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Aaron Rodgers proves once again that no one is better at free plays

Aaron Rodgers is one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. But one of his greatest skills is identifying free play opportunities and taking advantage of them.

In the third quarter of the Packers’ season opener against the Seahawks, Seattle was in the middle of a defensive substitution when Rodgers saw his chance, and he took it. While linebacker Terence Garvin is still trotting off the field, Rodgers calls for the snap and launches a 32-yard pass to Jordy Nelson in the end zone.

Coach Mike Tomlin said he tried to be “thoughtful” about Bell’s workload, considering his absence.

When asked about any apparent Bell rust, coach Mike Tomlin cited the team’s 13 penalties for 144 yards.

“That put us behind the chains and minimized the running game,” Tomlin said. “Write that.”

Bell is known to get stronger as games progress, and he showed a glimpse of that with a 15-yard gain on the Steelers’ final drive that helped seal the game. That’s why Bell wouldn’t mind more touches in Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings.

“I wanted to help the team win, so I want to feel involved at all times,” Bell said.

“I think ownership and sometimes fans specifically think whoever is the next guy has never missed a draft pick and maybe never will,” said Mark Dominik, who was Tampa Bay’s general manager from 2009-13. “When you bring a person (to interview), there’s going to automatically be this, ‘Well, he missed on a second-rounder,’ or, ‘This draft class didn’t pan out.’
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Newton spent more time on Tuesday talking about his brother’s performance than himself.

Ryan is only signed through 2018, and there have been discussions about an extension. Ryan is averaging $20.75 million per year on his current deal. When he signed it, he didn’t become the league’s highest-paid player. But when the Falcons do extend last year’s league MVP, he probably will.

Ryan has been consistently good over his career, but he took his game to a new level last season as he led the NFL’s top-scoring offense to a Super Bowl. The Falcons are currently backed up against the cap, with Spotrac projecting them $6 million over before factoring in any increase for next season. Extending Ryan could free up some space short-term and would be a win for Ryan and the team.

The elder Newton, 28, has the physical size and the “it” factor teams look for. But this is a critical time for him, as he comes off statistically the worst season of his career and surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff.

Coach Ron Rivera said on Sunday that his quarterback was “ready” for the opener. He said on Tuesday that Newton wouldn’t be limited on any kinds of throws.

“Now hearing him talk on the phone and hearing his responses to certain things … I’m telling him, like, you’re giving people hope,” Newton said. “Like a team that probably has been known for their band, you know, people are going to the football games now to watch football … not just to listen to the band play.”
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