Four Future proCane Invited To The Senior Bowl

It looks like four Hurricanes will be heading to this year's senior bowl: linebacker Denzel Perryman, cornerback Ladarius Gunter, receiver Phillip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford.

Eric Galko, an editor at Optimum Scouting who also provides content for the Sporting News and the National Football Post, tweeted the news out Wednesday evening. 





NFLDraftScout.com projects all four players as draft picks for the Hurricanes with Perryman currently tabbed as the best of the senior group at 58th overall (2nd round) -- seven spots behind junior tailback Duke Johnson, considered UM's top draft prospect. 

Walford, who is enjoying a stellar senior season, has seen his draft stock rise over the last couple weeks and is now tabbed as the second-best available tight end, and the 74th best prospect (2nd or 3rd rounder). Junior left tackle Ereck Flowers is also receiving a lot of love after his stellar performance against FSU two weeks removed from knee surgery. Flowers is tabbed the 77th best prospect and the ninth best draft-eligible offensive tackle (2nd or 3rd rounder).

NFLU2009
Truth is, though, Flowers could soar even higher -- maybe into the first round.

"I think he'll go first round or early second," an NFL scout who spoke on the condition of anonymity told me by phone Thursday. "I haven't watched the [FSU] tape yet. But I don't have to. He's a big, physical, good player. And he's tough as hell."

In article by NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang on Wednesday Flowers was been tabbed the 30th best prospect overall.

30. Ereck Flowers, OT, 6-5, 322, 5.26, Jr, Miami: Flowers returns to the Big Board after a very impressive performance against Mario Edwards, Jr. and Florida State. He dropped off the list after undergoing knee surgery in late October but certainly looked no worse for wear against the defending champs. Flowers is light on his feet and balanced in pass protection. He is aggressive and active as a run blocker, including looking for defenders in pursuit. If Flowers checks out medically, he's a likely first-round pick.

Gunter is tabbed as the 18th best available cornerback in the draft and projected to go in the fourth round along with Dorsett, ranked the 20th best receiver.
Senior defensive end Anthony Chickillo, now expected to play at Virginia on Saturday and make his 45th consecutive start, is rated the 18th best defensive end and is given a 4th or 5th round grade. Other Hurricanes seniors on NFLDraftScout.com's projected board include outside linebacker Thurston Armbrister (210th overall, 6th round), defensive tackle Olsen Pierre (228th overall, 6th-7th round), guard Jon Feliciano (234th overall, 6th-7th round), and center Shane McDermott (298th overall, 7th round-free agent).


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(miamiherald.com)
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Travis Benjamin's return to returns

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BEREA, Ohio -- Travis Benjamin has emerged as one of Brian Hoyer’s most reliable targets at wide receiver this season. It’s particularly good news for Benjamin because his previous bread-and-butter, returning punts, hasn’t been nearly as reliable.

Benjamin, who shared punt return duties in 2012 with Joshua Cribbs and took the reins from him in 2013, returned two punts for touchdowns in his first two seasons and averaged over 10 yards per return in 2013. He has struggled fielding punts this season, one in which the Browns' overall punt return game has been lacking. Despite his struggles, Benjamin, who recently returned to the job, will continue as the team’s punt returner Sunday in Atlanta.

"Yeah, he sure did," said special teams coordinator Chris Tabor when asked if Benjamin had done enough against Houston to keep the job. "He's going to be our punt returner. 'Rabbit' is going to be back there."

TravisBenjaminBrowns
“(Confidence) never was a problem,” said Benjamin after practice on Thursday. “Throughout my years of catching punts it never was a problem. It’s all about getting refocused, knowing that, what’s on your plate -- knowing that you got to go to offense then go back to punt return -- it’s all about just settling in."

As for why he lost the punt return job in the first place?

“I wouldn’t say it was taken away,” said Benjamin "'cause I always had the call. 'Well, OK, (special teams coordinator Chris Tabor), this week I felt good,’ I was going back there. … Just sort of giving it the time to get my confidence back in myself and get the job done myself.”

Just to reiterate his confidence level, Benjamin stood by an earlier prediction he would have a punt return touchdown this season.

“Yes. I’m sticking to my prediction that I will have a punt return (touchdown) before the season is over with.”


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(cleveland.com)
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Tabor: Devin Hester is Hall of Famer

DevinHesterFalcons
BEREA, Ohio -- Earlier this season, Cleveland Browns special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor jokingly said certain punt and kickoff returners around the league give him sleepless nights in the week leading up to a game.

But that has not been the case with the Atlanta Falcons this week, who drop back ninth-year NFL record holder, and multi-time Pro Bowler, Devin Hester to return kickoffs and punts.

"I slept real well last night," Tabor said Thursday. "I slept like a baby, cried my way to sleep last night.

"He's a future Hall of Famer. I know him real well, have a lot of respect for him, not only as a player, but more importantly, as a person. It's a great challenge for our cover units. I have confidence in our coverage guys, so we'll see where we're at based off this returner."

Tabor knows very well the kind of impact Hester can have on a football game.

Before being named the Browns' special-teams coordinator prior to the 2011 season, Tabor was an assistant with the Chicago Bears from 2008-2010, where he got the opportunity to coach Hester for three seasons.

During those three seasons, Hester returned 89 punts for 949 yards and three touchdowns, and 50 kickoffs for 1,262 yards, but was no more effective on special teams than in 2010, Tabor's final year in Chicago, Hester returned 33 punts for 564 yards and three touchdowns.

"He catches the ball real well," Tabor said. "The thing that separates him obviously is his speed but more his vision and his instincts. Devin makes you cover the whole field as opposed to just a little bit of the field. With that, you have to take into consideration his talents. At the same time, we've got to play to our talents and our strengths, and we'll do that.

"Some people thought (he slowed), but this year, as you watch him on tape, I think he's kind of found the fountain of youth a little bit. He's not one of the leading punt returners because he hasn't had enough opportunities, but he's over 12 yards per return. Kickoff wise, he's making you cover the whole thing. He looks like old Devin to me."

In week three in September, Hester, a three-time Pro Bowler, broke former Atlanta cornerback Deion Sanders' NFL record for the most return touchdowns when he ran back a punt 62 yards for a touchdown in a 56-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

During that same game, when Hester scored a 20-yard touchdown on a reverse, he became only the second NFL player to score touchdowns rushing, receiving, on kick, punt and missed field goal returns.

Hester has returned an NFL record 14 punts for touchdowns, and has 20 special-teams scores in his career. Hester's 3,392 punt return yards are the most among all active players.

"A lot of memories with him," Tabor said. "One of them was a Monday night game when the Metrodome kind of collapsed. We had to go play at the University of Minnesota, and he set a record that night for punt returns. I can't remember exactly what it was, but it was a heck of a return.

"Probably my biggest memory of him though is you could stand over on the sideline and kind of say, ''Hess, what do you like?' He'd say, 'Coach, send me to the field,' and you'd say, 'The field it is.'

"He's a dynamic player, but at the same time, he's a true pro. That's why he's been playing a lot time and been so successful. I have a lot of stories. Not one really sticks out, but I think highly of him."


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(wkyc.com)
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Calais Campbell among Pro Bowl voting leaders

CalaisCampbellCards
Pro Bowl voting is in full swing. Fans can vote for their favorite or the best NFL players to be on the Pro Bowl, which will be held at University of Phoenix Stadium the week before the Super Bowl.

The NFL announced the current results of fan voting and a couple of players do not appear in the top 10 in votes at their position.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald is not there, nor is defensive end Calais Campbell.

Fitz is understandable. He hasn't been there among the fan votes for a while. But Campbell continues to not get the credit he deserves.
Cornerback Patrick Peterson is among the top 10 corners in voting,. He is currently sixth.


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(revengeofthebirds.com)
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Peter O'Brien Impressing

PeterObrienCanes
Peter O'Brien is being groomed as a catcher, and he did all of his extra work this fall behind the plate, with an emphasis on the transfer from glove to throwing hand against potential base stealers. He had some good days, throwing out three base stealers in an Oct. 24 game against Glendale. Because each Fall League team has four catchers, O'Brien also spent a lot of time at first base and was used as a DH. O'Brien does not figure to get much time at first behind Paul Goldschmidt, but versatility is always a selling point. If the jury is out on O'Brien's defensive skills, it has reached a unanimous verdict on his bat. He can hit, and his approach is sound. One major league talent evaluator likened O'Brien to Colorado catcher Wilin Rosario, whose bat earned him a place in the lineup as his defensive skills improved. O'Brien had 38 home runs in 133 games at four stops this season even though he missed about a month with a shin injury just after he was obtained from the Yankees. He showed good strike zone knowledge and drew 17 walks in 25 games for a .393 on-base percentage in the Fall League. Peter O'Brien tied for third in the league with five home runs, one short of the league co-leaders, as the Salt River Rafters -- the D-backs' prospects used the same clubhouse as the parent team does during spring training -- rolled to the best record in the league and on Saturday won the championship game.


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(foxsports.com)
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Lamar Miller able to practice in full

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Dolphins running back Lamar Miller was able to practice in full Wednesday.

Miller is dealing with a shoulder injury, but was able to go Wednesday. As long as he continues to practice, Miller should be good to go Week 12.




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(cbssports.com)
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Frank Gore aware time with 49ers could be running out

FrankGore2
Frank Gore, at age 31, appears to understand that his time in San Francisco is nearing its end.

He's done a lot of great things for the 49ers over the years. He's been a downhill, hard-nosed bruiser that has been able to keep up his production despite hearing that he's becoming an aging running back in the NFL. However, he's in the final year of his contract. It'll be tough for the 49ers to bring back Gore based on his age, and how that projects with running backs in this league.

"I’d love to be back here but they got younger guys,” Gore said on The Jim Rome Show. “You know how they feel about running backs. That’s why each week I go out to play for my team and to play for myself, and also to show other teams I can still be Frank Gore.”

Those younger guys are Carlos Hyde (23 years old), Alfonso Smith (27) and Kendall Hunter (26). Hyde appears to be the back of the future with Hunter being an ideal change-of-pace runner, though he'll be coming off an ACL tear sustained at the beginning of this past training camp.

Gore is still on pace for 1,000 yards this year, which he's accomplished in every NFL season he's played in except two. It would be a shame to see him leave San Francisco after this season, but that's the way it works in the NFL sometimes.


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(nationalfootballpost.com)
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Andre Johnson earning place among the greatest receivers to play football

AndreJohnson2
On Sunday, Andre Johnson caught his 982nd NFL pass, lifting him to 10th all-time in career receptions.

In doing so, he tied Randy Moss on the list and will, barring injury, move ahead of him this weekend. He's 18 catches behind Hines Ward, who is ninth, and 42 catches behind Isaac Bruce in eighth.

After the game in Cleveland, Johnson showed his typical deference for those who have come before him.

"I used to wear the clown socks like he wore in college," Johnson said. "It's a tremendous honor."

The thing is, this happens often. Now in this 12th NFL season, Johnson has been eclipsing some of the greatest receivers of all time or at least matching their accomplishments with regularity.

"You never think about stuff like that," Johnson said. "When you come in, you just want to be a good player, play to the best of your ability. To be on the all-time list, that’s big. Like I said, I think it’ll all sink in the day that you hang them cleats up, you look back over your career and see what you’ve been able to accomplish."

He's interacted with a lot of those great receivers over time and received their praise either directly or indirectly. Earlier this season, Jerry Rice heaped praise upon Johnson -- that's special because Rice is the reason Johnson wears the number 80.

"Most of the time when you see them, they talk to you about what you’re doing on the field," Johnson said. "... It’s surprising because you never really know that those guys pay attention to you. A lot of them just tell me they love the way I play, the way I carry myself and approach the games. It’s just big to hear that from people who you’ve looked up to or watched growing up."


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(espn.com)
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Zach Ertz says he doesn't think Jimmy Graham could play for Eagles

JimmyGrahamSaints
PHILADELPHIA — Eagles second-year tight end Zach Ertz has seen his playing time decrease this season, a result of being in an offense that requires tight ends to block more than catch the ball.

How committed are the Eagles to that philosophy? According to Ertz, even one of the best tight ends in the league, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, wouldn't see the field.

"Probably not, to be honest," Ertz said on if Graham would play for the Eagles. "I don't want to take anything away from Jimmy, but the things I've seen, he is more of a pass-catching tight end. In this offense we are a run-first team and we don't sub because we go at (a fast pace)."

The question was posed to Ertz after head coach Chip Kelly said on Wednesday that the reason the second-year player has seen less playing time is because of how effective Celek has been in the blocking game.

When asked about his coaches assessment that Celek is a better blocker, Ertz didn't disagree.

"Brent has been here for a long time," Ertz said. "He might be the best run-blocking tight end in the league."

What Ertz did disagree with was that he isn't capable of blocking, something he worked on throughout the offseason.

"I definitely don't think it is a negative part to my game anymore," Ertz said. "The perception that I can't block isn't true."

Celek's strengths as a run blocker puts Ertz in a tough spot, as he is stuck behind the veteran in what has become a one-tight-end offense. Ertz admitted that being on the bench has been tough for him, especially early on in the season.

"It was a big maturation process for me. Kind of a stubborn 23-year old to a mature 24-year old," Ertz said. "I was really hard on myself. If I had one negative play, it would impact the next one. In this league, that can kind of spiral. It effected me on-and-off the field. But I have learned you can't take things personally."

Ertz said he was able to turn the corner emotionally after a sit down with his tight end coaches, a meeting that took place a few weeks ago.

"The attitude maybe wasn't as up to par as it should have been," Ertz said of the reason for the meeting. "I can't control (my playing time). I can control my attitude and my playing time."

