Ed Reed not happy with $50K fine

Ed Reed is thankful that his one-game suspension for his hit on the Steelers' Emmanuel Sanders on Sunday was overturned on appeal, but the Baltimore Ravens' star safety isn't happy that he still has to pay a $50,000 fine.

"It really needs to be discussed for a fine to come down like that so harshly for that hit," Reed, who was handing out turkeys with some teammates at a middle school in Baltimore, said, according to the Baltimore Sun.

He particularly wasn't happy he might be viewed by some now as a dirty player after the league tried to suspend him, alleging a past pattern on illegal hits.

"Over my career and for them to go back to 2010 for me scratching Drew Brees on the head, even the one that happened in Week 2 with Michael Vick, c'mon, man. I'm going for the ball. It's a contact sport," he told reporters, according to the newspaper. "It's a lot that needs to be done with it, man. I'm just glad I can play with my teammates. I'm not happy with the 50 grand, but what can you do?"

He called it a "shame it even came to this point."

Reed was suspended for one game without pay on Monday by NFL vice president of football operations Merton Hanks for his third violation in three seasons of the rule prohibiting helmet-to-helmet hits against defenseless players.

Reed appealed the ruling in a phone session Tuesday morning with NFL hearing officer Ted Cottrell. The NFL Players Association represented Reed, who also participated. Cottrell lifted the suspension but still fined Reed, as he determined Reed's "actions were egregious and warrant significant discipline."

Reed lamented that the NFL is trying to change the way football is played, although he acknowledged that "a lot needs to be done because it is about safety.

"At the same time, we grew up watching the game be played a certain way and playing it a certain way. It is tackle football. It is a contact sport and a brutal one, a violent one at that, the No. 1 violent sport, sad to say," he told reporters.

"I know concussions has been a big thing. I've had concussions before, and I know guys are going to have concussions. If you want to stop it, stop the game. Like people say, it's starting to be a flag football thing. I have a flag football tournament. We can make this a big thing if we want to, everybody can come get in my league."

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Frank Gore getting better with age

At 29 years old, San Francisco running back Frank Gore is an old man.

Maybe not by society's standards, but as an NFL running back, he might as well qualify for Social Security. Despite his relatively advanced age, the 49ers' all-time leading rusher is showing no signs of slowing down.

If anything, he's getting better with age.

“Every day my admiration for Frank Gore as a football player, every time you think it's as high as it can be, he finds another rung on the ladder to go in my esteem,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “And then even more so as a person. He's just one of the finest guys you'd ever want to be around.”

Gore's reputation is justifiably predicated on what he does with the ball in his hands, but the job he does protecting the quarterback can be equally, if not more, impressive. In San Francisco's 32-7 win over Chicago on Monday night, Gore made a block on Bears LB Lance Briggs that displayed just that.

On a play-action pass in the first quarter, Gore filled a gap where Briggs was blitzing and lifted the seven-time Pro Bowler airborne and onto his back. The block quickly went viral online and gave quarterback Colin Kaepernick time to find tight end Vernon Davis for 3-yard touchdown.

Gore shrugged off the play as a result of good coaching.

"When we watched film, coach Tom [Rathman] was saying that him and [Brian] Urlacher were straight downhill players,” Gore said. “I knew that when he came, I could just attack. Coach likes to say, 'the lower man always wins.' "

Gore was certainly the lower man on that play.

Harbaugh said that because it's a short week coming off a Monday night game, the team didn't get to watch the block together on film, but anticipated it would have drawn plenty of cheers.

"I respect [Briggs], he respects me,” Gore said. “He's been doing a great job at his position for a long time. He's a great player. We talked after the game. He just told me, 'Keep running hard, keep playing hard and stay healthy.' "

For Gore, health has always been key. In just two of his seven years in the NFL, all with the 49ers, has he played in all 16 games -- last year and 2006. Not so coincidently, those were his top two seasons in total rushing yards.

Through 10 games this year, he's on pace for 1,329 yards, which would be the second-best single-season total of his career, ranking behind only 2006 (1,695).
Gore's ability to improve as a seventh-year back started in the offseason.

“I've seen a laser-like focus from Frank,” Harbaugh said in July. “Wasn't with him in the offseason last year. As far as on the practice field, same Frank, same demanding, intense, enthusiastic guy on the field. Wants to play, wants to work, wants to continually get better.”

Compared to the league's elite running backs, Gore matches up favorably. He's seventh in the NFL in rushing (831 yards) and only Minnesota's Adrian Peterson is averaging more yards per carry (5.8) with more attempts than Gore (5.3).

Compare him to other backs in the 29-and-older club and he's the best there is. St. Louis' Steven Jackson and Gore's former University of Miami teammates Willis McGahee are in the conversation too, but neither player has done more for their team this year.

It's not something that has gone unnoticed around the league. Even before the 49ers' win over Chicago, Urlacher was singing Gore's praises.

"He's one of the better running backs in the NFL, if you ask me," Urlacher said last week. "He is very underrated. He doesn't get a lot of pub but he does a lot of the dirty work for them."

Paired with second-year pro Kendall Hunter, Gore has helped San Francisco become the NFL's top-ranked rushing team. The 49ers lead the league in yards per game (165.5), yards per carry (5.5) and carries of 10-or-more yards (57). While the league continues to trend toward pass-happy offenses, San Francisco has taken the opposite approach and made it work.

The combination of production and health between Gore and Hunter has rendered big-name free agent acquisition Brandon Jacobs and second-round pick LaMichael James largely irrelevant. Neither player has set foot on the field this season and unless something unforeseen occurs in the coming weeks, that's not expected to change.

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Sam Shields ankle is worse, out a "couple weeks"

Green Bay --- Sam Shields wouldn't point to one play or one accident. But, as it turns out, the ankle injury that has sidelined the Packers cornerback since Oct. 14 is worse than originally thought.

On Wednesday, coach Mike McCarthy said Shields had a "setback" and would be out "a couple weeks."

"So, he’s not making the improvement that we hoped," McCarthy said. "It’s a little more serious injury than we anticipated."

Shields, who worked at wide receiver on the Packers' scout team last week, was listed as "questionable" for the Packers' game at Detroit. Shields indicated he had suffered a high ankle sprain and expressed optimism to return soon. Though he wouldn't specify the reason behind the setback, Shields reiterated that nothing happened since last week. There's a chance he tried to return too soon.

"Coach said it's a setback. I just think it's the same thing," Shields said. "I just have to keep rehabbing. ... We're just going day by day right now. Week by week. I don't know."

The Packers don't necessarily need Shields back on the field pronto. Rookie Casey Hayward and second-year corner Davon House have improved throughout the season. And in Green Bay's 24-20 win over the Lions, Hayward had five pass break-ups and an interception with House adding a sack and one break-up of his own.

In the secondary, Green Bay has more depth this season.

"Like we preach all the time, when somebody goes down, somebody else has to stand up," Shields said. "Those guys are doing a hell of a job. Like you see, House is covering his butt off. And also Casey. So when somebody goes down, they have to be ready and that's what they're doing."

House has been sporting a harness this season, though said he's now playing the way he wants to.

This weekend, he'll have his biggest test yet against the New York Giants.

"I'm really comfortable," House said. "This week's a big week -- a lot bigger than last week with Victor Cruz and (Hakeem) Nicks out there. And you have elite Eli throwing the ball. We have a tough challenge this week. ...They have four great receivers out there. They might be one of the best receiving corps out there. So it's going to be fun. A challenge."

As for Shields, the wait will continue.

The third-year corner acknowledged that this is disappointing. But he is hoping to return to the team for the stretch run. At some point.

"It's frustrating but things like that," I just have to keep my mind positive and just keep getting the rehab and trying to get better to get back out on the field and get ready for the stretch down the road."

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Kenny Phillips inching toward possible return

Giants S Kenny Phillips (knee) and LB Jacquian Williams (knee) both practiced on Wednesday, which means the defense could be getting a much-needed boost for the final six games of the season, beginning with Sunday's game against the Packers.

Both players were limited, but the fact that they were on the field was an encouraging sign.

Williams' declined interviews after practice, but Phillips said he did nearly everything, which means the Giants could potentially return to the three-safety formation, which was used for long stretches of last season.

“It allows us to put more packages in, it allows us to move a lot of guys around, allows us to show different looks that offenses haven't seen us with yet,” DE Justin Tuck said of Phillips' possible return. "As a D-lineman you know that guy can make the big play. There's a lot of things he can do back there on that back end that other guys can't. We get an opportunity to get back to some of our three-safety look, kind of what we did last year. It gives us a lot more options back there.''

If the Giants do use the three-safety look, Phillips would be joined by S Antrel Rolle and S Stevie Brown, who has five interceptions, most of which came since Phillips went down in Week 4 with a sprained MCL.

Brown did make a coverage mistake against the Bengals in Week 10 that led to a touchdown, but he has mostly played well in place of Phillips.
The Giants could also use S Will Hill in the three-safety formation.

