahawks seem to be willing to stick with a trial-and-error approach, despite multiple errors.

“We always practice really hard around here,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said last year, after the latest punishment was announced against Seattle. “That’s something we’ve done for years, and we try to practice better than anybody else is practicing, so in trying to figure out what the limits of that are, we’ve gotten in trouble over time.”

Even with punishments imposed on multiple teams over the years, it still seems that a certain amount of contact is happening.

Consider this recent explanation of the performance of Cowboys defensive end Taco Charlton (pictured) during OTAs, from the Dallas Morning News: “They started him out playing at right DE and that’s where they want to look at him. He played with really good power. You can see the power even when you watched him at Michigan. He’s one of those guys who’d take his one arm, put it in the middle of the chest of a blocker and gain a little control but he’s got to learn . . .  quickness.

“He got Tyron off balance a couple of different times and then Tyron just flat hit him in the throat one time and knocked him down. It was one of those days where you get experience going against one of the best in the league. He gave Tyron a little problem with power and Tyron gave him a little problem with power.”

That sounds a lot like “live” contact and/or “contact at a level where one player is in a physical contest with another player.”

It’s possible that the Cowboys are doing what every other team is doing, and that it takes even more intensity than that to get a team in trouble. Regardless, it’s not easy to discern where the line is. The Falcons have worked directly with the league to figure it out. (The league office has not yet responded to an email from PFT aimed at doing the same thing.)

Whatever the rule, it needs to be accurately explained and consistently enforced. While the NFL made indeed be properly handling the latter, the league may be lacking as to the former.

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Return to football now real for David Quessenberry

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For three years, David Quessenberry fought cancer.

Now when he lines up on the field, he has to see two of the best defensive players in football, a very different challenge.

The Texans offensive lineman told Peter King of TheMMQB.com that a recent glance across the line at teammates J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney was a quick realization his comeback is taking another step.

“There’s 99 [Watt] and 90 [Clowney],” Quessenberry said. “We’re just in a jog through. But I’m thinking: I got butterflies right now! I haven’t felt this excited about a play in years. But then: ‘Okay man, this is where you’re at, you’re back. You’re not trying to maintenance chemo, you’re not just working out. You are staring across at a couple of the best players in the league. Time to play football.’”

Quessenberry lost 50 pounds during his treatment, and hasn’t practiced since 2013, when the sixth-round pick suffered a foot injury and spent the year on injured reserve. So it would be a mistake to say the routine of May practice was routine for him.

“It’s hard to put into words,” he said. “If I could describe it, I’d say first, my prayers were answered. It was so spiritual the first day back. Getting taped up, my helmet hanging in my locker, the jersey there, trainers hollering at me, riding me, teammates hollering at me, they wanted to see my back, putting my cleats on . . . all of it just special, just very very special. Because I could just feel how much everybody else on this journey with me wanted me to get back out there. My teammates never forgot me, never let me just drift away. That made this week even better.

“I woke up every day this week, and my neck was sore, fingers banged up, legs are tired and achy, I was having to drink so much water and Gatorade, sweating in the Texas sun … loving every minute of it. Really, I almost forgot how much I love this feeling, the bruises on arms, the sore shins, that sting you feel when you make a block. I missed it so much.”

Whether Quessenberry’s football comeback lasts beyond training camp will depend on his ability to block players like Watt and Clowney. But getting this far is already a win.

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Dirk Koetter: Bucs’ kicking competition is tense, and that’s good

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Buccaneers practice went silent last week as second-year kicker Roberto Aguayo continued to struggle, suggesting that the players and coaches in Tampa realize they’re watching a young kicker show he’s not up to the pressure of the NFL. But Bucs coach Dirk Koetter says he welcomes the tension.

Koetter said veteran Nick Folk was brought in to compete with Aguayo, and the Bucs like seeing that competition in May.

“The competition has definitely started. I know everybody feels it,” Koetter said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “There’s a little tension when we’re going through that. That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. This is pro football, there’s supposed to be competition.”

The Bucs surprised almost everyone when they chose Aguayo in the second round of last year’s draft, and when they signed Folk this offseason it was an acknowledgement that Aguayo didn’t get the job done as a rookie. From all indications Aguayo won’t have a job anymore in three months, and that’s a tense situation. As kicking in the NFL usually is.

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Only 67 unsigned draft picks remain

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A month ago today, the draft ended. As of three days ago, more than 70 percent of all draft picks had agreed to terms.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, 176 of 253 selections had submitted signed contracts to the NFL through Friday morning. Coupled with the news that six Raiders draft picks agreed to terms later in the day and that four other Vikings have agreed to terms, only 71 unsigned picks remain.

