Demetri Goodson back at practice a year after severe knee injury

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There’s a lot of buzz in Green Bay about quarterback Aaron Rodgers doing some rehab work during Packers practice on Wednesday, but another player with a much longer absence from the lineup also took a big step on Wednesday.

Cornerback Demetri Goodson has been out of action since tearing his ACL and MCL last November 20 in a game against the Redskins and has spent this season on the physically unable to perform list while continuing to work his way back. Goodson took part in practice on Wednesday for the first time since the injury.

“It’s been a long road,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “Everyone was excited to see him back and flying around. It’s been a long recovery.”

Goodson’s participation at practice opens a three-week window for him to work with the team before they have to make a call on adding him to the active roster or shutting him down for the year.

PFT’s Week 11 picks

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The bad news is that I’m now nine games behind MDS through 10 weeks. (Pointing out that it’s through 10 weeks makes it sound a little less lame.) The good news is that it can’t get much worse this week.

We disagree on only one game. And it’s one of the biggest games of the week.

Scroll down to see our takes and picks for all of the 14 games to be played this weekend, starting tonight with the Titans visiting the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Titans at Steelers

MDS’s take: The Steelers have a tendency to play down to the level of their opponents in games against bad teams like the Colts (whom the Steelers barely beat) and the Bears (who beat the Steelers). But against a pretty good team like the Titans, the Steelers will come to play.

MDS’s pick: Steelers 30, Titans 20.

Florio’s take: It’s often a crapshoot when it comes to the Steelers, but they tend to be focused and prepared when playing in prime time, where they’re 31-16 under Mike Tomlin. The twist in this case comes from Titans assistant Dick LeBeau knowing the team’s offense and personnel incredibly well. Under the lights at Heinz Field, that probably won’t be enough to make the difference — as long as the Steelers truly show up.

Florio’s pick: Steelers 27, Titans 23.


Lions at Bears

MDS’s take: This won’t be an easy game for the Lions, who may struggle to put many points on the board on a cold day in Chicago. But the Lions’ defense should hold Mitchell Trubisky in check well enough to win a close game.

MDS’s pick: Lions 14, Bears 10.

Florio’s take: The Bears are dangerous, especially at home. But the Lions are finding their stride by racking up wins and not taking anyone for granted. They’ll check another box as they move toward a Thanksgiving showdown with the Vikings.

Florio’s pick: Lions 24, Bears 13.


Jaguars at Browns

MDS’s take: DeShone Kizer had his best game last week in Detroit, but this week against an excellent Jaguars pass defense, he’s going to have a tough time. The Jaguars should win handily.

MDS’s pick: Jaguars 21, Browns 6.

Florio’s take: A pair of franchises mired in years of difficulty are moving in very different directions. And the Jaguars will show Browns fans what the Browns could be if they ever find a way to make good decisions about young players over a period of several years.

Florio’s pick: Jaguars 20, Browns 9.


Ravens at Packers

MDS’s take: Brett Hundley showed some signs of improvement last week against the Bears, but the Packers are still going to have a tough time putting many points on the board on Sunday, and the Ravens should win a low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Ravens 17, Packers 13.

Florio’s take: The Ravens have had two weeks to get ready for a showdown in a place where the Packers suddenly are having a hard time winning games, primarily because they don’t have Aaron Rodgers. Baltimore is capable of a periodically impressive performance, and if one doesn’t happen on Sunday, their chances of getting to the playoffs could sink close to zero.

Florio’s pick: Ravens 24, Packers 20.


Cardinals at Texans

MDS’s take: In a battle of two teams with backup quarterbacks, I see the Cardinals’ defense forcing Tom Savage into a few turnovers to win an ugly game.

MDS’s pick: Cardinals 16, Texans 13.

Florio’s take: Drew Stanton or Blaine Gabbert will be facing Tom Savage, while Colin Kaepernick continues to wait for a call that may never come. The difference maker will be Adrian Peterson, who will have an easier time finding running lanes than when he faced the Seahawks.