Phillips said he had “good day” on Wednesday but still doesn't “feel 100 percent.” However, he thinks that he could be close if he can improve a little every day this week.

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Willis McGahee put on IR but could return for AFC championship

Willis McGahee was placed on injured reserve Wednesday, but it's not the end of the world for Denver Broncos fans.

It may not even be the end of the season for the Broncos' top running back.

For all those asking "Whatchu talkin' 'bout?": McGahee, who tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, was placed on the new recallable IR list. 

That means McGahee is eligible to start practicing after missing the rest of the regular season and could be able to play again if the Broncos make it to the AFC championship game.

And that still remains a distinct possibility for the Broncos, even without McGahee and his 731 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

After all, they made it to the second round of the playoffs with Tim Tebow as their starting quarterback last year -- surely they can go at least one game further with four-time MVP Peyton Manning now calling the signals.

McGahee will be replaced by Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball and former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno, who's been inactive since Week 2.

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Q. and A. With Vinny Testaverde

Vinny Testaverde played 7 of his 21 seasons in the National Football League as the Jets’ quarterback, compiling a 35-26 record and taking the team to the American Football Conference championship game in 1998.

He played college football at Miami, where he was an all-American and won the Heisman Trophy in 1986. He was picked first over all by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1987 N.F.L. draft. Testaverde, 49, also played for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers.

In 2007, the year he retired, he threw two touchdown passes for the Panthers against the San Francisco 49ers, breaking his own record for the oldest starter to win an N.F.L. game. He was 44. Testaverde, a two-time Pro Bowler, threw for a career 46,233 yards and holds the records for having thrown a touchdown pass in 21 consecutive seasons and to 70 different players.

On Tuesday, he hosted the Wild Turkey Bourbon event in Manhattan. At the event, he introduced a turkey named Jimmy Junior, which predicted the outcome of the three Thanksgiving Day N.F.L. games by picking feed out of dishes fastened to the tops of team helmets. It could be the start of a new office pool craze.

The gobbler ruined the holiday dinner of Jets fans when he ate from the Patriots’ dish. But he won cheers from Cowboys and Lions fans when he ate from their dishes.
Q. How do you spend your time now?
A. Lately, I’ve been coaching not only wild turkeys, but high school football. My son is playing over at the high school (Jesuit High School in Tampa, Fla.) and I thought it would be fun to go coach over there, spend time with him and see him develop first-hand.

Q. Do you think the Jets made a good or bad move when they acquired Tim Tebow?
A. I think if you can get some kind of running game going, it opens the door to success. It all stems from the running game on offense, and the lack of running game can make you look bad, and I think Tebow can bring a little of that to the table.

Q. What do you think of Tebow’s style of play?
A. It’s certainly different than what a lot of people are accustomed to seeing. He has a rare skill set that many quarterbacks in the league don’t possess. Bottom line is, he’s a winner and he’s proven that. If the Jets continue to struggle, I think they should give him a shot at the starting quarterback position.
Q. What do you think about players who anonymously knock teammates as the Jets player have done ?
A. I’m a big believer in putting your name to any statement you make. It’s cowardly if you make statements like that off the record and won’t put your name to it. That’s not being a good teammate and it’s a formula for losing.

Q. Should Rex Ryan be fired if the Jets have a losing season?
A. No, I don’t think so. He’s proven he can win. I think they may have to make a couple of changes, and certainly getting a couple key guys healthy would help. You have to find out which guys in the locker room are there to compete and win football games and which guys are out there chirping and being a distraction to the team.

Q. Recently three quarterbacks received concussions on the same Sunday. You managed to play until you were 44. Do you think the game is safer now than when you played?
A. I think they’re trying to make it safer. They try to protect the quarterback. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, you could hit the quarterback low, you could hit the quarterback high. You could hit him pretty much late. Today you can’t do any of those three. I think it’s a good thing. They just have to be careful not to go overboard with it. Case in point, Ed Reed. I thought that was a good hit. Was it a dangerous play for the receiver? Sure, but it’s a dangerous, violent sport, and guys are going to get hurt.

Q. Has the league done enough to protect players from head injuries?
A. It sounds like they are. I really don’t follow too closely what they’re trying to do other than keeping players out when they are diagnosed with a concussion. The brain is a tricky thing to figure out and I think they’re just scratching the surface with that type of injury.

Q. Are you surprised by the impact the rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, and Russell Wilson are having this season?
A. Not totally surprised. But I am somewhat surprised that this many guys are having a great amount of success so early. I think part of it is that some of these coaches are implementing similar plays to what these guys ran in college. Andrew Luck, on the other hand, is the type of quarterback who came into a new system and learned the offense of the Indianapolis Colts and is having great success. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that the Colts would turn their record around as quick as they did from a year ago.

Q. You have a sleeper team that can go far in the playoffs this year?
A. I don’t know if you’d consider them a sleeper, but no one is talking about the Packers anymore. That’s a team that could come up and surprise some people down the stretch.

Q. What are you most proud of in your career?
A. I guess the fact that I was able to play 21 seasons and always tried to do things the right way. Over the years, I just worked hard and always tried to do what’s best for my teammates, and for my family.

Q. Any regrets?
A. How’s that song go? “Regrets, I’ve had a few.” (laughing) No, not many regrets. I think you have regrets when you didn’t give it everything you had and I always felt like I did. Whether it was good enough or not, that has nothing to do with the fact that I tried my best to give my team a chance to win, year in and year out.

Q. What was the key to your longevity in the N.F.L.?
A. Well first, I was definitely lucky. There are so many potential injuries that you’re always just a half-inch away from. Certainly staying in the weight room, taking care of my body with the proper nutrition and just trying to stay in shape was a big part of it.

Q. How has the game changed since you played?
A. It seems like the game is much faster. You also have all these specialists and even the specialist have specialists. There are third down backs, third receivers, fourth receivers, defensive ends who just come in on pass-rushing downs. The guys are faster and stronger than when I played and the league has evolved offensively into a passing league.

Q. Any hobbies?
A. My biggest hobby is playing golf, which I really enjoy. Now when I am lying in bed at night, unable to sleep, I find myself thinking about my golf swing. I’m also involved in the Tampa Bay chapter of First Tee.

Q. What’s your average score?
A. I’m a 2 handicap, so probably mid 70s.

Q. What’s in your iPod?
A. (laughing) Whatever my wife and kids put on there.

Q. When you do have control, who do you listen to?
A. Honestly other than country, I listen to a little of everything.

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Greg Olsen says Thanksgiving takes on a new meaning after 6-week-old son's surgery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thanksgiving has taken on a new meaning for Panthers veteran tight end Greg Olsen.

The stress Carolina fans have endured from the team's close losses this season pales in comparison to what Olsen and his wife Kara have been through the last few months.

Olsen's 6-week-old son T.J. was born with a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) and spent the first four months of his life in Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte. He faces two additional surgeries over the next three years — including one in three to five months — but for now is recovering well at home with his healthy twin sister Talbot and their 17-month-old brother Tate.

"It's going to be a whole different type of thankful this Thanksgiving for us," Olsen said. "Through the years you really lose track of what is important and obviously our season hasn't gone really well, but it's going to be such a blessing Thursday to have all of my kids home and together."

The Olsens first discovered there was a problem when prenatal tests on their twins revealed an issue with their unborn son's heart.

Two days after she gave birth to a pair of 8-pound babies on Oct. 9, T.J. was taken into surgery to repair an underdeveloped left ventricle and aorta.

Olsen said doctors told him 25 years ago the condition would have been fatal, but with advancements in medicine there is now a 70 percent survival rate — and some children who've had the surgery are now doing well in their early twenties.

Olsen said T.J. is "thriving" in his recovery.

"He's been home for about two weeks and the biggest thing they told us was to continue to feed him, make sure he eats and continues to grow so he's ready for his next surgery," Olsen said. "He's really doing as well as we could have hoped. So now we're getting him ready for round two."

Regardless of how well the next two surgeries go, T.J. will never be like his father, who has played six seasons in the NFL with Carolina and Chicago.
Because of his condition, T.J. won't be able to play contact sports and certainly won't ever put on a football helmet, catch passes running across the middle or block a defensive end.

And Olsen is just fine with that.

Doctors "were saying it like they were trying to warn me," Olsen said. "And I was like, hey listen, you've got the wrong guy here. There's a good chance he wasn't going to play football anyway. I don't care. In times like this you realize if he's just a good student and a good person that is really all that matters at the end of the day."

Olsen said he and Kara were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from fans, teammates and Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

He said the entire experience has changed his family forever.

"It's opened our eyes," Olsen said. "A lot of people, until they go through something like this, feel like it is always going to be somebody else. And now here we are going through something you read and hear about with other people. You get through that part of 'What did we ever do to deserve this?'

"But we got past that pretty quick and just kind of embraced it. We've taken on a positive outlook of hey, God wouldn't have given us this baby if we weren't able to handle it."

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Paul Tagliabue's bounty probe progresses

NEW ORLEANS – Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue plans to complete all hearings in the bounty probe by Dec. 4 and make a ruling shortly after.

