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Lions claim kicker Justin Medlock off waivers

John Niyo of the Detroit News reports that the Lions have claimed kicker Justin Medlock off waivers from the Redskins.

In Washington, Medlock was out-kicked by Graham Gano at offseason workouts.  Gano connected on all four of his field goal tries late last season with the Redskins, allegedly with a broken foot.
Medlock, a former fifth-round pick of the Chiefs during the final days of the Carl Peterson/Herm Edwards era, will probably serve as a “camp leg” behind starter Jason Hanson in training camp.
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Reggie Bush doubtful, Calvin Johnson questionable

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Running back Reggie Bush missed practice for the second straight day on Friday, but said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, that he will play against the Falcons at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

The team isn’t quite as confident. Bush has been listed as doubtful on the team’s final injury report of the week because of his ankle injury, leaving him unlikely to play when the two teams kick off Sunday’s action with a game for the American audience to watch while they eat their breakfast.

There’s more hope for wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain. He was a limited participant in practice all week and his ability to go each day is a good sign for how the ankle might hold up in a return to action this weekend. Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle is also questionable after suffering a concussion last week, but his chances of playing look better after he got in a full practice on Friday.

Tight ends Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron were both ruled out and Brandon Pettigrew is doubtful, which should mean a lot of work for Kellen Davis and Jordan Thompson when the team needs a tight end this weekend.

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Free tickets to 49ers games create problems for San Jose police

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A troubling picture has been painted in recent weeks regarding the relationship between the 49ers and San Jose police.  In addition to the team routinely hiring San Jose police officers to provide security services (a practice that has been suspended due to the handling of the Ray McDonald case), the 49ers also have given free tickets to multiple San Jose police officers, in violation of the applicable rules.

According to ABC7, the team gave free tickets to two members of the department for at least two 49ers games.  The San Jose gift ordinance prohibits police officers from receiving items worth more than $50.

“Tickets to an athletic event like a Sharks game, an A’s game, a Giants game, a 49ers game,” San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle told ABC7, “if the face value of those tickets are more than $50 dollars, which is probably the case most of the time.”

In this case, the team told ABC7 that the tickets had a face value of $187.

Accepting the tickets also violates the police department’s internal guidelines, according to Judge Ladoris Cordell, who serves as San Jose’s independent police auditor.

“Things like that, those are deemed to be gifts,” Judge Cordell told ABC7.  “So a discount, a gratuity, a favor, if they’re not offered to everybody, you can’t take them.  We don’t want officers, our police officers in San Jose, to be getting special favors from certain people because it might compromise them at some point.  And it doesn’t look good.”

The two officers in question — Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia and Deputy Chief Jeff Marozick — have since reimbursed the 49ers for the tickets.  But that doesn’t satisfy Judge Cordell’s concerns.

“The fact is the duty manual, the rule itself says you may not accept these,” Judge Cordell told ABC7. “It doesn’t say, you get around it by accepting it, and later paying money back.”

She’s right; the money was reimbursed only because the issue was discovered.  If no one ever raised a question or a concern about it, nothing would have happened.

Moving forward, the question is whether San Jose and other Bay Area municipalities will establish the kind of arm’s-length relationship with the 49ers that will insulate any investigations of players or team employees from scrutiny or suspicion.  The bigger question for the NFL is whether steps will be taken to ensure that neither the 49ers nor any other teams are attempting to short-circuit the personal conduct policy by maintaining relationships that can undermine the willingness of police officers to aggressively pursue potential violations of the law.

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Harry Douglas a game-time decision for Sunday

Harry Douglas AP

The Falcons had wide receiver Harry Douglas at practice for the second straight day on Friday, leading to more hope that the team will get him back in the lineup after four games on the sideline because of a foot injury.

While it’s a good sign that Douglas’s return to practice on Thursday didn’t result in any adverse reaction in his foot, coach Mike Smith said that there won’t be any final determination made about his playing status until Sunday.

“Harry’s done very well,” Smith said, via the team’s website. “He will be a decision that we make as we get closer to the game, but he’s been able to come out and participate in practice the past two days, so he was a limited participant again today, but I like the progress he’s made through the week.”

