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Week Three Monday 10-pack

The third week of the 2010 season provided plenty of memorable highlights and outcomes. 

From an overtime thriller in New Orleans to a couple of 0-2 underachievers getting things pointed in the right direction to what nearly became an overtime thrilled in Miami, we hope the next 14 weeks are just like this one.

Then again, some teams would prefer to forget all about Week Three.  For 10 story lines focusing on the good and the bad from Week Three, read on.


1.  Coughlin out, Cowher in?

Two years ago, the Giants started the season 0-2, giving up 80 points in
two games.  This year, after a sloppy Week One win against a grossly
overmatched Panthers team, the Giants have surrendered 67 in two even
sloppier losses.

Publicly, coach Tom Coughlin has taken the blame.  Privately, he has
begun the process of holding his players accountable.

Whether it works remains to be seen.  The Giants are becoming every bit
as dysfunctional as they were when Coughlin somehow pulled a Super
Bowl-sized rabbit out of his hat.  The championship season has become
largely forgotten, however, especially as the Giants become upstaged in their new
stadium by the look-at-me Jets, at whom New York and the rest of the
country are looking, both for what they do on the field, and what they
do off it.

After the Giants collapsed down the stretch and missed the playoffs,
co-owner John Mara blew a gasket.  This year, if the Giants fail to
qualify for the postseason, he’ll do more than talk tough.

Coughlin has one year left on his contract, and the Giants will have to
decide after 2010 whether to re-up Coughlin’s deal — or whether to move
on.  If they choose to thank the 64-year-old coach for his
contributions and pay him not to work for the franchise in 2011, the
most obvious candidate to replace him becomes Bill Cowher.

The 15-year coach of the Steelers, who resigned after the 2006 season,
recently said that he’s looking for the “right situation.”  And former
Steelers tailback Jerome Bettis, who called Cowher’s coming resignation
at the outset of the 2006 season, sad earlier this year that Cowher
covets” the Giants job.

Unless and until Coughlin can get his Giants to play disciplined,
winning football, a guy who led the Steelers with square-jawed intensity
could become the ultimate answer to the cross-town team led by a
player-coach who doesn’t actually play.

2.  Tebow takes a big step backward.

Entering the regular season, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow occupied the
No. 2 spot on the depth chart, behind starter Kyle Orton and ahead of
Brady Quinn.  Per a league source, Tebow was under the impression that
he’d be the top backup all year.

After only two games, Tebow fell to No. 3.  Inactive for Sunday’s game
against the Colts, the elevation of Quinn prevented Tebow from entering
the game before the fourth quarter, essentially eliminating the team’s “Wild Horse”
single-wing package.  As it turns out, neither Quinn nor Tebow entered
the game at all.

Following the 27-13 loss to Indy, Bronco coach Josh McDaniels downplayed
the situation.

“Just made a decision after the week of practice,” McDaniels said. 
“Brady had a good week and it wasn’t anything about Tim — we just felt
like Brady was probably better equipped at this point to handle this
style of game plan, the style of defense that they played.  Again, they
get very few reps anyways, but the reps that they get — we felt more
comfortable doing that.”

Whether it’s a one-time thing remains to be seen.  The fact that Tebow
believed he’d be the No. 2 guy all year makes the move surprising.  The
possibility that he’ll stay at No. 3 shows just how far he has to go
before he becomes the full-time starter.


3.  Pink slips coming soon?

The desperation that has prompted so many quarterback changes could soon
result in a flurry of firings.  Coordinators could be the initial
scapegoats in some cities.  But with bye weeks beginning,
underperforming head coaches could soon find themselves staying home for
the rest of the year, with pay.

The Panthers have looked putrid, and if they hit their break at 0-5,
coach John Fox could be out the door.

The Browns, who are 0-3 but just as easily could be 3-0, face the
Bengals, Falcons, Steelers, and Saints before their bye.  And if the
Browns are 0-7, Eric Mangini may not get a chance to host the Patriots
and the Jets in consecutive weeks — which likely would drop Cleveland
to 0-9, anyway.