Florio’s pick: Cardinals 23, Texans 17.


Buccaneers at Dolphins

MDS’s take: This is going to be an ugly game between two ugly offenses. I’ll take Jay Cutler to just slightly outplay Ryan Fitzpatrick.

MDS’s pick: Dolphins 14, Buccaneers 10.

Florio’s take: The Week One game that was delayed due to a hurricane comes at a time when both teams seems to be mired in quicksand. After three straight losses, the Dolphins get a chance to start to turn things around.

Florio’s pick: Dolphins 27, Buccaneers 17.


Rams at Vikings

MDS’s take: Jared Goff takes on Case Keenum in a matchup of two quarterbacks who look great this year after looking terrible as teammates with the Rams last year. This game feels like a coin flip to me, but I’ll take the home team.

MDS’s pick: Vikings 23, Rams 20.

Florio’s take: Game of the week. A rematch of some classic playoff contests, between a pair of teams that may be destined to meet again in the elimination round. Minnesota’s defense is the difference-maker, especially at home.

Florio’s pick: Vikings 17, Rams 13.


Chiefs at Giants

MDS’s take: This is the easiest game on the board to pick. The Giants have quit on Ben McAdoo, and the Chiefs will roll.

MDS’s pick: Chiefs 35, Giants 10.

Florio’s take: Andy Reid rarely loses after the bye, in any year. The Giants in 2017 rarely win.

Florio’s pick: Chiefs 37, Giants 17.


Washington at Saints

MDS’s take: The Saints are playing as well as anyone in the NFL right now, and they’ll keep their march to the playoffs going.

MDS’s pick: Saints 30, Washington 17.

Florio’s take: Washington has shown that it can win a big game on the road, and this is a big game on the road. But it may be bigger than what Washington can handle, given the dramatic improvement of the Saints, on both sides of the ball.

Florio’s pick: Saints 27, Washington 23.


Bills at Chargers

MDS’s take: Nathan Peterman gets his first career start, while the Chargers don’t know who their quarterback will be, as Philip Rivers is in the concussion protocol. That makes this a tough game to pick but I’ll go with the Chargers.

MDS’s pick: Chargers 20, Bills 17.

Florio’s take: Nathan Peterman could eventually become a very good quarterback for the Bills. For now, a baptism by lightning bolt may be too much to handle.

Florio’s pick: Chargers 28, Bills 17.


Bengals at Broncos

MDS’s take: The Broncos have gone into the tank in recent weeks, but the Bengals’ offense probably won’t put many points on the board in Denver. I’ll pick the home team in a close and low-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 14, Bengals 13.

Florio’s take: Two years ago, a late-season showdown between these two teams had a postseason bye on the line. This season, both teams have had their playoff hopes go farewell long ago.

Florio’s pick: Broncos 17, Bengals 12.


Patriots vs. Raiders

MDS’s take: The altitude of Mexico City will make this game an interesting one in the kicking game, and a 70-yard field goal isn’t out of the question. Look for Tom Brady to complete some deep passes against the Raiders’ secondary and win a high-scoring game.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 35, Raiders 31.

Florio’s take: Whether Massachusetts, California, or Mexico, the Raiders simply aren’t ready to keep pace with the Patriots.

Florio’s pick: Patriots 34, Raiders 20.


Eagles at Cowboys

MDS’s take: The Cowboys are reeling, and the Eagles coming to town isn’t going to make life any easier.

MDS’s pick: Eagles 24, Cowboys 17.

Florio’s take: It’s desperation time for Dallas, and sometimes desperation is the difference. The Cowboys find a higher gear and secure a hard-fought win, delaying (but not preventing) the inevitable clinching of the division by the Eagles.

Florio’s pick: Cowboys 27, Eagles 24.


Falcons at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Falcons played one of their best games of the season on Sunday and the Seahawks are struggling with injuries, but I still like Seattle to take this one.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 20, Falcons 17.