In a document obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Tagliabue directs the NFL to produce key witnesses in the New Orleans Saints cash-for-hits program, including former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former defensive assistant Mike Cerullo.

Four players initially were suspended, but those punishments were vacated. Commissioner Roger Goodell re-issued the suspensions with some modifications, and when the players appealed again, Goodell appointed Tagliabue to oversee the new hearings. Meanwhile, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith are still playing pending the outcomes of their appeals.

Even as Tagliabue moves the process forward, a federal judge is still considering arguments by players that Tagliabue should be removed as arbitrator because he is biased in favor of the NFL. Based on the schedule laid out by Tagliabue, U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan could choose to rule as early as next week.

For now, only Williams, Cerullo, Vilma, Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt, NFL chief security officer Jeff Miller are the only scheduled witnesses.

They are scheduled to appear in a series of hearings in Washington D.C. running from Tuesday through Dec. 4. That means Vilma and Smith likely will be available at least for the Saints’ next two games against San Francisco this Sunday and at Atlanta on Nov. 29. They could also play at the New York Giants on Dec. 9.

Vitt said after Wednesday’s practice that he did not know anything about Tagliabue’s schedule and declined comment, saying he’s focused on getting ready for the 49ers.

None of the players have served a game of their suspensions yet, though Vilma was barred from attending Saints training camp before Goodell’s initial rulings were vacated during Week 1 of the regular season.

Vilma initially was suspended the entire 2012 season and Smith for four games.

The two other players punished are former Saints: Cleveland linebacker Scott Fujita, who is now on injured reserve, and free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove. Hargrove initially was suspended eight games, but that later was reduced to seven with credit given for the first five games he missed as a free agent. Fujita initially was suspended three games and that was later reduced to one game.

In the face of resistance by the NFL Players Association and lawyers separately representing Vilma, who had argued that Goodell could not be objective, the commissioner removed himself as arbitrator in the bounty matter and appointed Tagliabue, his predecessor, in his place on Oct. 19.

Tagliabue noted in his most recent memo that other witnesses could be scheduled. Tagliabue also said he expects to decide by Monday whether to allow the Saints’ personnel file on Cerullo to be included as evidence.

Players have argued that Cerullo was the NFL’s primary source of information about the Saints’ performance pool. They’ve also argued that Cerullo’s credibility is in question because he was fired by the club after the 2009-10 season and he had accused the club of preventing him from getting a job on another NFL coaching staff.

The NFL investigation concluded that Saints players were rewarded for hits that knocked targeted opposing players out of games from 2009-2011. The league said there was evidence that the Saints placed bounties on star quarterbacks including Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers.

Saints players and coaches have acknowledged they had a pool that rewarded players for big plays that included interceptions, forced fumbles, sacks and big hits, similar to programs other teams have had across the league for generations. However, Saints players and coaches say no one ever intended to injure an opposing player.

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Harland Gunn Signed By Falcons

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - The Atlanta Falcons have announced the signing of offensive guard Harland Gunn after backup lineman Joe Hawley received a four-game suspension for violating NFL rules on performance-enhancing substances.

The 6-foot-2, 310-pound Gunn was picked up by the Falcons on Tuesday. Atlanta plays at Tampa Bay on Sunday.

He initially signed with Dallas as a college free agent after the NFL draft. Gunn was waived by the Cowboys and joined the New Orleans Saints practice squad. He played collegiately at Miami.

Hawley will be eligible to return to the roster after the Dec. 16 game against the New York Giants.

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Ed Reed wins appeal, avoids suspension

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed avoided a one-game suspension for late hits after an appeal. He instead will be fined $50,000.

Reed was suspended for one game without pay on Monday by NFL vice president of football operations Merton Hanks for his third violation in three seasons of the rule prohibiting helmet-to-helmet hits against defenseless players. The third violation occurred in Sunday night’s game at Pittsburgh: Reed’s hit to the head of receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

Reed appealed the ruling in phone session Tuesday morning with NFL hearing officer Ted Cottrell. The NFL Players Association represented Reed, who also participated.

Hours later, Cottrell reduced the penalty.

In a letter to Reed, Cottrell wrote: “I have determined that your actions were egregious and warrant significant discipline. However, I do not believe that your actions were so egregious as to subject you to a one-game suspension without pay. Player safety is the league’s primary concern in the formation of playing rules and all players are expected to adhere to those rules or face disciplinary action. I hope in the future you will focus on ensuring that your play conforms to the rules.”

Reed will be in uniform for Sunday’s game in San Diego.

“The league has an appeal process to review situations like this, and Ed had his opportunity to answer questions about his play,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “I think John (Harbaugh) and his coaches do an excellent job of teaching the right, safe and legal way to play football, and we believe Ed clearly tries to play within the rules on every down.”

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Vinny Testaverde thinks the NFL is overprotective of quarterbacks

Vinny Testaverde’s career as an NFL quarterback spanned 21 seasons, so he experienced first-hand the way the league shifted toward an increased emphasis on protecting quarterbacks from big hits. And Testaverde doesn’t think that shift was a good thing.

In an interview on Mike and Mike in the Morning, Testaverde said he thinks the NFL has made such a priority of keeping offensive players safe that defensive players are no longer able to do their jobs correctly.

“I think they’re being a little overprotective,” Testaverde said. “When I came in the league, you could hit a quarterback high, you could hit him low, you could hit him late. Today, you can’t do any of that. So I think they’re just being a little overprotective of the quarterbacks and certainly a little overprotective of the receivers.”

Testaverde worries that the NFL’s emphasis on player safety has gone so far that the league has forgotten what makes the game of football great.

“It’s a contact sport,” Testaverde said. “It’s a violent game and you’re going to have some big hits.”

Many of those big hits were legal when Testaverde was drafted in 1987 but are not legal anymore.

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Darryl Sharpton to start against Lions

Texans inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton will start on Thursday at the Detroit Lions.

Sharpton, who had seven tackles on Sunday in his first game off the Physically Unable to Perform list, will play at Mo linebacker on the weakside. Tim Dobbins, who has started the last four games, will be a game-time decision because of a shoulder injury. Bradie James will continue to start at Mike linebacker on the strongside.

“It means a lot to me,” Sharpton said Tuesday in the Texans’ locker room. “I’m going to go out there, give it my all, make sure my body’s ready to play. We’re going to try to bring home another victory.”

Sharpton played 45 snaps Sunday against the Jaguars, including 32 on defense. It was his first action since Oct. 30, 2011, when he tore his right quadriceps tendon in the eighth game of last season.

“I thought Sharpton played well,” Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “He made a couple of big plays, several big hits. I know he’s sore this week; he hadn’t played in a year and a half. I thought he played well. He’s gonna start this game, so I thought he played well enough to start.”
A fourth-round draft pick out of Miami (Fla.) in 2010, Sharpton said he went to every single meeting and practice during his year-long absence from the field, taking notes and staying on top the Texans’ defense mentally while he was unable to play.

“He stayed with it the whole time,” Phillips said. “Sometimes you have an injury, especially a lingering one like he had (where) he’s on PUP, didn’t know if he was going to play this year, but he knew every defense… He didn’t make many mistakes out there. He’s a very instinctive player, which helps, and he’s a real hard hitter, which helps also, but I just thought he was ready to play when he played. A lot of guys would get distracted and not be able to do that.”
Sharpton showed no signs of hesitation in his first game back, tackling Jaguars players with reckless abandon and jarring hits. Now, just four days later, he’ll start for the first time since late in his rookie season in 2010.

“After not playing for a year, there’s a lot of built-up thoughts when you’re watching football, like, ‘Man, if I was out there, I would do this, I would do that,’” Sharpton said. “And now I actually have a chance to do it, so I’m just trying to take advantage of every snap I get and really appreciate it and just give it my all every play.
“After that long break and now I’m back, I feel like, yeah, I came back to life. It feels good, and I’m just trying to stay healthy and keep contributing.”

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Colin McCarthy practices

Tennessee Titans LB Colin McCarthy (ankle) practiced in full Monday, Nov. 19, while dealing with a high ankle sprain. 'I think the Miami game, he probably played his best since coming back from being hurt,' head coach Mike Munchak said. '(The ankle) is something he'll have to deal with until next year. But I think as far as (getting to) the level of being more like himself, I think he's feeling closer.'

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Bernie Kosar Hired By Browns?

A rumor circulating through the Cleveland sports world that proCane Bernie Kosar was hired by the Browns as a special assistant to to their rookie starting quarterback Brandon Weeden. We will try and confirm this.

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Jon Vilma's return has helped Saints defense

METAIRIE — Jonathan Vilma’s status with the Saints as an on-field contributor looked dire in July when, in court filings related to his lawsuit against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the public found out just how badly his knee was hurt during the 2011 season.

It was injured badly enough that he went to Europe for a new rehabilitation approach, one that included a new blood-spinning process known as platelet rich plasma therapy.

And yet, five games after coming off the physically unable to perform list, Vilma is contributing as much as anyone.