Another potential candidate for a bye week “buh-bye” is Jaguars coach
Jack Del Rio.  As one league source explained it, multiple factions
currently are clashing in Jacksonville.  “If [Del Rio] survives the
season,” the source said, “he likely won’t survive the offseason.”

Whether Del Rio survives the season depends on whether the Jaguars can
turn things around, quickly.  Outscored by a total of 50 points in two
weeks, things get no easier next week, when the Colts come calling.  (It also doesn’t help that the Jags are stuck in a division with Indy, Tennessee, and Houston.)

In San Francisco, Mike Singletary could be on the hot seat, too — if
anyone there had the nerve to actually communicate the decision to fire him. 
(Would you?)

Then there’s Raiders coach Tom Cable, who faces some risk of being fired
every minute of every day, of every season.

4.  Time to change inherently unfair fumble rule.

While watching the Chargers-Seahawks game, which Seattle surprisingly
won, a play late in the first half reminded us of one of the most
inequitable rules in all of sport.

When an offensive player fumbles the ball out of bounds, his team keeps
possession.  But when an offensive player fumbles the ball out of the
end zone that his team is trying to invade, the ball is regarded as
having been recovered by the other team, and it’s placed at the 20.

NFL spokesman Michael Signora described it as a “long-standing rule, in
place for decades.”

That’s fine, but that doesn’t make it fair.

It simply makes no sense to punish the offensive team for getting so
close to the end zone, losing the grasp on the ball near paydirt, and
then losing possession even if the other team never actually recovers
it.  

Instead of giving the ball to the defense at the 20, the rule should
give the ball to the offense, at the opponents’ 20.  Some would argue
that possession should be awarded at the line used for the try after a
touchdown.  Either way, possession shouldn’t be handed over the defense
when the defense has done squat to secure possession.


5. Jets, Falcons seize control of their divisions.

With 13 games to go, a lot can — and will — happen.  But two teams
confidently can claim that, for now, they rule the four-team roosts in
which they reside.

Both the Jets and the Falcons went on the road and knocked off rivals
who had been 2-0.  So now the Dolphins will have to win in New York and
the Saints will have to win in Atlanta in order to avoid what amounts to
a three-game swing in the standings — 2-0 versus 0-2, plus ownership
of the tiebreaker.

Coupled with the Jets’ win over the Patriots, New York has come a
long way in only 13 days

Ditto for the Falcons, who lost a heartbreaker in Week One and suddenly
have broken the Saints’ hammerlock on the NFC South.  It likely was the biggest win of quarterback Matt Ryan’s three-year career.

Again, there’s a long way to go.  For now, though, the Jets and Falcons
have to be feeling pretty good about where they are.


6. Chiefs are for real.

When a team exceeds expectations, expectations eventually will be
adjusted.  For that reason alone, look for the Chiefs to continue to
downplay their success, in the hopes that no one will believe that
they’re a legitimate contender to win the AFC West.

But they are.  Already, the 3-0 Chiefs possess a two-game lead over the rest
of the division, and they’ve toppled the perennial top dogs from San
Diego.

Moving forward, the Chiefs benefit from a fourth-place schedule.  While
the Chargers play the Ravens and the Patriots, the Chiefs get the Browns
and the Bills. (All four AFC West teams play all four AFC South teams
in 2010.)  Those two games could end up making a huge difference, if the
race gets tight in late December.

The biggest question mark comes at quarterback, but that question mark
became an exclamation point, at least for a day, when Matt Cassel
completed 16 of 27 for 250 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception
— good for a passer rating of 111.7.

It’s the kind of triple-digit performance that became commonplace for
Cassel in 2008, when he replaced Tom Brady in New England.  Now that
Cassel could be clicking with Charlie Weis, the guy who helped make Tom
Brady into Tom Brady, there could be even more strong performances from the
player whom many regard as the weak link on a slowly-improving
franchise.

