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Week 16 early game quick slants

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While recognizing that Jed York is not Joe Namath, here are my quick slants from the early Week 16 action from around the league.

1. The Jets’ loss to the Bears has to be sobering for Rex Ryan.  Cornerback Antonio Cromartie was abused and the team didn’t get any pass rush on the Bears of all teams.  Even when the Jets blitz, they don’t get there.  With an inconsistent running game, what is this team’s identity?

2. Chicago, meanwhile, is one win away from clinching a playoff bye.  It’s impressive they can win a shootout despite a poor effort from their defense.  (Although the Bears D stopped the Jets the last quarter and a half.)

Despite Jay Cutler’s pick six, Chicago’s offense is peaking at the right time.   They would absolutely love to end the Packers’ season next week in Green Bay.  (Assuming the Giants don’t end it this week.)

3. I already wrote why Sunday’s loss was a fitting capper to the Mike Singletary era.  (Whether he coaches another game or not, he’s done.)  The 49ers were disorganized, and changing quarterbacks midway through the fourth quarter of a close game just shows how indecisive Singletary was.

4. The Rams were sloppy too on Sunday, but we have to give credit to defensive end Chris Long for a huge strip sack of Alex Smith in the fourth quarter.  No defensive player has meant more to their team than Long.  He’s a legitimate Defensive MVP candidate.

5. Next Sunday’s Rams-Seahawks game will decide the NFC West winner, regardless of what Seattle does against the Bucs.  St. Louis’ offense — especially the line — is having major problems.  Sam Bradford looked better when running the hurry up against San Francisco.   Look for more of that next week.

6. Don’t underrate the importance of Baltimore’s win in Cleveland.  It gets them in the playoffs, but more importantly keeps them alive for a playoff bye and AFC North title.  The Browns made too many mistakes, but they out-gained Baltimore Sunday.  They remain dangerous.

An “A” game from Cleveland could give Pittsburgh problems next week and possibly hand Baltimore a division crown.   (The Ravens host the Bengals.)

7. The Jaguars are not out of the playoff race after their loss, even if the Colts win in Oakland.  The Jaguars could still get in if they win next week against the Texans and the Colts lose to the Titans.

8. With that said, the Jaguars don’t deserve to go to the playoffs.  They have made late season collapses a trend and they’ve played poorly in back-to-back weeks.  There is no excuse for losing to a banged-up team like the Redskins at home.  David Garrard’s overtime interception was the worst decision by a quarterback all day.

9. This is Groundhog day for the Jaguars.  At 8-7, they are barely better than average.  Is Garrard and Jack Del Rio the duo to take them over the top?  I would think both guys are safe next year, but owner Wayne Weaver has tough decisions to make.

10. Rex Grossman averaged under five yards-per-attempt, so let’s hold off with the “Rex proved the Shanahans right!” stuff.

11. Chad Henne is making life easier on Miami’s decisions makers.  They have to get another quarterback in there to try to take his job.  Up 3 late in the game, Henne tried to throw an interception.  The Lions dropped it.  So Henne just threw an interception on the next play.  He lost a fumble the next possession to complete the Dolphins implosion.

12. This loss against the Lions is the type that could cause Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to take a hard look at the entire football operations staff, down to the head coach.

13. Conventional wisdom is that playing at Kansas City would be the easiest road game for a possible AFC Wild Card team.  (As opposed to San Diego or Indianapolis. ) We’re not so sure.  Kansas City’s 34-14 win over Tennessee was yet another reminder the Chiefs are a different team at Arrowhead Stadium.  They are 7-0 at home now and will be the division champ with a win over the Raiders next week.

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Judge Berman orders NFL-NFLPA to not file documents under seal

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Full transparency is coming to the Tom Brady appeal process.

Judge Richard M. Berman, who strongly hinted on Friday that he won’t be inclined to allow the NFL and NFLPA to keep the transcript of the 10-hour Tom Brady appeal hearing secret, has ordered the parties to not submit materials under seal, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

It means that the transcript of the Brady appeal hearing will soon be made public.

The NFLPA previously attached the transcript as an exhibit to the filing made under seal in federal court in Minnesota. With that case transferred back to New York, the union soon will be re-filing its initial submission, with the transcript as an exhibit.

And the transcript at that point will be a matter of public record. Which means that it’ll be time to brew some coffee and put on the cheaters, because anyone paid to comment on this case will be compelled to read every word of every page of the transcript.

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Chip Kelly: Handling of Riley Cooper “could be” connected to current issue

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As he continues to defend himself against claims of racism, Eagles coach Chip Kelly acknowledged the reason may be because of the way he handled a guy who actually committed some.

According to Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com, Kelly was asked Tuesday if he saw a connection between his treatment of wide receiver Riley Cooper after his videotaped racial slur and remarks by former players including Brandon Boykin and LeSean McCoy.

There could be,” Kelly said. “I literally don’t spend time trying to connect Y to X to Z. We have other things to do.”

Of course, the other “grown men of our culture” might feel differently about it than Kelly, especially after Cooper was rewarded with a $22.5 million contract extension after the 2013 season.

“I think that Riley made a mistake,” Kelly said. “That’s part of it. We all backed him. Michael [Vick] backed him. Jason Avant backed him. I think that’s part of being in an organization and on a team. I look at that as a specific incident where he was 100-percent wrong. Those are things that should never be said.

