Bucs waive third-year RB Mike James

The Bucs have waived third-year running back Mike James, who had been inactive for all three games this season after serving only as a short-yardage back last year. No corresponding addition has been announced yet.

James, 24, was drafted by the Bucs in the sixth round out of Miami in 2013, and of his 332 career rushing yards, 283 came in a four-game stretch his rookie year when starter Doug Martin went down with injury. James rushed 28 times for 158 yards in a loss at Seattle, but had lost that backup role to Charles Sims and Bobby Rainey last season.

James rushed 19 times for 37 yards last year, and was left inactive all three weeks this season. His move doesn't necessarily suggest a new running back coming in, but more likely an addition to offset an injury -- cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Tim Jennings had knee injuries Sunday, though it's unknown if either will be sidelined this week.

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Devin Hester Returns To Practice

As the Falcons begin preparations for Sunday’s Week 4 matchup against the Houston Texans, RB Tevin Coleman (ribs), WR Julio Jones (toe/hamstring) and TE Jacob Tamme (concussion) were unable to participate in Wednesday’s practice.

WR Devin Hester (toe) was able to participate in a limited fashion for the first time of the 2015 regular season.

Head coach Dan Quinn provided a number of injury updates prior practice where he displayed optimism when talking about the status of Coleman and Hester.

“RB Tevin Coleman will be out today. We’re getting closer, but we’re still not there yet,” Quinn said. We’re going to hold out WR Julio Jones and WR Jacob Tamme is going through concussion protocol.”

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Allen Hurns starts practice week limited

Hurns has been dealing with a thigh injury the last two weeks, but hasn't missed any time. With Allen Robinson likely to draw Colts CB Vontae Davis in coverage, Hurns is on the WR3 map.

RotoGrinders.com Daily Slant: Assuming Allen Robinson draws Vontae Davis (PFFs #2 ranked corner in 2014) in coverage, Hurns would be the benefactor of added looks. Blake Bortles hasn't shown enough to inspire confidence that he can feed the ball to Robinson in tight coverage. Davis didn't act as a shadow CB much in 2014 and could spend time on both Robinson and Hurns, but Robinson is expected to see more of Davis. Hurns is still cheap across the industry and is a very nice high-upside GPP play.

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Andre Johnson still searching for his comfort zone with the Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – The Houston Texans didn’t think wide receiver Andre Johnson was good enough to start for them anymore. The Indianapolis Colts thought differently. That’s why the Colts signed him to a three-year, $21 million contract in the offseason and made him a starter opposite T.Y. Hilton.

But three games, seven receptions, 18 targets and 51 yards later, the Colts are still waiting for the receiver who tormented them during his 12 seasons with the Texans to find his comfort zone. The transition from Houston to Indianapolis hasn’t been a smooth one for Johnson.

“In coming to this team, I knew that we had a lot of guys here that can make plays,” Johnson said. “You just have to wait [for] your time. Your time will come. I’ve had my fair share of being the No. 1 guy, catching eight or nine balls a game. My biggest reason for coming here was to come in and help as much as I can to win games.

“What’s required of me in the first few games, it hasn’t been what’s been most of my career. I’m not upset. I’m here to win.”

This isn’t the first time the Colts have been in this position with a receiver they signed during the offseason. It happened with Hakeem Nicks last season, and to a lesser extent with Darrius Heyward-Bey two years ago.

But this is Andre Johnson, a player with seven 1,000-yard seasons in his career. Johnson has had at least two drops already this season, and his best play – a 37-yard reception against the Titans – was taken away because of a holding penalty called on guard Hugh Thornton.

Hilton and second-year player Donte Moncrief have been the Colts’ best two receivers so far this season.

“I think he’s a great, steady presence as a leader for this offense,” quarterback Andrew Luck said about Johnson. “Just because maybe the catches aren’t where they are normally for a guy like that, doesn’t mean he’s not helping contribute in a big way. I don’t foresee the catches not catching up, in a sense.”

There hasn’t been any moping or complaining out of Johnson.

Need some proof?

Johnson’s reaction Sunday after Moncrief caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Luck to put the Colts up 28-27 in the fourth quarter.

“I told Donte after he caught that touchdown that I jumped like I caught it,” Johnson said. “It’s fun being around these guys, young guys. That makes me enjoy the game a lot more. Makes me feel young.”

Johnson and Luck didn’t spend much extra time together during the offseason, and it’s showing so far. Three of Luck’s NFL-high seven interceptions have come on throws to Johnson.

“A lot of people don’t realize how hard that is, to try to build being your first time in a new place,” Johnson said. “It takes a lot of work. It takes time for a guy to feel very comfortable, to make that relationship very comfortable. It’s something we work on every day. Other than that, I’m just here working and trying to get better as a player daily.”

The timing and the comfort level will come around, the Colts say.

“A week ago it was the tight ends you guys were talking about, so we got them involved,” coach Chuck Pagano said, smiling. “So now it’s Andre, so I guess he’ll get eight or nine targets this week.”

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Pat O'Donnell misses practice with right knee injury

Punter Pat O’Donnell didn’t practice Wednesday at Halas Hall because of a right knee injury, but special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers didn’t seem overly concerned.

O’Donnell’s injury is not believed to be a serious.

“It’s early,” Rodgers said. “We’ll see where Pat’s at at the end of the week.”

O’Donnell had a very busy day against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, punting 10 times for 477 yards. It included a 72-yarder. O’Donnell also saved a touchdown by helping tackle cornerback Richard Sherman on a trick play during a punt return.

If O’Donnell can’t go in Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders, a free agent will be signed.

“I certainly don’t expect Matt Slauson to punt for us,” Rodgers said. “There’s a couple available veteran guys if we need to get into that. You spend some time in the preseason evaluating some other guys, so that when you get into this situation, you have a short list, a ready list. ‘Hey, if something happens, here’s who we can use.’ If we had to do that, we could. We’ll see where Pat’s at come Sunday.”

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Ereck Flowers back at practice

Rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers returned to practice Wednesday as the Giants began preparations in earnest for Sunday's game at the Bills. 

Flowers missed the Giants' win over the Redskins this past Thursday with an ankle injury, but was a limited participant during Wednesday's session. The first round pick injured his ankle in the season opener against the Cowboys, but was able to play through it. He then re-aggravated the injury in Week 2 against the Falcons and was forced to leave the game early. Flowers said he felt better after practice. 

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Clinton Portis to be honored as ACC legend

Former tailback Clinton Portis was among 14 former football greats named Tuesday to the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Class of Football Legends.

As a true freshman starter at running back in 1999, Portis set a school record with five 100-yard performances, leading the Canes with 838 yards and eight touchdowns on 143 carries – 5.9 yards per carry – in 10 games. His 1,200 yards rushing during the 2001 national championship season was at that time the third-highest single-season rushing yardage total in UM history. He now ranks fifth in all-time career rushing with 2,523 yards.

Portis continued his dominance in the NFL, earning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2002 and amassing 9,923 rushing yards and 75 touchdowns in nine seasons – two with the Broncos and seven with the Washington Redskins.

“It’s a blessing to be recognized as a legend,’’ Portis wrote in an email to the Miami Herald. “...Plenty of people paved the way and inspired me to be the best me I can be. Coaches, teammates, fans, family all played a role in this award, so thanks.’’

Joining Portis in the ’15 ACC Legends class are Pitt running back Tony Dorsett, FSU running back Warrick Dunn, Georgia Tech coach Bobby Ross, Boston College center Dan Koppen, Clemson linebacker Anthony Simmons, Duke running back Chris Douglas, Louisville quarterback Chris Redman, North Carolina offensive lineman Ken Huff, NC State defensive back and return specialist Fred Combs, Syracuse tight end Chris Gedney, Virginia defensive end Patrick Kerney, Virginia Tech defensive end Corey Moore and Wake Forest punter Chuck Ramsey.

All 14 legends will be honored at the ACC Night of Legends on Dec. 4, and during the on-field pregame festivities at the ACC Championship.

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Peter O'Brien wants to catch again

Peter O'Brien has told the Diamondbacks that he wants to return to the catcher position.

O'Brien had the yips when trying to throw the ball back to the pitcher earlier this season and eventually moved to the outfield. He doesn't think it will be an issue anymore, though, and he and the D'Backs would both like him to take another crack at things behind the plate. O'Brien would certainly make for a much more interesting prospect if he can stick at catcher.

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Jon Jay (Accidentally?) Fakes A Ground Rule Double, Prevents Run

In the eighth inning of the Cardinals’ NL Central-clinching beatdown of the Pirates, there was a very strange play that I have never seen before.