Until then, the Chiefs would prefer that we all regard them as
slowly-improving, with no reason to think that they may be headed in the
direction that their 3-0 record suggests they’re heading.

7.  Dallas Desperadoes deliver for Wade.

Backed against the wall, the Dallas Cowboys proved the value of a single
NFL weekend by avoiding an 0-3 start, pulling into a three-way tie for
second place in the NFC East, and getting themselves back on track for a
season that still could end with a Super Bowl.

Desperation suited the Cowboys well on Sunday in Houston, and now
they’ve got time during their bye week to continue to tweak the offense
and refine the defense and prepare to continue the push toward and
beyond .500.

At a time when the NFL is considering a move from 18 games, it’s
important to remember the impact of a single NFL game when a total of
only 16 are played.  The significance of each and every contest makes
each and every one dramatic and memorable; for the Cowboys, who
faced full-blown implosion after only two weeks, a single game changed
everything.

If the season is “enhanced,” that quality could quickly be diminished.

8.  Steelers could run the table.

We know it’s way too early to say this, but we’re going to say it
anyway.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could go undefeated.

It’s unlikely.  Eventually, they’ll surely lose.  But if they can get past the
Ravens on Sunday in the last game without Ben Roethlisberger and if he
pumps up an offense that is complemented by the best defense in the
league, the Steelers will be unstoppable.

If they get to 16-0, it won’t have happened against a slew of patsies. 
They play at Miami and at New Orleans, and they host the Patriots and
the Jets.

Still, there’s already something special about this team, and it could
become even more special if Roethlisberger helps light up a scoreboard
that rarely will reflect many points from the opposition.

9.  Vick’s historic redemption tour continues.

As the football-watching world waits for Mike Vick’s triple-digit
passer-rating performances to drop dramatically, as they always have done in the past, Vick has instead put his
foot harder on the gas, authoring his best performance to date with the
Eagles.

In a 28-3 win at Jacksonville, Vick completed 17 of 31 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 119.2.

In 10 quarters, Vick has thrown six touchdown passes and not a single
interception.

He’ll face his toughest test yet next week, when Donovan McNabb returns
to Philly for a game that Eagles fans will want to win more than any
non-playoff game in franchise history.  And regardless of how well
McNabb does or doesn’t play, another strong showing from Vick could make
McNabb’s performance moot.

Meanwhile, at some point we need to acknowledge that we’re witnessing
one of the most compelling stories in league history.  Rather than
merely returning to the level he occupied before missing two years while
in prison, Vick could be on the verge of reaching new heights — and of
becoming the franchise quarterback he never quite became in Atlanta.

10.  Saints need to lose their blind spot for Garrett Hartley.

Kicker Garrett Hartley forever will occupy a position in the pantheon of
Saints stars, thanks to his delivery of the franchise’s first NFL title
via a 40-yard overtime kick in the NFC Championship and a trio of
40-plus-yard field goals in the Super Bowl.

But kicker remains one of the most fungible positions in football, and
if a guy can’t do his job there are plenty of others who can, and who will.

The challenge for coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis will be to
forget about the things Hartley did in the past, and to focus on what
he’s doing now.

Or, more importantly, on what he’s not doing.

Two missed field goals in Week One allowed the Vikings to hang around
much longer than they should have, and a redirection from 49ers
defensive tackle Ray McDonald may have prevented Hartley from being the
goat in Week Two.

The goat he was on Sunday, when he missed an overtime chip shot after
knuckling the game-tying kick that forced the extra session.

Peter King reported on Sunday night that the Saints will bring in
kickers this week
.  It shouldn’t simply be a shot across Hartley’s bow. 
Kickers need to be much more reliable than Hartley has been.  And if
Hartley continues to receive extra consideration for what he did in last
year’s Super Bowl, the Saints won’t win another one this year.

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Wes Welker calls drug policy system “clearly flawed”

Wes Welker AP

After learning that he would be suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drugs policy, Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker elected to express issues over the policies themselves while expressing ignorance over his violation of those policies.