So much so, in fact, that the coaching staff believes he’s part of the reason for the Saints’ turnaround.

“I think you hit the nail on the head. Let’s face it – any defense is better with Jonathan Vilma in there,” Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said.

Vilma has played in 183 of 372 defensive snaps, or 49 percent of the plays the defense has seen since the beginning of the Oct. 21 game at Tampa Bay. In those plays, Vilma has contributed 13 tackles, of which three were for a loss, and one sack. He also has two quarterback hits and one pass defensed.

He has been the most active, though, when he’s on the field alongside Curtis Lofton, the free agent middle linebacker New Orleans signed this offseason. Vilma has played in a two-linebacker set with Lofton as well in the base 4-3, where he lines up at weakside linebacker.

From Spagnuolo’s perspective, the combination of Lofton and Vilma has been a rousing success.

“They have really functioned well together,” Spagnuolo said. “I could see it on the film this morning. They are interacting as they are coming out and they are helping each other with the calls. There are some checks that need to be made by the Mike linebacker.

“Curtis does a great job on his own but to have another guy to lean on and somebody that might see one side of the football while he is looking at the other has been good.”

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Ray Lewis misses annual Thanksgiving charity event, continues rehab

Injured Ravens star middle linebacker Ray Lewis didn't attend his annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway event today due to a scheduling conflict with his rehabilitation schedule, according to an officer with his charitable foundation.

Lewis is on injured reserve-designated to return after tearing his right triceps and undergoing surgery, but is expected to potentially return in time for the postseason.

"He has some rehab things to take care of at this time," said Julian Brown, an officer with the Ray Lewis Foundation. "He had some other things he had to take care of as well on a personal level."

Lewis' foundation handed out holiday packages to 500 preselected families, including a turkey, carrots, potatoes, blankets and jackets.

"It's about giving back," Brown said. "We do it to reach a population and make sure we're touching different areas of the community."

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Jon Beason and Panthers Players Pack Thanksgiving Dinners

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Tonight two thousand bags are filled with all the trimmings for a beautiful Thanksgiving meal thanks to the Second Harvest Food Bank Harvest Feast Food Drive with Harris Teeter. 

Tuesday, employees of Harris Teeter, Heineken, and Panthers players assembled the bags that will be distributed to families across our area. 

Jon Beason, of the Carolina Panthers, was back in the assembly line for the third year in a row.  He and his mom Terry always bring other Panthers players along to help.

"It's important to give back. For me a lot of times you hear you're offering your time but when you leave you feel you left with something, they did something for you!" 

With his trademark smile and positive outlook Beason went on to say, "To have the opportunity to come out here with Second Harvest, Harris Teeter, Heineken and the other sponsors, it really is wonderful.   I am blessed by this experience."

Harris Teeter has had a long history of giving back to the community through Second Harvest. 

With this Harvest Feast Food Drive customers can donate non-perishable food items and place in the Second Harvest bins at front of local stores. 

They have also been offering shoppers a chance to donate cash by selling a $1, $5, $20 gift card that will be given back to Second Harvest for shopping throughout the year.

Beason and the other players, along with several more volunteers, delivered the first 75 bags to the YMCA Stratford.  Each bag will feed a family of four.

You still have time to help donations of food or purchasing gift cards continues through November 30 at any local Harris Teeter.

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Antrel Rolle: Giants need to win out

With a one-game lead in a division that has underperformed from top to bottom, the Giants could likely secure a playoff berth with a 10-6 record.

But Giants safety Antrel Rolle’s looking at the toughest part of the schedule, and suggesting that winning out might be necessary.

“I want to win six out of six,” Rolle said during his weekly appearance on WFAN (via the New York Daily News). “That’s the way I look at it, that’s the way I play the game, that’s my attitude about it. Four out of six — it may get us in, it may not get us in. it all depends.

“I don’t want to bank ourselves on a 10-6 season. So [I’m] definitely going to go for a 12-4 season.”

It doesn’t help his cause that they’re likely entering the toughest part of their schedule, starting with Sunday night’s game with the Packers. They also have a pair of division games left, along with Atlanta, New Orleans and Baltimore.

“We have control of our own destiny at this point,” Rolle said. “We’ve got to take care of each and every week as if it’s our last week, as if it’s our first week, as if it’s a do-or-die week, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s do or die; there’s no room for error at this point.”

Given the schedule they have in front of them, 4-2 would be impressive in its own right, despite Rolle’s lofty goals.

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Danny Valencia Called Up

The Red Sox added six players to their 40-man roster: righthanders Allen Webster, Steven Wright, and Alex Wilson, catchers Christian Vazquez and Dan Butler, and outfielder Alex Hassan.

Infielder Ivan DeJesus, third baseman Danny Valencia, and righthanders David Carpenter, Sandy Rosario, and Zach Stewart were designated for assignment.

The 40-man roster is now full. Teams had to set their rosters Tuesday in advance of the Rule 5 Draft Dec. 6.

DeJesus, Valencia, and Stewart had limited action in the majors for the Sox last season. Stewart was hit hard in two starts.

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proCane NFL Players of Week 11

Offensive Player of the Week:

Andre Johnson: proCane Texans WR Andre Johnson caught 14 passes for a career-high 273 yards and the game-winning touchdown in Houston's overtime Week 11, 43-37 win over the Jaguars.

Johnson was targeted a team-high 19 times on the afternoon, and started off flaming hot, catching the first three passes of the game for 73 yards. Matt Schaub absolutely roasted the Jaguars to the tune of 527 yards and five touchdowns on 55 pass attempts. Johnson's score in overtime came on a 48-yard catch-and-run screen pass down the right sideline. It was his first visit to the end zone since Week 3. Johnson and the 9-1 Texans travel to Detroit in Week 12.

Honorable Mention: Reggie Wayne.

Defensive Player of Week:

Brandon Meriweather: In his first and last game of the 2011 Brandon Meriweather in one half of football before tearing his ACL had 7 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and 1 interception. Meriweather will finish 2012 with just one appearance to his name. He missed the first nine games of the season with a sprained left knee. Under contract for $2.45 million next season, Meriweather will be in a race against time to be ready for camp.

Honorable Mention: DJ Williams, Ed Reed.

Special Teams Player of the Week:

Matt Bosher:
proCane Falcons P Matt Bosher continued his great 2nd season with 4 punts for 205 yards and a 51.3 average. Bosher had a long of 53 yards and placed two of his punts inside the 20-yard line. Bosher is also Atlanta’s holder and held three successful field goals for Matt Bryant.

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VIDEO: Frank Gore Blew Up Lance Briggs on MNF


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proCanes' Reactions to UM's Self Imposed Bowl Ban on Twitter

Tyler Horn @Tyler63Horn
I understand the decision and not for one second blame the coaches or the Admin. I just think the process needs to be expedited by the NCAA.

Tyler Horn @Tyler63Horn
The NCAA needs to change. Making 2 classes w/ an overwhelming majority of innocent players miss out on what they earned is just plain wrong

DeMarcus Van Dyke @D_VanDyke8
Let the seniors enjoy what they worked for! We don't know what the NCAA is going to do so don't tell me that BS

DeMarcus Van Dyke @D_VanDyke8
This is like we are punishing them kids for a bad report card their big brother receive

Ottis OJ Anderson @OJAnderson24
Say what?! “@hurricanesports: Miami Hurricanes Make Unprecedented Decision to Forego Bowl Opportunity in 2012http://bit.ly/T6AnYR ”

Alonzo Highsmith @alonzohighsmith
I am done with Miami!!! God bless them and wish them well? Will worry about Packers? Run right from the top!!!

Alonzo Highsmith @alonzohighsmith
Will not commit anymore on the Miami situation anymore? What's done is done? Did Donna give up her pay check?

Sean Goldstein @Sgoldie_daU53
As a UM fan and former player today couldn't be much worse. We self-impose another bowl ban and nd is ranked 1 #yikes

Sean Goldstein @Sgoldie_daU53
I couldn't feel any worse for those guys on the team who have to deal with another bowl ban. Too much work gets put in for this to happen

Jacory Harris @12JHarris12
Wow, those guys worked to hard to get where they are this year!

Kyle Bellamy @KyleBellamy_U
I wonder if the NCAA will care that UM has self imposed bowl ban passed 2 years. They never really liked us in first place

BonecrusherDan Sileo @DanSileoShow
What are the Canes waiting for...Ohio State REGRETS not giving last years bowl up..so does USC...HUGE mistake if we DONT

Brian Monroe @TrainerRoe
Smh! #staystrong #ufamily

Brandon Harris @HarrisNOFLYZONE
"I'm pissed why punish yourself twice the NCAA could care less about self imposed they still bringing the hammer,” he posted.

Olivier Vernon told the sun-sentinel: "Sometimes I guess you feel like the school doesn’t have your back," said Miami Dolphin Olivier Vernon, a member of the 2011 Hurricane team that also sat out a bowl ban. "You work so hard in the season to get to a bowl game, get to ACC championship, and to know that your school gave up a bowl bid kinda hurts a little bit but I’m not there so I ain’t worrying about it right now." Vernon also recalled how the 2011 team responded a week after being told a bowl was out.