With a runner on first, Pirate Chris Stewart hit a blast to left-center. Cardinals left fielder Jon Jay motioned that he had it, and proceeded to miss the catch. The ball bounced off the warning track, the fence, and dropped into Jay’s glove. But instead of immediately throwing the ball back, Jay motioned like it had bounced over the fence for a ground rule double.

And Jay’s trickery worked! The Pirates runner who could easily have scored was held up at third.

Faking a ground rule double in that situation is an extremely strange decision. There is no signage, overhanging seats, or other out-of-play obstacles that the ball could have bounced off: it seems pretty obvious that the only thing it hit was the fence, and that it shouldn’t have tricked anybody. And the Cardinals were up 9-0 at the time; why is Jay resorting to trickery instead of just getting the ball back to the infield as fast as possible?

Is it possible that Jon Jay wasn’t out to trick anybody, but actually thought it was a ground rule double? After he misses the catch, Jay sort of slams into the fence and isn’t looking up immediately. Maybe he thought the ball really did hit off of something, or that somehow a lightning fast teammate in the bullpen threw the ball back over the fence?

After the champagne celebration ends, hopefully a reporter asks Jay about the play.

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Rams Promote Brandon McGee

After an uneventful, confusing, and sometimes hard-to-watch three-year marriage, the St. Louis Rams finally did the inevitable on Tuesday and released running back Isaiah Pead, their third of three second-round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft (50th overall). In a transaction that truly had the Rams’ mark of trying to justify their draft picks stamped on it, cornerback Brandon McGee (a 2013 fifth-rounder) was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster to take Pead’s place. As previously reported, former New Orleans wide receiver Nick Toon was signed to the practice squad to take McGee’s place.

McGee gives the Rams a fifth corner on the active roster, which is a nice asset to have considering that Marcus Roberson is the only legitimate cornerback the Rams had behind injury-prone Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson (Lamarcus Joyner can contribute as the team’s nickelback, but realistically is too small to play the outside at just 5-foot-8 and 184 pounds).  It looked like McGee, whose initial two-year Rams tenure was marred by injuries, was no longer in the team’s plans when they released him at the final cutdown this year. After Week 1, however, he was brought back to the practice squad and now evidently has improved to the point where he earned back a spot on the active roster. If healthy, McGee can be a solid special teams contributor and is a guy that the Rams can plug in if they suffer another injury in the defensive backfield.

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TD Streak Extended - 8 TDs Scored

EIGHT #‎proCane TDs were scored in Week 3 of the NFL!

#‎Colts RB Frank Gore (2), WR Phillip Dorsett (1), #‎Panthers TE Greg Olsen (2), #‎Jags WR Allen Hurns (1), #‎Browns WR Travis Benjamin (1), #‎Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham (1).

Frank Gore's first TD extended the streak to 9 straight weeks a #proCane has scored a TD in the #‎NFL.

Phillip Dorsett scored his first ever NFL TD, and Frank Gore scored his first TD as a Colt.

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Sean Spence Could Continue To Share Time

Should Ryan Shazier miss future time with his “shoulder weakness,” Mike Tomlin indicated Sean Spence and Vince Williams will continue to rotate at Mack linebacker.

“We’re going to continue utilize both of those guys in replacing Ryan. Both have played for us in the past. Both are capable of playing good, above the line ball. Both guys are high energy guys, good communicators, we’re comfortable with our depth at our position,” he told the media during today’s press conference.

Based on my snap count, Spence out-snapped Williams 41-11 in Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams. Williams played only two series with Spence picking up the rest. Unlike last year, the team did not play Spence in just base and Williams in nickel.

As Tomlin alluded to, the Steelers’ greatest depth might be at inside linebacker and it would be foolish not to rotate that kind of talent in. But based on what happened yesterday, it seems clear that Spence is much more “the guy” than Williams.

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Frank Gore Moving Up The Record Charts

With the Colts leading the Titans 28–27, having already dug out of a 13-point hole and needing desperately to avoid falling to 0–3, Andrew Luck handed the ball off to Frank Gore at midfield. Gore rushed for 25 yards, his longest play from scrimmage of the young season. A Tennessee penalty tacked onto the end of the run put Indianapolis in the red zone, and Gore ended the drive with a six-yard touchdown run.

In the midst of that 25-yard run, Gore moved up to 19th on the all-time rushing list, passing Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson. With the touchdown, he passed Corey Dillon and slid into 18th.

Of the 17 players above Gore on the list, 13 are Hall of Famers (and LaDainian Tomlinson is a shoo-in for Canton when his time comes). Gore trails Edgerrin James by 999 yards, but with Fred Taylor and Steve Jackson well within range, the 32-year-old veteran is placing himself almost exclusively among Hall of Famers.

That’s not to say Gore has now had a better career than Simpson, who led the league in rushing four times in a five-year span from 1972–76. Simpson also has better yards/game and yards/carry rates than Gore, whose raw total is boosted by virtue of playing a 16-game schedule.

Here’s a comparison between them:
Frank Gore
O.J. Simpson

So Simpson had a more prolific NFL career (not mention that Heisman trophy at USC). But with Gore still playing, and not just chasing a ring with Luck and the Colts but contributing to the cause, he is moving up the leaderboard into some select company.

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Andre Johnson continues to tumble down Colts' WR depth chart

Colts wide receiver Andre Johnson did not have a reception and spent most of the fourth quarter on the sideline in Sunday's win over Tennessee, the Indianapolis Star reports. He had one pass thrown his way on a reception that was negated by a penalty.

Johnson has seven receptions in three games, as he's nowhere close to living up to the three-year, $21 million contract he signed in free agency. It also looks like he may have fallen to No. 3 or No. 4 on the depth chart, as both Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett figured prominently in Indy's fourth-quarter comeback.

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Antrel Rolle has his best game as a Bear

The Bears secondary has been struggling this year. Most of their struggles came from their corners, but even their safeties have done little to stand out. Antrel Rolle stood out more on Sunday and recorded his best statistical day as a Bear. The veteran recorded seven solo tackles and three assists.

Fantasy Impact: Rolle has not lived up to his IDP pre-draft value. This mostly has to do with teams attacking the Bears' corners on the outside. Rolle finally had a decent day as a fantasy player, but he needs to be even better. No one can take his leadership skills for granted, but those skills do not always translate to fantasy points. I expect Rolle to continue to get better as the season progresses; making him the only secondary option from the Bears' worth considering in IDP leagues.

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Shane Larkin responds to Phil Jackson critiques

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Knicks president Phil Jackson criticized former players Shane Larkin and Andrea Bargnani in an ESPN.com series chronicling Jackson's first season as Knicks president.

On Monday, both players, now with the Brooklyn Nets, responded.

Larkin, about whom Jackson said had “tiny hands," said: “I was going to palm a ball and put it on Instagram for him, but I felt like that wasn’t the right move. I never met a man so concerned with another man’s hands, but it’s all good. I don’t have [anything] but love for Phil Jackson and the whole organization. They’re good, but I’m a Brooklyn Net, and that’s all I want to talk about.”

Bargnani, whom Jackson called a "big tease," said: “I’m gonna say the answer I said a few weeks ago when I was with the [Italian] national team: Right now I’m focused on the Nets training camp. I don’t want this to be a distraction. I want to focus on what’s next for me, not what’s in the past. Last year was a hard season because of the record, we all know the record and for me personally I had many injuries. It was very frustrating because there wasn’t an outlet for me when I was injured.”

The two former Knicks each signed a two-year deal with the Nets this past offseason.

“He's old school," Larkin said of Jackson. "He's blatant about what he says, and he knows what he wants, and obviously he has the jewelry to say what he's got to say. So he's proven that he's a great leader, and if that's what he feels about me, that's what he feels about me. I'm not on his team [any] more, so he [doesn’t] have to worry about it.

Bargnani had said he would respond to the criticism, but declined to on Monday.

“I don’t like to talk about other people in the media,” he said. “I’m focused on the training camp and the Nets. I can talk about myself as a player and about how much I love basketball, how it’s my passion, it’s my life. I can talk about my work ethic and what I do. So, that’s it."

Both Larkin and Bargnani are looking forward to fresh starts with the Nets. Larkin is hoping to thrive in their pick-and-roll offense the way he did in college at Miami. Over the past four seasons, Bargnani has missed 175 games because of injury.

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Greg Olsen catches eight passes for 134 yards, two TDs

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen reeled in eight catches off of 11 targets for 134 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's win over New Orleans.

Coming into Sunday's game, Olsen had a combined seven receptions for 81 yards, totals he easily surpassed in Week 3. Olsen lined up tight and flexed out on Sunday, catching both of his touchdowns on 11-yard crosses and nabbing some downfield passes as well. Not surprisingly, Carolina's formerly mediocre passing attack rebounded as a result.

Through three weeks Olsen leads the Panthers with 28 targets and, given the absence of bonafide threats on the outside, should remain the focal point of Carolina's passing offense.