In an email to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Welker relayed the standard line from players following drug suspensions that he would “NEVER knowingly take a substance to gain a competitive advantage in any way.”

However, Welker then turned his attention to the system that led to his suspension in the first place. Welker called the drug testing programs “clearly flawed” and vowed to attempt to get the issues corrected in the future.

“I have never been concerned with the leagues performance enhancing or drug abuse policies because under no scenario would they ever apply to me, but I now know, that (drug-policy procedures) are clearly flawed, and I will do everything in my power to ensure they are corrected, so other individuals and teams aren’t negatively affected so rashly like this,” Welker said.

Welker did not elaborate on what part of the process he took issue with. However, the policies themselves were collectively bargained as a part of the CBA that was signed between the league and player’s union in 2011.

A first offense for a violation of the performance enhancing drugs policy is a four game suspension. The four game suspension is actually a five-week ban as the Broncos have their bye week in Week 4.

The league officially announced the suspension Tuesday night. He will be eligible to return to the team on Monday, October 6.

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Wes Welker officially suspended first four games of season

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The NFL officially announced Tuesday night that Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker will miss the first four games of the season after violating the league’s performance enhancing drugs policy.

The four game suspension will actually be a five-week ban in total as the Broncos bye week falls in Week 4. Welker is eligible to return to the team’s active roster on Monday, August 6. He will miss games against the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. All four teams won at least 10 games last season.

“Tonight’s news regarding Wes is very disappointing for our team, but we understand the league’s authority in this area. While it’s unfortunate to not have him to start the year, I have full confidence in our wide receivers and expect that group to continue playing at a high level,” head coach John Fox said in a statement.

“I have no doubt that Wes will remain focused on his preparations for the season and stay in excellent shape during his time away from the team.”

The banishment under the PED policy happened because Welker took MDMA, a banned substance under the substance-abuse policy, that had been cut with amphetamines, a banned substance under the PED policy.

The timing of the announcement was somewhat odd. It comes late on a Tuesday night and the Broncos had likely already built a game plan with the assumption Welker was going to be available to play this week. In addition, if the suspension had been announced before final cuts on Saturday, the team could have kept an additional player during cuts as Welker would have been placed on the reserve/suspended list.

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Welker may not be suspended for Week One

Welker AP

The good news for the Broncos and receiver Wes Welker is that he may not be suspended for Week One.  The bad news for the Broncos and Welker is that it may not matter, since he has yet to be cleared to play.

The worst news for the Broncos is that, if the NFL had finalized the Welker suspension by Saturday, the Broncos would have been able to keep someone they’d cut on the roster for at least the first four weeks of the season, since Welker would have been placed on the reserve/suspended list based on his four-game suspension for violating the PED policy.

One of the many things learned the during StarCaps case was that suspensions routinely are announced by Tuesday, since that’s the start of the work week.  As of Wednesday, Welker will practice and in turn be eligible to be paid for the week.

It means that, when Welker eventually is suspended (he will be), he’ll be more likely to miss a game that he would have been able to play, in light of his most recent concussion.  It also means that someone like safety Duke Ihenacho could have been kept around for the first month of the year.

For now, it means that, if Welker receives clearance to play on Sunday night against the Colts, he’ll be in the lineup — barring a dramatic departure by the NFL from its past practices.

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Brent will appeal decision to delay his reinstatement

Brent Getty Images

Former Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent has ended his retirement. The league, however, hasn’t.

Brent won’t be reinstated for 10 weeks. Brent’s agent, Peter Schaffer, tells PFT that Brent will appeal the decision.

“We are going to invoke our appeal right,” Schaffer said by phone. “We were truly hoping that the Commissioner’s response to Josh’s request for reinstatement would be one that we wouldn’t have to appeal, and that it would be fair and based on precedent. The last thing we thought we’d have to do today would be appeal the decision.”

Schaffer pointed to the only other recent case involving a player found responsible for DUI resulting in death: former NFL receiver Donte’ Stallworth.