His attitude may have improved, but his playing time has not. Ertz was on the field for 28 snaps this pack Sunday in Green Bay, a little more than half of the 53 snaps he played in Week 1.

"We are 7-3," Ertz said. "I don't have a lot of merit (to complain)," Ertz said. "If Brent or James (Casey) gives us a better chance to win, then I am all for that.


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(nj.com)
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Jason Fox could get chance to shine Sunday against the Broncos

JasonFoxLions
Dolphins coaches had a pointed message for Jason Fox this week: “Stay ready.”

Although that’s the marching order for every backup, it carries extra weight because of the Dolphins’ tenuous situation at offensive tackle.

The Dolphins signed Fox in the spring for just this scenario — when injury or performance scrambles their best-laid plans.

But when Branden Albert went down with a season-ending knee injury, it was Dallas Thomas, not Fox, who slid into the starting lineup. Fox has been on the field for just 16 offensive snaps all year, and wasn’t even active in seven of the Dolphins’ first 10 games.

“Everybody wants to play, but I’m here for the team,” Fox said. “Whatever role they want me to play to help the team, that’s what I’ll do.”

He probably will start out on the bench Sunday. Early indications are Thomas will again be the team’s right tackle in Denver.

But the hook might not be too far off. Thomas must play substantially better than he has when he faces the Broncos’ fearsome pass rush Sunday.

Denver’s Von Miller and Demarcus Ware have combined for 19 sacks, 19 quarterback hits and 53 hurries this season. Those numbers are better than even the Dolphins’ standout defensive ends, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon, who have tallied 14, 19 and 47, respectively.

And when Thomas has faced elite defenders this year, he has struggled.

His showing against Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in the preseason — when Thomas allowed a strip-sack, a quarterback hit, a hurry and committed two penalties — cost him a starting job.

And in his first career start at right tackle last Thursday, Thomas had no answer for Buffalo’s Mario Williams.

In 67 snaps, Thomas surrendered 2 1/2 sacks, a hit and four hurries, receiving the lowest Pro Football Focus grade of any Dolphins lineman all season.
By way of comparison, Fox allowed one sack, one quarterback hit and two hurries — in all of 2013.

“Every week, we decide what linemen go to the game,” coach Joe Philbin said. “Typically, if you study us, we bring seven guys. So far, the guys that we’ve given the playing time are the ones we think give us the best chance to win. It’s really not an indictment of [Fox]. It’s just where we feel we are.”

For now, at least.

With Albert’s injury, Fox is suddenly the old guy at the tackle position — even though he’s just 26.

Rookie Ja’Wuan James started the season’s first eight games at right tackle and was a rock, but has been shaky since moving to the left side. He has allowed nine quarterback hurries in the past two weeks.

Yet it’s hard to envision a scenario — short of injury — in which James is anything but the Dolphins’ starting left tackle for the rest of the season. If at some point the Dolphins do make a move, it would likely be a one-for-one switch: Fox in and Thomas out.

Fox has gotten some snaps with the first team in practice this week, but nothing beyond the normal rotation. That suggests the Dolphins will go with Thomas on Sunday — at least to start.

“The first thing I would tell Dallas is to have some confidence because there are a whole bunch of great clips on video,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “He was not perfect and we know that Mario came out with some production, but I think Dallas should have some confidence. When I watch the tape, I see him, especially in the run game, blocking more confidently all of the time.”

Lazor added that his offensive line was in for “a heck of a challenge with these pass rushers. I’ve had the chance to coach against them all before and there is no easy answer.”

Having Daryn Colledge back should help.

The veteran left guard, who has missed the past three games with a back injury, is on track to play Sunday.

“I expect to just be in the mix,” Colledge said. “I expect to go out there and try to compete.”


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(miamiherald.com)
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Devin Hester fined for scuffle with Panthers

DevinHesterFalcons
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons receivers Roddy White and Devin Hester said they were fined $8,268 each for their roles in separate third-quarter scuffles with the Carolina Panthers during last Sunday’s 19-17 win.

Hester received a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for diving head first in attempt to knock Panthers cornerback Josh Norman off teammate Harry Douglas as Norman and Douglas wrestled on the ground. Douglas appeared to pull down Norman by the facemask, but Douglas declined to say if he received a fine.

Several Carolina players went after Hester and threw him down after his hit on Norman. White pushed one of the players away from Hester.

Moments after, White got facemask to facemask with Panthers defensive end Kony Ealy. Ealy then gave White a two-hand shove, and White fired back. No penalty was called on either player although it occurred in front of the official.

Both White and Hester plan to appeal the fines.

"Yes, of course," White said of appealing. "I’m not just going to let them just take my money.’’

The initial incident involved Panthers safety Roman Harper getting into it with Falcons running back Antone Smith after Harper was flagged for unnecessary roughness against White. Smith was not penalized for shoving Harper.

It remains unclear which Carolina players received fines, if any. Falcons coach Mike Smith was obviously upset when Hester was the only player flagged following the scuffles.

"I'm sure that when it all gets said and done that the league office will take a look at it, and if there were other guys involved in it, even though it wasn't a 15-yard penalty,’’ Smith said after the game. "That's what the league does. But I thought it was very unusual to have all that take place and only one player is penalized."


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(espn.com)
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Orlando Franklin couldn't "care less" about Mark Schlereth's O-line critique

OrlandoFranklinBroncos
Orlando Franklin said he only cares what those inside the Broncos' locker rooms thinks of their offensive line.

Broncos left guard Orlando Franklin told The Denver Post he couldn't "care less" about former Denver all-pro Mark Schlereth's scathing critique of the offensive line.

"All I care about is what the guys inside the locker room think. What the Denver Broncos think," Franklin said Wednesday. "I (couldn't) care less what he thinks."

Talking on ESPN 102.3 FM, Schlereth offered his review of the past three games, saying "they don't block anybody ... and I thought it was a good decision to move Franklin inside, but I was wrong and they were wrong."

Wednesday, quarterback Peyton Manning and running back C.J. Anderson defended the offensive line, which has been under scrutiny since the loss at New England when the Patriots confused Denver on fourth downs and stuffed the running game. Manning pointed out the difficulty of switching the group midstream, with Will Montgomery moving to center, Manny Ramirez to right guard and Louis Vasquez switching to right tackle.

"Certainly," said Manning when asked if the offensive line is good enough to win. "It's not easy forming chemistry in just two weeks. What's that, just a handful of practices together? There is a lot of communication that goes into playing offensive line in the NFL, especially in this offense. They are working hard at it."

Coach John Fox promised more balance in the offense, admitting that Denver abandoned the run too quickly in St. Louis. Asked about Schlereth's analysis, Fox responded, "everybody's got an opinion, but the are like a body part, and everybody's got one. So I will leave it at that."

All but Franklin received a negative grade in the loss to the Rams, according to ProFootball Focus, as the Broncos rushed for 28 yards on 10 carries.

"I am getting tired of the criticism. It bothers me," Anderson said. "The only way we can shut them up is go out and execute."


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(denverpost.com)
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Trucker pleads guilty to ripping off Devin Hester

DevinHesterFalcons
A trucker who conned former Chicago Bears kickoff return star Devin Hester and others out of $1.5 million pleaded guilty Wednesday and said he’s struggling with booze and gambling addictions.

Gregg Steinnagel, 53, promised quick, large profits to Hester if he invested with a pal, then kept the cash for himself.

The pair met after Hester — who famously ran back the opening kickoff of Superbowl XLI for a touchdown — paid Steinnagel to transport a car from Lake County to Florida, where he grew up.

Steinnagel admitted Wednesday that he teamed up with a flight attendant named Jeffrey Fazzio, who posed as an attorney using the alias “Neal Rubenstein.”

After transporting the player’s car to Florida, Steinnagel introduced the player to Fazzio and promised huge returns at low risk for investments in distressed real estate.

Starting in 2011, Hester made several small investments that paid off; then Steinnagel and Fazzio took him for 14 investments totaling nearly $400,000, court documents state.

Fazzio, of Pittsburgh, has since died but Steinnagel was arrested at his Chicago home in May.

Prosecutors said Steinnagel gambled with the loot he stole from Hester and others at casinos in the Chicago area, Nevada and Florida.

Steinnagel admitted Wednesday that he’s being treated by a doctor for alcohol and gambling problems.

He’s due to be sentenced in the new year. Federal sentencing guidelines suggest he should get between 41 and 51 months in prison, though his attorney is free to ask for less.

Hester currently plays for the Atlanta Falcons. His representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.


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(chicagosuntimes.com)
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Allen Bailey, Chiefs’ newly-paid ‘Hulk’ of a defensive end, lives up to comic moniker

AllenBailey
One day this summer, while the Chiefs were still training in St. Joseph, Allen Bailey walked over to his locker to gather a few things. He’d just left a defensive meeting, and was about to head back to his room, when all of a sudden, he saw a green, foreign object in his locker.

A doll — actually, an Incredible Hulk doll, to be exact.

“I saw the thing, and then I squeezed it — because you know it makes noises or whatever,” Bailey recently recalled with a chuckle. “I just laughed because (my teammates) were laughing, too.”

The culprit, it turns out, was Britt Reid, the son of Chiefs coach Andy Reid. Britt is a defensive quality control coach for the Chiefs, but he’s also a comics fan who shares his name with the alter ego of the Green Hornet, a popular DC Comics character.

“He always makes fun of us, like which one of us would be action figures,” Bailey said. “Like, I’m the Hulk, (Dontari) Poe and (Mike) DeVito would be the Juggernaut and Jaye (Howard) is The Thing.”

Poe, DeVito and Howard earned those comparisons because of their considerable size and strength, but Bailey’s teammates say the Hulk fits him best.

“That’s him, man, that’s him,” Howard said. “Before the game, they even give him the green Gatorade. That’s the Hulk right there, man. He’s cut. I’ve never seen anything like it. His strength, I don’t care how big a dude is, he can find a way to get him on the ground, just throw him and shed him.”

Linebacker Dee Ford took the comparison even farther.

“It’s perfect,” Ford said. “Looks like the Hulk. Plays like the Hulk. He’s a complete player, man. He’s powerful, fast. He’s just a freak. You see him do certain stuff … there’s a select few guys in the league like that.”

The Chiefs’ front office agrees, apparently. Listed at 6 feet 3 and 288 pounds, Bailey has shown enough promise that the team opted to keep him from hitting free agency next March by signing him to a four-year, $25 million extension with $15 million in guaranteed money and a $10 million signing bonus.

That’s good money, particularly for a the fourth-year pro and first-year starter who, by all accounts, isn’t the best interior defender on his own team (that honor would go to Poe). But in today’s pass-happy NFL, three-down linemen are important to provide scheme versatility, and the Chiefs believe Bailey’s age — he’s just 25 — plus combination of size, strength smarts and athleticism, equal a high ceiling.

“He’s a smart kid, and so that’s carried over into his play,” Andy Reid said. “He’s really taken to learning the scheme and the concepts the offenses are throwing at him. So aptitude wise, he’s able to handle that and put it to use in play.”

Reid added that Bailey has always had the physical part, and he’s certainly right about that. After all, Britt Reid isn’t the first person to bestow the “Hulk” nickname upon Bailey.

“Ever since I was a freshman (in college), I’ve been called that sometimes,” said Bailey, who went to the University of Miami. “You know, because I wasn’t the average-sized freshman.”

Bailey’s childhood was unconventional in some significant ways — he grew up on a tiny Georgia Island with two paved roads, no cellphone services, no supermarket and no police — but he did have at least one thing in common with other football-loving kids in the South.

“In high school, I wanted to be like Ray Lewis,” Bailey said.

After a ballyhooed prep career in which he starred as a 6-foot-4, 252-pound linebacker, Bailey received offers from Alabama, Florida and Georgia. But he settled on Miami, Lewis’ alma mater, which promised him an opportunity to play at his idol’s position.

“I had the ability to run,” Bailey said. “I was good.”

Only, Bailey kept growing. Under the supervision of a collegiate weight-training program, his powerful legs and massive upper body only expanded. After spending his freshman year as a contributor on special teams, Bailey was convinced by Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon and defensive line coach Clint Hurtt to move to defensive end.

“A gift and a curse,” Bailey joked.

It turned out to be a good decision, as he grew into a two-year starter who finished his career with 103 tackles and 12 sacks.

He was selected by the Chiefs in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, but that proved to be a rude awakening. On this level, everyone was strong, and everyone was quick. Often, the difference between making the play and missing it is a combination of instincts, confidence and knowledge of assignments.

Bailey, who had played in a 4-3 defense his entire life, was tasked with playing another new position — defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

“It took me some years just to get comfortable in the 3-4, understand two-gapping,” Bailey said. “I’m used to firing off and having one responsibility in a gap.”

In Bailey’s first two NFL seasons, he recorded 11 tackles and one sack in 26 games and seemed to be at risk during the Chiefs’ regime change from general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel to John Dorsey and Andy Reid.

But Bailey showed signs of improvement last season in new coordinator Bob Sutton’s defense, which sometimes calls on players to attack gaps.

He quickly emerged as the team’s best interior pass-rushing option next to Poe, and while he only had one sack, he had 18 hurries — tied for 18th in the league among 3-4 defensive ends and 11 more than starter Tyson Jackson, who left for Atlanta in free agency.

“I think everybody in the building felt like this guy can do this job,” Sutton said. “He (was) on his way up, and if he just keeps grinding away at this and working hard at it, we can get a real football player here.”

Bailey was eager for the opportunity but knew there were others waiting in the wings, including free-agent signee Vance Walker, who joined the Chiefs on a three-year, $13 million deal in March.