In round one, 17 of 32 players have signed contracts, including half of the top 10.

The Saints and Rams have yet to sign any of their draft picks. The Rams traditionally wait until the end of the offseason program before signing all of the rookies in one fell swoop. In past years, coach Jeff Fisher would bring an armored car to the practice field with $1 million in it before showing them how the money gets divided among the various constituencies that pick the pockets of the gainfully employed.

With a true rookie wage scale in place, holdouts have become highly unusual. However, Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa missed plenty of time last year due to a fight over cash flow and offset language.

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Brian Hoyer having an easier time in second stint with Kyle Shanahan

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The 49ers have a new coach in Kyle Shanahan and Shanahan brought the offense he’s developed over years as a coordinator with him to Santa Clara.

For many members of the team, that means they are getting a lot of new information thrown their way during the offseason program. One exception to that rule is quarterback Brian Hoyer, who played for Shanahan when both men were with the Browns and signed a free agent contract with the 49ers this offseason.

That experience has put him ahead of the pack when it comes to understanding both what Shanahan wants from the offense and how to get the unit in position to provide it.

“It’s definitely easier for me to call the plays this time around,” Hoyer said, via ESPN.com. “I remember last time kind of having to think about it, whereas now I find myself knowing that when Kyle starts to call a play I can kind of put it together. Just hearing it the second time around has helped, and knowing the plays, there are a lot of words; I think calling the play is half the battle, and it’s something I really don’t think about anymore. It comes naturally to me.”

Hoyer played some of the best football of his career for Shanahan in 2014 as the Browns got off to a 6-3 start before everything fell apart down the stretch. A reprise may not be in the cards, but getting everyone on the same page would help and that task should be easier with a quarterback who knows the offense well enough to help Shanahan teach it as they head into the season.

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Monday morning one-liners

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A look at how LB Gerald Hodges could fit in the Bills defense.

Dolphins WR Jakeem Grant needs to have more than speed at his disposal.

The search for returners will be part of the Jets’ work in OTAs.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski was used as a good example for incoming rookies at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere.

Who will step in at fullback for the Ravens?

Bengals DE Jordan Willis doesn’t want being quiet to be mistaken for being soft.

RB Isaiah Crowell is making big predictions for the Browns season.

Rookie LB T.J. Watt says things are off to a good start with the Steelers.

How will the Texans offensive line look this season?

Colts K Adam Vinatieri remains one of the best undrafted players of all time.

Jaguars coach Doug Marrone stressed the importance of Memorial Day to his players.

Titans WR Tre McBride has strong ties to the military.

A look at some tweaks to the Broncos defense.

Jon Gruden likes what he’s seen from Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes.

Raiders P Marquette King says he’s faster than QB Derek Carr.

C Spencer Pulley is running with the first team for the Chargers right now.

Musing about possible changes to the Cowboys offense in QB Dak Prescott’s second season.

Giants defenders know that they need to build on last year’s improvement.

Rookie DE Derek Barnett has impressed some of his veteran Eagles teammates.

Redskins CB Josh Norman’s cameo on the basketball court saw him get dunked on.

Former Bears QB Jay Cutler put his Chicago house on the market.

Former Lions TE Joseph Fauria has eyes on making a comeback.

Former Packers G Jerry Kramer visited Washington with Vietnam veterans.

The Vikings would love to see some recent draft picks develop quickly.

The Falcons will travel to New England this season for another meeting with the Patriots.

A full return for T Michael Oher would be a boost for the Panthers.

Saints DT Sheldon Rankins is looking to take a big step in his second season.

G J.R. Sweezy is making up for lost time with the Buccaneers.

Rookie WR Chad Williamsathleticism is obvious at Cardinals practices.

Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips discussed how his father Bum influenced him.

A look at how 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is delegating responsibilities on his staff.

If the Seahawks are stuck in the past, can they win going forward?

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Vikings assistant Andre Patterson stands in for Mike Zimmer

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Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s going to take another week off to rest after his latest eye surgery, but his influence will never be far from the team.

Mostly, that’s because he’s trusted old friend Andre Patterson to play his part while he’s gone.

“He just texted me and asked me to make sure I kind of get his message across to the team,” the Vikings defensive line coach said, via Andrew Krammer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We’ve been together a long time. We have a close friendship, and I think he trusts I’m going to do the best job I can to get his voice across.”

The Vikings haven’t named an interim coach like they did last year when Zimmer was away for a week (special teams coach Mike Priefer coached them against the Cowboys). Coordinators are running their respective sides of the ball during Organized Team Activities, and Zimmer’s still watching practice film every day, but it’s Patterson who lends direction.