Florio’s take: Russell Wilson’s one-man band continues to find a way to make something close enough to actual music in Seattle.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 20, Falcons 13.

Golden Tate: I understand players not liking Thursdays, but I love Thanksgiving games

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Players’ complaints about Thursday Night Football have intensified recently, particularly after Thursday Night Football critic Richard Sherman suffered a season-ending injury on a Thursday night. But what about Thanksgiving football?

The NFL has been playing on Thanksgiving for as long as the NFL has existed, and players rarely complained about it. Lions receiver Golden Tate said on PFT Live that he relishes the opportunity to play the early Thanksgiving kickoff each year.

“Over the last few years I’ve felt pretty good going into that week and personally I love the thought of playing on a Thursday, at home for sure,” Tate said. “It’s a chance for me to have all my family come out, watch the ball game, go home, finish up cooking the Thanksgiving dinner, eating, spending more time with them and then watching more football. So for me I love it. I look forward to it every year. But I do understand Richard Sherman’s perspective on this, it is tough on our bodies and it can catch up to you here and there. But I’ve been blessed to be healthy going into that game.”

It is possible that negotiations with the players could result in a reduced Thursday night schedule, but the NFL will never get rid of Thanksgiving football, which is a staple of the holiday and one of the biggest days of the year for the NFL. And players, despite their objections to Thursday nights, do not seem to mind those Thanksgiving games.

Wall Street Journal confirms owners have discussed removing Jerry Jones

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I’ve previously resisted paying for online content from the Wall Street Journal. (Primarily because I’m cheap.) Now that I know that their online content includes reporting something that appeared elsewhere three days earlier and presenting it as brand new, I may have to reconsider my position.

This is a weird one for me to write. On one hand, I’m happy to have our somewhat-controversial story publicly vindicated. On the other hand, I’m pissed that the Wall Street Journal presented this as a brand-new “exclusive” item despite knowing damn well that PFT had reported it days before the Wall Street Journal did.

Here’s the news that was confirmed by the Wall Street Journal: Multiple owners have discussed the possibility of removing Jerry Jones as the owner of the Cowboys. It appeared right here on Sunday night, and it caused a stir. Even though some other major outlets ignored it (either because they couldn’t “confirm” it and/or didn’t want to give someone else credit for it), both Stephen Jones and Jerry Jones were asked about it during separate appearances on 105.3 The Fan this week. So it was out there well before it was reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The article from Andrew Beaton notes that Jerry called the possibility of removal “ridiculous” during a Tuesday radio interview. Since he was responding to a question that specifically mentioned the PFT report, it’s obvious that the Wall Street Journal knew that the issue already had been reported when presenting it as something “exclusive.”

The item also confirms that the league specifically regards the instigation by Jones of criticism Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter as conduct detrimental to the league, which is the standard that justifies various penalties up to and including a forced sale of the franchise.

So thank you, Wall Street Journal, for confirming our story. And as to your failure to give proper credit when reporting it, we’re thinking of another two-word phrase that ends with “you.”

Richie Incognito: Players got hosed on the last CBA and we’ll get hosed on the next one

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Bills guard Richie Incognito isn’t happy about the league’s 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement and isn’t optimistic about the next round of negotiations in 2021.

Incognito told Tim Graham that negotiations between the players and owners always end with the owners getting the better end of the deal.

“As far as the CBA goes, I think that we got hosed the last time we negotiated,” Incognito said, “and I think we’re going to get hosed again as players. I think we’re just going to be taken behind the woodshed again.”

Incognito, who was out of the NFL for a year and a half after he was implicated as the ringleader in the bullying of his former Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin, thinks there should be clearer standards for player discipline, as opposed to just allowing Roger Goodell to determine discipline on a casey-by-case basis.

“Hopefully through the next CBA we can come out with some clear and concise plan for a lot of different things, suspensions, punishments, if Commissioner Goodell is going to give up some power,” Incognito said.

