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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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Texans cut 2011 second-round pick Brandon Harris

brandonharris AP

Another recent Texans draft pick has been sent packing.

Cornerback Brandon Harris, a 2011 second-round draft pick, was cut by the Texans today, according to James Palmer of CSN Houston.

Bad draft picks have plagued the Texans in recent years, and Harris is a prime example: When you draft a player in the second round, you expect him to be a starter. Harris is released having never started a game in Houston.

Harris, who played his college football at the University of Miami, is a talented enough athlete that some team may decide to give him a second chance in the NFL. But his first chance, in Houston, has ended as a major disappointment.

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Report: Kyle Orton reaches deal with Bills

Kyle Orton AP

He’s back.

Veteran quarterback Kyle Orton has reached a one-year deal with the Bills, ESPN.com’s James Walker reported Friday night.

In July, the Cowboys released Orton, who was said to be considering retirement. At the time, Dallas owner Jerry Jones indicated the 31-year-old quarterback wasn’t done playing just yet.

Jones was apparently right.

With 70 NFL starts to his credit, Orton is likely to displace Jeff Tuel as the top backup to Bills starter EJ Manuel. The more interesting discussion point, though, is whether Orton could eventually push Manuel, who had an up-and-down summer.

Before joining Dallas in 2012, Orton had stints with Chicago (2005-2008), Denver (2009-2011) and Kansas City (2011). He has completed 1,326-of-2,265 passes for 15,019 yards with 83 TDs and 59 interceptions in his NFL career.

The Bills’ reported addition of Orton is their latest attempt to solidify their depth behind Manuel, who missed six games a season ago as a rookie. Tuel, Dennis Dixon and Thad Lewis were the backups to begin the summer, but only Tuel remains of that trio. The Bills also parted ways with ex-Bears quarterback Jordan Palmer on Friday.

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Jack Crawford indicates he will be released by Raiders

Oakland Raiders v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Raiders are reportedly set to release one of their 2012 draft picks.

Via Instagram, defensive end Jack Crawford indicated Friday night that the club had parted ways with him.

“Wish the best for all my teammates I went to battle with and will always have a place in my heart for the #RaiderNation for giving two of the best years of my life,” Crawford wrote.

The 25-year-old Crawford was a fifth-round pick out of Penn State. He appeared in 19 games in his first two seasons with Oakland, notching 18 tackles. He recorded one tackle in Oakland’s preseason finale vs. Seattle on Thursday. Crawford was listed as the Raiders’ third-string left defensive end.

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Seahawks to release Terrelle Pryor

Pryor AP

The Rams’ patience may have paid off.

Per a league source, the Seahawks will release quarterback Terrelle Pryor.  A 2011 third-round supplemental pick of the Raiders, Pryor will hit the waiver wire, since he doesn’t yet have four years of experience.

The Rams could very well be interested in Pryor, who has shown flashes of potential at the position.  He was unable, however, to beat out Tarvaris Jackson as the backup to Russell Wilson.

Pryor appeared in 11 games with nine starts last year for the Raiders, who traded him to Seattle in the offseason.

If Pryor clears waivers, he will become a free agent.

Whether by waivers or free agency, the Rams could use a veteran presence behind Shaun Hill.  The only other quarterback currently on the active roster, Austin Davis, has no NFL regular-season experience.

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Packers lose lineman Aaron Adams for the year with ACL/MCL

Green Bay Packers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Packers are going to be in the market for more offensive line help.

According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, the Packers have lost tackle Aaron Adams to a torn ACL and MCL.

Adams, who spent last year on their practice squad, had a chance to make the team as a backup. But he blew out his knee on the second play from scrimmage Thursday night, and will be placed on injured reserve.

They’ll be without projected starting center J.C. Tretter for the first month of the season with a knee injury, so they’re short on depth at the moment.

That makes some degree of move likely, whether it’s a waiver claim, a trade or a signing.

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Derek Carr or Matt Schaub? Dennis Allen not ready to say

derekcarr AP

Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr played well in the preseason finale on Thursday night. But did he play well enough to unseat Matt Schaub as the starter? Coach Dennis Allen isn’t saying.

Allen said today that Schaub was not at the facility because of “a personal issue,” and Allen doesn’t know whether Schaub’s sore elbow is feeling any better. As a result, Allen isn’t prepared to say whether Schaub will be ready to go for Week One.