So last offseason, Bailey tried a meal plan for the first time in hopes of adding good weight. He ate burgers, chicken, steak and vegetables, and by the time he reported for camp, he weighed in at 293 pounds — up from the 283 he played at in 2013.

“I was afraid at first like, maybe my body won’t be able to move as quickly as I have,” Bailey said. “But during OTAs and camp, my body adapted to it.”

He soon found the extra weight helped him anchor against the 330-pound men he faced in the trenches. He not only managed to hold off Walker for the starting job — playing 541 snaps to Walker’s 106 — he has thrived.

In 10 games, Bailey already has four sacks — three more than last year — and 11 hurries, the same number as Poe. Against the run, Bailey’s had good and bad moments, but overall, Sutton says he’s turned into “a real effective” first- and second-down player.

“I think the area that he’s really improved on is his technique,” Sutton added. “He’s really taken that to heart. … I think those two elements, technique and maybe the additional weight, has helped him become a more patient run player and good run player throughout the course of the season.”

Add this to Bailey’s freakish athleticism, and it’s not hard to see why the team considers him to be an ascending player.

“Yeah, he’s chiseled,” Reid said. “Every defensive lineman is going to get out of position sometime. That’s just going to happen. Very few of them can recover and get themselves back into position, and he can do that because of the athleticism.”

This isn’t lip service, by the way. The Chiefs have just $2.8 million in cap room this season, which means it will be difficult for them to extend star outside linebacker Justin Houston’s contract during the season, barring a restructure or two.

While that likely is an indicator of how far apart the Chiefs and Houston are on a new deal, Bailey’s deal is also an indicator of how the team really feels about him.

“Every week he gets a little bit better,” Reid said. “I think the coaches feel good about it, and (Dorsey) feels good about it, and I trust John and the job he does.”
So does Sutton, who was thrilled to retain Bailey’s services.

“I was happy, you know,” Sutton said. “Why wouldn’t you be, coaching him? That’s an exciting thing. It’s certainly well deserved. He’s really made a tremendous amount of progress starting last year. You can start to see some of the potential that was there.”

Bailey is every bit as happy as his bosses are about the new deal.

One reason is because he was spooked by the recent season-ending injury to Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer.

“It was a great deal at the same time,” Bailey said, “but I heard about that happening and I was like, ‘Wow, you never know. Any snap, anything can happen.’”

Bailey does not have big plans for his money, at least not yet, though he plans on buying his mother a truck. The thought of it brings a smile to his face, one his teammates have seen plenty.

Turns out that while Bailey’s size and athleticism more than live up to his “Hulk” nickname, his friendly and laid-back disposition does not.

“He’s one of the nicest guys I know, and I’ve had my locker around him the last couple of years,” linebacker Josh Martin said. “A great guy. Laid back, mellow. But when it’s time to play, obviously, he makes a difference.”

Likewise, Ford said Bailey was one of the players who showed him the ropes when he first arrived in Kansas City in May, but added that you shouldn’t mistake his kind, quiet side for weakness on the field. Bailey, he said, is not one of those players who needs to play angry to play well.

“That doesn’t have to be his personality for him to be physical,” Ford said.

So yes, Bailey says, a handful of his teammates still call him Hulk. The doll Britt Reid gave him sits in his locker every day, and every week, either Bailey or a member of the equipment staff packs it up and places it in his game-day locker — a not-so-subtle reminder of what the Chiefs are paying him to be from now on.

“Yeah, I call him Hulk,” Howard said with a mischievous grin. “But now, his new name is Big Money.”


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(kansascity.com)
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Michael Irvin fears for his sons who play football

MichaelIrvinCane
PLANO, Texas — If you have ever watched Michael Irvin do his very public business, you know he€™s never needed a megaphone. On television or radio or simply chatting in an otherwise quiet restaurant, his volume is set on high.

Want an autograph, a photo, a quick lecture on responsibility or a sermon on redemption, Irvin, who maintains he has seen the light, is more than willing to share. He’s a one-man pep rally, self-help guru and revival-tent preacher.

When he helped the Cowboys return to Super Bowl glory in the early 1990s, the pass-catching triplet’s voice was the loudest on the mountaintop. He was an unquestioned locker room leader.

But here, he is different. Here, he yearns for privacy. He sits alone, isolated by choice, hoping to go unbothered in a crowd of football enthusiasts, most of whom have worshiped at the Cowboys alter.

Here, he eschews center stage in the more inviting seats that look down on midfield to instead sit stoically behind a video camera, 25 hard metal-bleacher rows off to the side.

His camera’s audio is off. Always. He wants no recording of his mutterings. Such is a wise course of action for any father taping his child’s games for future joint analysis.

Like so many other Cowboys of his generation, Michael Irvin is a football dad. He has come to Prestonwood Christian Academy’s stadium this Friday night to watch his son play. The son, also Michael, is a 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior wide receiver wearing the familiar No. 88.

The father, whose broadcasting work takes him around the country, has made it a habit to try to never miss a game between airport hops. Fly in Fridays; fly out Saturdays. Always at home games, he sits in this same lonely row.

When he arrived this night, the Playmaker came with the same Friday night frights he feels every game. It’s the same baggage his Cowboys contemporaries carry. They love the game that has brought them glory and riches beyond their wildest expectations. They are supportive of their sons playing but know all too well the damage it can wreak.

“I’m scared for him,†Irvin says mid-game while the Prestonwood offense rests on the sideline.

Scared that his oldest son might run the wrong play? Miss a block? Drop a key pass?

“Nervous for that,†the father admits, his volume dropping by the syllable.

Ah, the old feelings the father felt in his own high school days in South Florida, at the University of Miami and his Pro Football Hall of Fame seasons with the Cowboys?

Irvin sits up straight, stares at the camera’s viewfinder, refocuses the lens on No. 88 on an offense returning to the field and allows his voice to fall to almost a whisper. Here is a Michael Irvin few have heard.

Here Irvin speaks for a generation of Cowboys, who could afford to fear nothing on their way to winning Super Bowls but now worry on the sidelines.
“Scared he might get hurt because there are no feelings like the feelings a parent has for a son,†he explained before returning to muttering through the offensive series.

Michael Irvin’s final play as a Cowboy remains etched in his memory. In his 168th NFL game, on a wet, dreary Philadelphia afternoon in October 1999, he caught an 8-yard slant pass from Troy Aikman.

It was Irvin’s first reception of the game, his 10th of the season, the 750th of his Cowboys career.

As he latched on to that first-quarter pass, having run his signature route surrounded by defenders, Irvin could have no idea it would be his last.

As he tried to avoid an incoming defensive back, he went down head first into a concrete-like artificial slab of Veterans Stadium turf.

The Eagles crowd cheered his misfortune. Teammates prayed. Irvin didn’t know what to think as he lay motionless on the field for almost 20 minutes. Finally, he was carried off on a stretcher and taken to a Philadelphia hospital with damage to his vertebrae. Sandy, his wife, was at his side. She cried all the way to the hospital.

In the blink of an eye, Michael Irvin’s career was finished. The doctors told him it would be too dangerous to try to play again. He was 33.

He calls the play “the last act.†But it hardly overshadowed his career.

“My memories of playing football are much better than that,†he said.

He cited the camaraderie. The life lessons. The glitz, glamor and the money.

How could he possibly deny his son Michael and his second son, Elijah, a sophomore reserve running back at Prestonwood, the opportunity to make memories of their own?

Sandy Irvin wanted her sons to play basketball and wasn’t shy about making her feelings known.

Her son Michael listened to her concerns.

“But we are a football family,†son told mother.

Standing off to the side, his father couldn’t help but smile.

“That’s my boy,†Michael Irvin thought.

The father said he always looked for ways to be more physical during his playing days.

“I used to put my head down and try to use it as a weapon,†Irvin said. “I loved to hit before I was hit.â€

That is not the lesson he has passed on.

“We’ve learned so much about the danger of doing something like that,†he said. “The game is changing. The rules are changing. It’s a smarter game.â€

To ensure his sons hear him, he has enlisted others to relay the same message.

Irvin has a wide network of friends he has leaned on, including ex-teammates. Among the friends is Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

“It’s like all fathers and sons,†Irvin said. “I can say something to my son 1,000 times, but as soon as Larry says the same thing, the light bulb goes off.â€

The Irvin men spend summers at Fitzgerald’s camp.

“I tell Larry. Larry tells Michael. It’s all good,†the father said.

Six games into the 1989 season, his second with the Cowboys, Irvin’s left knee exploded as his right anterior cruciate ligament was torn apart. His season was over. At age 23, he thought his career might be over as well.

The 15th of 17 children who grew up in a blue-collar roofer’s home, he was unsure what future life held.

He poured every ounce of his strength in rehabilitating the knee.

“That was the only time I was anything close to scared in football,†he said. “That I wouldn’t be able to play.â€

He is unsure how his children might react in a similar situation.

“I don’t know if my kids or any players’ kids, with all they have, could have such a hunger for the game.

“But in the end, it doesn’t matter,†Irvin concluded. “I’ve always told my boys that whatever they decided is that important to them we will work toward that.

“That’s what any father would do.â€


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(therepublic.com)
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Edgerrin James Among 26 Pro Football Hall Of Fame Semifinalists

EdgeColts
INDIANAPOLIS – Another cut has been made for the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class and several Colts still remain.

A list of more than 126 candidates is down to 26 with Tony Dungy, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison left as semifinalists.

On January 8, the 26-man list will be dwindled down to 15 finalists before a 4-to-8 man class is voted on the Saturday of Super Bowl weekend.

The 2015 ballot is the first year James has been eligible for Canton.

James is the Colts franchise leader in rushing yards (9,226) and ranks 13th in NFL history with 15,610 total yards from scrimmage.


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(colts.com)
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Jags will start Allen Hurns over Marqise Lee

AllenHurnsJags
Coach Gus Bradley said Allen Hurns, not Marqise Lee, will replace Allen Robinson (foot) in the starting lineup.

Hurns will start opposite Cecil Shorts and play just about every snap, with Lee functioning as the No. 3. It's a role we'd have more excitement about if Hurns had more consistency and Blake Bortles wasn't so error-prone. Shorts is the one more likely to see volume and take advantage of the garbage-time stats that will inevitably come. Hurns, expected to get cleared off his concussion in time for Week 12 at Indy, is a WR4.


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(rotoworld.com)
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Extra shot of Bailey helping charge Chiefs' defense

AllenBailey
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It has taken almost eight years for Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Allen Bailey to find a home on the football field.

After four seasons of being moved to different positions while playing for the University of Miami Hurricanes, and then three more years of being a jack of all trades on the Kansas City defensive line, Bailey has spent the 2014 season playing left defensive end and only left defensive end. It has been a motivator for him and revelation for the Chiefs as they try to repeat their postseason position from last season.

"I found a home," Bailey said as he prepared to play a Thursday night game against the Oakland Raiders. "I know I feel more comfortable. I think I've been able to contribute."

The Chiefs obviously agree with that assessment - last week they finalized a four-year contract extension with the former third-round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. It's a $25 million deal with $15 million in guaranteed money, including a $10 million signing bonus.

Bailey is one of the faceless players who have lifted the Chiefs to the upper level of the league's defenses. After 10 games, Kansas City is No. 8 in fewest yards allowed and No. 1 against the pass. The Chiefs are No. 2 in fewest points allowed. Pro Bowl defenders like safety Eric Berry, nose tackle Dontari Poe and outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are known around the league.

But, it has been players like free safety Husain Abdullah, slot cornerback Chris Owens, inside linebacker Josh Mauga and Bailey that have lifted their play and made coordinator Bob Sutton's defense the engine that has driven the team to a 7-3 record and a share of first place in the AFC West.

In 10 games, Bailey has taken part in 29 total tackles, just one less than he had all of last season. He has four sacks, or two more than he produced through his first three seasons in the league. Bailey has been credited with seven pressures on the quarterback, also two more than he had in his previous years.

"He's really made a tremendous amount of progress, starting last year," said Sutton. "I just think the more he's played, the better he's got and I think the arrows really point up on him. He's made himself into a real effective first and second down player. We always thought he had the skill to be effective on third down because he's got speed and he's got range.

"I think he's just really become a much better all-around football player."

Bailey is a native of Hog Hammock, a community on Sapelo Island, just off the coast of Georgia, where he commuted to school not only by bus, but a ferry. Gifted with one of those chiseled and athletic bodies, Bailey ended up with the Hurricanes, where he played 50 games and made multiple starts at left and right defensive end and left defensive tackle.

That story continued through the first three seasons with the Chiefs, as Bailey played for three head coaches and three defensive coordinators. Sutton, head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey liked what they saw from Bailey last year and made the decision to not pursue starting defensive end Tyson Jackson, who signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Atlanta Falcons. The coaches indicated to him that Jackson's spot was his for the taking. Bailey added some weight, grabbed the position and has not let go.

Now, he has a home, a new contract and he's a major player for a defense that faces some strong offenses in the last month of the season like Denver, Arizona, Pittsburgh and San Diego.


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(wdsu.com)
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Marvin Lewis: Penalty for hit on Jimmy Graham was worth it

JimmyGrahamSaints
Bengals safety George Iloka got a personal foul penalty for a late hit on Saints tight end Jimmy Graham on Sunday. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn’t mind.

Lewis said that while he’d prefer not to lose 15 yards, he believed that hit set the tone for the physical way the Bengals’ defense played against Graham. And Lewis was very pleased with the way his defense played against Graham, who had only three catches for 29 yards.