Many players have expressed similar sentiments — both that they think they got a raw deal, and that they think they’ll get a raw deal again.

Bruce Arians: Blaine Gabbert isn’t bad, he was just “on really [expletive] teams”

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Cardinals third-string quarterback Blaine Gabbert may have to start this week because of injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians is saying the Cardinals will be fine with Gabbert — and using colorful language to do so.

Arians said Gabbert’s struggles throughout his NFL career haven’t been Gabbert’s fault but the fault of the teams he was on.

“He was on really shi–y teams,” Arians said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.

Arians is right about that: Gabbert was drafted by the Jaguars in 2011 and spent three years in Jacksonville, then was traded to San Francisco and played three years for the 49ers. He was never on a team with a winning record, and that was far from only his fault: Last year the 49ers went 1-4 while Gabbert was starting and 1-10 with Colin Kaepernick starting, and the year before the 49ers went 3-5 while Gabbert was starting and 2-6 while Colin Kaepernick was starting. His three years in Jacksonville his teams went a combined 5-22 in games he started and a combined 4-17 in games he didn’t start.

So Arians is right about the quality of the teams Gabbert played on. Whether Gabbert can win in Arizona we may soon find out.

Owners warn Jerry Jones that his “antics” could be “conduct detrimental” to NFL

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As the public spat between Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his partners over Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension dies down (for now), the battle continues privately, via correspondence written by high-priced lawyers.

Via Ken Belson of the New York Times, Jones received a letter from fellow owners advising him that his “antics” amount to “conduct detrimental to the league’s best interests.” The letter specifically was addressed to lawyer David Boies, whom Jones hired to consider potential litigation.

It’s a classic sign of creating a record that would eventually justify action to be taken against Jones. By reducing warnings to clear, unambiguous writings, there can be no doubt that Jones knew the consequences of ongoing misconduct, if it continues.

The league, PFT has been told multiple times, has no quarrel with Jones’ position regarding Goodell’s contract. However, the other owners object to the manner in which he has addressed the issue, taking it public, leaking damaging (and perhaps false) information to the media, instigating Papa John’s to disparage NFL leadership, and threatening to sue the league and its teams.

Owners previously have warned Jones that fines, forfeiture of draft picks, and a suspension could occur if the behavior doesn’t end. PFT reported over the weekend that multiple owners have discussed a provision in Article VIII of the NFL’s Constitution & Bylaws that allows a franchise to be forfeited in the event of conduct detrimental to the league. While the chances of that happening remain remote, the question of whether an effort ever commences depends directly on whether Jones complies with the expectations of his partners.

Ezekiel Elliott will serve his full suspension and drop all appeals

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It’s finally over.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has decided to drop any remaining appeals and to serve his full six-game suspension.

“In consultation with the NFLPA and his lawyers, and after careful deliberation and review of the recent Second Circuit decisions, Mr. Elliott has decided to forego any further appeals and will serve the remaining suspension,” agent Rocky Arceneaux and lawyer Frank Salzano said in a statement released to PFT. “This decision arises from a practical assessment of the current legal landscape. Mr. Elliott’s desire for closure in this matter is in his best interests, as well as the best interests of his teammates, family and friends.

“This decision is in no way an admission of any wrongdoing, and Mr. Elliott is pleased that the legal fight mounted by him and his team resulted in the disclosure of many hidden truths regarding this matter, as well public exposure of the NFL’s mismanagement of its disciplinary process.  Mr. Elliott will maximize this time away from the game and come back even stronger both on and off the field. He intends to release a final personal statement in the upcoming weeks and until then we have no further comment.”

Elliott, who missed Sunday’s loss at Atlanta, will miss five more games — three straight home games (vs. Eagles, Chargers, and Washington) and games at the Giants and at Oakland. He’ll be eligible for the final two games of the regular season (Seahawks, at Eagles) and the postseason, if the Cowboys make it.