“It was the same exact situation,” Schaffer said. “Both were tragic and unfortunate.  Stallworth received a 16-game suspension.  I base everything on precedent.  The precedent was set.  But Josh will serve a 30-game suspension.”

That calculation treats Brent’s placement on the non-football injury/list list and his 2013 retirement as de facto suspensions. While it’s unclear whether the NFL would have suspended Brent in 2013 while he was awaiting trial, Brent’s retirement allowed the NFL to avoid a very delicate situation.

“It’s important that Josh voluntarily retired,” Schaffer said.  “He could have forced the NFL to go through a tremendous amount of scrutiny for allowing him to play pending trial or for attempting to suspend him before he had been proven guilty.  Where’s the incentive for someone to do that in the future?  Giving him twice what Stallworth received doesn’t seem to be acknowledge that.”

The procedure moving forward isn’t clear, given that Brent technically hasn’t been suspended.  Instead, his reinstatement has been delayed.  Schaffer believes that Brent should be allowed to play pending the appeal.

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Former Cardinals QB Max Hall arrested for shoplifting, cocaine

nfl_a_hall2_sy_300 AP

For a moment there, it looked like Max Hall was going to be the next Kurt Warner.

But he ended up more like Montana — Tony Montana.

According to the Arizona Republic, Hall was arrested Friday on suspicion of possession of stolen items and cocaine.

The report said Gilbert police were called to a Best Buy store, where they found Hall with “several stolen items from Best Buy and a nearby Walmart.”

He was also packing a “personal use quantity of cocaine,” which I guess depends on how often you use.

The former BYU quarterback — this latest one was a whole different kind of mission — started three games for the Cardinals in 2010, and was most recently working as an assistant coach at a high school

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NFL holds Irsay to higher standard, sort of

Irsay Getty Images

As expected, the NFL has lowered the boom on Colts owner Jim Irsay.  And the NFL believes that it held Irsay to a higher standard than the league’s players.

The NFL is correct.  Sort of.

A player who pleads guilty to a DUI ordinarily gets no suspension and a maximum fine of $50,000 for a first offense.  Irsay received a six-game suspension and a fine of $500,000.

It was also a higher standard when compared to the 2007 DUI of Dr. Jerry Buss.  The late Lakers owner was suspended only two games (they play 82 for the season) and fined $25,000.  (The NFL may not want to completely embrace NBA precedent, in the event that an NFL owner eventually is illegally recorded during a private conversation saying things that objectively would be regarded as inappropriate.)

The appearance of holding Irsay to a higher standard masks the inadequacy of the financial penalty.  The league office has advised PFT that there will be no monetary consequence beyond the $500,000.  Which means that Irsay will otherwise lose none of the money that he will earn during the six weeks that he’s suspended.

While the NFL’s constitution and bylaws cap any fine at $500,000, the league has no limit on the money that can be withheld when someone is suspended.  Saints coach Sean Payton, for example, lost more than $5 million during a full-year suspension for an overhyped bounty program that he had no involvement in establishing or maintaining.

Likewise, players routinely lose more than $500,000 during suspensions.  Broncos receiver Wes Welker, for example, will lose 4/17th of his $3 million base salary, 4/17th of his $3 million roster bonus, and 4/17th of his $2 million signing bonus allocation as a result of his four-game suspension for violating the PED policy.

That’s $1,882,578 in lost revenue for Welker.  And that’s well over three times what Irsay, a billionaire, will lose during a 50-percent longer suspension.

So while it generates a strong headline for an owner to be suspended, he’s not forfeiting anything close to the millions in revenue that will continue to flow into the team’s coffers.  The team he’ll continue to own will continue to generate enormous profits that he’ll continue to be able to do with as he pleases.

Ultimately, it’s not a real suspension unless the suspension comes without pay.  In this case, Irsay is being suspended with pay — minus an amount that, given his net worth and the revenue that will continue to be generated over the next six weeks, is roughly the equivalent of a speeding ticket.