“Unfortunately it cost us a penalty, but I think . . . it took a little bit out of him for the rest of the football game,” Lewis said, via Cincinnati.com. “He’s obviously someone we wanted to get hands on every chance we get. He’s such an effective receiver.”

Much like Lewis’s statement that the media make too much of concussions, Lewis’s statement that he sees a benefit to a hit that drew a personal foul penalty comes across as tone deaf in the image-conscious NFL, a league that is doing all it can to stress player safety. But Lewis is less interested in image than he is in coaching a tough, physical football team. And if that means sometimes his players cross the line and get a penalty, Lewis can live with that.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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Frank Gore: Players don’t think about friction between Harbaugh and team

FrankGore2
There have been reports about 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh losing the locker room this season, but he doesn’t appear to be at risk of losing the portion of it that contains running back Frank Gore.

During an appearance on The Jim Rome Show, Gore said that Harbaugh is a winner and wondered how anyone wouldn’t respect the success that Harbaugh has had since taking on the Job in 2011. He also said that the players on the team aren’t paying any attention to what may or may not be going on between Harbaugh and the front office.

“We don’t even think about it,” Gore said. “As long as we practice, he can prepare us for Sunday, and hopefully we get a win, that’s all we’re about over here.”

Gore also said that he knows there’s a chance he won’t be back with the 49ers in 2015 whether Harbaugh is there or not. His contract is up after this year and he’s on the wrong side of 30 for a running back, but what once looked like a loaded depth chart of young backs behind him is a lot thinner with Kendall Hunter hurt, Marcus Lattimore retired and LaMichael James in Miami. If the price is right, another year of Gore and Carlos Hyde with Hyde seeing more action might end up working out for the 49ers.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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Antrel Rolle: ‘Offense will pick it up’ and Giants can run table

AntrelRolleGiants2
Assessing the performance of the Giants’ defense in their 16-10 loss to the 49ers, Antrel Rolle said, “We did enough to get a win, but I don’t think we did enough to help our team win.’’

History certainly backs up Rolle’s contention that the defense did enough to win. Under coach Tom Coughlin, the Giants are 61-7 in games in which they hold the opponent to fewer than 20 points, but what has happened 90 percent of the time in the past 11 years didn’t ring true Sunday.

Despite the offensive meltdown that led to the latest loss, Rolle sounded moderately upbeat Tuesday when asked if he believes the Giants can run the table and win their remaining six games.

“Absolutely, I think it’s a possibility,” Rolle on his weekly WFAN spot. “There’s no doubt in my mind. But in order for it to be a possibility, we have to go out there and play as a team. All three phases have to be on the same page at the same time.”

All three phases more often have played poorly in the same game than those three phases rallying and playing well simultaneously. The Giants are coming off a game in which they received an outstanding performance from their special teams and a solid outing from their defense, but Eli Manning threw five interceptions and the offense managed just 10 points.

“I know our offense will pick it up,’’ Rolle said. “They’re a great offense. They just had a bad day.”

There have been more bad days than good ones for the Giants, as they lug a record of 3-7 into Sunday night’s game against the Cowboys. The Giants are searching for a way out of what is now a five-game losing streak, and facing their NFC East rival “just means that much more,” Rolle said.

The loss to the 49ers came after the Giants failed four times to gain an inch on four cracks from the San Francisco 4-yard line, with the first three plays fade passes — the first-down call was a run that Manning changed at the line of scrimmage — that were not completed.

Asked if he was thrilled with those play-calls, Rolle said, “From a defensive standpoint, I can’t say I was thrilled about it, no,’’ but it did not come across as a knock on the offense.

“We all know there have been plenty of times where the offense saved our butts,” he said.

After the Cowboys, the schedule softens, with games against four non-playoff contenders — Jaguars, Titans and Rams on the road and the Redskins at home — before closing out the season at home against the Eagles.

Run the table?

“This team is more than capable,’’ Rolle said, “but right now we’re just not doing the things that are asked of us to do.’’


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(nypost.com)
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Chase Ford thinks clock malfunction impacted last-minute interception

ChaseFordVikings
Vikings tight end Chase Ford said on Monday that rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater likely wouldn’t have thrown the a late fourth quarter interception against the Bears if he knew how much time was on the clock.

On the final Vikings possession, they dealt with a clock malfunction that occurred throughout the game as Soldier Field. The game clocks in the north and south end zones went dark with the Vikings trailing by eight points in the two-minute situation during the 21-13 loss.

“You definitely need the clock,” Ford said. “I’m sure if it was the other way, if the shoe was on the other foot, that clock would’ve been fixed. They would’ve found a way to fix the clock.”

Ford, who was on the field for the entire drive over tight end Kyle Rudolph, noted how the Bridgewater completed three passes over the middle following the two-minute warning and had no clue how much time remained in the game with the clock running. Following those completions, Bridgewater was picked off by safety Ryan Mundy with the Vikings facing a 2nd and 3 at the Bears’ 29.

“If the clock was working, and Teddy knew how much time there was, I don’t think he takes that chance on that play,” Ford said. “Maybe the next one or something, but on that play I don’t think he takes that chance.”

The interception occurred with 42 seconds left in the game, which Ford mentioned, “I still don’t know how much time was left when that picked was thrown.” Still, even with the clock issues and Bridgewater’s interception, Ford wasn’t using it as an excuse for the team’s sixth loss this season.

The Vikings offense had just 254 total yards on just 47 snaps. The offense was ineffective all game, scoring its only touchdown after a well-designed fake punt stopped seven yards short of the end zone.

“Either way, we came up short with the loss,” Ford said. “It shouldn’t have came down to that. We could’ve played better on the offensive side of the ball.”


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(startribune.com)
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Allen Hurns almost back to being full-go

AllenHurnsJags
Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns has one more step to go in his recovery from a concussion before being cleared for full activity, accorind to The Florida Times-Union. Hurns went through individual drills Monday as the Jaguars returned from their Week 11 bye.

“I feel like I’m back on track,” Hurns said Monday, adding that he expects to play when the Jaguars (1-9) play the AFC South-leading Indianapolis Colts (6-4) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.

Hurns has one more step before being fully cleared in the NFL’s concussion program, the team announced.


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(cbssports.com)
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Frank Gore wants to play in 2015, with 49ers or somebody else

FrankGore2
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Frank Gore surpassed Thomas Jones and Jamal Lewis on Sunday to move into No. 22 on the NFL’s all-time career rushing list.

But Gore took particular delight in the accomplishments of one of his teammates because he is in a similar position with an uncertain future.

Gore celebrated wildly with wide receiver Michael Crabtree after he turned a short post pattern into a 48-yard touchdown to open the second half. It was the 49ers’ only touchdown in their 16-10 victory over the New York Giants.

“I was happy for him, man,” Gore said of Crabtree. “I know he’d been frustrated. I’m very happy for him. But, you know, he came to play. Like we told each other, whatever’s meant to happen for us, it’s going to happen.”

Crabtree had three receptions for a season-high 85 yards. He ranks 45th in the NFL with 509 receiving yards this season.

“And I know it’s a contract year for him, and I want the best for him because he’s a great player,” Gore said. “I know the stats. He might not have the stats. But for me, and knowing football, he’s a top receiver in my book.”

Gore, of course, has been a top running back for the past decade. With 10,615 yards, Gore is closing in on becoming a top-20 all-time rusher. Next on the list are Ricky Watters (10,643) and Warrick Dunn (10,967) at Nos. 21 and 22, respectively.

Gore, 31, is in the final year of a contract extension he signed in 2011 that pays him an average annual salary of $6.5 million. He is setting out to prove that he is capable of being a productive player for a bit longer.

“I feel great and I know it’s a contract year for me,” Gore said. “I still love the game and I feel great and I still want to play the game. I feel like I’m still playing at a high level and you know I’m just coming out here week to week.

"And if I won’t be back here, then I’ll show the other teams what I can do.

“But I want to be back here.”


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(csnbayarea.com)
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Allen Bailey on signing extension now: I saw what happened to Carson Palmer

AllenBailey
The Chiefs Defense hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season, including a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter on Sunday that helped them protect a 24-20 lead and turn it into a victory.

Bailey was also at the tip of the spear when the Chiefs stuffed Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch on a fourth-and-1 later in the fourth quarter, a stop that pushed Kansas City even closer to its seventh win of the season and continued a strong 2014 season for the 2011 third-round pick. It’s been such a strong season that some may wonder why Bailey gave up the chance to hit the open market in favor of a four-year, $25 million extension that he signed with the Chiefs on Saturday.

After Sunday’s game, Bailey explained that seeing Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer tear his ACL had an impact on his decision to take the money now rather than wait to see if he could make more after the season.

“I saw the Carson Palmer incident,” Bailey said, via Peter King of MMQB.com. “That was an eye-opener. Anything can happen, on any play. I decided to do it now. Plus, this is a great place for me. I love the family atmosphere we have here. We all buy in, and we all work hard. It’s a great bunch of guys.”

Getting Bailey’s deal done should allow the Chiefs to turn their full attention toward keeping linebacker Justin Houston and keeping that great bunch of guys together a little bit longer. With 2012 first-round defensive tackle Dontari Poe also in the fold, it’s a strong foundation to build around for a Chiefs team that is now 18-8 since Andy Reid took over as head coach.


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(profootballtalk.com)
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Reggie Wayne slams Indianapolis Colts display

ReggieWayne
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne has slammed his side's performance in their defeat to the New England Patriots.

Chuck Pagano's men were hammered 42-20 at Lucas Oil Stadium as they missed the chance to stake their claim for the number one seed in the AFC with their loss to Bill Belichick's side.

Wayne told reporters: "It stinks; it's terrible. Our main objective has always been to protect our home turf. We knew it was going be a tough fight, but we let this one slip, we let this one squander.

"It was a terrible display as a team. But right now we still control our own destiny in the AFC South. Who knows, we may see this team again, it might be a little bit chilly."

The Colts are 6-4 in their season, but have a one-game lead over the Houston Texans in the race for the AFC South title.


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(sportsmole.co.uk)
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Devin Hester sorry for flag; not sorry for defending Harry Douglas

DevinHesterFalcons
CHARLOTTE -- Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester, who picked up what could have been a costly unnecessary roughness penalty for going after a Carolina player with his helmet, said he actions were all about defending teammate Harry Douglas.

During a series of fights in the third quarter of Sunday's 19-17 win against the Panthers, Hester was flagged for diving in with the crown of his helmet to knock Panthers cornerback Josh Norman off Douglas after Norman and Douglas wrestled each other to the ground. Panthers safety Colin Jones then went after Hester. Eventually, three different Carolina players -- including Mario Addison, Hester's former teammate in Chicago -- pulled Hester to the ground.

"Once the play was over, I turned and Harry was about 10, 15 yards in front of me and the guy was on top of him just pushing him in the face," Hester said. "I was walking toward them and nobody was breaking it up. So I started speeding up.

"When you're around these guys every day, you build that brotherly relationship. When you see somebody doing that ... that's Harry, man. I thought they were trying to take some cheap shots. I was a tough game with two division teams. When it came down to it, stuff got heated."

Hester's 15-yard penalty came after a Steven Jackson run put the Falcons' at the Panthers' 27-yard line, so it essentially backed the team out of field goal range. Hester then fumbled the ball over to Carolina on the next play as linebacker Thomas Davis put a ball-jarring hit on him.

Hester admitted coach Mike Smith scolded him about the penalty.

"He was just like 'you have to be smart, with the situation that we're in right now,'" Hester said. "At the end of the day, about 95 percent of people would agree that it was a silly mistake, but it was right to defend your teammate. You can't let anybody do that to your teammate.

"Could I have handled it in a better way? Yeah. But I do I regret it? No."

Smith obviously was discouraged about Hester's penalty, but wondered why Hester was the only one to draw a flag following the melee.

"It was very costly again, I don't know how through all of that that transpired -- there was a lot, from where I was standing, going on," Smith said. "I don't know how it's a one-sided flag. I don't know. I've never seen that.

"I'm sure that when it all gets said and done that the league office will take a look at it, and if there were other guys involved in it, even though it wasn't a 15-yard penalty. That's what the league does. But I thought it was very unusual to have all that take place and only one player is penalized."

Douglas talked about Hester defending him.

"One thing I know about our team is that we're going to have each others' backs," Douglas said. "That's every group on this team. I know one thing: Our group, the receiver group, we're not backing down to nobody, we don't care who it is. And no matter who is in the situation, we're going to come protect one another. That's just who we are in our group. That's what we do."


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(espn.com)
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Frank Gore totals 114 yards in Week 11 win

FrankGore2
49ers running back Frank Gore rushed for a team-high 95 yards on 19 carries during a 16-10 win Week 11 at N.Y. Giants. He added two catches for 19 yards to finish with 114 total yards in the win.

Gore came close to his first 100-yard rushing performance in five games. He still has totaled more than 100 rushing yards just twice this season, with his last 100-yard game coming in Week 5.

The veteran running back did lose a fumble in Sunday's win on the opening drive, which led to a 19-yard touchdown catch by Giants tight end Larry Donnell. The 49ers are back in action Week 12 vs. Washington.


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(cbssports.com)
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Reggie Wayne leads Colts WRs with 91 yards in Week 11

ReggieWayne
Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne paced his position group Sunday with five catches on nine targets for 91 yards in his team's 42-20 loss to the Patriots in Week 11.

Tight end Coby Fleener led the passing attack with 144 yards Sunday but Wayne was the clear second option, with the rest of the Colts offensive players combining for just 68 yards. Wayne racked up his most yards since delivering a 119-yard performance in Week 4. However, the two touchdowns thrown by Andrew Luck went to offensive tackle Anthony Costanzo and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Costanzo's touchdown was his only catch of the day, while Nicks managed two catches for 15 yards.