Zimmer trusts Patterson for a reason. They’ve known each other since 1988, when they worked together at Weber State. Zimmer has hired Patterson four times, and his children have been babysitters for Patterson’s.

“Well, Andre knows me probably better than anyone there, including [my son] Adam,” Zimmer said.

That’s why Patterson leaned on his boss to take some time away to get well.

“On a personal level, I love the man,” Patterson said. “He’s like a brother to me. So obviously my number one concern was his health . . . because that’s the best thing for our football team. That’s the best thing for our players. That’s the best thing for our coaches. That’s the best thing for our front office. That’s the best thing for our fans.

“Mike is tough, ornery and a hard worker. I had to get the point across to him at some point that Mike had to think about Mike and get himself healthy. Whatever we had to do to get that done, that was the most important thing.”

Such that Zimmer is able to step away for a bit, having someone he trusts like Patterson on staff should only help as he takes the time he needs.

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Seahawks launch OTAs Tuesday amid tales of drama, dysfunction

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Seattle starts its Organized Team Activities a week later than expected this year, because last year’s OTAs had a little too much “A” in them, again. This time around, the offseason practices come only days after the emergence of a story that peeled back the curtain on the drama and dysfunction still lingering from Super Bowl XLIX.

So when the first session begins on Tuesday, how will coach Pete Carroll handle it? Will Seth Wickersham’s story for ESPN The Magazine become a rallying cry for team unity? Will it be used as an example of what happens when family business gets discussed outside the family? Or will it be disregarded and ignored as the product of unreliable sources and #fakenews?

Regardless, the story and its details loom over the team as the OTAs launch, and it’s safe to say that key figures in the story (Carroll, cornerback Richard Sherman, quarterback Russell Wilson, offensive lineman Germain Ifedi) will be peppered with questions about the facts reported therein. Defensive end Michael Bennett, who always has something to say and who called the article “trash” and “all gossip” on Twitter, surely will be talking about the issue, regardless of whether he’s asked about it.

At the core of the story was the notion that the Seahawks and Sherman seriously contemplated a divorce in the offseason, but ultimately opted to stay together. Will they renew their vows or are they simply biding their time for the inevitable?

The evidence as to which way this relationship will go will begin to be compiled, beginning this week — and culminating during a season that with the application of stress will either make things better or make things much, much worse.

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John Mara says signing Colin Kaepernick would lead to fan backlash

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The NFL party line, as articulated by Commissioner Roger Goodell, is that Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment is football related, Giants owner John Mara has acknowledged off-field concerns contributing as well.

Mara told Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com that the Giants didn’t discuss signing Kaepernick this offseason, and that they’ve heard from many fans who would be angry if they did.

“All my years being in the league, I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue,” Mara said. “If any of your players ever do that, we are never coming to another Giants game. It wasn’t one or two letters. It was a lot. It’s an emotional, emotional issue for a lot of people, moreso than any other issue I’ve run into.”

The Giants signed kicker Josh Brown to a new contract after he was arrested for domestic violence, and kept him on the team last year after he was suspended for domestic violence. It’s extraordinary that Mara says he heard from more fans about Kaepernick — a player on another team, who didn’t do anything illegal — than about Brown.

Mara’s comments say a lot about Kaepernick’s continuing unemployment: For many teams, the decision not to sign Kaepernick may go beyond whether the coach or G.M. think Kaepernick can help on the field. It may go up to the owner, who fears Kaepernick would hurt the franchise off the field.

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Monday’s PFT Live devotes some space to the Stanley Cup Final

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Hockey gets its annual national close-up starting Monday, when Nashville and Pittsburgh meet for the most iconic trophy in all of sports. (Sorry, NFL, but it’s true.)

And since PFT Live operate as usual on Monday (it’s hard for me to take a day off from work when it’s not really work), we’ll devote some real estate to the game played on literally frozen tundra. With blades and sticks and a projectile that rockets around the rink, knocking out teeth and busting jaws and potentially doing serious damage to parental aspirations.

NBC’s Pierre McGuire joins the show at 7:35 a.m. ET for a Stanley Cup Final preview, and we’ll chase later in the show with MDS about football issues, and maybe some hockey.

Yes, it’s still a football show and there will be plenty of football talk. But for Monday at least it’s proper to spend some time on the second best sport in America. (Sorry, basketball and baseball, but it’s true.)

Join us on NBC Sports Radio at 6:00 a.m. ET and then on NBCSN for the simulcast that begins at 7:00 a.m. ET.

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