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Duke Johnson gets 10 touches in Week 3

Duke Johnson managed three yards on four carries, but caught 6-of-7 targets for 32 yards in the Browns' Week 3 loss to the Raiders.

The Browns didn't target Johnson once in their first two games of the season. He finally got active in the passing game in this one, due in large part to catch-up mode. Johnson has yet to threaten Isaiah Crowell's early-down job, but does have some fantasy value as an RB3/flex. Johnson will be a low-end flex option in PPR when the Browns head to San Diego for Week 4.

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Phillip Dorsett hauls in first career TD in Week 3 win

Colts wide receiver Phillip Dorsett caught two of his three targets for 43 yards and his first career touchdown in Sunday's win over the Titans.

Dorsett flashed his big-play ability in hauling in a 35-yard catch from quarterback Andrew Luck for a fourth-quarter score. The 2015 first-rounder will continue to be integrated into the offense, although the Colts have a lot of mouths to feed with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Andre Johnson around.

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Travis Benjamin says he let team down

Travis Benjamin, the hero one week earlier when he was on the receiving end of two long touchdown passes from Johnny Manziel, took blame when the Browns couldn’t follow with a victory over the Raiders on Sept. 27.

The Browns rallied from down 27-10 just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it 27-20 with 6 minutes, 28 seconds to play on a four-yard touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Benjamin. It was Benjamin’s fourth touchdown catch of the season — already a career best with 13 games left.

The Browns’ defense forced the Raiders to punt without making a first down. FirstEnergy Stadium was rocking. Benjamin was standing near the Browns’ 40 and the fans were looking for another dynamic punt return from the speedster who returned one 78 yards for a touchdown last week.

The punt from the Raiders’ Marquette King hung in the air. Benjamin waved his arm to signal a fair catch. And then he muffed it. The ball hit him in the hands and bounced away. The Raiders recovered, and even though the Browns got another chance on a drive starting at their 2 with 2:26 left, Benjamin believes his muff was the critical play in the game.

“I feel like I let my team down, and that is one thing I don’t want to do,” Benjamin said. “We have to take advantage of every opportunity. Every time we get the ball, we have to punch it in. The good enough thing was that the defense got us the ball back, and we had another opportunity to score.”

Benjamin said he might have been bumped while trying to catch the ball. The only player near him was Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert. It is difficult to see on replay whether Gilbert touched Benjamin.

The reprieve ended with McCown being intercepted by Charles Woodson on the Oakland 12 with 38 seconds to play.

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Seahawks call Jimmy Graham's number in win over Bears

SEATTLE -- Jimmy Graham won't have to worry about addressing reports that he's frustrated and unhappy this week.

The Seattle Seahawks tight end gave the offense a much-needed boost, finishing with seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown in the team's 26-0 victory over the Chicago Bears.

After Seattle's Week 2 loss to the Packers, Graham was left to answer questions about why he only had one catch on two targets. But offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Russell Wilson got Graham going early in this one, dialing up his number on the first play of the game.

In the third quarter, Graham showed why he's such a valuable weapon. He made a catch near the Bears' 10-yard line, broke a tackle, pin-balled through defenders and got in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown.

As Graham has pointed out, the Seahawks are a run-first offense. But when they are sputtering (two field goals on six first-half possessions) on that side of the ball, calling on Graham is a smart solution. He is one of the biggest matchup problems in the league, can pick up yards after the catch and has shown the ability to make contested catches.

There's a fine line between forcing him the ball and letting Graham make plays within the framework of the scheme. But clearly, giving him opportunities can add a new element to the Seahawks offense. This was the kind of performance Seahawks fans envisioned when the team acquired Graham from the Saints this offseason.

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Allen Hurns scores 59-yard TD in Week 3 defeat

Allen Hurns caught 2-of-4 targets for 70 yards and one touchdown in the Jaguars' Week 3 loss to the Patriots.

With the Jaguars getting stomped 30-3 in the third quarter, Hurns ran a pretty simple route down the right seam and got behind Malcolm Butler for a 59-yard touchdown when Butler tried jumping the route. It was the lone highlight of the day for the Jaguars. Hurns will remain on the WR4 radar Week 4 against the Colts.

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Travis Benjamin, the hero one week earlier when he was on the receiving end of two long touchdown passes from Johnny Manziel, took blame when the Browns couldn’t follow with a victory over the Raiders on Sept. 27. The Browns rallied from down 27-10 just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it 27-20 with 6 minutes, 28 seconds to play on a four-yard touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Benjamin. It was Benjamin’s fourth touchdown catch of the season — already a career best with 13 games left. Michael Allen Blair Browns-Raiders photo gallery The Browns’ defense forced the Raiders to punt without making a first down. FirstEnergy Stadium was rocking. Benjamin was standing near the Browns’ 40 and the fans were looking for another dynamic punt return from the speedster who returned one 78 yards for a touchdown last week. The punt from the Raiders’ Marquette King hung in the air. Benjamin waved his arm to signal a fair catch. And then he muffed it. The ball hit him in the hands and bounced away. The Raiders recovered, and even though the Browns got another chance on a drive starting at their 2 with 2:26 left, Benjamin believes his muff was the critical play in the game. “I feel like I let my team down, and that is one thing I don’t want to do,” Benjamin said. “We have to take advantage of every opportunity. Every time we get the ball, we have to punch it in. The good enough thing was that the defense got us the ball back, and we had another opportunity to score.” Benjamin said he might have been bumped while trying to catch the ball. The only player near him was Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert. It is difficult to see on replay whether Gilbert touched Benjamin. The reprieve ended with McCown being intercepted by Charles Woodson on the Oakland 12 with 38 seconds to play.

Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin caught just four of his 10 targets for 45 yards and lost a fumble, but scored his fifth touchdown of the season in Sunday's loss to Oakland.

Benjamin proved that he could deliver regardless of who was playing quarterback, as he caught a touchdown pass from Josh McCown after picking up three receiving scores courtesy of Johnny Manziel in the season's first two weeks.

While this performance wasn't quite as impressive as his three-touchdown showing against the Titans last week, Benjamin continues to make owners very happy.

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Third TD’s a charm for Greg Olsen

It took Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen three catches in the end zone to get his first touchdown of the season, and his second-quarter spike told his frustration in that statistic.

Olsen had been in the end zone twice this season just to have them called back, including once earlier in Sunday’s 27-22 victory New Orleans. So when he crossed the goal line and there were no yellow flags on the field, Olsen did something he typically doesn’t do: He celebrated.

Usually Olsen is the guy who jeers celebrations. It’s his job to score touchdowns, so when he scores there should be nothing to celebrate.

His typical line is, “OK, we get it.” After his spike, he heard it from his teammates.

“OK, we get it,” center Ryan Kalil said he and his teammates teased Olsen after the touchdown.

Olsen took the jokes in stride.

“I’m not a big spiker or celebrator,” Olsen said. “That’s not really my thing. That one felt good.”

Sunday against the Saints, Olsen had his biggest game of the season as he continues to get more involved in the passing game as the year goes on.

Olsen led all receivers with eight catches on 11 targets for 134 yards and two touchdowns, after games of one catch for 11 yards and six catches for 70 yards.

Quarterback Cam Newton didn’t get warm with Olsen until the second quarter, with the Panthers already down 10-0. They connected on a 27-yard pass to get across midfield, but the Panthers were backed up 10 yards on the next play when Olsen was called for holding.

Then Carolina worked inside the New Orleans 5 before Newton found Olsen for a 4-yard touchdown. But Richie Brockel was called for offensive pass interference and Carolina was moved back.

It was the second time a penalty negated an Olsen touchdown this season – the other came against Jacksonville in Week 1, when Olsen was called for a push.
No matter. Olsen and Newton connected two plays later for an 11-yard touchdown. Then came the spike.

“Touchdowns are hard to come by,” Olsen said. “You can’t give those away.”

The Saints’ defense entered the game trying to take away Carolina’s rushing game. That meant loading the box with eight men and playing a lot of man-to-man pass coverage.

The Panthers took advantage after getting the ball back just before the two-minute warning.

From the Carolina 19, Olsen faked his usual out-breaking route, but instead ran down the seam, where Newton hit him for a 52-yard catch and run.

“That particular route was something that he brought up ... and sure enough (they) gave us what (we) wanted,” Newton said. “It is just him making a play and getting a lot of YAC (yards after catch) afterward.”

Olsen had 100 receiving yards by halftime, and he capped it off in the third quarter with his second touchdown of the day, an 11-yarder that gave the Panthers their first lead, at 17-16.

There would be no spike on that touchdown despite the spike in his statistical production.