T.Y. Hilton, the team's leading receiver, only managed to catch three of his seven targets for just 24 yards. His yardage was a new season low, and it was his second consecutive game catching just three passes. He now has 59 receptions for 961 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.

The Colts have lost two of their last three games heading into a Week 12 matchup with the Jaguars.


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(cbssports.com)
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VIDEO: Lamar Miller Literally Broke Bills' Leodis McKelvin's Ankle on a Cutback

LamarMillerDolphins2
Heading into Thursday night’s game between the Bills and Dolphins, Buffalo cornerback Leodis McKelvin — who has had a good 2014, with four interceptions and 48 tackles — was pretty confident in his team’s chances.

“SHIT, WE’RE GOING TO GO OUT AND BEAT THAT ASS. POINT BLANK. PERIOD.”

Then he crossed paths with Lamar Miller in the second quarter:



Ouch. McKelvin is out indefinitely with a fractured ankle, and the Bills are considering putting him on injured reserve, which would end his season. This was a complete freak play (and in fact, it doesn’t look like it was Miller’s cut that broke McKelvin as much as his slip on the soft field), but once again, the time-worn adage “Karma’s a bitch” comes to mind.


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(sportsgrid.com)
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Jimmy Graham swears off leaping into stands after getting 'groped up'

JimmyGrahamSaints
After hauling in a touchdown pass at home last week against the 49ers, all Jimmy Graham wanted to do was share the moment with the Saints fans.

After this harrowing experience, Graham swore off jumping into the stands according to the New Orleans Times Picayune.

“That’ll probably be my last one after I got groped up,” Graham said. “It was a moment in the game and I just wanted to go and thank all the fans for being there. Some people were trying to thank me a little too much.”

First no more dunking the ball through the goalposts and now this. We can’t ever have nice things.




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Andre Johnson moves into top 10 of NFL’s all-time receptions list

AndreJohnson2
CLEVELAND – Andre Johnson issued several no comments after the Texans’ Week 9 home loss to Philadelphia.

The veteran wide receiver benefited from an open week and new starting quarterback Ryan Mallett. Johnson was a key part of the offense, catching a team-high seven balls for 68 yards, including a critical fourth-down reception.

“Oh, man. Oh, man,” said Mallett, referring to the difficulty of Johnson’s catch.

Moss tied Randy Moss for 10th on the all-time receptions list with 982.

“Andre Johnson, that guy wants to win,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “That’s what he wants to do.”


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(chron.com)
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Chiefs sign DE Allen Bailey to 4-year extension worth reported $25M

AllenBailey
KANSAS CITY, MO.   —  The Chiefs and Allen Bailey agreed to a four-year, $25 million contract extension Saturday that could keep the defensive end playing in Kansas City through the 2018 season.

The former third-round pick is guaranteed $15 million and will receive a $10 million signing bonus, a source told FOX Sports 1 NFL Insider Mike Garafolo.
Pro Football Talk was the first to report that a deal was in place.

''We are happy that we were able to reach an agreement to keep Allen in Kansas City,'' general manager John Dorsey said in a statement Saturday. ''He has developed into a good football player and a key member of our defense.''

The 25-year-old Bailey has had a breakout season for the Chiefs, starting all nine games and establishing a career-high four sacks. He's helped the Chiefs deal with season-ending injuries to starters Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito and still become one of the NFL's best defenses.

Garafolo said although Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston leads the NFL in sacks with 12, he is making $1.4 million this season because the two sides haven't been able to strike a deal. 

The Chiefs (6-3), winners of six of their past seven, ranked first in the league against the pass and seventh in total defense heading into Sunday's game against Seattle.

''Allen's had a really good year and he made a big jump a year ago, I thought, in football and knowing what's going on,'' Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Suttons said recently. ''He's obviously a very gifted guy athletically. Like I say, he could play 80 plays every week and never get tired. He and (Dontari) Poe are very similar in that way.''

Bailey played mostly in sub packages his first three seasons out of Miami, but he was thrust into a bigger role this season. His mammoth size -- 6-foot-3, 280 pounds -- and uncanny speed make him a dangerous pass rusher on the defensive line, and gives opposing offenses another player to worry about along with talented outside linebackers Houston and Tamba Hali.

Bailey is on pace for nearly eight sacks this season, which would be the most for a Chiefs defensive lineman since Jared Allen had 15 1/2 sacks during the 2007 season.

e also forms a formidable front with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe.

''The arrow's up,'' Sutton said. ''Got really good athleticism. One thing that's really great for us is those two inside guys, they can make a lot of plays chasing things down and that doesn't happen a lot.

''A lot of times you're not fortunate enough to have that kind of player. You might have a big sturdy guy in there that maybe can't make the plays outside. These two guys can chase screen plays down, wide plays and they really help your defense.''


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(foxsports.com)
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Andre Johnson steady in Sunday victory

AndreJohnson2
Texans standout wideout Andre Johnson proved steady and productive in the Week 11 defeat of the host Browns.

Johnson finished with a season-high seven catches for 68 yards going mostly head-to-head against Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden. Included was a 16-yarder on the team's second possession to earn a first down.

His next game is set for Week 12 against the visiting Bengals.


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(cbssports.com)
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Greg Olsen registers another game of 60-plus yards

GregOlsenPanthers
After cracking the century mark for the second time his last time out, Panthers tight end Greg Olsen took a step back Sunday against the Falcons in Week 11.

Olsen finished the game as the team's second-leading receiver, behind Kelvin Benjamin. He caught five of the 11 passes thrown his way for 62 yards in a 19-17 defeat. He has 60-plus yards in eight of Carolina's first 11 games this season. He has 720 receiving yards on the year.

The Panthers will get a bye week before facing the Vikings in Week 13.


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(cbssports.com)
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Devin Hester departs with wrist injury

DevinHesterFalcons
Falcons wide receivers Devin Hester was forced out of Sunday's game against the Panthers with a wrist injury. Hester sustained the injury after absorbing a brutal hit, which caused him to lose the ball in the third quarter. He was escorted back to the locker room for further testing. The Falcons have ruled him questionable to return to the game.



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(cbssports.com)
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Calais Campbell is named Arizona Cardinals/Walter Payton Man of the Year for 2nd time

CalaisCampbellCards
The Arizona Cardinals Football Club announced on Thursday that defensive end Calais Campbell was named the "Arizona Cardinals/Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year."

The NFL will grant $1,000 to the charity of Campbell's choice for receiving this honor and he will be recognized by Cardinals President Michael Bidwill for his accomplishment following practice tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. This is the second time Campbell has been selected as the Cardinals "Man of the Year" after previously being honored in 2011.

Campbell is one of 32 NFL "Man of the Year" winners to qualify for the league's national 2014 "Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year" award. The award recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well his playing excellence. The overall winner will be announced prior to Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona. Finalists for the award receive $5,000 for their charity of choice from NFL Charities and the winner receives a $25,000 donation.

Campbell created the CRC Foundation in 2010 to honor his late father, Charles Richard Campbell. The foundation is committed to the enhancement of the community by teaching quality life skills to assist with the development of young people. Through the foundation, Campbell hosts a variety of events including providing meals to the less fortunate during Thanksgiving the past three years. This year, Campbell is supporting 300 families for dinner during the Thanksgiving holiday.

His "Christmas with Calais" event is an annual tradition where Campbell and his Cardinals teammates take 100 underprivileged children on a holiday gift shopping spree to Target and provide them with dinner and an opportunity to meet Santa. This past April he hosted his second annual golf tournament and in September, he hosted his fourth annual CRC Foundation Fundraiser Dinner event at Eddie V's in Scottsdale.

In 2013, Campbell launched "Right Track," a daily after school program serving students from the Roosevelt School District in Phoenix with tutoring and mentoring. He also created the "Cheer for a Cause" program last year that encourages fans to not only cheer at Cardinals games, but also help others while doing so. The program is an initiative where a fan wearing a Campbell jersey is randomly selected at every game and has the opportunity to win money for a charity of their choice. So far, Campbell and the CRC Foundation have given out more than $15,000 to 12 non-profit organizations.

Campbell has also partnered with United Way and the NFL as the Cardinals spokesperson to promote reading and the importance of education. In addition to helping to recruit volunteer readers, tutors and mentors, Campbell has taken part in the United Way's Great Phoenix Literacy Fair the past two years.


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(revengeofthebirds.com)
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The Mariners need Yasmani Grandal

YasmaniGrandalPadres
There probably hasn’t been a trade in the history of the Mariners that I’ve hated more than the trade that sent John Jaso to the Oakland Athletics, netting the Mariners one crappy year of Michael Morse. I am a huge fan of Jaso’s, and the Mariners losing him for an older, slower version of Morse that couldn’t play anywhere but first base was aggravating.

Fortunately, or maybe not important at all, a younger, better version of Jaso may have recently come available. Per MLB Trade Rumors:

“The Padres will listen to trade offers for their top three pitchers (Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, and Tyson Ross) as well as catchers, Yasmani Grandal and Rene Rivera, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported yesterday. Presumably it would take quite an offer to part with Cashner or Ross, and Kennedy could be held and reassessed at the trade deadline. Behind the plate, the 26-year-old, former top prospect Grandal has yet to establish himself fully. Though he posted a solid 112 wRC+ last year, he also rated as one of the league’s worst defensive catchers. Rivera, meanwhile, came out of nowhere to post by far his most extensive and productive MLB season in 2014, slashing .252/.319/.432 over 329 plate appearances while grading out as one of the game’s best-fielding backstops.”

If you’re a Mariners fan you probably remember Rene Rivera’s name. He was a Mariners farmhand and spent some time with the big club. If you’re a prospect nerd or transaction nerd, you may know Grandal. He was once a top prospect, and was part of the trade that sent Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds. Grandal was considered an advanced hitting prospect as a switch hitter, and a guy that could stick at catcher for quite a while.

Then Biogenesis happened, and Grandal’s star has faded some. The same PED scandal that caused Jesus Montero’s suspension also hit Grandal, and then Grandal tore up his knee, ending his 2013 season.

Grandal is now 26 years old, and he’s never had an incredible offsensive season, and at least some people consider him a defensive liability.

Baseball Prospectus, the source from which MLBTR go their defensive valuation, had Grandal among the best defensive catchers in baseball in his shortened 2013 (and notably and for context had Yadier Molina as one of the worst), and Statcorner has Grandal as one of the league’s better pitch framers.

He’s had some issues keeping balls in front of him and throwing out base stealers, but his glove is completely passable behind the plate, and while the Mariners have Mike Zunino, Grandal’s bat is good enough to play at first base or designated hitter on the days he’s not catching and a right-handed pitcher is on the mound.

Against righties, Grandal has posted a career 125 wRC+, which is better than what Victor Martinez has done against righties. A league average left-handed first baseman posted a 111 wRC+ against righties. A league average left-handed DH posted a 112 wRC+ against righties. A league average catcher posted a 93 wRC+ overall.

Grandal’s 119 career wRC+ would have been the fourth best on the 2014 Mariners behind Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and the soon-departed Michael Saunders. He’d make sense as a starting first baseman, he’d make sense as a starting designated hitter.

Grandal can fill three roles on the Mariners potentially. He’d be a marginal gain for the team if he only filled one of those roles, but his ability to fill three, to some degree, increases his value by whatever the additional player or two the Mariners are able to carry bring to the table. Maybe Yasmani Grandal means they can have a fifth outfielder. Maybe he means they can have a twelfth or thirteenth pitcher. Either way, he’d make this roster a lot better, and is still young enough that he may be able to reclaim some of the promise that has left him in the eyes of some analysts.

What it would take to get Grandal is something I’m not sure of. Maybe it costs a young arm. Maybe it costs a young position player. It probably wouldn’t cost a guy from the top of the Mariners farm system, and if the Mariners can trade from a strength to get him, Yasmani Grandal would make a perfect addition to the Mariners.

The post The Mariners need Yasmani Grandal appeared first on North and South of Royal Brougham.


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Vince Wilfork: Reggie Wayne Is Enemy On Field, Family Off It

VinceWilforkPatriots2
FOXBORO, Mass. — Vince Wilfork and Reggie Wayne are among the last of a dying breed: Reminders of the Miami Hurricanes’ glory days.

The two University of Miami products will be enemies Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, but the New England Patriots defensive tackle and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver hold a close bond off the field.

“That’s family,” Wilfork said. “No matter what anybody says — I don’t care what anybody says: coaches, media, whatever it may be, we’re family, and that’s Miami Hurricanes, we always carry a chip on our shoulder no matter what.” Without that chip on both players’ shoulders, it’s possible that this matchup of former Hurricanes wouldn’t have taken place this season.

Both Wilfork and Wayne suffered career-threatening injuries in their 10th and 13th seasons, respectively, in 2013. Wilfork tore his Achilles while Wayne suffered a torn ACL. Both are back, playing at a high level despite their age and recovery.

“It’s good to see him still playing at the rate that he’s playing at,” Wilfork said. “It shows you a lot about what it means — what football means to him. He’s very competitive, I know him personally, so I know we’re gonna get his best. I know he’s gonna be ready to play. It’s always a good feeling, not only just because of the personal relationship that I have with him, but anybody coming off injury that’s coming back, and the guy can play the game still, show that they can play the game. It’s always awesome to see.”

Wilfork and Wayne were never teammates in Miami, but with former Hurricanes from the school’s last Big East dynasty, like Ed Reed, Willis McGahee, Ray Lewis, Kellen Winslow and Jonathan Vilma either retired or still trying to hang on as free agents, it becomes obvious that the days are numbered for Wilfork, Wayne and other active teammates from the school’s last championship run, like Frank Gore, Andre Johnson and Santana Moss.