"A lot of guys were down," he said. "It’s not a good feeling. But you’ve got to wish the best for things to come next year and the following (years)."

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Ed Reed Appeals One-Game NFL Suspension for Illegal Hits

Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed appealed a one-game suspension from the National Football League for repeated violations of a rule banning hits to the head and neck of defenseless opponents.

The sanction would cost Reed, who was due to make $7.2 million this year, about $450,000 in salary and force him to miss the Ravens’ Nov. 25 game at the San Diego Chargers.

“Ed has told us that he’s going to appeal the suspension right away,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said at a news conference yesterday. “So we should know something very soon. If we don’t have Ed, that’s a blow.”

Reed’s blow to the head of Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders two days ago was his third such hit in three seasons, the NFL said in a news release. Reed received a penalty for unnecessary roughness on the play, which occurred during the third quarter of the Ravens’ 13-10 victory.

Reed also received a $21,000 fine and an unnecessary roughness penalty following a September hit on New England Patriots receiver Deion Branch, and a $10,000 fine for roughing the passer after an unnecessary blow to the head of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in 2010.

“None of those were with intent to injure or to harm in any way,” Harbaugh said. “Ed respects the game. He respects his fellow players. After the New England one, he and Branch, they knew right away, and they were hugging each other. He’s got tremendous respect for the game, and we stand behind him.”

Reed is the second player suspended this season for violating safety rules. Denver Broncos linebacker Joe Mays received a one-game ban for a hit on Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in September.

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Brandon Meriweather tears ACL, out for the season

Safety Brandon Meriweather will miss the remainder of the Washington Redskins’ season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Coach Mike Shanahan announced Monday.

It was Meriweather’s first game of the season. He had been sidelined by an injury to his left knee that he aggravated twice. He will have surgery to repair the torn ACL, Shanahan said.

Meriweather started and played a little more than one half before injuring his knee. He had an interception in his Redskins debut. Meriweather is in the first year of a two-year, $6 million deal he signed as a free agent in March.

Meriweather was not immediately available to comment but he wrote on Twitter: “I want to start off by saying I’m sorry to all the [R]edskins fan[s]. Y’all are the best. But this was a bad season for me.”

He also wrote: “I promise that I’ll be back next [year] better then ever. Hard work pays off. God had something different for me this year. So see y’all next” year.
Meriweather faces a recovery period of approximately six months, according to Shanahan.

Meriweather hurt his knee without being hit. He was able to walk off the field under his own power, and Shanahan said after the game he was hopeful the injury wasn’t too serious. But the Redskins have lost the player they’d hoped would solidify their pass defense for the rest of the season.

Meriweather was signed in the offseason as a free agent and hurt his left knee in the second preseason game.

The Redskins believed he would return for the season opener. Instead, he re-injured his knee in practice six days before the opener, then hurt it again during a pregame collision with wide receiver Aldrick Robinson during warmups for the Redskins’ game at Tampa on Sept. 30. 

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Texans report: Andre Johnson blows away critics, foes

HOUSTON—Texans receiver Andre Johnson, 31, had read and listened to accusations that he'd lost a step or two, that hamstring and groin injuries last season and in training camp this year had taken a toll on a player who had been considered one of the two best at his position.

Over the last five games, Johnson has answered his critics with a terrific stretch.

In the Texans’ 4-1 run that has elevated their record to 9-1, Johnson has 43 catches for 589 yards and one touchdown. That’s an average of 8.6 catches and 117.8 yards. Johnson was at his record-setting best in Sunday’s 43-37 overtime victory over Jacksonville. He established career highs with 14 catches for 273 yards. The touchdown came in overtime. He caught a quick screen pass from quarterback Matt Schaub near the right sideline and picked up two blocks before sprinting 48 yards down the right sideline for the winning touchdown.

The victory allowed the Texans to remain tied with the Atlanta Falcons for the best record in the NFL entering Thursday’s game at Detroit.

Johnson, in fact, may have lost a step, but he’s strong, smart and knowledgeable about every trick of the trade. He continues to run routes all over the field. He’s fearless over the middle. The offensive coaches move him around. He can be found lining up wide or in the slot. He can start in the backfield and go in motion. He also switches into the backfield and runs his route from that point.

If Johnson continues his outstanding performance over the last six games, he’ll finish with 111 receptions for 1,558 yards.

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Willis McGahee has leg fracture, torn MCL for Broncos

Willis McGahee is no stranger to coming back from serious leg injuries. He's facing yet another challenge.

Fox Sports insider and NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer reported Monday that the Denver Broncos running back will miss six to eight weeks after suffering a torn medial collateral ligament and a fracture in his leg during Sunday's 30-23 win over the San Diego Chargers.

NFL.com's Albert Breer later confirmed McGahee's injuries to his right leg.

Doctors told McGahee not to put any weight on his leg, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. McGahee will not need surgery, and he believes he can return in four to six weeks.

Broncos coach John Fox said via The Associated Press that the team doesn't plan to place McGahee on injured reserve.

McGahee was injured at the conclusion of an 8-yard run in the second quarter Sunday. He had been optimistic the injury wasn't going to cost him any time, but an MRI revealed the damage.

McGahee had been enjoying a strong season as the featured back in Denver, rushing for 731 yards on 167 carries and four touchdowns in 10 games. With McGahee sidelined, Ronnie Hillman is expected to handle the bulk of the carries for the Broncos, although Lance Ball, Knowshon Moreno and Jeremiah Johnson also could be in the mix.

McGahee was the 23rd overall pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2003 NFL Draft, despite suffering one of the most gruesome knee injuries in recent memory during his final college game with the University of Miami. McGahee sat out his rookie season with Buffalo, but he has put together a sturdy NFL career with three teams over 10 seasons.

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Giants hope Kenny Phillips' return can stop bleeding

It’s not that the Giants haven’t appreciated everything Stevie Brown has done in Kenny Phillips’ absence. It’s just that the defense hasn’t been right without Phillips.

He’s expected to return to the lineup after the bye in Week 12, and the Giants believe having him on the field the final six games of the season could be exactly what their struggling defense needs. Plus, given the success the Giants have had previously with Phillips, Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant on the field, there’s no reason to think the Giants’ “Big Nickel” package can’t be revived in a new form with Grant gone and Brown taking his place.

Where the Giants have missed Phillips, who has been out with an MCL sprain for six games, has been covering tight ends. Recently, Cowboys TE Jason Witten and Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham have done damage up the seam against the Giants, although defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said Phillips’ absence has affected the defense in many ways.

"We miss him in more ways than one. Not only in the post or in the half but his athletic talent to cover a guy like Jason Witten or Gresham that we had to play or some of the tight ends we've had to face," Fewell said. "It's a big loss when you have a talented player like that."

Brown has shown a knack for making plays on the ball, although his blown coverage on the TD pass to Bengals WR A.J. Green last week shows he still can lack recognition at times. Phillips can help steady things, and Brown has played well enough to have earned a permanent role of some note.

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Andre Johnson goes 14 for 273, and he was not playing Madden

An amazing Sunday in Houston. This is modern football at its Monopoly-money best: Justin Blackmon and Johnson became the first two receivers in a game ever to each go over 200 yards. They combined for 21 catches and 509 yards, for a 24.2-yard average reception. I'm incredulous just writing that sentence. Where will it all end?

"It's crazy,'' Johnson told me from the Texans' locker room. "I don't know what to say. I didn't know something like that would ever happen.'' Heck, it may never again. The story in Houston's 43-37 overtime win was the crazy overtime. Houston kicked a field goal. Jacksonville kicked a field goal. Schaub threw an interception. Jacksonville -- correctly, I thought -- went for it and failed on 4th-and-10 from the Houston 47? (Really, what do you have to lose when you're 1-9 and there's two and a half minutes left to play and you're tied against the top team in the conference? Go for the win.) On the second play after that, Schaub threw a wide receiver screen to Johnson on the right side of the formation, and Johnson ran 48 yards for the winning touchdown.

Johnson said he's fully healthy for one of the first times in recent years, and he's able to practice and go through the normal drill work he's had to miss because of two knee scopes and a bad hamstring injury over the past two seasons. "My stride is opening up,'' he said. "I feel like I have my legs back, my explosion. I can't tell you how many OTAs, how many training camp practices, how many regular practices I missed. I feel like I've been battling so many injuries the last two or three years.'' Schaub threw to Johnson 19 times Sunday, and look for numbers like that to be the rule, not the exception, down the stretch.

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DJ Williams Glad to be Back

DENVER – For linebacker D.J. Williams, there’s a big difference between merely being around the game and strapping on the helmet and shoulder pads for live action.

“It’s 100 percent better,” Williams said. “When you’re just in the locker room, one of the guys, you kind of feel like you don’t deserve things until you get out there and actually produce and help your team win.”