“I don’t get overly wrapped up in catches and fantasy football. That’s not the way I view the tight end position,” Olsen said. “I take a lot of pride in impacting the game with or without the ball. That’s something that only a few guys in the league can do.

“The balls are going to come. When they come, make the plays, maximize the plays and that’s what we try to do. There are a lot of other ways a tight end can impact the game when he’s not just running routes. That’s what we do around here.

“Plays are going to come your way. Today was a key example of that. At the end of the year, it’ll all even out.”

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Lamar Miller totals 65 yards versus Bills

Lamar Miller rushed seven times for 38 yards in Miami's Week 3 loss to the Bills, catching 3-of-3 targets for an additional 27 yards.

Miller averaged 5.4 yards per carry, but formerly run-committed OC Bill Lazor continued his early-season abandonment of the running game. The low point came early in the fourth quarter, where Miller set the Dolphins up with 1st-and-goal from the two with an eight-yard run. Lazor then proceeded to dial up four passes, all of which fell incomplete. It was a baffling sequence on a baffling day. We know Miller is going to get a bigger role at some point, but it's hard to know when the light might switch on for the poorly-coached Dolphins. He'll be a low-end RB2 for next week's London matchup with the Jets' stout run defense.

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Leonard Hankerson catches three passes for 45 yards

Falcons wide receiver Leonard Hankerson caught three passes off of six targets for 45 yards in Sunday's win over Dallas.

Through three weeks it has been Hankerson, not Roddy White, that has served as the second option in Atlanta's passing offense. Hankerson's 20 targets, 12 catches and 138 receiving yards all rank second on the team. Hankerson has never topped 38 catches in a season, but offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan clearly saw enough from him during their time together in Washington to bring him to Atlanta. Expect that rapport to pay dividends in terms of his role in the offense.

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Denzel Perryman earning stripes, larger role

MINNEAPOLIS — The Chargers had five kickoffs Sunday.

Three were returned.

On the first, inside linebacker Denzel Perryman shed a block from a Bengals tight end and tackled returner Adam Jones at the 24-yard line. On the second, Perryman had the angle on Jones, who tried to juke past him but fell when his right knee buckled at the 19. On the third, Perryman squared his shoulders and stuffed him at the 25.

Perryman. Perryman. Perryman.

Chargers coaches have noted the trend.

The rookie second-round pick played only two defensive snaps Sunday in Cincinnati. Still, he finished the game with five credited solo tackles, tied for second most on the team. All five came in special teams coverage. His production is expected to lead to greater opportunity on defense, one that could come as early as Sunday against the Vikings.

The 21-year-old didn't see the field on defense in Week 1.

His two reps in Week 2 came in a goal-to-go situation when the Bengals were inside the Chargers’ 5-yard line during the second quarter. Perryman shot a run gap to help mop up a tackle that defensive lineman Darius Philon made behind the line of scrimmage.

Rep division at inside linebacker has been fairly concentrated over the season's first two games.

Manti Te’o has played all 113 defensive snaps, the man in the middle of the base, nickel and dime defenses, relaying calls from the sideline to the huddle. Donald Butler has taken the second-most snaps at 90.

Perryman, Kavell Conner and rookie Nick Dzubnar round out the depth chart.

Peryman is the only reserve to have seen time defensively.

“He’s somebody we’ve got to find a way to keep building on it,” defensive coordinator John Pagano said. “All those guys, to me, are so interchangeable, to be able to do different things with them in different packages without giving the game plan.

“We’ve got to find roles for those guys. Football players like that, it’s great to have as your backups because as you know, it makes everyone better.”
Perryman missed some time this offseason.

In the spring, a hamstring injury limited his activity during organized team activities. A second, unrelated injury surfaced in training camp and sidelined him for the Aug. 22 exhibition game in Arizona.

The former thumper at Miami is working himself into the defensive fold.

It’s not his first time.

“My first year (at Miami), I started off at special teams,” Perryman said. “I got massaged in with play time. I knew coming into the league I would have to play special teams. I’m just doing what I can until my number gets called. Last week, I had a pretty good week. This week, I’m just trying to be consistent with my play.”

Perryman made two tackles Sunday in punt coverage.

On one, the returner ran out of bounds, but they call count the same.

His six special teams tackles on the season easily lead the NFL. Rams wide receiver Bradley Marquez has four; he’s the only other player with more than three.
Perryman is the first Charger to total five or more special teams tackles in a game since Mike Tolbert had six in 2011.

Looking ahead, Pagano would rather not overload the rookie on defense.

But gradually, his reps will increase. That playing time, similar to Chris Watt as a rookie last year when rotating at right guard with Johnnie Troutman, ultimately could prepare Perryman to handle a larger role in the event of injury. Watt wound up being called upon to start in November.

"It’s something we emphasize to college free agents and draft picks or players from other teams,” coach Mike McCoy said. “We stress the importance of special teams, and he bought into that. He’s done an outstanding job, whether it’s the preseason games that he played in or the first two games, of his attitude and the way we want him to play it.

“And then, him having the tackles he had (Sunday), we give him a lot of the credit to the success we had covering things, him making the tackles that he did. I’m very happy with the way he’s playing in the kicking game."

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Travis Benjamin says he's fastest player in the league, hopes to be a Brown forever

BEREA, Ohio -- The photo told the story.

Travis Benjamin, right before halftime, is hurdling over Tennessee punter Brett Kern on his way to the end zone, just one of the 11 Titans special teamers he left in his wake. Benjamin was rewarded for his effort on Wednesday when he was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Week.

"It's a blessing," Benjamin said on Wednesday after practice. "I think it's my third one since I've been here. So just a compliment to me and appreciate those 10 guys on the punt return blocking for me and leading my way home."

Benjamin returned that punt 78 yards for a touchdown in Sunday's win over the Titans and totaled 154 return yards, the third-most in a single game for a Brown. He is now tied for second for the most punt-return touchdowns in franchise history. It's a sharp turnaround for a player who briefly lost the job a season ago on a team that had to resort to designated punt catcher Jim Leonhard.

"I didn't get to practice well (last season)," Benjamin said, "because being hurt, being out, missing those reps, missing those practices that I was out. But this year I'm ready to go."

Benjamin missed most of 2013 with a torn ACL, suffered during a kick return in a loss to Kansas City. Benjamin returned last season and appeared in all 16 games. He managed 8.5 yards per return with a long of just 37.

"I feel way different (this year)," Benjamin said. "I feel faster. I feel like it's no relapse into what I have to do. I feel so much faster this year.

"I did mostly running (in the off-season) because last year I was rehabbing, so this year I got a chance to run more."

Benjamin appears to have taken a step forward as a receiver, too, a year after catching 18 passes. He's one-third of the way to that total and has matched his 2014 touchdown total with three already this season.

"I always felt like I can change the game each and every time on the field," Benjamin said when asked if he knew he had it in him to be a big-play receiver. "I can be that playmaker that can take over a game because my speed and my ability to get open."

Benjamin said that, even though it's been four years since he last ran the 40-yard dash, he believes his time would be "probably 4.2 (seconds), low 4.3."
Is he the fastest player in the league?

"I would say so," Benjamin said. "You've never seen a player just put speed on tape each and every time."

Benjamin's timing for his scorching start couldn't be better. He's in the final year of his 4-year, $2.577 million rookie contract. If he continues playing well, he stands to get a hefty raise to his $660,000 base salary.

"Hopefully we can keep it going for the long run," Benjamin said, "and I'll be a Brown forever."

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Brewers shut down OF Ryan Braun due to lingering back injury

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun (back) was shut down by the Brewers on Sunday due to a lack of progress in his rehab, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports.

Braun did get a start Saturday, but it was a rough outing where he went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. It's a safe move long-term for the Brewers, as they aren't going to allow a marquee player risk his 2016 season for a lost year.

This will wrap up a strong season for the right fielder, in which he went .285/.356/.498 with 25 home runs and 24 steals. He's slated to undergo surgery on his back in the coming weeks.

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Danny Valencia considered day to day

Athletics third baseman Danny Valencia is considered day to day after taking a pitch off of the elbow Sunday, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Valencia was hit on the elbow pad by a pitch, causing him to leave the game after logging just one at-bat. X-rays returned negative and Valencia told reporters he's fine, but the team is considering him day to day nonetheless.

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Kenny Phillips thrives Sunday in career-rebound

Safety Kenny Phillips might not have imagined two weeks ago that he would play a key role in Week 2 for the Saints. After all, that team had just cut him.

But Phillips, who re-signed earlier this week and landed a starting assignment after a season-ending injury befell Rafael Bush, indeed made eight tackles (five solo) in the loss to Sunday to Tampa Bay.

Phillips, a former first round pick, hadn't played in an NFL game since 2012, but he was around the ball often Sunday. With Jairus Byrd's injury status still up in the air, Phillips could again be in line for significant playing time in Week 3 against run-based Carolina, making him an interesting sleeper option in IDP leagues.