The list of Miami Hurricanes in the Pro Bowl has dwindled every year since 2009, when they had 11 representatives, to 2013 with just four.

Wilfork and Wayne briefly must forget their bond on Sunday night, however. “He knows between the lines, it’s time, we both have the same mindset,” Wilfork said. “We both want to win, so I’m gonna do everything I can to help my team win, and I’m pretty sure he’s gonna do the same thing. So, between the lines, we’re enemies, but off the field, it’s family. All love.”


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(nesn.com)
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Gerald McCoy turns to Warren Sapp for help on double teams

WarrenSappBucs
TAMPA, Fla. -- In his role as the second coming of Warren Sapp, Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy faces a lot of double-team blocking.

So who better to turn to than Sapp for advice on how to handle it?

That’s what McCoy did a couple days ago. He went straight to a guy who faced more than his share of double teams.

“It used to frustrate me,’’ McCoy said Thursday. “But then I kind of realized that’s what comes with it. Ninety-nine told me, 'It’s tough sledding down there. When you’re the guy, that’s what you’re going to get. Get used to it. Get over it.'"

That’s solid advice from a Hall of Famer. Like Sapp once was, McCoy is the best player on the Tampa Bay defensive line. The double teams aren’t going away. McCoy said he has to deal with the double teams and find ways to beat them.

“It has to be done in order for me to be effective,’’ McCoy said. “It’s something I have to work on extremely hard, especially if it comes up in practice. That’s the best time to work on it. There are a lot of times when teams max protect and somebody has to win. I’ve got to get better and perfect working against double teams. There are ways to slip double teams. There are ways to align yourself in a better way when you know it’s coming. There are a lot of different things I can do. I’ve just got to keep working at it because if I get it down it will help us a lot.’’

Logic would say that the double teams on McCoy would free up the rest of the defensive line to come up with more sacks. But it hasn’t worked out that way so far.

McCoy leads the Bucs with five sacks. Nobody else has more than two and the Bucs have only 14 sacks as a team. Defensive end Michael Johnson has been slowed by injuries all season and that has hurt the pass rush. But McCoy said the defensive line needs to function better as a unit.

“We’ve got to work better together,’’ McCoy said. “That’s a fact. We definitely do. As for coordinating our rushes, meeting more than just in the meetings that are required. We have to meet as a unit and kind of get a feel for how we want to rush. But we definitely have to work better together.’’


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(espn.com)
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Vince Wilfork and Ray Bourque made a really creepy video




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Hope For Travis Benjamin

TravisBenjaminBrowns
PR Travis Benjamin is listed behind PR Jordan Poyer on the team's depth chart, but he still represents the Browns biggest threat in the punt return game.

However, Benjamin has had trouble hanging on to the ball and has relegated him to the sidelines. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said he hasn't given up on Benjamin as a punt returner.

"I haven't given up on him," Tabor said. "When the time is right, he'll go."

The Browns are averaging just 3.2 yards a return, but have had trouble hanging on to the ball.

Tabor said he's tried the most guys out since he's been here at punt returner. He said the players discuss the situation. Jim Leonhard handled the return duties against the Bengals, but even he fumbled a punt return which set up the only Bengals score.

"We talk about it. It is the elephant is in the room," Tabor said. "There's no other way to fix it than to keep working at it."


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(foxsports.com)
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Seantrel Henderson has nothing but good memories as he prepared for return to Miami

SeantrelHendersonBills
Miami — One may think Miami would spark bad memories for Buffalo Bills rookie offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson.

Miami is where everything almost came undone for Henderson, who chose to play for the Hurricanes after being the top recruit in the nation coming out of high school. But a few different injuries and three separate suspensions kept Henderson from living up to the billing. It's why he fell all the way to the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, where the Bills took a chance on him.

Now Henderson is nine games into his NFL career, and he's started every one of those games. His past seems to be behind him, so there's nothing but good memories when it comes to returning to Miami for a Week 11 game against the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football.

"It feels good to go back and play in the stadium I played in for four years," Henderson said. "I've got a whole lot of memories in this stadium, you know what I'm saying? And the weather, I kind of miss that, too. It's going to be good to go down there and play in 70- or 75-degree weather, whatever it's going to be. I'll see a couple of friends and a couple family members that's down the way."

Henderson's mom, grandmother, uncle and a few of his close friends will be in attendance on Thursday night as he tries to put together a second strong performance against Dolphins star pass rusher Cameron Wake. Even on a short week, Henderson knows after his first battle with Wake that preparation is everything.

"I just go back and watch the film on our game and from all the games afterward and see if he's doing anything different, how he rushing, what type of moves he does, just to make sure I'm on my p's and q's as far as my set and how I approach him and how I can get my hands on him and things like that.

"I have to get ready for him and be up to the challenge."

Henderson has quite a bit more experience to draw on in this start than he did the last time he and Wake faced one another in Week 2. Henderson has settled in nicely for the Bills at right tackle, though he's still had his ups and downs.

"I'm a lot more comfortable now, man, doing this week in and week out, going up against the best ends that's playing ball right now," Henderson said. "It's just getting a little easier and easier because of the fact that I've been playing game after game, getting used to just playing in games and the different situations and things like that."

By the time Henderson steps on the field Thursday night, he'll be quite a bit different than the last time he was playing at Sun Life Stadium.


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(syracuse.com)
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Linebackers Sean Spence, Williams a split decision for Steelers while Shazier is out

SeanSpenceSteelers
It's been a frustrating year for inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who has spent much of his rookie season nursing knee and ankle injuries.

However, Shazier's absence has paved the way for Sean Spence and Vince Williams to gain immeasurable experience. Spence started four games before Shazier returned in Week 8 against Indianapolis, but Williams got the nod last Sunday against the New York Jets.

Spence and Williams have split time the past two weeks. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has tried to play to their strengths in hopes they can elevate the performance of a defense that has been mostly up and down all season.

For Shazier, he's trying to salvage something from a disappointing season. If nothing else, he's had a chance to watch and learn.

“It helps me a lot watching all three (inside linebackers),” Shazier said. “I can use all their styles to learn. With all of us rotating, it's going to make us better.”

Again, Spence and Williams are likely to split duty when the Steelers face the Tennessee Titans (2-7) at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday
“I think we are learning to play together and understanding our roles,” Spence said. “Right now, we're trying to execute better.”

Admittedly, Williams isn't exactly sure of his role in the defense. It is, however, much different than it was in 2013.

“It's directly opposite of what I did last year,” said Williams, who played sparingly until Shazier went down against Baltimore two weeks ago. “Last year, I was coming out on nickel packages and third downs. Now, I'm playing exclusively on nickel packages.

“They ask me to go in, and I go in. That's pretty much the way it goes. I go in mostly on nickel packages, but the rhyme and reason for that I couldn't say.”

Williams and Spence have become situational players. Spence plays primarily in the base defense, and Williams is used largely in the nickel, meaning he's trusted more in pass coverage and blitz packages.

“I don't know if my role has evolved,” said Spence, who has 31 tackles and three quarterback pressures. “Sometimes, you don't understand your role until you get the game plan.

“Right now, I'm just focusing on stopping the run. I have improved on my tackling and I'm recognizing plays better.”

So far, both linebackers are convinced that splitting duty hasn't affected their overall performance. They played reasonably well in a 20-13 road loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, but more is expected against Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

“We have to execute no matter the circumstance,” Spence said. “I think the coaches are trying to get two good players on the field. Vince practices hard, and it's hard to keep a player like that off the field.”

Mettenberger is the Titans' third starting quarterback this season. So, Spence and Williams have only limited information on a rookie quarterback slated to make his third start ahead of former No. 1 pick Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst.

“(Mettenberger) stands in the pocket, and he doesn't run away from pressure,” Spence said. “He can make all the throws, and he does a pretty good job of reading coverages. We have to not beat ourselves, especially against a young quarterback.”

Williams isn't trying to complicate his role. He lines up inside, then goes headhunting.

But Williams and Spence had problems containing Jets quarterback Michael Vick. They allowed the 36-year-old quarterback to scramble for two first downs to set up the Jets' first touchdown.

“I went through the entire offseason working on nickel formations,” Williams said. “I was already acclimated to it, so I felt like I was trying to improve my overall game. I can still play aggressively and strike people from the nickel formation. It's part of being a complete linebacker.”

In Mettenberger, the Steelers face an immobile quarterback with a strong, accurate arm. Clearly, he's a stark contrast to Vick.

“We have to understand what he's capable of doing,” Williams said. “He's a strong-arm guy who can make all the throws. Regardless of his background, you have to be aware of what he can do.”


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(triblive.com)
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Colts/Patriots Means Something A Little Extra To Reggie Wayne

ReggieWayne
INDIANAPOLIS – One day, long after the cleats of No. 87 are stored away, Reggie Wayneicon-article-link could take pen to paper and write a New York Times best seller on the Colts/Patriots rivalry.

Another chapter will be written this weekend with Wayne once again playing a lead role in a rivalry that has shaped nearly every AFC race for the last dozen years.

Past history with Wayne and the Patriots indicates Sunday means a little more to the 14-year veteran, not to mention the current ramifications of this week’s contest.

“A lot of the guys on the team don’t really know the history with these two franchises as far as when we always play each other,” Wayne said on his weekly radio show on WNDE.

“What makes this game so important is this game could easily have playoff implications at the end of the year as far as home field, things like that. It’s a big game because it’s the next game, but for me there’s always a little added something to it.”

During the Colts bye week, Wayne “relaxed, recharged and rejuvenated” his 35-year old body knowing what was coming this week (he turns 36 on Monday).

In his early film study of the Patriots, Wayne sees similar Belichick tendencies with some particular impressive players now at the back end of the defense.

“I think this is the best secondary they’ve had in a long time,” Wayne says. “So they are able to do different things with their linebackers and defensive line up front than they normally do.

“(Belichick’s) going to have something different. He’s not going to be the typical coach Belichick you watch on film throughout the year in this game plan and it’s up to us to be able to find out what it is, figure it out and figure it out fast.”

Belichick and Wayne are two of the few mainstays throughout the bulk of this historic matchup.

Reports had the Patriots trying to pursue Wayne during the 2012 free agency process.

On a Wednesday conference call with Indianapolis media, Belichick called Wayne “one of the best route runners maybe ever in the game.”

The Patriots head coach, who always speaks highly of Wayne, detailed earlier this week what exactly he likes about the Colts wide receiver’s game.

“He’s still really good at everything,” Belichick said of Wayne. “[He’s] obviously a real smart and experienced guy; knows how to set up routes, make all of his routes look the same, does a great job of releasing and then at the top of his routes being able to create separation at just the right time when the quarterback is ready to throw.

“He’s been a key guy for them in critical situations and third down-type situations. I’m sure that there’s a lot of confidence that he’s going to be open and he usually is. Excellent hands; made a lot of tough catches. They move him around. He plays a decent amount in the slot, but also out on the perimeter where we saw him for so many years in their former offensive system. But he’s probably a little more in the slot now with [Hakeem] Nicks and [T.Y.] Hilton outside. But they move all those guys around so finding him is a problem. He’s still a very dangerous receiver, clutch player and a guy who really, when they need a play, they’re not afraid to go to him and he’ll deliver for them.”

Belichick has seen first hand Wayne thriving in those clutch situations.

Back in 2009, Wayne’s one-yard touchdown catch with 13 seconds remaining gave the Colts a 35-34 victory over New England.

Following that 17-point comeback in the Colts last win over the Patriots, Peyton Manning said it was Wayne who called that slant route instead of a fade.

Wayne had 10 catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns on that Sunday Night which also happens to be the last time the Colts have played host to the Patriots.

As Wayne looks back on his previous 15 Colts/Patriots matchups, he wants this rivalry to swing back to Indy’s side with the stretch run of the 2014 season beginning at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“We need to get that win-loss situation taken care of,” Wayne says of his 5-10 mark against the Patriots.

“We need to start winning some of these games against them. Let’s make sure we get that done this week.”


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(colts.com)
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Can Shane Larkin Swipe Starting Point Guard Gig from Jose Calderon?

ShaneLarkinCanes
As expected, the New York Knicks are going through growing pains in the early stages of the 2014-15 NBA season, as they try to establish the triangle offense and a consistent defensive system.

The Knicks will be hoping that their struggles—at least on the offensive end—can be attributed to the absence of Jose Calderon at point guard. He was their major offseason acquisition and part of the reason they were comfortable with letting go of Tyson Chandler and his expiring $14 million contract.

Shane Larkin has been starting in place of Calderon, and while he's shown serious flashes of being effective on both ends, his overall production has been so-so in comparison with what the rest of the league is putting out at point guard.

For a young player, who is effectively playing in his second rookie season after an injury-plagued first year with the Dallas Mavericks, Larkin has been great. This is especially so considering the role he's been thrust into. But in terms of giving New York the best chance to win, time is running out for him to prove himself as the worthy starter over Calderon.

As the superior shooter and passer, Calderon is the better fit in the triangle offense. Larkin's speed makes him more effective as a fast-break player, and he could actually be more useful to the team as a spark plug off the bench, bringing energy and athleticism in a group featuring fellow youngsters Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cleanthony Early.

Still, there is a case to be made for continuing to start Larkin, at least until he loses the job.

While in an ideal world the Knicks would be playing the best starting five possible, regardless of age or experience, the fact of the matter is that they aren't particularly close to their final form right now and the focus should be on building for the future. That means weighing how important it really is to give minutes to the likes of Calderon and Pablo Prigioni (both of whom are nearing the end of their careers) when Larkin is more likely to have a future in New York.