Getting Douglas, who has 12 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown, back would expand Atlanta’s options against a good Lions defense, although they’ll need a reverse in course from the offensive line to take full advantage of them.

Smith said defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux is also headed for a game-time decision after missing practice all this week.

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Paul Allen gives $100 million to fight Ebola

Allen AP

With Ebola finally arriving in New York City and a lingering sense of uncertainty as to whether Americans should not worry about the disease at all or retreat to an underground bunker for the next five years, Seahawks owner Paul Allen has decided to try to stem the tide of a disease that, while still very new to our country, continues to ravage West Africa.

Via the New York Times, Allen has donated $100 million to the fight against Ebola.

“Everybody feels called sometimes to really pursue a certain thing that resonates with them, and this has resonated with me,” Allen said.  “The exponential nature of the growth of this disease is really a challenge — we’ve already seen in the U.S. where one case quickly became two.”

Allen also has created the TackleEbola.com website, where donations much smaller than $100 million can be made for small, specific projects.

Regardless of whether Ebola ever becomes a serious public health situation in America (and as best I can tell while monitoring the Internet from my underground bunker is that it won’t), it is a serious public health situation in various other countries that lack sophisticated medical facilities and/or a basic public understanding of what the disease is and how it spreads.  So we applaud Allen for his generosity (after all, $100 million is still $100 million, no matter how much money a guy has), and we encourage everyone to make a donation to one of the various projects being funded by TackleEbola.com.

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Getting through first practice brings “mixed emotions” to Amobi Okoye

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It was one practice.

But for a guy who spent three months in a coma, it was a pretty big deal.

Cowboys defensive tackle Amobi Okoye went through yesterday’s practice, signaling the start of a three-week window to work before the Cowboys have to decide to activate him or leave him on the reserve/non-football injury list.

It was good, it was worth it,” Okoye said, via Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. “It was mixed emotions. It felt like it naturally was coming back. I’ve played six years in the league [and], it doesn’t take too long for stuff to come back to you.”

Okoye is recovering from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a brain condition which causes memory loss and seizures. He last played in a game in 2012, and lost 78 pounds during his battle.

He said he’d talk more about his condition during the bye week in November, but he’s impressed his teammates with the work he’s already put in.

“He’s been through a lot,” linebacker Bruce Carter said. “His story is amazing. A guy like that who works real hard, I see him all the time working [with strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Woicik] one-on-one. Just to see him actually working with [us] and see it pay off is a great thing. I think he’s going to do great things for us.”

There’s still no guarantee Okoye will play this year. But after what he’s been through, simply getting through a practice is a big first step.

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Eddie Royal says loss to Broncos is motivating, not discouraging

Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The Chargers opened the season 5-1, but even as they were piling up wins they knew that they had a big obstacle standing in the way of their hopes for the season.

Two meetings with the Broncos loomed and there’s not much chance of winning the AFC West title without handling Denver at least once. The Chargers couldn’t get the job done on Thursday night, losing 35-21, but wide receiver Eddie Royal says the loss won’t leave the team licking their wounds for too long.

“It’s not discouraging,” Royal said, via ESPN.com. “It’s motivating. We just know what we need to work on. We know how good of a team they are, and we know we can play with these guys. It just motivates us to go back and put in some work. I think we’ve got the right guys in this locker room to get ready to go and get a win.”

The schedule should be a help to the Chargers in the next few weeks. They play the Dolphins in Week Nine and then head on their bye, which means they’ll have a big window to get some players healthy ahead of the stretch run. They then have home games against the Raiders and Rams once they’re back in action, giving them a chance to get back on the winning track before they face the Ravens, Patriots and Broncos in a three-week stretch that should go a long way toward determining their playoff fate.

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Kickalicious visits the Lions in London

Havard Rugland AP

Kickalicious is back with the Lions. But only for a visit, to the chagrin of some Lions fans.

Havard Rugland, the Norwegian kicker whose trick kick video made him an Internet celebrity and got him a spot on Detroit’s preseason roster last year, stopped by the team’s practice today in London, according to Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.