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Stephen Morris Signed To Practice Squad

The Eagles on Tuesday brought back quarterback Stephen Morris, signing him to the practice squad along with wide receiver Jonathan Krause.

Morris and Krause replace wide receiver Quron Pratt and running back Kevin Monangai, who have been released.

The Eagles claimed Morris off waivers from the Jaguars two weeks ago after trading Matt Barkley and cutting Tim Tebow. They cut him Monday when they signed quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.

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Ray Lewis texted in middle of 'Monday Night Countdown'

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Phillip Dorsett catches 1-of-6 targets in Week 2 loss

Phillip Dorsett caught 1-of-6 targets for 25 yards in the Colts' Week 2 loss to the Jets on Monday night.

Most of Dorsett's targets were low-percentage deep shots into coverage. His lone grab was on a simple out route that Dorsett turned upfield for plenty of YAC. Dorsett is a mere WR5 as the Colts' sparingly-used No. 4 receiver.

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Frank Gore on fumble: 'I’m better than that. I can’t let that happen'

After a lengthy phone call with someone surely without answers, Frank Gore arched back in a folding chair and clutched his head.

How did that ball, this game and maybe this season slip away at the doorstep of a touchdown midway through Monday night’s third quarter?

“(It) just came out of my hands; it slipped out,” Gore said in a quiet voice in a depressed Indianapolis Colts locker room after a 20-7 loss to the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I messed up.”

The next words were difficult for the 11-year NFL running back to say.

“I’m better than that,” he said. “I can’t let that happen.”

In a game full of botched plays, Gore coughing up the ball on third down at the 1 altered the rest of the night. That was the first of two missed opportunities for possible touchdowns.

Instead, Darrelle Revis recovered the fumble in the end zone for a Jets touchback.

“That would have been a big touchdown,” Gore said. “The game would have went differently if I would have just went in and ran into the end zone.”

The Colts (0-2) had five turnovers: Three interceptions, two fumbles. They also had 11 penalties. That mess came on the heels of last week’s 27-14 loss at Buffalo.

The offense, hyped as potent – remember when Andrew Luck was touted as the NFL’s leading MVP candidate? – has gone to consecutive halftimes scoreless for the first time since 1997.

“The fumble, the penalties, the turnovers (pause) we’re driving the ball, you know?” Gore said. “Oh, man, (we) just keep hurting ourselves.

“If you want to win in this league you can’t fumble, you can’t (have) penalties, turnovers. You can’t do that in this league. The last two weeks that’s what’s really been hurting. Everybody said the same, ‘We’ve got to stop beating ourselves.’”

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Andre Johnson nabs three passes for 27 yards in loss

Colts wide receiver Andre Johnson had three receptions for 27 yards despite being targeted seven times in Monday's loss to the Jets.

Johnson has just seven receptions for 51 yards through two games. He's also caught just seven of 17 passes thrown his direction. He hasn't been in sync with Andrew Luck and appears to have been bypassed by Donte Moncrief in the order for targets. It's just two games and the entire Indy offense has struggled, so he should improve. However, there are reasons to be worried given Johnson's age (34) and the decline in his per-play effectiveness the previous two seasons.

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Jon Beason is full participant in practice

Giants linebacker Jon Beason (knee) was a full participant in Tuesday's practice.

Despite getting in a full practice, Beason remains uncertain for Thursday's game against the Redskins after missing the first two weeks of the season. At the very least, he should be back for Week 4, likely serving in an every-down role.

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Pete Carroll: Jimmy Graham’s frustrated, ‘wants the ball’

RENTON — Tight end Jimmy Graham very well might be frustrated by the start of his Seahawks career, Pete Carroll said Monday. Seattle’s coach wouldn’t expect anything else.

“I think he is (frustrated),’’ Carroll said. “I think he’s a competitor. He wants the ball. He wants to help us win, I don’t think there’s any question about that. I feel that, too.’’

The task now is to figure out how to integrate Graham better into the Seattle offense, which also would likely go a long way toward helping solve some of the Seahawks’ other offensive woes that have contributed to a surprising 0-2 start.

Graham had just one reception for 11 yards, on just two passes thrown to him in the 27-17 defeat Sunday at Green Bay. His only catch came midway through the third quarter. The other pass thrown his way came in the first quarter.

“We were trying to go to him on four of the first five passes,’’ Carroll said. “We really have had an intent, just like you would think, that we want him to be a big part of the offense.’’

Carroll said that several factors played into the lack of passes thrown Graham’s way.

One example was a play where Graham was the primary receiver. But at the snap, quarterback Russell Wilson noticed the Packers were misaligned, leaving another receiver uncovered, so Wilson went in that direction instead.

“It’s just the way it’s worked out,’’ Carroll said. “I’m not panicked by that at all. It maybe sounds like some other people are really worried about it, but we are working on it and it’s going to get worked out.’’

The Seahawks acquired Graham via trade from New Orleans in March, sending center Max Unger and a first-round draft choice to the Saints (while also getting a fourth-rounder in return).

The Seahawks hope Graham — whose 355 receptions since 2011 are the fifth-most in the NFL over that span — will become a player opposing defenses have to key on, freeing up others. It hasn’t happened so far.

“I don’t think we have forced that yet,’’ Carroll said. “We have seen defenses basically work to take care of the running game.’’

Indeed, the Packers seemed intent on containing Marshawn Lynch, who was held to 41 yards on 15 carries, a lower rushing total than all but two games last season.

The Seahawks adjusted at halftime by throwing more and encouraging Wilson to run more.

Seattle had a pass-to-run ratio of 20-11 in the second half and Wilson had 65 yards on eight carries in the second half to finish with 78 on 10 carries for the game.

But Graham remained uninvolved other than his lone reception, which came during the touchdown drive that put Seattle ahead 17-13 midway through the third quarter.

One missed opportunity involving Graham came with 7:24 left in the game.

From the Seattle 29, Graham — lined up as a tight end with his hand down — broke behind the Green Bay defense.

Wilson appeared to initially look his way, but was then flushed from the pocket and decided not to throw, running for a 13-yard gain instead.

On the next play, Wilson’s screen pass intended for Lynch was picked off, essentially deciding the game.

“Unfortunately, on the drive where we turned the ball over, we didn’t get that shot,’’ Carroll said.

Carroll, though, also said it’s “not unusual’’ to need time to figure out the best way to utilize players, comparing it to the seemingly annual way the team juggles its defensive-line rotation early in the season before settling on the right mix of players.

“We thought maybe we were a little bit further ahead than that,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve got work to do yet.’’

Graham didn’t speak to the media after the game and an NFL.com report surmised Graham might be frustrated with his role in the Seattle offense compared to his time in New Orleans.

Graham said last Thursday, though, he isn’t worrying about how he is used by the Seahawks.

“That’s the past,’’ he said. “I don’t concern myself with it. … My philosophy is if he throws it, I catch it. That’s about it, man.’’

Carroll said that while Graham might be frustrated by the results so far, it’s only because he wants the team to start winning.

“He has worked hard,’’ Carroll said. “He’s great about it. He wants to do everything he can to help us. I don’t have any doubt about that.’’

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Ereck Flowers misses practice Monday

Giants LT Ereck Flowers (ankle) was listed as a non-participant in practice on Monday.

The Giants did not actually practice, but Flowers would not have been able to go if they had. Flowers tried to play through his ankle injury Week 2, but was forced from the game in the second half. Coach Tom Coughlin expressed some concern the ankle would bother Flowers throughout the season. The smart move would be to hold Flowers out of Thursday night's game against Washington and give him two full weeks to heal.

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Clive Walford hauls in one pass in Week 2

Raiders tight end Clive Walford caught one pass for four yards on two targets in Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Ravens. This was essentially the same line he put up in the Week 1 opener which certainly doesn't suggest that he'll be a major fantasy player any time soon.

Walford played only 20 snaps while Mychal Rivera soaked up 39, and it looks as if Rivera is the go-to option at least at the moment.

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Winnipeg Blue Bombers extend DB Bruce Johnson’s contract

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have locked up defensive back Bruce Johnson for three more seasons.

Johnson was set to become a free agent in February. His contract extension will keep him in Winnipeg through 2018.

The import has started all 28 games he has played in since joining the Bombers in 2014. During that time, Johnson racked up 91 defensive tackles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

“Bruce is a very key part of our defensive secondary,” said Bombers general manager Kyle Walters. “He’s been extremely steady and reliable for us since he first stepped on the field last season. It was important for us to lock up a key piece of our defense moving forward and we’re pleased Bruce also felt the desire to remain a Blue Bomber.”