The experience Larkin could get starting this season, going through the ups and downs and getting used to playing with the long-term keepers—namely Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert—could be more valuable to the Knicks than the handful of extra wins Calderon and his veteran presence can provide.

Besides, this wouldn't necessarily mean a greatly diminished role for Calderon. Coming off the bench, he could help out the likes of Hardaway and Early with the offense and provide a bit more balance between the starters and the second unit. It's not like the Knicks have the greatest depth at the moment.

We know that Derek Fisher is still in the process of feeling out this team and finding the best rotation possible, and it's likely that will continue for a while even when Calderon and Andrea Bargnani return. A situation where Larkin continues to get starting experience but Calderon takes over in crunch time could work, so long as Larkin isn't actively hurting the team.

Given the low expectations for this season and the understanding that this is a work in progress, the Knicks have plenty of flexibility here and a decision doesn't have to be final.

Considering both sides, for the moment it is probably best to go with Calderon as the starter when he returns, barring an unlikely breakout from Larkin. The playoffs are still a realistic target, and as long as that is the case and you have both players and fans to keep happy, going with the best starting five possible is the best move.

Larkin should still get a fair amount of playing time off the bench and may actually showcase more against lesser competition as he continues to become comfortable in the NBA.

The pressures of running the point for a team getting accustomed to a new offense shouldn't rest on the shoulders of a young player, at least not this early in the season. That's what Calderon was brought here to do.

According to the NY Post, Phil Jackson has had the following to say about Calderon and the Knicks' offense:

We’re missing a lead guard of the quality of Jose who has the composure and ability to settle a team down, gve them organization of the offense with some savvy.

The Knicks' early problems don't necessarily stem exclusively from Larkin but with the team averaging a league-worst 91.1 points per game. Something has to change and the addition of a point guard of Calderon's calibre could be that change.


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(bleacherreport.com)
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Santana Moss: Redskins ‘Got These Cats Dry Snitching’ to Media

SantanaMoss2
WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Santana Moss says the Redskins locker room has a “dry snitching” problem. And it needs to stop.

Moss, making his weekly radio appearance on 106.7 The Fan’s “Chad Dukes vs. The World” on Tuesday, said he wasn’t as surprised as many that DeSean Jackson was the one to stand up in a team meeting and address the Redskins’ “divide and conquer” mentality. Although, Moss also thinks the purpose for Jackson’s speech was misconstrued.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize what DeSean was trying to say,” Moss said. “Basically, what he was saying is that regardless of whatever whose opinion, if you express your opinion, then you’re expressing your opinion and that’s where it should stop. He was kind of ticked off because whatever was said got out to the media, and people were saying things that maybe you and someone was talking about, or someone else was talking.”

“That’s got to stop, man,” he added. “You got these cats dry snitching and telling media in-house business.”

“Dry snitching,” according to Urban Dictionary, is to indirectly tell secrets or offenses to a person of authority or any person meant to be kept away from a secret or offense, sometimes inadvertently. If the telling of secrets or offenses is purposeful, minute details are usually left out as not to appear to be directly telling.

“They gonna find out a lot of stuff,” Moss went on to say of media. “They gonna ask a lot of questions, so if you’re one of the guys they talk to, you can tell ‘em a lot. But stuff that’s kept in-house, kept in that meeting room, in that locker room, you can’t go out and leak that out to sources or whoever.”

Asked to clarify what he meant, Moss drew a comparison of sharing personal information with a significant other, only to hear about it form someone else in the street the next day.

“When we express ourself [sic] in that locker room, that’s where it stops,” he said. “When you have some reporter come to you telling you something that they heard about what went on in the locker room, then you’re looking at them crazy, and you’re kind of spaced out wondering who’s around you that’s just taking your information and going elsewhere.”

Later in the interview, Moss would maintain the Redskins have no problems with media, a chord that’s been recited by multiple playersicon1 in the last week or so. “We have no problem with the media coming in and doing their job,” he said. “I know myself, personally, if they ask anything of me, I give ‘em what they want and I get out of dodge.

“But when it comes down to how we do things, I feel like they should let us do what we do. That’s our locker room.”

But then Moss was asked if he’s irritated at all with media’s apparent fixation with one player.

“I’ve been irritated with it, I mean to be honest with,” he answered. “It has to be tough on Robert. And that’s why I say, at the end of the day, you have to look at his standpoint, when it comes down to it’s always about him, regardless if it ain’t about him. It’s always about him. But at the same time, being the player that he is and how he came in, it comes with the territory. So my hat’s off to him.”


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(washington.cbslocal.com)
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Reggie Wayne says this Patriots secondary is the best he’s seen in Foxboro

ReggieWayne
FOXBORO – In 14 NFL seasons, Reggie Wayne has played against the Patriots 11 times in the regular season and three times in the playoffs. He’s matched up against all three defenses that won Super Bowls.

Wayne has run routes around players like Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Rodney Harrison and most recently Aqib Talib – some of the best players the Patriots secondary has seen.  But in the wide receiver’s opinion, the best Patriots secondary belongs to this year’s squad.

“This secondary here, in my 14 years playing New England, is probably the best complete secondary,” Wayne said on Wednesday. “I think it allows them to do more things up front with their front seven games, that they probably haven’t done in the past years. They’re talented. They’re ball-hungry. It gives them a little bit of where they can be risk-takers with blitzes and things of that nature.”

The additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have certainly changed the complexity of the Patriots defense. The secondary will need to be on point come Sunday against a dangerous Indianapolis Colts offense.

The defensive backs have done more than just open things up for the defensive line. According to Julian Edelman, the group is making the Patriots wide receivers better as well.

“They always try to beat us up at practice. We should have officials out there I feel,” Edelman said with a smirk on his face. “Our corners, all our guys, from Malcolm [Butler] to [Revis], Browner, [Kyle] Arrington, you’ve got Dax [Swanson]. Everyone on the squad is working their tail off. Go steel vs. steel and that’s how you sharpen tools.”


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(provincejournal.com)
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5 questions with Bernie Kosar about NFL quarterbacks

BernieKosarBrowns
CLEVELAND, Ohio – In light of the publication of Sports Illustrated's "NFL QB: The Greatest Position in Sports," we check with Bernie Kosar on his view of quarterbacks, from those who played when he was growing up to ones competing today.

Kosar broke into the league in 1985 with the Browns and played 12 years with three teams. He won a championship ring with Dallas in XXVIII in 1994.

Who was your favorite quarterback to watch when you were growing up?
"Being from Youngstown I was obviously a Brian Sipe guy. Then my second-grade teacher was Sister Veronica. Well, I thought it was Daryle Lamonica's mom. So (Oakland Raiders') Daryle Lamonica and (Minnesota Vikings') Fran Tarkenton when I was real little. The sister had a big influence."

Is there a quarterback of any era who stands out as the all-time greatest in your mind?
"I'm not trying to play the fence on this, and I would have answered it a different way five years ago when my era was fresher, but the guys who played the biggest in big games – Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana. But guys today, especially after watching these guys – Aaron Rodgers, (Ben) Roethlisberger. What Tom Brady is doing with minimal weapons around him – it's amazing what guys are doing today. I know the rules are different. ... But there are a lot of impressive quarterbacks today."

The Sports Illustrated book breaks QBs into various types – strong arms, scramblers, for instance. How would you define yourself?
"I obviously would have loved these rules. Not to take away from anybody, but the throws -- throwing the ball up the seams, in the post, deep -- now the ability (is there) to go up and catch the ball without the fear, 'cause you're not allowed to hit a defenseless receiver. You have guys who confidently can go up for the ball without fear of getting decapitated. Ronnie Lott would have been suspended every week (if he were playing today). The game is still physical, but there was a level of physicality and violence that made receivers have that demon in your head telling you to be aware when you went over the middle."

Are there any current quarterbacks who could have played decades ago, with Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath, or with guys before them?
"These guys would do good in any era. They would adjust their games around them. The accuracy of Aaron Rodgers' throws the other night – he throws 50 yards on a dime. (Rodgers went 18-27 for 315 yards and six touchdown passes in a 55-14 win over Chicago on Monday, Nov. 10.) Matthew Stafford getting hit when he throws, basically throwing underhanded, a Kent Tekulve fastball. These guys are really creative in how they come up with plays. They could play in any era and be extremely successful, that's for sure. I really believe that."

What's the future for the position look like – will we see more receivers breaking routes and adjusting in the middle of plays to defenses?
"Some of the old stereotypes have broken down. I love watching Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson play, even Drew Brees. ... I think these guys are introspectively honest with what they do good, and more important what they don't do good. I really see a creative resourcefulness in quarterbacks today. ... Years ago, grade-school (kids) threw it five, six times a day. High school, 10 times a game. Now grade-school through high-school kids are spreading out throwing the ball from birth almost. More kids are gaining experience. That's why I think it doesn't take as long to transition from high school to college and college to the pros. ... now you see spread-throwing offenses in Pee Wee; that never happened before."


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(cleveland.com)
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Devin Hester held out of Falcons' practice

DevinHesterFalcons
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons receivers Devin Hester (ankle) and Harry Douglas were held out of Wednesday's practice due to lingering ankle and foot injuries.

Both players initially suffered the injuries in a Week 3 win against Tampa Bay. Hester hasn't missed any game action while Douglas returned two games ago after missing four consecutive games with a deep bruise in his left foot.

"We anticipate that Devin will be out on the practice field in a limited basis tomorrow," Falcons coach Mike Smith said.


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(espn.com)
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NFL and USAA name Jimmy Graham a nominee for the Salute to Service award

JimmyGrahamSaints
New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham has been nominated for the fourth annual Salute to Service Award, the NFL and USAA announced Wednesday.

Teams nominated players, coaches, personnel and alumni who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community. A list of the 2014 Salute to Service Award nominees is below.

Graham’s parents both served in the military for 15 years and his guardian Becky Vinson served in the United States Navy. He lived on Fort Bragg, North Carolina for seven years as a child.

Graham was one of three NFL players to travel on a weeklong tour throughout the Middle East to visit U.S. troops at military bases last March.

Graham, Miami Dolphins kicker Brandon Fields and Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon participated in the NFL’s USO offseason traveling program to visit service members.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” said Graham. “I developed many relationships on that trip that I still keep in touch with. It made me proud as an American to see it up close. To see everything they have done it makes you appreciate the little things you have so much more.”

Graham stayed in the troops quarters, ate meals, played sports and shared stories with the American heroes.

One night during his trip, Graham walked out of his living quarters to go to the bathroom in another building.  It was 3 a.m. and helicopters were flying over his head and troops were walking by in full gear ready for duty. He met a solider that just returned from a 10-hour shift ready for bed – the solider was 19 years old.

“Seeing that was something I won’t forget and don’t want to forget because of how much I appreciate what they do,” said Graham. “The moments I shared with the them, the stories that I heard and smiles that I saw from the troops is something that I will never forget.”

Graham and other Saints players participated in a Pro vs. G.I. Joe event at the team’s training facility last week. The Saints players visited with troops, signed autographs and played “Call of th Duty” with the group.

Finalists for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA will be announced in January, and the winner will be recognized at the “4th Annual NFL Honors” awards show in Arizona on NBC on Saturday, Jan. 31, the night before Super Bowl XLIX.

Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh was last year’s award winner. USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, contributed $25,000 in his honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches.

Harbaugh will serve on the award panel and vote for this year's winner. Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was the 2012 winner, and the inaugural winner in 2011 was Tennessee Titans late owner K.S. “Bud” Adams, a World War II veteran.

Fans everywhere can join USAA in honoring military by visiting SaluteToService.com.

The Salute to Service Award is part of the NFL and USAA’s year-long commitment to recognize and honor the military community. Culminating in November with the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign, for every point scored during the NFL’s 32 designated Salute to Service games, the league donates $100 to each of its three core, military non-profit partners – the Pat Tillman Foundation, USO and Wounded Warrior Project® – for a total of $300 per point.

To find out more about the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign or to read teams’ Salute to Service award nominations, visit www.nfl.com/salute.

2014 SALUTE TO SERVICE TEAM NOMINEES

Arizona Cardinals - Larry Fitzgerald Jr. (WR)
Atlanta Falcons - Joe Hawley (C)
Baltimore Ravens - Morgan Cox  (LS)
Buffalo Bills - Doug Marrone (Head Coach)
Carolina Panthers - Ron Rivera (Head Coach)
Chicago Bears - Jared Allen  (DE)
Cincinnati Bengals - John Sawyer (VP/Board Member)
Cleveland Browns - Alex Mack (C)
Dallas Cowboys - Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Denver Broncos - Ben Garland (G)
Green Bay Packers - Tom Bakken (Assistant Equipment Manager)
Houston Texans - J.J. Watt (DE)
Indianapolis Colts - Pat McAfee (P)
Jacksonville Jaguars - Roy Miller (DT)
Kansas City Chiefs - Derrick Johnson (LB)
Miami Dolphins - Lousaka Polite (Former FB)
Minnesota Vikings - Jeff Locke (P)
New Orleans Saints - Jimmy Graham (TE)
New York Giants - Tom Coughlin (Head Coach)
New York Jets - Robert Wood Johnson IV (Owner)
Oakland Raiders - Oakland Raiders Foundation
Philadelphia Eagles - Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders
Pittsburgh Steelers - Troy Polamalu (S)
St. Louis Rams - Jeff Fisher (Head Coach)
San Diego Chargers - Nick Hardwick (C)
Seattle Seahawks - Dan Quinn (Defensive Coordinator)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Vincent Jackson (WR)
Washington Redskins - Darrel Young (FB)


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(saints.com)
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LeBron James Calls James Jones Greatest Shooters

The Cleveland Cavaliers have barely dusted off veteran sharp shooter James Jones this season but teammate LeBron James believes he is one of the greatest shooters in the world:



Jones has only played in one game this season, logging three minutes. LeBron has long believed that Jones should get more time, going back to their days together on the Miami Heat. Yet still Jones sits there in his warmup gear while the team tries to find their groove.