After serving a nine-game suspension to open the season, Sunday night’s win over the Chargers marked Williams’ first taste of the gridiron since Jan. 14, the final game of the Broncos’ 2011 campaign. Head Coach John Fox said Williams’ effort to stay in shape throughout the suspension paid dividends.

“I thought he had a great week of preparation,” Fox said. “The guy obviously worked diligently while he was away from us so we were very happy to have him back. He made a mistake, paid his dues and without looking at the tape, I know he made a good play on a run through over toward their bench.”

Williams said the best part of suiting up again was the familiar feeling of sharing the field with his teammates.

“It feels great,” Williams said. “I’ve been playing football 17 years of my life, it’s basically all I know. It feels great to be in the locker room, the camaraderie with the guys, just go out there, go to war and go to battle and come home with the victory.”

Despite the long break from the game at a position as physical as linebacker, Williams did not feel any ill effects of his time away in his return, saying that if anything, he would have liked to absorb a few more hits.

“I feel good,” Williams said. “I feel like I could do a little bit more, but that’s up to the coaches. They’re working me in slowly. The way it is here, we have to earn the play. So just keep grinding in practice and hopefully I can get out there more.”

Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey, who is tied with Williams as the longest-tenured Bronco, said it’s hard to get back up to speed after extended time away. But from what Bailey saw, Williams looked anything but rusty.

“Working him in the mix today, that was beautiful for us,” Bailey said. “You don’t know what to expect, really, because he’s been out so long. But, he did exactly what I kind of expected. Nobody else knew it, but I know what type of person he is and how much he wants it. I’m just happy for him, we got it done and hopefully we can expand his role.”

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Calais Campbell wants to return Sunday

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell sat out Sunday's loss to the Falcons with a calf injury but says he doesn't plan on watching from the sidelines this weekend when they host the Rams.

"Oh yeah, I'm feeling good about it and I'm looking forward to getting back on the field and helping my team win games," he said Monday. "It was tough watching, don't want to do that again."

Campbell, who has 37 tackles and 3.5 sacks on the season, was injured before the bye week and says he hurt his calf while running. He felt a pop and said it's just one of those things that happens during football.

"I mean it's just little things, different kind of movements and stuff," he said. "I'm pretty sure I'll be back this week unless I have a setback."

That's something Campbell does not expect to be an issue, adding that he sat out Sunday in part just to be safe.

"It's something that's not that serious. You know it can nag so you just want to be careful and be smart with it," said Campbell. "The team looked real good out there without me so I was excited to see David Carter go in there and play well."

The defense did look good against the Falcons, forcing five interceptions and one fumble, but chances are they would still like to get Campbell back this week against the St. Louis Rams to try and help stop this six-game losing streak.

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Devin Hester leads team in receiving in Week 11

Chicago Bears WR Devin Hester had three receptions for 23 yards in Week 11 against the San Francisco 49ers Monday, Nov. 19. TE Kellen Davis checked in with two grabs for 20 yards, and WR Earl Bennett made the stat sheet with one catch for six yards.

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Breaking Down Andre Johnson’s Winning Catch

It has been a while since Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson dominated a game the way he did in Week 11 against the Jaguars. Actually, with 273 yards on 14 receptions, he bested his career high in yards by 66. It was his final catch of the game — a 48-yard touchdown that came on a screen — that was Johnson’s most impressive.

In many ways, the Texans were lucky to be in position to win. Tied with Houston at 37-37 with 2 minutes 36 seconds remaining in overtime, the Jaguars faced a 4th-and-10 at the Texans’ 47-yard line. Sitting with a record of 1-8, Jacksonville decided to go for it in a situation when a team fighting for a spot in the playoffs might otherwise punt and play for the tie. The Jags really handed Houston an early Christmas present when Chad Henne failed to connect with Justin Blackmon.

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub found Kevin Walter on a 5-yard out on the next play for Houston, and the clock was ticking inside of 2:20. With no timeouts, Schaub dialed up a play at the line.


Going no-huddle, it took Schaub only 14 seconds to get his offense lined up after the completion to Walter. With a Shotgun 5 Wide formation, the Texans spread the field. The Jaguars showed blitz before the snap, with six defenders — four linemen, a linebacker, and a defensive back — lined up as if they’d rush.


The Jaguars had blitzed on the previous play in an attempt to force the issue on defense. Knowing their only real shot to win was with a takeaway, Jacksonville rightfully played with a high-risk/high-reward defensive strategy. But knowing a blitz was almost certainly on the way, Schaub called the perfect play for the situation: a screen to Johnson.

Interestingly, the Texans actually had a double-screen called. Both Johnson and receiver Lester Jean (lined up closest to the sideline on the three-receiver side of the formation) ran the same route — three steps up before coming back to Schaub. It appeared as if Schaub had his choice of where to go with the ball, choosing Johnson for obvious reasons; in addition to Johnson’s being a bigger threat with the ball, the Jaguars were also out of position to the boundary since they blitzed their slot defender on that side. Further, the Texans released three of their five linemen toward Johnson.


By the time Johnson caught the pass, center Chris Myers, guard Ben Jones and tackle Derek Newton were all in prime position to block. Myers peeled back to catch any trailing defenders, Jones made his way to the second level, and Newton headed out to take care of the cornerback covering Johnson. Jones was particularly useful on the play, acting as a wall between Johnson and the last man to beat: safety Dawan Landry. Jones ran with Johnson for just about 25 yards, paving the way for the receiver’s game-winning score.


In what was probably the most thrilling game of Week 11, the Texans stormed back from a seemingly insurmountable 14-point fourth-quarter deficit. After Blackmon’s 81-yard fourth quarter touchdown, the Texans’ chances of winning were around 4 percent. With a little luck and a few well-timed plays, Houston showed why they could very well be the team to beat in the A.F.C. come January.

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Vince Wilfork teams up with Eastern Bank in holiday Toys for Tots drive

New England Patriots star Vince Wilfork (shown above in an AP Photo by John Froschauer) is teaming up with Eastern Bank to launch and promote a holiday Toys for Tots collection campaign in partnership with the US Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program, Eastern Bank said.

All 94 Eastern Bank retail offices will serve as official toy drop-off locations, and all members of the public are encouraged to drop off new, unwrapped toys at any Eastern Bank branch through Dec. 17, the bank said; monetary contributions can also be made to the Toys for Tots savings account.

In a statement, Wilfork said, “I encourage all of my fans to visit an Eastern Bank branch and donate a toy – no gift is too small or too large.”

With $8 billion in assets, Eastern Bank is the largest independent and mutually owned bank in New England. The bank is headquartered in Boston, and its branches are located in communities from the Merrimack Valley to Cape Cod.

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Broncos wasted no time getting D.J. Williams into the lineup

The Broncos worked D.J. Williams into the lineup quickly. He was in uniform against San Diego in the first game after his reinstatement from two suspensions.
And Williams entered Sunday's game against San Diego on the fourth defensive snap — it was when the Broncos went to the nickel (five defensive backs) for the first time in the game. Williams lined up alongside Wesley Woodyard in the two linebacker spots in that formation.

That was Williams' role, for the most part, in the defense for the remainder in the game and he was in the lineup primarily on first or second down (he had 15 snaps in that situation).

When the Broncos faced a more open formation from the Chargers offense, like a three-wide receiver set, or were in third-down or other long-yardage situations, they put rookie Danny Trevathan next to Woodyard in the nickel.

The Broncos like Trevathan's abilities in coverage while Williams gives them a little more bulk in the middle of the field on early downs, when a running play is more of an option for an offense. That figures to be the rotation in the near future.

The Broncos also used a four-linebacker set for a selection of snaps Sunday with Williams in the game and he also played in the team's short-yardage unit that was used against the Chargers in some third-and-short looks. In all Williams played 21 snaps.

The Broncos said they didn't have concerns about Williams' conditioning Sunday that he had done the work in his time away and it showed by how quickly they worked him in.

"He was pumped up and ready to go" — is how Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey put it — "It was like he never left."

Before Williams was suspended, the expectation at that point was that he would be a starter with Woodyard as his backup on the weak-side — the defensive side away from the offense's tight end. But Woodyard now leads the team in tackles and Sunday alone had eight tackles, to go with an interception, a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.

His three interceptions also lead the team.

And Von Miller is in the hunt for Defensive Player of the Year honors, so Williams isn't moving Woodyard or Miller out of the lineup. He could, if the Broncos like his progress, move into the middle in the base defense in place of Keith Brooking.

But that scenario is unlikely given after Williams started at middle linebacker for the Broncos in 2007 — he had a career-best 170 tackles that season — he often said following the season he believed he was better suited at one of the outside spots in a 4-3 defense.

Fox and Del Rio have each praised Brooking's anticipation and preparation as well, so it's difficult to see how moving him out of the base defense is something they would want to do at this point. As always injuries could force their hands in some fashion, but Williams is likely a rotation player right now.

"I'm just glad to be back in there," Williams said. "When you're just in the locker room you really don't feel like you deserve to be there until you can go out and contribute in some way."