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No decision yet on Josh Gordon lawsuit

Egg timer Getty Images

On Monday, we reported that Josh Gordon will decide in the next day or two whether to sue the NFL in response to his one-year suspension for his latest violation of the substance-abuse policy.

As of Tuesday, no decision has been made.

Look for something to happen quickly, especially since practice gets rolling on Wednesday for the regular-season opener against the Steelers.  Since Gordon, if he sues, will ask for a preliminary injunction that will allow him to play while the litigation is pending, the sooner he gets the process rolling the more time a judge will have to consider whether to allow Gordon to keep playing.

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Saints bring back Shayne Graham

Shayne Graham AP

Three days after releasing both kickers in their cut to 53 players, the Saints have brought one back.

The team has re-signed kicker Shayne Graham, according to the NFL’s Tuesday transactions.

In a corresponding roster move, the club waived second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin.

Graham, 36, connected on all four field goals (long of 39 yards) and 4-of-5 extra points in preseason play. However, the club parted ways with Graham and Derek Dimke after the exhibition slate.

But now, Graham is back, and seemingly so for the regular season opener at Atlanta.

The move leaves Luke McCown as the lone backup behind Drew Brees. It would not be a surprise if the Saints re-signed Griffin to the practice squad, but he will have to clear waivers first, and it will be interesting to see if he’s picked up after a solid preseason (48-of-77 passing, 530 yards, three TDs, one interception, 90.3 QB rating).

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Source: Welker took Molly at Kentucky Derby

Welker

Wes Welker’s good day at the Kentucky Derby turned out to be not so good.

His winnings that day exceeded $57,000.  But human error resulted in the Broncos receiver being overpaid by nearly $15,000.

Now, he’ll lose a lot more than that due to his four-game suspension.

Per a league source, the banishment under the PED policy happened because Welker took MDMA, a banned substance under the substance-abuse policy, that had been cut with amphetamines, a banned substance under the PED policy.  (Here’s where all the Walter Whites in the crowd will try to claim in the comments and on Twitter that MDMA and amphetamines are the same thing.  They’re not, Jessie.)

As happened with Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick, pure MDMA wouldn’t have triggered a violation under the PED policy.  The presence of amphetamines resulted in a one-strike, four-game suspension.

If the NFL and NFLPA had struck a deal on HGH testing, Welker likely wouldn’t have been suspended.  It’s believed that the new drug-testing policies that will become effective if/when a final agreement is reached on HGH testing will result in amphetamines shifting to the substance-abuse policy during the offseason.

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Greg Robinson not in Week One starting lineup

Robinson Getty Images

The second overall pick in the draft will start the season on the second string.

Rams guard Greg Robinson, a tackle whom the team has moved inside, has moved behind Rodger Saffold on the depth chart at left guard, via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-DispatchDavin Joseph will start at right guard.

Joseph, who joined the team in May, makes it easier for the Rams to take it slowly with Robinson, who’s still adjusting to life in the NFL, where the playbook and the protections is far more complicated than the offense at Auburn.

Still, it’s a disappointment for the second player off the board to not be starting.  If the Rams were able to capture a Mulligan, they’d surely take the quarterback who won’t be starting in Jacksonville.

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Wes Welker suspended four games for violating PED policy

Denver Broncos Super Bowl XLVIII Media Availability Getty Images

Broncos receiver Wes Welker has been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

According to multiple reports, Welker tested positive for a banned amphetamine.

Welker becomes one of the highest-profile NFL players to be busted for a PED violation. Welker led the league in receptions three times while with the Patriots, and he was a component of the best offense in the NFL last year with the Broncos.

There’s been much talk in recent days about whether Welker would be healthy enough to play in Week One after suffering a preseason concussion, but now that talk is moot: Welker will miss four games regardless of whether he is cleared by the league’s concussion protocol.

The Broncos should be in OK shape at receiver even without Welker, thanks to the signing of free agent receiver Emmanuel Sanders and the drafting of rookie receiver Cody Latimer.