The Lions have shown no interest in signing Rugland, even though their kicking situation has been appalling this year. Detroit is already on its third kicker of the season, and although the current kicker, Matt Prater, is the best of the three, that’s not saying much: Prater is 2-for-4 this season, and one of the two he made was a 21-yarder that came courtesy of a fortunate bounce off the upright. Rugland went 3-for-3 in the preseason last year, with a long of 50 yards.

Rugland visited with Prater, punter Sam Martin and special teams coach John Bonamego. It appears that it was just a visit, and there’s no chance of Rugland taking Prater’s job. Although perhaps if Prater misses a couple of kicks on Sunday against the Falcons, Bonamego will consider bringing Rugland back to Detroit with him.

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Akeem Ayers happy to be somewhere he has a chance to play

Rob Ninkovich, Akeem Ayers AP

Linebacker Akeem Ayers had fallen out of favor in Tennessee this season, leaving him as a healthy scratch for five of the team’s seven games and, unbeknownst to him, on the trading block.

The Titans pulled the trigger on a deal this week, sending Ayers to the Patriots along with a 2015 seventh-round pick in exchange for a sixth-round selection. Ayers has only been a member of the Patriots for a few days, so he’s still learning the team’s schemes and figuring out how he’ll fit into the mix for a team that lost Jerod Mayo for the season. However those things resolve themselves, Ayers says he’s pleased to be somewhere that offers him a chance of getting back on the field.

“I’m pretty much just happy to be here. Obviously, I wasn’t playing there, and I just happened to get in a good situation here,” Ayers said, via the Boston Herald. “As I’m learning the playbook, I’m trying to simplify things as much as I can and the coaches are helping me out with that. We’re trying to keep things simple and try to learn to the best I can to play as fast as I can when I’m on the field.”

This Sunday will bring the first look at how quickly Ayers is picking things up in New England with the team surely hoping that the process moves fast enough for him to help the defense when the Broncos roll into town in Week Nine.

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O’Brien disputes report that Cushing will miss time with knee injury

Cushing AP

On Wednesday night, PFT reported that Texans linebacker Brian Cushing will miss at least one game due to lingering issues with his surgically-reconstructed knee.  On Thursday, coach Bill O’Brien disputed the report.

“First of all, no, I wasn’t aware of that report,” O’Brien told reporters on Thursday.  “I was trying to figure out how to try to get a first down against the Tennessee Titans because it was third-down night.  And secondly, there is no accuracy to that report.”

O’Brien’s reaction is predictable.  Schooled in the art of injury misdirection from his time with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, O’Brien knows he’s required to disclose only whether and to what extent a guy has practiced in the week preceding a game, and then eventually to apply a label to an injured player — out, doubtful, questionable, or probable.

Even if O’Brien knows Cushing won’t play on Sunday (and Cushing won’t play), O’Brien gains nothing from admitting it on Thursday.  Admitting it on Thursday eliminates the possibility of listing Cushing as questionable, extending until Sunday morning the uncertainty for the Titans as to whether Cushing will play.

Indeed, the signs already are pointing toward the 50-50 “questionable” label for Cushing, who did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday.

“I think he feels he’s getting better every day,” O’Brien said.  “I think coming off that [ACL] injury, you know, postgame is always, there is a lot of soreness.  We have to ease him back into the week.  Like how we say, he’s day-to-day.  We’ll see how he is tomorrow. We’ll bring him to Tennessee and we’ll see how he is before the game.”

Yep, Cushing will be questionable on Friday.  And then on Sunday, the pregame shows that no one will be watching because of the Lions-Falcons game that starts at 9:30 a.m. ET will have a stream of reports that Cushing, while listed as questionable, won’t play.

And probably that linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, while listed as questionable, will.

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Friday morning one-liners

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

WR Chris Hogan has moved into a bigger role on the Bills offense.

The Dolphins have gotten solid work from LB Jelani Jenkins.

The Patriots defense should face some stiffer tests in the coming weeks.

Said Jets G Willie Colon of WR Percy Harvin, “If you have guys who make big plays, crucial plays, at big moments, those are the teams that are winning. It is shocking that we got him. He was such a big factor for Seattle.”

Ravens RB Bernard Pierce says he’s not frustrated by an inconsistent workload.

C Russell Bodine is a “Clint Eastwood style” leader for the Bengals.

The Browns aren’t panicking about their leaky run defense.