The Chiefs, for all of their offensive failings this year, most notably turnovers and quarterback play, do have the No. 4 rushing attack in the league this season - 145.4 yards per game - and they are also fourth in the league in rushing attempts, at 31.9 per game, so Williams would see more snaps in those early-down nickel packages this coming Sunday than he did in the win over the Chargers.

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Tim George Jr. Collects Top-20 Finish in Season-Finale Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Tim George Jr. and the No. 2 Applebee’s / Potomac Family Dining Group Chevrolet team finished 18th after a last-lap spin in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Starting from the 30th position, the Richard Childress Racing driver climbed into the top 25 by lap 30 while wrestling with a loose-handling Chevrolet.

After the first four-tire pit stop of the night under caution on lap 38, George restarted 20th and maintained a top-25 running position for the first part of the 140-lap event. A caution-flag period on lap 105 gave George the opportunity to take a “wave around” pass, putting the Applebee’s driver only one lap down to the leader.

George found himself hovering in and around the top 20 for the remainder of the race while narrowly escaping a multi-truck accident that involved his RCR teammate, Ty Dillon with one lap to go in the event. Restarting in the 18th position for the green-white-checkered finish, George kept his truck out of trouble until he was caught up in a spin on the last lap of the event coming out of the turn four.

George was able to cross the finish line in the 18th position and the No. 2 Chevrolet team finished 14th in 2012 Camping World Truck Series owner championship point standings.
Start – 30
Finish – 18
Laps Led – 0
Owner Points – 11

“This was not the way I wanted to end the season. First of all, I have to thank Gere (Kennon, crew chief) and the rest of my guys for giving me a really fast truck. We were fast right off the hauler. I like Homestead-Miami Speedway. I was loose during qualifying and nearly lost it in turn four which gave us a bad starting position. That pretty much sealed our fate with a short race. Every position was a fight. I did get a good restart for the green-white-checkered finish and then lost the air and spun out on the final turn. I’ve learned a lot about racing the trucks this year and I’m looking forward to next year.”

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John Salmons' experience leads to starting role

The Kings traded for John Salmons before the 2011 NBA draft to provide stability to a young starting lineup.

And in the midst of the team's worst start since the 1990-91 season, Kings coach Keith Smart is turning to the swingman again.

Salmons started Sunday's 99-90 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, two days after he called a players-only meeting following Friday's discouraging loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

"I've been a starter and I've come off the bench before," Salmons said. "I'm just trying to help the team win. Whatever I've got to do. That's all that really matters. It doesn't matter if you're starting or not."

Salmons averaged 7.5 points last season, his lowest total since the 2005-06 season with Philadelphia. Brought in as a starter to improve the Kings' perimeter shooting, Salmons shot 29.5 percent from three-point range, the lowest figure of his career.

That led Smart to sit Salmons and move Tyreke Evans to small forward from point guard.

Before this season, Salmons missed most of training camp to be with his wife during complications with the birth of their third child. His absence was not a factor, since Salmons didn't appear to be a solution this early in the season.

Smart was happy with the size and defense that forward James Johnson added to the 2012-13 lineup. But after struggling on offense in nine games, Johnson is on the bench.

Johnson is shooting 33.3 percent and has not made a three-pointer. Salmons has played in five games, averaging 5.6 points.

Even though the Kings (2-8) lost their fifth consecutive game Sunday, Salmons said there was progress.

"We definitely played better than we had been playing over the last few," Salmons said. "Hopefully we can keep going in the right direction. That's all we can do."

Bench marks – Even as the Kings shuffle the starting lineup, the bench will be an important part of their production.

Sacramento's reserves average 37.4 points, while opposing reserves average 31.8 points. The Kings' bench has outscored its counterparts in seven of 10 games.

That wasn't the case in Sunday's loss when Brooklyn benefited from 52 bench points while the Kings managed 26.

Marcus Thornton scored 12 of the points on 4-of-13 shooting.

One of the key contributors from the second unit, Aaron Brooks, is now starting.

Jimmer Fredette, who has been productive with extended minutes, scored just three points in a little more than 10 minutes.

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PHOTO: Ed Reed Throws Up "The U" on Sunday Night Football


Thank you to Tommy Covelli @tommycovelli for sending us this photo of Ed Reed on Sunday Night Football.

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PHOTO: proCanes pose at Sun Life Stadium


From left to right, proCane Baraka Atkins, Kareem Brown, Graig Cooper & Randy Phillips pose for a photo at Sun LIfe Stadium during the Hurricanes’ Thursday night victory over Virginia Tech.

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Oakland Raiders Sign Cory Nelms

The OAKLAND RAIDERS signed CB Cory Nelms to the practice squad. Nelms was on the 49ers practice squad during the 2011 season but was cut before training camp this season.

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ACC Now & Then Duke Johnson and Clinton Portis

ACC Now & Then - Duke Johnson and Clinton Portis by ACCDigitalNetwork

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VIDEO: Michael Irvin Kisses CJ Spiller

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Texans activate Darryl Sharpton from PUP list

It's been a long road but inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton finally made his return to the Houston Texans on Sunday after nearly 55 weeks out of commission.

Sharpton tore his right quadriceps muscle against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 30, 2011 and will make his return against those very same Jaguars on Sunday after being activated by the Texans from their physically unable to perform list. To make room for Sharpton, the Texas waived safety Troy Nolan.

Sharpton first practiced two weeks ago and due to his placement on the PUP list was not eligible to play until after week six. Though his quadriceps injury should have been healed and ready by the preseason, Sharpton had a setback with a hip injury early in training camp. But now he is ready to go for a Texans team that needs depth at linebacker with Brian Cushing out and Tim Dobbins questionable for Sunday's game, leaving Bradie James and Barrett Ruud as the only healthy linebackers.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips rewarded linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who came off the physically-unable-to-perform list last week, with a chance to blitz on his first play of the 2012 season. He nearly got a sack.

“It felt great to be back out there,” said Sharpton, who tore a quad tendon against the Jaguars at Reliant Stadium last season. “I wasn’t expecting a game this long or this crazy, but playing football is like riding a bike for me. It clicked the minute I stepped on the field. I felt like I was home.”

Sharpton, who was drafted in the fourth round in 2010, contributed four tackles — one for a loss — and assisted on three others.

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Andre Johnson completes rally with clutch TD

HOUSTON — These 10 seconds will not define this year for the Texans. These 10 seconds will not alter the path of their historic season in any substantial way.

These 10 seconds simply showed the connection between Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson and, even more so, between Johnson, the fans' favorite, and those fans.

Johnson turned a screen pass from Schaub into a 48-yard touchdown — each capping one of the best statistical games in NFL history — as the Texans survived perhaps their worst game of the season and escaped with a 43-37 overtime victory over the 1-9 Jacksonville Jaguars at Reliant Stadium on Sunday.

“I love him,” Schaub said of Johnson. “I love the way he plays. ... He gives me a chance to look good. And that's what he did today.

“It was special. That's just Andre.”

Johnson had 14 catches for a career-high 273 yards — the ninth-most in NFL history.

Schaub finished 43 of 55 passing for a career-high 527 yards — tied with ex-Oilers quarterback Warren Moon for the second-most in NFL history — and five touchdowns.

The Texans rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit and improved to 9-1 — tied with the Falcons for the best record in the NFL.

They entered the game as 151/2-point favorites, the largest spread in the NFL this year.

“We struggled today,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “But we kept battling, and we found a way to win a game another way.”

The Texans now get three days of rest before playing at Detroit (4-6) on Thanksgiving Day.

And they are going to need all of the rest they can get after this wild, entertaining affair.

The Texans finished with a franchise-record 640 total yards but allowed 458 yards to the Jaguars.

The teams traded field goals to start overtime, setting the stage for the most memorable play (so far) in this most memorable Texans season.

Schaub took a shotgun snap. He waited a split second and fired a pass to Johnson, who had turned straight toward Schaub for a screen pass.
Johnson sprinted down the right sideline, not even having to weave between defenders.

Ten seconds after the snap, Johnson, the longest tenured Texan, sprinted through the end zone and into the waiting arms of delirious fans.

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Reggie Wayne's milestones take back seat to loss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It was a 6-yard second-quarter move-the-chains pass to Reggie Wayne that looked like nothing more than it was, one of 938 in a 12-year career, and another first down on a night the Indianapolis Colts would have 28 of them.

Surpassing consistency is an element of excellence that is accomplished in humble steps. That pass tied an NFL record.

The catch was Wayne's third of the night and the 58th consecutive game in which he had caught at least three passes. Only one player in league history had done that: Cris Carter, who played 16 seasons and caught 1,101 passes, most for the Minnesota Vikings.

Wayne finished with seven catches for 72 yards, a modest performanceicon1 on a humbling night. The New England Patriots beat the Colts 59-24. It was a bitter defeat and Wayne promised not to forget it.

"Why would you?" he asked. "Whenever you get taken behind the woodshed, it's kind of hard to forget. Hopefully we take care of business and make sure we come back in this stadium and do a little better."