It could be that coach David Blatt is holding the veteran back while the rest of the team figures out a rhythm with James or that he wants to keep his legs rested. The coach also has to take more things into account than just Jones’ great shooting. Jones is a wiry thin wing player that can be easily taken advantage of on defense. His ability to create off the dribble or stop ball penetration is minimal.

JamesJonesHeat
Whether LeBron James goes to Blatt to try to get playing time for “one of the greatest shooters on the world” is another question. It is obvious that James believes in Jones but how far does that belief extend.

LeBron has been playing a ton of minutes. Maybe giving Jones a little bit of burn could reduce that stress on James. However Jones is far less effective if James was off the court. LeBron is the team’s primary facilitator, while Kyrie Irving is the team’s primary ball handler. Jones, like Mike Miller, benefit from getting to stand around the 3 point line in catch and shoot mode while James penetrates.

In his last stop in Cleveland LeBron had Damon Jones, who thought he was the greatest shooter on the planet. In Miami, and now here in Cleveland, he has James Jones who he is declaring as a great shooter. Could this lead to more playing time for Jones?


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(kingjamesgospel.com)
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Allen Hurns Dealing with Concussion

AllenHurnsJags
NEWS UPDATE
Hurns was officially diagnosed with a concussion Tuesday, and an update on his status will be released Monday.

ROTOWIRE FANTASY ANALYSIS
Hurns will have some time to recover from his head injury with the Jaguars on bye in Week 11, and it remains to be seen if he will miss any further action. However, fantasy owners will likely have to wait until next week to find out exactly where he stands health-wise.




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(rotowire.com)
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Despite PI penalty, Saints' Jimmy Graham keeps gaining steam

JimmyGrahamSaints
METAIRIE, La. -- Not to be lost in all the hubbub over Jimmy Graham's offensive pass interference penalty is that the New Orleans Saints tight end appears to be almost all the way back from his shoulder injury.

Though Graham still had the shoulder wrapped in ice following the Saints' 27-24 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers, he certainly showed no ill effects on the field, playing 59 snaps and catching 10 passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns. (It would have been more if his 47-yard Hail Mary TD had counted).

Quarterback Drew Brees certainly has the ultimate trust in Graham, for better and for worse. He tried to fire a pass to Graham in triple coverage at the end of the first half, which led to an interception. But then he later hit Graham on a spectacular 11-yard TD pass on third-and-6 after spinning away from a sure sack on a heavy blitz.

“Brees got some serious pressure, and we've been able the last five years to really have this connection. And more times than not, when he gets in trouble he just finds me and throws it up,” Graham said. “I always tell him, throw it up, I'll be the only one that catches it.”

Graham now ranks among the top 10 pass-catchers in the NFL with 56 receptions and 7 touchdown catches. His 594 receiving yards are just outside the top 20.

Among his other standout traits, Graham has continued to flash his toughness while playing through the shoulder injury that never sidelined him for a full game. He did the same thing last year while playing through a significant foot injury.

Graham admitted last week that he knows his toughness has been questioned from people outside of the Saints organization -- like when Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett called him soft and overrated after their playoff meeting.

"I think last year the M.O. was the if you jam me or you bump me off the line I couldn't play well," Graham told The Times-Picayune's Larry Holder. "So that was a big emphasis for me to be more physical."

UPDATED: Graham admitted to Pro Football Talk on Monday after seeing the video of his pass interference penalty that there was "a slight push off" -- and "a lot of acting."

"You know it's a great job on his part, kind of knowing the situation," Graham said. "As I'm running down the field I'm telling myself don't push off and don't do this and don't do that and just go up and get it. ...I have my hands out just to feel where people are since I'm looking up at a ball. ...

"Apparently I'm a lot stronger than I think I am. He went flying."






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(espn.com)
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Bernie Beer to be released in cans

BernieKosarBrowns
CLEVELAND, Ohio – Bernie Beer, which was released on draft in May, will roll out in cans Wednesday morning, with a couple of twists.

Joel Sandrey of Hop View Brewing Co. in Madison said the former Browns quarterback personally will sign 100 to 150 cans before they roll out for distribution.

"Bernie is going to hand-sign those cans, and they are going to be randomly put in the canning," Sandrey said. "So if you come across an autograph, that is a hand-signed Bernie Kosar autograph."

Sandrey said, in addition to the autograph touch reminiscent of a Willy Wonka golden ticket, the canned beer will be slightly different than what the draft initially tasted like.

"We're really, really thrilled with the final product," he said. "We used the draft release to get some feedback from consumers. This (canned) beer is slightly different; we made a little tweak to it. People tried it and thought it was a little on the sweet side. So it's still a brown ale, but we pulled back on the malts and we pumped up the hops just a bit."

So the finished product will be "slightly less sweet and have a bright, clean, dry finish," he said.

Ed Thompkins, wine and beer buyer for Heinen's, said the effort to get Bernie Beer crafted, produced and distributed is about pride and collaboration.

"It's partly a Cleveland thing. John Lane (owner of the Winking Lizard) said 'You guys really have to bump up the hops'," Thompkins said.

"It shows the competency of Joel and his team," he added. "We're giving them (brewers) a road map to get to the destination, and they've been able to do it."

The beer will be available Thursday, Nov. 13, at Acme Fresh Market, which is scheduled to host Kosar from 6 to 8 p.m. at its store at 3875 Massillon Road in Green. Six-packs of the 12-ounce cans will retail for $9.99. The beer will be available at all Acme locations beginning Friday, according to a news release from the store.

All Heinen's locations will begin selling the beer beginning Thursday, Nov. 20, Thompkins said.

Early next week it goes to Columbus, said Darren Wyville of Vintage Wine Distributor, which is handling distribution, and then in mid-December he said it will be shipped to other retail locations throughout Ohio.


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(cleveland.com)
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Redskins sort out WR roles with Leonard Hankerson's return

LeonardHankersonSkins
ASHBURN, Va. -- Leonard Hankerson isn’t sure what to expect, and that’s not surprising. The Redskins aren’t sure exactly what’s going to happen either now that they have another receiver in the rotation.

Hankerson will play his first game this season on Sunday, after missing the first nine thanks to ACL surgery last December. Now that he’s back, the Redskins have seven receivers (unless they opt to release one of them to make room for nose tackle Barry Cofield’s return this week).

And that means someone will get less playing time. Clearly it won’t be any of the top three wideouts -- DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts. It's hard to imagine much changing with how they've been used and how many targets they receive. If Hankerson is comfortable in the offense, he provides the Redskins a receiver who can run routes from various positions and, at 6-foot-2, he's also their tallest. His blocking isn’t bad, either.

It could be -- and should be, if he’s right -- that Hankerson plays ahead of Santana Moss and even Ryan Grant. It’s hard to see how Aldrick Robinson would be active with Hankerson around if he couldn’t be without him on the roster.

“It’s a tough deal,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “The receiving room is very full, and they’re all very good. Santana can be productive in a lot of offenses. Same with Aldrick, and now you throw Leonard into the mix, and he’s another one [who] is a big receiver that has great hands and runs good routes. So, how we are going to use him, I don’t know yet.”

Hankerson isn’t worried about that just yet.

“I’ll do what I can to help the team, whatever it is -- whether it’s just standing on the sidelines or dressed,” he said.

Of course, a player in his spot wants to play as much as possible. Hankerson is in the final year of his contract. He needs to show the rest of the NFL that he’s healthy and can still play. But considering he’s played in 30 NFL games and missed 27, Hankerson won’t be in line for a big deal anyway. He has 81 career receptions and six touchdowns.

“That’s all individual stuff,” he said. “I’m not really caring about something individual. It’s all about wins and losses.”


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(espn.com)
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Calais Campbell: ‘We Know How Important Each Game Is’

CalaisCampbellCards
The Arizona Cardinals trailed the St. Louis Rams 14-10 through three quarters on Sunday, and then, well, then the fourth quarter happened.

Arizona outscored St. Louis 21-0 in the final quarter to win 31-14 and improve to 8-1. It was just the second time all season that the Cardinals won by more than 10 points. Average margin of victory entering Sunday? 8.1 points.

What makes this team so good when it matters most?

“We’re confident,” Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We know that the game is won or lost in the fourth quarter. Everything that happens before then, you just got to put yourself in position to have a chance to win the game. We always perform well in the fourth quarter. We take pride in performing well in the fourth quarter.”

The Cardinals certainly did that on Sunday, as backup quarterback Drew Stanton threw a go-ahead, 48-yard touchdown pass to John Brown midway through the quarter to give Arizona a 17-14 lead. The Cardinals added two defensive touchdowns – a 30-yard pick-six by Patrick Peterson and a 14-yard fumble return by Antonio Cromartie – to ice the game.

The Cardinals are 15-3 in their last 18 games dating back to last season, with the only losses coming to Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver – two of which were on the road. When exactly did this fourth-quarter dominance come about?

“It was right around halfway through last year,” Campbell said. “Once we bought into our coaches’ game plan and what they were trying to do with us, I think we started playing so much better. Last year, missing the playoffs, I think, really is the reason we’re playing great now. We know how important each game is. Every game is so critical to making the playoffs this year. We’ve played every game like it was a championship game.”

Given Carson Palmer’s knee injury, it’s a good thing they have. Palmer exited the game Sunday with a non-contact knee injury, which was later diagnosed as a torn ACL. He will miss the rest of the season.

“It was shocking,” Campbell said. “You’re scared for him, hoping it wasn’t too serious. But then you find the news out (Monday) that it is very serious. That’s a tough blow. Carson’s our leader. He’s the guy that we bought into. But in football, stuff like this happens. As sad as it is, you kind of got to move forward. We have a guy in Drew Stanton we’re very confident in. We know that he can get the job done. We’ll make sure as a defense we’ll try to get short fields for him and let him go to work.”

Stanton, 30, is 46-of-93 (49.5 percent) for 614 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in four games this season. The Cardinals have a two-game lead over Seattle (6-3) and a thee-game lead over San Francisco (5-4) in the NFC West, meaning they’re still the favorites to win the division.

Whether Stanton can actually lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl remains to be seen, but having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs would certainly help. The Super Bowl, by the way, is in Glendale this season.

And if you think the Cardinals haven’t been talking about that, you had better think again.

“Yeah, we’ve been discussing it all year,” Campbell said. “That was our motivation, our goal. This whole year we’ve been discussing (it and) just making sure we do whatever’s required now to set us up to reach our goal and play in the Super Bowl. (Playing it in our home stadium would make) it that much more special.”


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(cbssports.com)
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Michael Irvin believes Jaguars rookie Allen Hurns living up to the No. 88 playmaker reputation

MichaelIrvinCane
LONDON – The Playmaker is raving about the Jaguars' newest playmaker.

Former Cowboys and Hurricanes receiver Michael Irvin, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, believes Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns is living up to the standard he set wearing No. 88.

Hurns, an undrafted rookie out of Miami, has 29 catches for 466 yards and has scored five of the team's 16 touchdowns this season. Hurns will try to continue his success against Irvin's former team when the Jaguars (1-8) face Dallas (6-3) at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Irvin is in London this week with the Cowboys.

AllenHurnsJags
"He's an 88-clubber now," Irvin said. "I told Allen, it takes something special to earn an opportunity to come into the 88 club. I told all the guys in the league, 'If you're not a bad man, go to your coach and say, make sure you don't give me 88. Because, if you can't carry that number, don't put it on.' I'm so proud of what I'm seeing out of Allen Hurns right now."

Hurns made an immediate impact, catching two touchdowns with 110 yards in the season opener at Philadelphia on Sept. 7. That got Irvin's attention.

"When you come into the league the way he came in, you have to make a mark early," Irvin said. "You have to make those plays. He wasn't a top draft choice. He made his mark that first game blowing them away. Now, he's getting an opportunity and making the most of those opportunities. I love Allen Hurns."

Irvin's comments brought out a big smile in Hurns after Friday's practice.

"It means a lot, especially coming from one of the greatest to ever do it," Hurns said. "I had that mindset at Miami to live up to the expectations, because they paved the way. I had to follow them. To hear that praise from him is special."


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(jacksonville.com)
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Lamar Miller Plans To Play Thursday

LamarMillerDolphins2
NEWS UPDATE
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald relays that Miller says his shoulder feels "good" and that the running back plans to play Thursday against the Bills.

ROTOWIRE FANTASY ANALYSIS
That said, Miller's Week 11 status is worth monitoring, given that the Dolphins added LaMichael James to their backfield mix Monday. After being limited this past Sunday, seeing just 11 snaps, it's not hard to imagine Miller -- who was limited at Monday's walk-through -- remaining in a Thursday RB timeshare in the Dolphins' short week, assuming he suits up.


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(rotowire.com)
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Jaguars' Hurns diagnosed with concussion

AllenHurnsJags
Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns diagnosed with a concussion and did not return to the game against the Cowboys.

Hurns was sandwiched between two defenders when going for a catch in the third quarter, taking a hit to the helmet from linebacker Anthony Hitchens. He stayed down on the ground to get treatment before walking off the field.cond quarter with injured ribs and was questionable to return.


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(jacksonville.com)
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