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Eagles sign QB Thad Lewis, waive QB Stephen Morris

The Philadelphia Eagles signed quarterback Thad Lewis and waived quarterback Stephen Morris, the team announced Monday.

Lewis, 27, will now serve as the team's third-string signal-caller behind Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez.

Prior to joining the Eagles this season, Lewis had most recently played for the Cleveland Browns before being cut on Sept. 5.

In seven career NFL games, Lewis has 1,296 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions.

Lewis signed with the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2010 out of Duke, where he recorded 10,065 passing yards and 67 touchdowns in four seasons as a Blue Devil. 

Morris, 23, had signed with the Eagles on Sept. 6, the day after the team released Tim Tebow. Morris was inactive for both games this season.

Seeking their first win of the season, the 0–2 Eagles will play the Jets on Sunday in New Jersey.

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Brandon Meriweather laughs at question about Kirk Cousins

Have you heard the joke about the Washington starting quarterback?

Apparently Brandon Meriweather has, because when he was asked for his impression of Kirk Cousins after being a teammate of his in Washington for three seasons, he laughed. And laughed some more.

"It's just a funny question," he said finally.

It remained an inside joke, with Meriweather not expounding on the humor. At least until one side or the other gets the last chuckle on Thursday night.

"Kirk is a gunslinger," Meriweather eventually said. "He's a good player, an all-around good player. He's smart. He's got a very strong arm. He believes in his arm. He's more athletic than people think he is. Kirk is an all-around good dude."

He's having a good start to the season, too. He's completed 75.9 percent of his passes in two games with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Washington is 1-1.

Of course, Cousins came into an early primetime game last year against the Giants playing just as well and wound up throwing four interceptions. Meriweather laughed at that, too.

"That's a good thing, right?" Meriweather said even though he probably didn't see it as such when it occurred to his team a year ago. "I'm a Giant now."

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Aubrey Huff hints at MLB comeback

Former first baseman Aubrey Huff hinted on his Facebook page recently that he may be considering a comeback to baseball.

He hasn’t played since 2012, but the former MVP candidate wrote:”I do feel mentally, and physically stronger than I ever have in my life. Hmmmmmm!???”

If Huff were to come back, his best shot is going to be with an American League club. He’s 38, was never a defensively strong option at first base, and seems slated to spend most if not all of his time at designated hitter should he complete the comeback.

If he’s really feeling physically better than he has in years, Huff will have to find a team that’s willing to let him prove it. He finished seventh in National League MVP voting in 2010, but quickly went on the decline and played just 53 games in his final season.

Huff’s career spanned 13 years, including stops in Tampa Bay, Houston, Baltimore, Detroit and San Francisco. He received MVP votes three times, hit 20 or more home runs on seven occasions and received MVP votes in three different seasons. He owns a career .278 batting average, and hit 242 home runs before announcing his retirement in January of 2014.

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Ryan Braun to undergo back surgery after season

Milwaukee Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun remains out of the lineup with a back injury and will undergo surgery at the end of the season, according to a report by MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.

Braun, who has missed multiple games throughout the season with the same injury, is in the midst of his best statistical year since 2012. In 138 games this season, Braun is batting .287/.359/.503 with 25 home runs, 84 RBIs and 87 runs scored.

On Aug. 19, Braun, the 2011 National League MVP, became the all-time home run leader in Brewers' history, as he surpassed Robin Yount's previous record of 251.

Over the next five seasons, the 31-year-old is owed $105 million by the Brewers.

Milwaukee has already been eliminated from postseason contention this year with a record of 63–86. 

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Yasmani Grandal homers for first time since Aug. 1

Yasmani Grandal went 1-for-3 with a walk and a two-run home run, but the Dodgers fell to the Diamondbacks on Monday.

Grandal brought the Dodgers back in the game, hitting a two-run home run in the eighth inning to make it a 6-4 affair. The backstop hadn't homered since August 1. Since then, he was hitting .113 (9-for-80). Overall, Grandal has a .249/.363/.429 triple-slash line with 16 home runs and 47 RBI.

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Michael Russell retires after 17-year tennis career

Michael Russell, who grew up in Bloomfield Hills and attended Birmingham Detroit Country Day, recently announced he was retiring as a professional touring tennis player. His last match came in the third round of the men’s doubles tournament with Donald Young at the U.S. Open. Russell spoke to
Detroit Free Press sports writer George Sipple about his decision to retire and some of the highlights of his 17-year pro career.

On why he retired: “I’ve been traveling for 35-plus weeks for the last 20 years. I just want to not have to travel so much. We bought a new house last year and really like Houston, so I want to be able to not travel so many weeks out of the year.

“I’ll still stay in tennis. I like helping people, working with people. I’ve been talking with the USTA, possibly working with the (International Tennis) Federation and an academy in Houston as well. Working with high-level juniors and current ATP pros.”

On finishing his career at the U.S. Open: “Disappointed that I wasn’t able to participate in the singles, but doing so well in the doubles was fantastic. Before the U.S. Open, I knew I was going to be playing just doubles. So, I trained just for doubles, and I think it helped a lot. I felt that I played really well and Donald played exceptionally well. He played a ton of matches up there in New York. We’re good friends, so it just really clicked together.”

On how growing up in Michigan helped him become a professional tennis player: “I was fortunate having my father co-own a tennis club at the time, so I was able to sometimes get court time when other people (didn’t). I think it really helped not playing so many hours a day like they do at the academies. Growing up, basically indoors for most of the season, I only had 2 hours of court time a day. I was looking for quality over quantity, and I think that helped a lot.
“At the time, Michigan, we had quite a few great players. Steve Campbell, I practiced with him growing up. Steve Herdoiza, Ed Nagel, Brian Veillette. It was nice to play with some of the older guys, which made me better as well.”

On being the first player to go through qualifying in four consecutive Grand Slams: “That was a great achievement because that was when I was first starting out on tour. I had to come through qualifying, which is never easy. To be able to do that four straight Grand Slams is a pretty unique accomplishment, a testament to my perseverance and my ability to dig down and battle when I always had to.”

On earning it the hard way: “I never received wild cards, which a lot of the top Americans do today. ... I never had that luxury, even when I was ranked 120, where a lot of these guys are getting six to eight a year. I didn’t get any. I always had to work my way in through qualifying, or you just win enough matches and you got to get directly in. That was kind of my persona. I’m super fit, and I’m going to work exceptionally hard, and I’m going to maximize everything I have on the court and go from there. It’s going to be a dogfight, no matter if you’re Roger Federer or whoever you are.”

On coming close to beating then-No.1 Gustavo Kuerten at the French Open in 2001: “For me, that was the impetus for my whole professional career. That kickstarted it. I was 23 years old, ranked 120 in the world, and I just qualified at the French and saved a match point in qualifying first round. ... I have a match point against the No. 1 player in the world on center court at the French Open. ... It just gave me such confidence and belief. And I wish I would have won the match, of course. But still, it was amazing.”

On winning 15 Challenger titles: “They all have a special meaning, whether it was my first one in 1998 to two years ago, winning an event in Charlottesville. They’re all great confidence-builders.”

On injuries: “I had three knee surgeries. I broke my arm in 1998, and then I missed 10 months in 2009 with a labrum tear and two rotator cuff tears in my shoulder. I’ve had to have three different protected rankings, which means you’re out more than six months.”

On what he would do if he could change the system: “I’m not a big fan of the ranking system. I think it would be better served to have an average or some type of weighted system. Right now it is best 18. I feel players are in the mode of chasing points. What happens is you get a lot of guys playing 40 tournaments a year because it’s just your best 18 (that count). They’re scrambling, playing so many tournaments to put as many points on as possible. And it’s just not conducive to good health, for one. And also to the development of your game. You’re playing so many weeks that you don’t have training blocks. If you’re top 10, you do. You don’t have to play so many weeks.”

Michael Russell
Age: 37.
Height: 5-feet-8. Weight: 155.
Hits: Right-handed, two-handed backhand.
Local connection: Grew up in Bloomfield Hills, attended Birmingham Detroit Country Day. Now lives in Houston.
Highest ranking: No. 60 on Aug. 13, 2007.
Career earnings: $2,452,569.
Career highlights: Ranked No.1 in U.S. boys 18-and-under in 1996. Named NCAA rookie of the year at Miami before turning pro in 1998. Won 15 Challenger singles titles. First player to qualify into each of the Grand Slam events in succession (2000 Wimbledon, 2000 U.S. Open, 2001 Australian Open, 2001 French Open). In 2001 debut at French Open, reached fourth round of main draw. Led by two sets and held match point at 5-3 in the third set before losing, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-3, 6-1, to then-top-ranked Gustavo Kuerten in 2001.
Final match: Teamed with Donald Young to reach the Round of 16 in doubles at the U.S. Open before losing to fellow Americans Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey, 6-2, 6-4.