Welker will not be permitted to practice with the team during the suspension. He will be eligible to return in Week Five.

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NFL says Josh Brent can return starting Week 11

Dallas Cowboys v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The NFL has will allow Josh Brent, the Cowboys defensive lineman who killed teammate Jerry Brown while driving drunk, to return to the Cowboys this year. But Brent isn’t eligible just yet.

Brent cannot play until Week 11. He is suspended for the first 10 games of the season and not allowed to participate in any team activities for the first six weeks of the season. He can begin practicing in Week Nine. He will not be permitted to return if he is involved in any prohibited alcohol-related incidents.

If Brent believes he deserves to re-join the Cowboys sooner than that, he has five days to appeal the decision. Brent has already missed the end of the 2012 season after his car crash in December of that year, and the entire 2013 season as well. In all, he’ll have missed 30 games by the time he’s eligible to play in Week 11.

The Cowboys have indicated that they will bring Brent back once the NFL gives it the OK. So as long as Brent stays out of trouble, expect him to be with the Cowboys late this season.

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Steelers’ defense preparing to face both Manziel and Hoyer

Mike Tomlin AP

Brian Hoyer will start at quarterback for the Browns against the Steelers on Sunday, but he’s not the only quarterback the Steelers’ defense is preparing to face.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says he thinks Johnny Manziel will play on Sunday, and the Steelers have to be ready for that.

We anticipate them using both in some capacity, and I think that’s the appropriate approach for us to take,” Tomlin said.

Tomlin coached Hoyer briefly when Hoyer spent some time on the Steelers’ roster in 2012, and Tomlin said he has always thought highly of Hoyer as a smart, well-prepared quarterback. But the Steelers also have to be ready for the threat Manziel brings, particularly as a runner.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all that [Hoyer] is the guy they’ve chosen to go with,” said Tomlin, “but that being said, we have a great deal of respect for Johnny Manziel and his talents and what he did to get to this point in his career. We fully expect them to utilize him in some capacity in this football game. They didn’t draft him in the first round to watch, and we understand that.”

The possibility of a two-quarterback system makes the Browns one of the NFL’s more unpredictable offenses heading into Week One. Tomlin doesn’t know exactly what to expect against Cleveland, but he does expect to see Johnny Football, and not just Johnny Clipboard.

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Bears place Marquess Wilson on injured reserve/recall

Marquess Wilson AP

If Marquess Wilson is to return to the Bears’ lineup, it will have to be after midseason.

The club has placed Wilson, the second-year wide receiver from Washington State, on injured reserve with a designation to be recalled, the club announced.

The 21-year-old Wilson suffered a broken collarbone early in training camp. He was expected to compete for the club’s No. 3 receiver role.

With Wilson’s roster spot open for the time being, the Bears re-signed cornerback Kelvin Hayden, who was released on Saturday. The 31-year-old Hayden missed the 2013 season with a torn hamstring, but he appeared in 16 games (two starts) for Chicago two seasons ago.

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Cowboys plan to add Michael Sam to practice squad

michaelsam AP

Michael Sam is about to find an NFL home.

The Cowboys plan to bring in Sam for a physical and sign him to the practice squad if he passes, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that the Cowboys spent time today calling players to gauge their reaction to signing Sam. Apparently the reaction was what it should have been: If he can help the team, he should be signed. The Cowboys think having Sam on the practice squad could help.

There’s been much talk since the Rams cut Sam that teams are avoiding him because they don’t want the attention of having the NFL’s first openly gay player on their roster. But in the case of the Cowboys — where owner Jerry Jones thinks there’s no such thing as bad publicity — if anything Sam’s status as the NFL’s highest-profile practice-squad player may be a bonus.

A seventh-round draft pick out of Missouri who was the SEC’s defensive player of the year last year, Sam had a good preseason but wasn’t able to crack the 53-man roster in St. Louis. In Dallas, where the Cowboys are in desperate need of help on defense, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him eventually get added to the active roster. Dallas looks like a good fit for Sam.

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