“I think the biggest thing is I want to be able to check on Matt and see where Matt is health-wise,” Allen said. “Like I said, he was making some progress last week, threw on the side with the trainers. I feel like he’ll be ready to go, but I think we need to see how he’s doing Monday when he gets in here.”

So before Allen can say whether Schaub will start, Allen needs to see whether Schaub is healthy. And that won’t happen until Monday at the earliest.

But if preseason performance is any indication, Carr should start over Schaub regardless of Schaub’s health: Carr completed 66.7 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and one interception in the preseason, while Schaub completed just 51.1 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and one interception. (For that matter, based on the preseason, third-string quarterback Matt McGloin should move ahead of Schaub on the depth chart, too.) Allen acknowledged that he was happy with the way Carr played in the preseason finale.

“There’s a lot of things that factor into the decision making process, but I will say that I was very pleased with what I saw out of Derek Carr last night,” Allen said.

The quarterback play in Oakland hasn’t been pleasing very often in recent years. Carr has shown promise, and that might be enough to give him the Week One nod.

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Report: Bills sign long-snapper Sanborn to three-year extension

Carolina Panthers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Bills have signed one of their core special teams players to a new contract.

The club announced Friday it had signed long-snapper Garrison Sanborn to a contract extension. According to Aaron Wilson of National Football Post, Sanborn received a three-year deal averaging $1.1 million per season. Sanborn is now under contract for the next four seasons, Wilson reported.

A Florida State product, the 29-year-old Sanborn has appeared in every game in the last five seasons for Buffalo. According to NFLPA data, Sanborn is slated to make $895,000 in salary in 2014.

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Rex Ryan would make the Clemson trip again

Rex Ryan AP

A year ago, Jets coach Rex Ryan took some criticism when he left town on the day of final roster cuts to attend the Clemson-Georgia game and see his son, a walk-on receiver at Clemson. This year, Clemson again plays Georgia on the day that final roster cuts are due, and Ryan won’t be making the trip.

But that’s not because Ryan has any regrets. In fact, Ryan told reporters today that he would make the Clemson trip over again, and the only reason he’s not going to the game this year is that his son isn’t going to the game either. Seth Ryan is nursing a broken collarbone and isn’t traveling with his teammates to Georgia, but if he were playing, his dad would be there.

“I am not going to discuss my situation and things like that,” Rex Ryan said. “But, it’s safe to say if my son was playing in the game I probably would have been there again. But he, unfortunately, is not on the travel team right now. He is still injured, so I am not going to go watch.”

On this call, Ryan is right: A quick trip to see his son isn’t dereliction of duty, it’s the right thing to do.

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Eagles trying to trade receiver Damaris Johnson

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Some guys you know are going to be gone, so you can go ahead and cut them on Friday.

But if a team thinks a guy they don’t need might have value, you can bet they’re going to wait until the last minute.

According to Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, the Eagles are trying to trade wide receiver Damaris Johnson.

The Eagles are deep enough at receiver they probably wouldn’t be able to/want to keep Johnson.

He’s undersized, but he’s also shown enough as a special teamer and a wideout that he might interest someone. He caught 19 passes for 256 yards for the Eagles last year, and might be worth the obligatory conditional late round pick to someone.

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Report: James Harrison not likely to sign with Cardinals

James Harrison AP

A notable ex-Steeler doesn’t appear to be headed to Pittsburgh West.

Free agent outside linebacker James Harrison isn’t likely to sign with the Arizona Cardinals at this time, Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Parise told Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic the two sides couldn’t reach agreement on a deal.

“Couldn’t make the numbers work,” Parise said, according to the Republic.

The 36-year-old Harrison appeared in 15 games (10 starts) for Cincinnati in 2013, notching 30 tackles. His best seasons came with the Steelers, for whom he was a five-time Pro Bowler.

Current Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was a Pittsburgh assistant for much of Harrison’s tenure with the club, and Arizona has been a landing spot for other ex-Steelers in recent years. But for now, Harrison won’t be added to that list.

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Redskins cut eight players

Andre Roberts, Richard Crawford AP

The Redskins began cutting their way to 53 players on Friday by parting ways with eight members of the roster.