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Travis Benjamin finds end zone three times in win

Browns emerging wideout Travis Benjamin made it four touchdowns on the young year Sunday with an amazing performance Sunday against the Titans. He hauled in three passes for 115 yards and two scores. He even took a punt return to the house.

Benjamin basically beat Tennessee single-handedly, accumulating 269 total yards between his catches and six punt returns. The 25-year-old receiver turned some heads in Week 1 when he hauled in a Johnny Manziel bomb for a touchdown, but he should be universally owned after his unreal performance in Week 2.
Benjamin and Manziel have clearly built up a rapport on the deep ball, so it will only take one big connection per game for Benjamin to deliver a productive Fantasy week.

He will try to further build up his point total next Sunday against Oakland.

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Johnny Manziel, Travis Benjamin connect for 60-yard TD pass vs. Titans

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Lamar Miller Expects To Be Okay

Miller (ankle) said he will be okay, even though he did not return to Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Jaguars, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports.

Miller said he considered going back into the game, but he apparently didn't quite feel good enough. He likely suffered a sprain, as he also said after the game that he won't need an MRI, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reports. Damian Williams got most of the snaps in Miller's absence, finishing with two carries for five yards and three catches on four targets for 15 yards and a touchdown.

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Duke Johnson only OK in Sunday win

Browns rookie running back Duke Johnson contributed 45 yards on 12 carries in a Sunday defeat of visiting Tennessee.

Johnson received three fewer carries than Isaiah Crowell, but his 3.6 yards per carry proved merely mediocre. The rookie didn't do anything special in this one, but he's too talented to not deliver results if he continues to be given opportunities in the Browns offense.

The team wants to rely on its ground game as much as possible, so there should be enough touches to go around for both Johnson and Crowell to stay fantasy-relevant.

Johnson will try to ramp up the production in Week 3 when Oakland comes to town.

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Greg Olsen goes 6-70 in Week 2 win over HOU

Greg Olsen caught 6-of-14 targets for 70 yards in the Panthers' Week 2 win over the Texans.

Cam Newton consistently looked for his tight end, but whizzed balls past Olsen and behind him early before hooking up late in the fourth quarter for a big, 27-yard gain. The next-closest Panther in targets to Olsen was Ted Ginn with nine. After a disappointing 1-11 opener, Olsen redeemed himself in this one. Now he just needs to find the end zone in a Week 3 home date with the Saints.

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Allen Hurns collects 68 yards on four grabs

Allen Hurns totaled 68 yards on four catches in the Jaguars' Week 2 win over the Dolphins.

Hurns caught all four of his targets. Being the No. 2 option on a team that will probably have to throw the ball to stay in games most weeks isn’t such a bad thing, but the Jags will struggle to support more than one fantasy relevant pass catcher. That was Allen Robinson on Sunday.

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Ereck Flowers leaves game with ankle injury

Giants LT Ereck Flowers was forced from Sunday's game against the Falcons with an ankle injury, and will not return.

Flowers tweaked his ankle in last week's debut, and underwent an MRI on Monday. Flowers' injury didn't appear overly serious, but it's obviously concerning that he's been ruled out for the game. RG Justin Pugh has kicked over to the blindside, with John Jerry entering the game at right guard.

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Leonard Hankerson introduces himself into the Falcons’ WR mix

On a day when wide receiver Roddy White was held without a catch and Devin Hester was inactive, the Falcons needed someone to complement high-flying Julio Jones. Leonard Hankerson did.

Hankerson, signed as a free agent last offseason after an undistinguished career with Washington, made six catches for 77 yards and one touchdown in helping the Falcons rally from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun the New York Giants, 24-20, on Sunday.

“Any time you can make plays for the team, it feels good,” Hankerson said in his soft-spoken way.

He appeared in 31 games and made 17 starts during his four years in Washington, trying to find his way as that team often sought to find its way. His best season came in 2012, when he established career highs with 38 receptions and 543 yards.

“I do my job,” he said. “Whether it’s on the practice field or off the field, I continue to do my job.”

Few catches loomed larger than the touchdown grab he made from 10 yards out to cap a 12-play, 91-yard drive that allowed the Falcons to slash the Giants’ lead to 20-17 with 12:39 remaining. It was among the highlights for quarterback Matt Ryan as he shredded the Giants’ defense, converting 30 of 46 pass attempts for 363 yards and the lone scoring pass to Hankerson.

“Any time you are going to throw the ball 40 or more times, you’ve got to distribute it,” said Ryan, adding, “I’m really happy for Hank. He’s worked really hard coming in here.”

After suffering through an awful season in Washington last year, Hankerson is amped to be with the 2-0 Falcons.

“We have a heck of a team,” he said. “We can all make plays.”

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Phillip Dorsett forced into action

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Phillip Dorsett is trying to keep his focus on what's in front of him.

The Colts rookie has been thrown into the mix early with an opportunity to make an impact right away, both as a receiver and punt returner. Dorsett could have a chance to play an even bigger role this week if T.Y. Hilton isn't ready to play against the Jets on Monday night.

Indy's Pro Bowl receiver didn't practice Friday for the second straight day because of a knee injury suffered in last weekend's loss to Buffalo.

Dorsett said he will be ready to go if called on.

''It's the next man mentality,'' he said. ''I just have to fill in. There really can't be much of a drop off. We have to always stay ready. That's one thing that I always prepare myself to be able to be ready in practice so that when my time comes, I'm able to execute.''

Dorsett struggled in his first NFL game with mistakes that only added to Indy's woes on special teams. He had two muffed punts in the fourth quarter, including one that Buffalo recovered and eventually cashed in with a field goal to take a 27-8 lead.

''At the time, of course it was frustrating,'' Dorsett said. ''We don't ever want to put the ball on the ground, but it's a learning experience. It's something you have to learn from and I'm glad it happened in the first game and not a critical game when it's really going to count.''

Donte Moncrief, in his second season with the Colts, had a mishap on special teams, too. He stepped out of the end zone on a kickoff return and fell down at the 4-yard line - one of three drives for Indianapolis (0-1) that started inside the 10-yard line.

Aside from the mistakes by Moncrief and Dorsett, and a few other little details, Colts coach Chuck Pagano said there isn't anything to worry about with Indy's special teams.

''Other than that I thought it was pretty good,'' he said this week. ''We're young and we've got a bunch of guys that it's their first professional outing returning kicks.''

Right now, the Colts are just trying to figure things out and the roles for their players. On Friday, the Colts moved cornerback Eric Patterson from the practice squad to the 53-man roster to replace D'Joun Smith, who hasn't practiced this week because of a knee injury.

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Andre Johnson, Revis ready for rematch after offseason moves

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andre Johnson and Darrelle Revis have taken familiar paths through the NFL.

Both were first-round draft picks, became perennial Pro Bowlers, became the foundation of their previous teams and packed up and moved away after last season.
Now, two of the league's most respected players face off again Monday night when Revis' Jets meet Johnson's Colts.

"You like to go against the best. You always want to go against the best to see where you're at, where your game is at," Johnson said this week. "I'm pretty sure it's the same for him. He likes to go against the best in the game."

It could be one of the game's most intriguing matchups.

Johnson, the longtime Houston Texans star, could see his role increase dramatically if T.Y. Hilton is hindered by the bruised left knee that kept him out of practice all week until Saturday. Hilton is expected to be a game-time decision.

The Jets' secondary also could be missing a key player. Starting cornerback Antonio Cromartie is questionable with a sprained left knee, putting even more pressure on Revis to live up to his reputation as one of the league's top cover men. That was his job with the Jets before his trade to Tampa Bay two years ago and is now after returning to the Jets following last season's Super Bowl in New England.

Plenty has changed this season.

The 34-year-old Johnson has worked out of the slot more than he ever did in Houston, and new Jets coach Todd Bowles is willing to deploy Revis in multiple ways instead of just shadowing each opponent's best receiver. The Colts' high-powered offense makes Bowles' decision this week complicated.

"We've got our work cut out for us either way, so it doesn't matter if you follow or double somebody, somebody else is always going to be 1-on-1," Bowles said. "They have good enough guys that can get open."

And they're good enough to score points by the dozens, something that didn't happen last week at Buffalo.

The Jets' defense is every bit as challenging.

Bowles, like Rex Ryan, likes blitzing and if he brings enough pressure, Andrew Luck may again be forced to rely on short, quick throws — something that prevented the 34-year-old Johnson from being the playmaker Indy envisioned in the offseason.

Like the Bills, the Jets also have physical cornerbacks such as Revis who can make some of the NFL's top receivers essentially disappear on game day.

"He (Revis) is probably one of the most technically-sound DBs in this league," Johnson said. "He's a heck of a player, but I think they play well as a group. I think they have a great group of guys on the back end and they all complement each other very well. It will be a challenge for us."