A hearing had been set for December 1 on the appeal of Judge Katherine Polk Failla’s denial of an injunction that would have blocked the suspension pending completion of the litigation regarding the validity of the suspension.

Elliott initially was suspended six games in August for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. The incident arose from allegations of domestic violence occurring in July 2016, after he had been drafted by the Cowboys and signed his rookie contract.

Aaron Rodgers takes snaps from trainer in practice

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Aaron Rodgers doesn’t act like a man ready to shut it down for the season. The Packers quarterback took snaps from a trainer and whipped a towel in a throwing motion during Wednesday’s practice, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

It marked the first time Rodgers did something during the portion of practice open to the media in the four weeks since he fractured his right collarbone. He worked on cardio and agility drills and simulated snaps from under center and in the shotgun.

Some of his rehab work involved his throwing motion in his attempt to maintain range of motion.

The Packers placed Rodgers on injured reserve Oct. 20, five days after his injury. He becomes eligible to start practicing six weeks from that date and eligible to play again two weeks after that.               

Rodgers last spoke to reporters Nov. 3, offering no guarantees that he would return in 2017. He said many factors would play into whether he plays again this season.

Report: More than half of owners want to wait on Goodell extension

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The battle continues, at least in the media.

Someone (presumably from within the group of owners who support Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in his fight against the Compensation Committee) has told Scott Wapner of CNBC that more than half of all owners want to wait to extend Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract, “if for no other reason than they think the timing doing it now would be a P.R. disaster.”

This doesn’t mean that they don’t want to execute a new contract with Goodell. It means only that they don’t want to do it right now, since doing it right now would make them seem “tone deaf.”

If accurate, it means that Jones has scored at least a minor victory via his multi-front campaign against moving forward with the contract. From stirring up owners to oppose the contract to speaking against it publicly to instigating Papa John’s to disparage the league to threatening suit to leaking the supposed $50 million-per-year demand from Goodell to ESPN (which supposedly was in writing, but the writing was never produced), Jones has managed to slam the brakes on the overall process.

If, that is, the Compensation Committee bends to the unofficial will of more than half of all owners. Short of 24, their mandate and authority to do the deal within predetermined parameters remains in place.

The best and smartest outcome continues to be to amend the resolution that authorized the execution of the contract to require 24 owners or more to approve the final deal negotiated with Goodell. That should have been the approach in the first place, and it seems that the vague marching orders to the six owners who are handling the job of negotiating with the man who runs the sport have caused Jones and an undetermined number of others to wonder whether the chickens are frying some of their own eggs for the fox.

Marvin Lewis says John Ross let the team down

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Bengals receiver John Ross has been perhaps the NFL’s most disappointing rookie this season: He was the ninth overall pick in the draft and he still hasn’t caught a pass. And now Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is letting Ross know he needs to step up his game.

Lewis said today that the whole team was disappointed when quarterback Andy Dalton threw a deep ball to Ross on Sunday, only to have Ross slow down while running the route and fail to get to the ball.

“For Andy, against that coverage to throw him that football, he should understand how the quarterback feels about him. That he expects him to be where he needs to be. He let his teammates down. He let me down. He let Andy down,” Lewis said of Ross.

The speedy Ross has the potential to break out and make some big plays for the Bengals down the stretch. But only if the Bengals trust him enough to throw him the ball. And so far he has failed to earn that trust.

Greg Olsen: Crazy to think I’ll get unfair advantage from calling a game

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The Vikings have taken issue with Panthers tight end Greg Olsen serving as a broadcaster for Sunday’s game against the Rams because they believe he could take things he learns while on the job and funnel them back to the Panthers to give Carolina an undue advantage for their upcoming game against Minnesota.

That objection remains despite the fact that Olsen won’t be attending any practices or production meetings involving the Vikings, but it’s not one that Olsen believes is warranted. While there will be production meetings with FOX Sports personnel, Olsen said Wednesday that “if you’re spilling your deepest, darkest game plan secrets to the broadcast crew that’s kind of on you” and that he’s not going to learn anything more than the scouts that already attend games are going to learn.