That group includes cornerback Richard Crawford, who was a 2012 seventh-round pick of the team. He played 10 games as a rookie, recording 18 tackles and an interception while also returning eight punts for an average of 19.5 yards per return. He missed all of last season with a knee injury and retains practice squad eligibility thanks to this year’s change in the rules.

Washington also waived safety Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, guard/center Tevita Stevens, tight end Ted Bolser, punter Robert Malone, center Kevin Kowalski, wide receiver Lee Doss and defensive tackle Robert Thomas.

The Redskins roster now stands at 67 players, leaving 14 more moves to make before Saturday’s deadline.

 

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Josh Gordon hasn’t ruled out litigation, yet

Gordon AP

A lawyer who apparently isn’t too busy to check out PFT (and we appreciate that) has floated an intriguing theory about the out-of-the-blue decision by Browns receiver Josh Gordon to seek permission to play in the land of Labatt Blue.

Did Gordon ask to play in Canada knowing that the request would be denied, so that he in turn could bolster an effort to seek an injunction preventing the implementation of his suspension via a lawsuit challenging the suspension?

Those facts would help show what the law calls “irreparable harm,” one of the key factors that must exist for a court tell a party who wants to do something to not do it until the case has ended.  Gordon currently is caught in a vise, unable to play for the Browns and also not permitted while suspended to play for anyone else.  While that may not win the day, it’s one of those real-world facts that could cause a judge to conclude that Josh has gotten jobbed.

Of course, none of that is relevant unless and until Gordon sues.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Gordon’s legal team is still exploring the possibility of filing suit.

Time is running out.  Practice in advance of the Week One game at Pittsburgh begins on Wednesday.  Courts will likely be shut down until Tuesday, given the holiday weekend.  If Gordon wants to get an order allowing him to practice and play, he needs to move a lot more quickly than, say, the NFL did in resolving his appeal.

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Tyrann Mathieu will tackle in practice this week

Tyrann Mathieu AP

The Cardinals activated safety Tyrann Mathieu from the PUP list on August 19, leaving the date of his regular season debut as the biggest question left to answer in Mathieu’s return from a torn ACL.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he wanted to see Mathieu play in the preseason finale if he was going to face the Chargers on the first Monday night of the season. Mathieu didn’t play in that game, but Arians left the door open for Mathieu to play because the second-year man will take part in tackling drills during Arizona’s padded practice next week.

“I wasn’t kidding,” Arians said regarding his earlier comments about Mathieu playing in Week One. “We’ll see how he tackles, though.”

Mathieu is hopeful that Arians, General Manager Steve Keim and the medical staff will feel that he’s ready to hit the field, but Darren Urban of the team’s website marks himself down as “doubtful” that we’ll be seeing Mathieu against Philip Rivers and company. Even if he misses that game, it shouldn’t be too long before Mathieu is back in the Cardinals secondary.

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Greg Jones released by Saints

Jacksonville Jaguars v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Saints brought veteran fullback Greg Jones aboard early in camp after Erik Lorig went down with a leg injury, but he won’t be helping to open holes or protect Drew Brees this season.

Nick Underhill of the Baton Rouge Advocate reports that Jones has been released as the team starts the process of paring the roster down to 53 players.

With Lorig’s status for the regular season still up in the air as he continues to battle his injury, the Saints opted to go with Austin Johnson over Jones at fullback. It’s a somewhat surprising development because Johnson entered the NFL as a linebacker in 2012.

Johnson had played fullback during his first two years at the University of Tennessee, but tried and failed to make the Ravens on defense. The Saints signed him last year, moved him back to offense and he spent the year on the practice squad.

Jones has played 10 seasons in the NFL, nine with the Jaguars and the 2013 campaign with the Texans, so his experience may be appealing to teams looking for a different fullback.

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Rams cut 17 players, but none of them were Michael Sam

Michael Sam AP

Michael Sam became the reality show of the NFL Draft weekend, as the nation waited to see if someone would draft an openly gay player.

It appears draft weekend could turn out the same way.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the Rams have cut 17 players today, but none of them were Sam.

Among the cuts were defensive linemen Kourtnei Brown and Deantre Harlan, along with sixth-round quarterback Garrett Gilbert and seventh-round tackle Mitchell Van Dyk.

That would move them to 58, with five cuts to go to the limit.

And the world will be watching to see if Sam makes history.

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