S Mike Mitchell is still finding his way in the Steelers defense.

Texans DL Jared Crick is looking forward to facing Titans QB Zach Mettenberger.

Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief stand to gain more action if WR Reggie Wayne is out for the Colts.

Jaguars DB Alan Ball thinks he’ll play again this season.

Will the move to QB Zach Mettenberger open up the Titans offense?

RB Ronnie Hillman continues to make a strong case for continued playing time in the Broncos backfield.

Chiefs WR Albert Wilson is cherishing his first NFL reception.

The Raiders haven’t lost their patience in TE Mychal Rivera.

Thursday night brought more milestones for Chargers TE Antonio Gates.

The case for franchising Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray.

Giants RB Andre Williams had a rough day in Dallas last week.

The Eagles aren’t getting the job done in the red zone.

Redskins DL Jason Hatcher isn’t making too much of this week’s game against his former Cowboys teammates.

A call for the Bears to hand more of their offense to RB Matt Forte.

This week’s trip to London gave Lions DE Ziggy Ansah a chance to see his sister for the first time in years.

Packers WR Randall Cobb is making an impact when QB Aaron Rodgers is forced to scramble.

The Vikings are looking for more consistency from CB Captain Munnerlyn.

The food in London hasn’t been a big hit with Falcons players.

Panthers DE Wes Horton thinks the team has a good plan for dealing with Russell Wilson.

QB Drew Brees and the young Saints receivers are still figuring each other out.

Why do the Buccaneers defer when they win a coin toss?

Cardinals LB Sam Acho will be on the other side of the field from his brother this Sunday.

The rise of RB Tre Mason with the Rams has come at the expense of Zac Stacy.

A look ahead to the second half of the 49ers schedule.

Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn thinks Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright make good fill-ins for injured LB Bobby Wagner.

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ESPN confirms existence of Seattle locker-room divide, in unusual way

Wilson AP

The Seahawks have a divided locker room.  Unless they don’t.  Unless they do.

ESPN has advanced the ball on this topic in an unusual way.  Appearing on SportsCenter and introducing Thursday’s sound from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, anchor Kenny Mayne encroached on the turf of national insiders Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, Ed Werder, and roughly 17 or so others.

“Two sources — one inside the team, one outside of the underachieving 3-3 Seahawks — tell me that much of what was written in Mike Freeman’s Bleacher Report column is true,” Mayne said, apparently reading from carefully-crafted prompter copy.  “[Freeman] wrote of turmoil involving since-traded Percy Harvin and the quarterback Russell Wilson that led to a more widespread internal battle pitting those for Russell Wilson and those against.  And Freeman surmised on his own an issue among some teammates regarding Wilson that quote, he isn’t black enough.  A certain expected behavior based on color, apparently.  One of the sources told me, quote, I don’t know how he got all that stuff, but it’s pretty much true.  We do have a divide.  We’re working on it.  Thursday that notion was not presented to Wilson, but over and again, questions came about Harvin’s departure.”

First, Freeman didn’t surmise on his own the question of whether Wilson is “black enough.”  While Freeman chose not to share any specific quotes he had gathered directly from members of the organization, here’s what he said:  “My feeling on this — and it’s backed up by several interviews with Seahawks players — is that some of the black players think Wilson isn’t black enough.”  (Emphasis added.)

Second, the notion of a locker-room divide was presented to Wilson.

“There’s no division in our locker room,” Wilson told reporters.  “There’s none at all. If anything, I think we’ve continued to build, continued to grow. I truly believe that.  I think that the guys that we have in the locker room, the guys that believe that we can still go 1 and 0 and still be a championship team; those are the guys that we have sitting in this room every day. Every morning when we wake up, we’re looking for one common goal and that’s to win football games.”

Over the weekend, Mortensen attempted to shoot down “speculation” (it was more than speculation) of Harvin vs. Wilson by reporting that Wilson “actually wanted to help Percy Harvin with anger & trust issues,” and that the team — not Wilson — gave up on Harvin.  Mayne’s words dispute the picture Mortensen painted.

Which possibly creates a (wait for it) divide in Bristol between the folks charged with gathering news and those with the responsibility of teeing up the news gatherers, talking over highlights, trying to be funny, and sometimes succeeding.