Wayne's night wasn't without another achievement, though he chose not to celebrate it.

His 72 receiving yards pushed his season total to 1,003 yards. His eighth 1,000-yard season matched Marvin Harrison's team record and made Wayne the 13th player in NFL history to pass the milestone with such frequency.

It might have been a much bigger night. Wayne seldom had the opportunity to run. Again and again quarterback Andrew Luck's passes came in low and Wayne went to the turf to get them.

"That's the way it goes," he said. "You have some good ones. You have some bad ones. I just wanted to make sure I'd catch them. I'll get some when I can get on the run. I've got plenty of time to do that."

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Willis McGahee to have MRI on right knee Today

Broncos running back Willis McGahee was having a nice game, gaining 55 yards on seven carries when he went down with a right knee injury early in the second quarter.

McGahee suffered a knee injury after he gained 8 yards with 13:33 remaining in the second quarter, a run that immediately preceded Peyton Manning’s 13-ayrd touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. McGahee did not return and will have an MRI on Monday to determine the full extent of the injury.

“It swelled up on him,” said Broncos coach John Fox. “We’ll know more (Monday).”

One source said he "feels good and doesn't think it's serious."

Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball finished the game at tailback and combined for 78 yards rushing on 18 carries.

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Andre Johnson and Blackmon make NFL history

HOUSTON (AP) - Houston's Andre Johnson and Jacksonville's Justin Blackmon both had more than 200 yards receiving Sunday, marking the first time two players reached that mark in a single game.

Johnson had 14 receptions for 273 yards, both career highs. Blackmon, a rookie, had seven receptions for 236 yards, also career highs.

Blackmon had an 81-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. Johnson gave the Texans a 43-37 win in overtime with a 48-yard touchdown catch.

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VIDEO: Ray Lewis gives inspired pregame speech to Clemson

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D.J. Williams makes impact vs. Chargers

Although their expected playing time for Sunday had been described as "uncertain," Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil and linebacker D.J. Williams didn't just get their feet wet in the Broncos' victory over San Diego.

The pair all but face-planted Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in the turf.

"We have a lot of energy out there and we're having fun," Dumervil said of the Broncos' defense. "There's so many guys contributing. We felt like the whole game on defense, we were going to do the job."

Broncos coaches had said during the week they didn't know how many snaps Dumervil or Williams would get. After all, Dumervil had sprained his left shoulder the previous weekend in the victory at Carolina and sat out the final 2 ½ quarters of that game.

And Williams, everybody figured, would have to knock off a thick layer of rust, having sat out the first nine games because of two NFL suspensions.
As it turned out, both played a pivotal role in forcing Rivers into a frustrating afternoon.

Dumervil, whose availability for Sunday's game had been listed as "questionable," was in the opening lineup and did not look the worse for wear. He recorded six tackles (tied for third most on the team), a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a sack.

"I've been in situations before where I had to play with pain," Dumervil said. "I don't like it. But you got to go. The team needs me, and I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team."

Dumervil's sack and forced fumble came on the final play of the game and prevented Rivers from attempting any kind of "Hail Mary" pass, with the Chargers down by a touchdown.

"There's so many guys contributing," Dumervil said. "We felt like the whole game on defense, we were going to do the job."

Williams entered the lineup on the game's fourth snap and immediately became part of the regular rotation. He finished with four tackles and a tackle for loss.
"I thought D.J. had a great week of preparation," Broncos coach John Fox said. "The guy obviously worked diligently while he was away from us."

If Williams felt rusty at all, it couldn't have been evident to the Chargers. A former University of Miami star, Williams spent the early part of the season working out in South Florida. Then, a few weeks before his suspension was lifted, he moved back to Denver to adjust to altitude.

"I have to credit my conditioning — the strength and conditioning coaches here," Williams said. "They helped keep me focused."

Often, Williams and his former backup, Wesley Woodyard, were in the lineup together. For the past few years, both played weakside linebacker, but it came as no surprise that the Broncos found a way to have them in the lineup at the same time.

Woodyard tops the Broncos in tackles (85), including eight on Sunday.

"We played together, and it was great," Woodyard said of Williams. "D.J. went out there and made some plays. That's what it's all about. A team needs to put the best players in the best places to make plays."

Nose tackle Kevin Vickerson said the Broncos' defense is developing an identity.

"We're playing fast," Vickerson said. "Everybody is playing together and playing fast. And everybody is being accountable to the guy next to him. I think that's been a major reason we're playing so well."

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Bernie Kosar's rookie stats weren't that impressive either

Is Brandon Weeden the Browns' quarterback of the future?

Offensive coordinator Brad Childress is not ready to make a definitive declaration on that just yet.

"I want to see him grow here in the second half of the season and the last seven games and play through this Cleveland-Pittsburgh weather," Childress is quoted in a story by Mary Kay Cabot. "I want to see all of that. I want to see the whole body of work before I venture an opinion on where he's at."

Have you seen enough of Weeden to know if he is the long-term solution? Browns fans have been debating that in the comments section of the story. In today's Comment of the Day, pitwinston compares Weeden to Bernie Kosar. He posts,

"Bernie's rookie season he had a 50% comp rate, 8 TDS and 7 INT and his qb rating was 68.9. That was with two 1,000 running backs and a hall of fame tight end. Weeden has played nine games with a rookie rb, 3 rookie wr, a 2nd year te and wr, and a couple of mediocre veterans (MoMass & Watson). He has also had his receivers drop multiple passes, which not only affects his overall numbers, but have killed drives and on multiple occasions stopped momentum on drives as well. His numbers: 55.1 comp%, 9 td 12 int and a 67.9 qb rating. Pretty similar numbers because that is how rookie qb's play. Weeden needs to play a minimum of a full season and if he shows any improvement in the last 7 games a full season next year too. Besides, if McCoy was such a better option wouldn't the coaching staff that is fighting for their jobs be playing him over Weeden?"

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10 Questions: Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen

We ask 10 questions of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen:

Q. Are you a “Modern Family” fan?
It’s my favorite show. It’s always something I watch. I love it.

Q. Which “Modern Family” character are you?
I always joke with my wife that my goal is to be Phil Dunphy. I don’t know if she feels that’s the perfect father role model but I think he’s hilarious. The whole thing with him is unbelievable. Everything he does to me is funny.

Q. What do you listen to in the car when you’re coming to the stadium?
I’m a music guy. I listen to the country channel here.

Q. Do you have particular favorites?
I really like pretty much all of it. I’m a big music fan. I’ll listen to it all.

Q. Any musical talent?
No. Zero.

Q. With young children, you probably don’t have much time but what’s date night like for you and your wife?
We like to go to dinner. That was our thing. We’ll get back to that at some point. We enjoy going out to nice dinners and trying places, especially when we travel. We don’t have a whole lot of hobbies. That’s our big splurge.

Q. Do you have any favorite places in Charlotte?
We go to Brio’s a lot. We go to 131 Main a lot near where we live. Ilios Noche is one of our favorite places for a real nice night without the kids. We love that.

Q. Do you have guilty pleasures when you’re home at night?
During the season, my comfort food. I probably eat pizza twice a week. I try to eat well but I have a soft spot for pizza and Peanut M&Ms.

Q. What’s your least favorite household chore?
The dishes. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. A lot of bottles. They don’t clean themselves.

Q. With what you and your family have been through with the birth of twins and your son TJ’s surgeries, how special will Thanksgiving be?
I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome. For months, we were hoping to have him home by Thanksgiving. We had him home a few weeks before. We’re just going to have family at the house and enjoy it. We have a lot to be thankful for.

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John Salmons speaks up to try to halt losing streak

Players and coaches won't discuss publicly what was said in Friday night's players-only meeting or during Saturday's film session that was said to be another session of honesty among teammates.

But we do know who got the "clear the air" movement going: John Salmons.

Salmons is not the most vocal King. He admittedly leads by example. But with the Kings losing four consecutive games and with a 2-7 record, he felt the need to speak up and have the players talk amongst themselves.

"It's just a feel thing of being a veteran," Salmons said. "It was something I felt like we should do at the time."

The mood of the Kings was tense last night. A lot of players are unhappy. The angst ranges from players not getting enough playing time and some players shooting too much.

The issues aren't much different from what have plagued the Kings in recent seasons. Selfish play and a lack of accountability have surfaced numerous times whenever there is some kind of losing streak.

Salmons doesn't want to see this season lost before Thanksgiving.

"It's still early," Salmons said. "We haven't been winning games like we want to so I just wanted to, before it got too out of control, bring the team together and try to work some things out."

Added Chuck Hayes:

"We put stuff out there on the table, you know what it is. If you know what it is, it helps the relationships, you it helps the team."

"The guys responded well. We're not holding no grudges, we're not holding no animosity."

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Padres re-signed C Eddy Rodriguez to a minor league contract

Padres re-signed C Eddy Rodriguez to a minor league contract. Rodriguez, 26, made his major league debut with the Padres in 2012. Strictly a defensive catcher, he'll continue to serve as organizational depth at Triple-A Tucson.

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