A challenge the 30-year-old Revis finds just as enticing, especially on the prime-time stage.

"Andre is by far one of the best receivers I have ever played against in the past," Revis said. "So it does give them a dynamic on offense. They can use Andre probably just like they did Reggie (Wayne) in the past."

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Jon Beason shreds cruel, greedy NFL for Thursday games

Jon Beason’s body keeps failing him, and the veteran Giants linebacker is starting to vent some frustration on the NFL.

Beason missed most of last season and still doesn’t appear ready to play this year thanks to a sprained knee the ninth-year pro suffered in training camp, most likely leaving Big Blue shorthanded in the middle once again for Sunday’s home opener against the Falcons.

One of the reasons Beason probably won’t play versus Atlanta (he was listed as doubtful on the Giants’ official injury report) is they have such a short turnaround before facing the Redskins next Thursday at MetLife Stadium.

That predicament caused Beason to go off on the league for even scheduling Thursday games in the first place.

“[When] you decide to throw another football game into a week, it shows they don’t really care about the players,” Beason said as Big Blue went through one of Tom Coughlin’s new “recovery” Fridays instead of a normal practice.

“That’s just how I feel,” Beason added. “We’re still playing 16 games, whether we play two in a week or not. I know how I feel on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. To think you have to play a game on Thursday, it’s tough.”

Beason, 30, is upset because he wants to be out on the field Sunday — and the Giants’ shorthanded defense could certainly use the three-time Pro Bowl selection.

Beason, who also was a first-team All-Pro pick with the Panthers, was a surprise star for the Giants in 2013 after joining them early in the season. But injuries limited him to just four games last season, none after a Week 7 loss to Dallas.

Beason’s replacement last week and this week, second-year pro Uani’ Unga, struggled in the season opener against the Cowboys and was beaten by tight end Jason Witten for the decisive touchdown catch with seven seconds left that produced Dallas’ 27-26 victory.

While appearing pessimistic Beason would be allowed to play against the Falcons, Coughlin said Friday it “would be a good shot in the arm” if it happened.
“The players not unanimously but wholeheartedly voted him captain, so it would be a definite plus for us,” Coughlin said of Beason.

Beason said it was “extremely tough” to have to watch the Dallas loss from home on television.

“You’ve been dreaming about that game since the schedule came out,” Beason said Friday. “It’s the Dallas Cowboys, it’s Jerry’s World, it’s a divisional game, it’s a great opponent, they won the division last year.”

The idea that Beason might have to watch in street clothes again Sunday just because the NFL has the Giants and Redskins coming back on a short week for television purposes was too much for him to take Friday.

“It’s about money,” Beason said. “The game is growing, fans want to see football, and I get it. I just know from a player’s standpoint, it’s extremely tough to play in a Thursday night game.

“Your body is just beat up, especially when you play a late Sunday game or Monday game,” he added. “It’s an advantage for the next team. It’s just extremely hard to play on Thursdays.”

The only bright spot to Thursday games, Beason said, is the players on both teams are “all in it together.” The best solution to Beason short of a revolt by the NFL Players Association in the next labor agreement would be to have both Thursday opponents coming off a bye week.

“Some teams practice, some teams just walk-through,” Beason said of the abbreviated schedule for a Thursday game. “It’s a different philosophy for different teams. But I think it becomes very difficult to play on Thursday night. The good thing [now] is that a lot of times, it’s a level playing field.”

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Sam Shields' role pivotal in young secondary

GREEN BAY — Sam Shields returned to a very different Green Bay Packers’ cornerback room at the start of the offseason program in April.

A few lockers down, Tramon Williams and Jarrett Bush’s name placards no longer hung from nearby lockers. More than 20 years of NFL experience went out the door when the two veteran cornerbacks and Davon House all departed after the 2014 season.

Suddenly, the 26-year-old cornerback was the eldest player in the room. Five years after making the roster as an undrafted free agent, Shields was going to be the veteran to whom rookies Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter would be turning.

“This year I had to learn to talk a little bit more,” Shields said. “Not too much because I’m not talkative, but just talking a little bit more and teaching a little bit more.”

Shields, mild in his temperament, knows he leads the most with his actions on the field. That’s the responsibility he inherited after agreeing to a four-year, $38.9 million contract in March 2014.

The Packers rewarded him with that contract after arguably his finest season in 2013 when he had a career-high 61 tackles and four interceptions in 14 starts. However, it wasn’t until last year that he made his first Pro Bowl appearance on the heels of a 40-tackle, two-pick season.

Like most of the Packers’ defense, Shields got off to a tough start to the 2015 season in Sunday’s 31-23 win over Chicago. Linebacker Clay Matthews saved the day with his 42-yard interception of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, but only after the defense gave up more than 400 yards of total offense.

Shields, who had trouble getting his footing at Soldier Field, fell down while trying to break up a fourth-quarter pass intended for Bears receiver Marquess Wilson, who then broke it for a 50-yard gain. Earlier, he missed a tackle on Chicago running back Matt Forte, was flagged for holding Alshon Jeffery and jumped off-sides on a field-goal block attempt.

There were positives, including an end-zone pass intended for Jeffery in single coverage. It’s the give and take of life in the NFL.

“That’s how it goes,” Shields said. “Cornerback, that’s a hard position. It goes back and forth. It’s one of the positions you have to forget about and keep moving. I know everybody saying I had a bad game, but I don’t think so. Catches here and there, that’s going to happen. It’s a long season. That’s the NFL. They have great players around. I just have to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Shields’ situation was a microcosm for the state of the Packers’ defense. Coordinator Dom Capers feels good about his Pro Bowl cornerback and the potential of the overall unit, but it remains a work in progress after a shaky preseason and rough opener against the Bears.

Pass and run defenses work hand-in-hand. Whether you’re tackling a ball carrier or receiver, the name of the game is limiting production and making plays.Packers coach Mike McCarthy counted “double-digit” missed tackles against the Bears, which went a long way in Chicago rushing for 189 yards.

Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt attributed three to his group, which are still too many. Miss on a running back? It’s understandable when conceding 30-40 pounds in open field, but Whitt and Shields agreed that can’t happen against receivers. The problems that plagued the Packers weren’t shouldered by one specific player – it was the group.

The Packers feel like they have the personnel to be a difference-making defense. It comes down to individuals fulfilling their assignments and trusting their teammates. If that happens?

“We will play a better brand of defense that what we played in Chicago,” Whitt said. “If we don’t, we’re going to look like we did against Chicago, which is not what we’re capable of doing and that’s what’s disappointing to me because we’re not playing to our ability.

“If we didn’t have the players to do it or we didn’t have the scheme to do it, that’s different. We have it, so there’s no excuse for us not to play high-level ball and that’s everybody. Not Sam. Not anybody in particular. Everybody needs to do their job and we’ll play from there. That’s just what it is.”

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Vince Wilfork: 'We're running out of time'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Vince Wilfork is not a patient man.

At least not when it comes to waiting for his team to start clicking.

"We're running out of time," Wilfork said after the Texans' 24-17 loss to the Carolina Panthers. "It's just getting too crazy right now. We're running out of time. We have to get this fixed quick, so back to the drawing board again this week."

Wilfork's sentiment wasn't matched elsewhere in the locker room, which was permeated by talk of patience and confidence that the Texans defense would soon dominate they way they, frankly, should. But Wilfork has never played for a team that's started the season 0-2 (the Texans haven't done it since 2008). The worst season record he ever experienced in his 11 with the New England Patriots was a 10-6 record. The Texans have only been 10-6 or better twice in their entire history.

His expectations are different.

"It’s very frustrating because we talked about it in [organized team activities]," Wilfork said. "Bad football, we do not want to play bad football, and we did today at times and it cost us. When you do that, this is the result. We got to get it figured out."

The Texans defense wasn't the reason they lost the game. The defense held for much of it as the offense was unable to move the ball. The Texans got into Panthers territory only twice in the first half and got past the Panthers' 41 only once.

Finally in the second quarter, the Panthers began to encroach on Texans territory. They scored all 24 of their points in the final three quarters, aided by penalties. The 80-yard drive that ended with Newton's acrobatic touchdown run featured three Texans penalties, one of which wiped out an interception by safety Rahim Moore.

The Texans also gave up passing touchdowns of 25 and 36 yards.

"We just played poor," Wilfork said. "Penalties and big plays killed us. We’ll watch film and figure out what we can do better to get going. It’s starting to get old now. We need to step up, all of us. It’s going to be a big goal of ours this week. We got to challenge each other this week and get back on track."

He did say it was fixable. What needs to be fixed exactly?

"Eliminate bad football," Wilfork said. "That's one thing, so we'll start with that."

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