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Browns would prefer one of their backs to take control of job

Ben Tate AP

The Browns are deep enough at running back that they withstood an injury to their free agent starter, and still ran well with a pair of rookies.

But when Ben Tate returned, that meant chopping up the workload among three of them. That’s caused them to wonder about their ability to get into a rhythm, but offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had an easy solution to the problem.

“If they want to be out there more, they need to separate themselves and show that they’re obviously better than the other guy and we’ll keep them out there more,” Shanahan said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I don’t ever worry about running backs getting into a rhythm. They’re not quarterbacks. When you hand them the ball they better run hard and do as good as they can.”

Tate should know about not getting into a flow, having backed up Arian Foster for four years in Houston. So he empathizes with Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West, who have had fewer opportunities lately.

“I had to do that for four years,” Tate said. “You just have to be ready at all times. You just have to watch and pay close attention to what’s going on and ask. When I was doing that, I would ask Arian [Foster] how the ‘backers are flowing. You have to be very in-tune with the game and understand what’s going on so when you’re out there you don’t miss a beat. I understand what they’re saying. Trust me. I’ve been there. If anybody knows, I know.

“Even now, sometimes you feel like your rhythm gets interrupted but you just have to deal with it. You have to do whatever’s best for the team.”

Tate has naturally gravitated into the lead role, but both West and Crowell have shown that they could do so as well. It’s a luxury for the Browns, as other teams who want to run have a hard time keeping backs on the field.

But it’s also going to take some ego managing on the part of coaches, to make sure they all stay engaged if they’re not the one getting fed that day.

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Reggie Bush remains out, Calvin Johnson remains in at Lions practice

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Getty Images

When the week started, Lions running back Reggie Bush was certain that he’d play against the Falcons on Sunday despite leaving last week’s game because of an ankle injury.

That prediction is now looking overly optimistic. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Bush is not practicing in London on Friday, making it two straight days that Bush has not been able to join his teammates on the field after starting the week with a limited practice on Wednesday.

Bush’s absence in Week Six and inability to complete Week Seven mixed with the team’s bye week waiting after they finish Sunday’s game may push the Lions to use Joique Bell and Theo Riddick this week and revisit things with Bush down the road. In better news for the Lions, wide receiver Calvin Johnson practiced for the third straight day as the condition of his ankle appears to be trending in the right direction.

The official injury report will be released later on Friday and we’ll also find out the status of the team’s tight ends once it comes off the wire. Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron and Joseph Fauria all joined Bush on the sideline at practice and coach Jim Caldwell indicated Thursday that Pettigrew was the only one with a serious shot of playing this week.

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Peyton about a year away from Favre’s yardage record

favrepeyton Getty Images

After breaking Brett Favre’s record for career passing touchdowns last week, Peyton Manning is about a year away from breaking Favre’s record for career passing yards.

Through Thursday night’s win over the Chargers, Manning has 67,098 career passing yards. That puts him 4,740 behind Favre’s all-time NFL record of 71,838.

Manning has averaged 315 yards a game as a Bronco, so if he keeps up that pace, he’ll break Favre’s record in 16 more games. Expect more celebrations of Manning’s greatness at this time next year.

Manning is also 594 completions away from Favre’s career record, meaning Manning will likely break that record in 2016. At least one of Favre’s records is safe, however: Favre has the all-time record for career interceptions, with 336. Manning, who has 222 interceptions in his career, is the active leader. If Manning keeps throwing interceptions at his Denver pace of about 10 for every 16 games, he’d need to play about 12 more years to top Favre’s interception record. That one seems safe.

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Bengals not facing a blackout, at least this week anyway

Tennessee Titans v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

With three home games in a 12-day span, the Bengals have a significant concern about blackouts.

They’ve been able to push that off for Sunday, anyway.

Via the Cincinnati Enquirer, the team announced they reached the 85-percent threshold for this week’s game against the Ravens, clearing it to air on the local broadcast station.

The bigger test will come next week, when they play the hated (not really) Jaguars, which is followed by a Thursday night visit from the Browns.

They haven’t been blacked out this season, but it has taken until the Thursday before each of their games for that to become clear.

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