“The notion that I’m going to gain an unfair advantage is crazy,” Olsen said, via ESPN.com. “We have scouts at every game across the league. I’m going to have enough trouble on my hands broadcasting a game, let alone looking for little nuances on the sideline. I don’t know how much time I’ll have for stealing of secrets. I never was intending or thought I was in a production meeting. I never thought I would watch a practice.”

Olsen said he’d feel the same way if there was a Vikings player in the booth for a Panthers game, but there currently aren’t any plans for any new faces in the booth for either of the Panthers games on the slate ahead of their matchup with Minnesota.

Over/under on coaching vacancies this year: 7.5

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During a recent episode of PFT Live, producer Rob “Stats” Guerrera and I went through the 32-team NFL standing and identified the teams that could be changing coaches after the season. We ultimately set the over/under at 7.5.

And both of us took the over. Which means that we think at least eight coaching jobs — 25 percent of the league — will come open.

While some coaches on the hot seat will do enough to survive, guys who have to at least be worrying a little right now include Jets coach Todd Bowles, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Browns coach Hue Jackson, Texans coach Bill O’Brien, Colts coach Chuck Pagano, Giants coach Ben McAdoo (pictured), Bears coach John Fox, and Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter. That’s nine, already.

Those who could find themselves in trouble, if things fall apart down the stretch, include Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, and maybe (maybe) Washington coach Jay Gruden and Broncos coach Vance Joseph.

As to Joseph, he would land squarely in the “surprise firing” category. But there’s one surprise every year, and even though a one-and-done outcome seems harsh, it has happened plenty of times, with the 49ers doing it in 2015 (Jim Tomsula) and 2016 (Chip Kelly). The Broncos, 3-6 and losers of five in a row, have grossly underachieved this year, in light of expectations. And failure to meet expectations become the prime ingredient in a decision to fire any coach.

To those who get squeamish when this topic comes up, two points. First, most coaches get paid for at least a year or two after they’re fired. Second, possibly getting fired goes with the territory; indeed, coaches repeatedly and routinely fire players.

Case Keenum remains Vikings starter

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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said on Monday that he wouldn’t name a starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Rams until Wednesday because he hadn’t spoken to everyone he wanted to talk to before going public with a decision he said he’d already made.

It’s Wednesday and Zimmer’s broken his silence. Case Keenum will remain the team’s starter for the matchup between division leaders in Minneapolis.

While Teddy Bridgewater is back on the active roster and healthy enough to play, there’s nothing surprising about Zimmer’s quarterback call. Keenum has generally played well in his seven starts and played well against Washington last weekend outside of two interceptions, so his individual performance doesn’t call for a change at the helm of the offense.

The 38-30 win was also the Vikings’ fifth straight, so the team’s performance offers similarly low rationale for shifting gears at this point in the season.

Zimmer has said that he has a plan for getting Bridgewater on the field and seeing Bridgewater play is likely something the Vikings need as they make plans for 2018, but that won’t be happening this weekend unless something goes wrong with Keenum.

Tyrod Taylor shocked by benching, will be there for Nathan Peterman

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Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor met with the media on Wednesday shortly after coach Sean McDermott announced that Taylor has been benched in a decision that surprised many given the team’s 5-4 record and McDermott’s multiple assertions that Taylor would remain the starter.

Taylor was among those taken aback. He answered affirmatively when asked if he was shocked to find out that Nathan Peterman will be starting against the Chargers this week and that he didn’t agree with a call that the head coach claimed was not an “indictment” of Taylor.

Taylor said that he still has “full confidence” that he can be a franchise quarterback in this league. He was asked if he thought McDermott and the Bills gave him a fair chance to prove that.

“I don’t look at life as fair or unfair,” Taylor said. 

Taylor said that Peterman is a “great guy” and said he would do anything he can to help him and the team, noting that he didn’t stop being a team captain because of the lineup change.