“I hope he learned his lesson. I think he regrets what he did that day, every single day. I see that in him. Do I regret what I did in terms of how we handled Riley? No, I don’t.”

Kelly also defended himself against Boykin’s clarification that he thought Kelly struggled to communicate, rather than implying a more sinister motive.

 

 

“We have an open-door policy,” Kelly said. “I had a long talk with Brandon last spring when he came in and sat down and talked to me. You can come talk to me whenever you want to come talk to me. We also have a pretty structured day where guys are in meetings. I don’t just walk around and say, ‘Hey, let me go grab him and sit down and have a coffee together.’ When they get here, they’re doing stuff.

“In the offseason, we’re limited with our time. You get guys for four hours, there’s not a time when we’re all sitting around, holding hands, singing ‘Kumbaya’ together. We’re in meeting rooms, getting stuff done. They’re in the training room, getting stuff done. They’re on the training field, getting stuff done. I don’t think it’s any different from any other head coaches in terms of where you are.”

Of course, other coaches are more personable, or at least not so painfully uncomfortable in the public eye than Kelly, so interpersonal communication might not be so much of a struggle.

But to ignore the connection between sheltering/paying Cooper and the scorn of those who didn’t continue to receive checks from the Eagles seems naive. While many were able to forgive Cooper and move on, others were never going to be able to, and from that standpoint, what Kelly is dealing with now may have been inevitable.

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Terrelle Pryor tweaks hamstring, throws passes in Browns practice

Terrelle Pryor AP

The Browns want Terrelle Pryor “1000 percent” focused on playing wide receiver, but it doesn’t look like they’ll mind opposing defenses worrying about the possibility that he’ll be throwing passes this season.

Pryor threw a couple of passes during Tuesday’s practice, one of which came off an end-around during 11-on-11 drills. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com described the toss as a “wobbling duck down the right sideline” which Travis Benjamin was able to catch after cornerback Pierre Desir. Pryor poked some fun at himself after practice.

“They said it was wobbly and ugly,” Pryor said. “They said I lost my QB skills. I told them I never had them.”

Coach Mike Pettine suggested that this won’t be the last time the team tries a bit of trickery with Pryor on offense this season.

“Special plays are going to be part of our plan each week,” Pettine said, via ESPNCleveland.com. “You want to have those up, the sooner the better. I’m just a firm believer of always having that option. If it’s there, you have a couple practiced and ready to go. If you get into a game where there’s a lull on both sides offensively, you need something to break it open. Having a guy like Terrelle certainly gives us that ability.”

Any use of Pryor will be contingent on him being healthy enough to be on the field, something that wasn’t the case for all of Tuesday’s session. Pryor tweaked his hamstring, which he iced while watching practice. Pettine said that he didn’t believe it was serious, but that Pryor would undergo further evaluation.

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Darren Woodson to enter Cowboys Ring of Honor

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Safety Darren Woodson stayed with the Cowboys long enough to play for five different head coaches and he played well enough for those coaches to earn a spot among the best players to wear the star on their helmets.

The Cowboys announced Tuesday that Woodson will enter the team’s Ring of Honor during the team’s November 1 game against the Seahawks. He’s the 21st inductee and the first since Drew Pearson, Larry Allen and Charles Haley were enshrined in 2011.

Woodson spent his entire 13-year career in Dallas and was selected to five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams during a tenure that also saw him earn three Super Bowl rings. He’s the franchise’s all-time leader in tackles and intercepted 23 passes during his career.

“He’s the ultimate warrior. There’s no more like him,” former teammate Nate Newton said, via the team’s website. “He never left the field. He played all the special teams. He only left the field with the offense. He made everyone better. He was the back end to our defense.”

Woodson was a semi-finalist in the voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2015 class and remains eligible for consideration for that body in 2016.

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Rodney Harrison becomes a full-time member of PFT on NBCSN next week

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The break is over. And we’re coming back with a bang.

After three years of a format that included a lot of different people (all of whom did a great job — except for perhaps one former offensive lineman with an affinity for candy), Pro Football Talk on NBCSN returns for the 2015 season with a new format. And a new, permanent, daily member of the show.

Two-time Super Bowl champion safety Rodney Harrison joins the program every weekday. He’ll contribute on most days from his home in Atlanta. I’ll contribute on most days from my home in West Virginia. And Paul Burmeister will be caught in the crossfire from the NBC Sports Group studios in Connecticut.

If you’ve seen over the years some of the segments Rodney and I have done as web-only features during Sunday Night Football, you already know that we have very good chemistry. The relationship works primarily because Rodney’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind, and because I’m afraid of Rodney.

In this format, I won’t be as afraid. Because he won’t be able to kick me under the desk or punch me above it. (At least not at that moment. But I still have to see him on Sundays.)

Rodney seems to be looking forward to the new arrangement.

“Finally adding a football expert to the show,” Harrison told me via text this afternoon. “I got tired of listening to a fraud. Who listens to a guy who never had jock itch or made a tackle?”

(In my defense, I’ve had jock itch.)

“The only thing you ever hit hard was a mosquito,” Harrison added.

Can someone with NBC remind me why I thought this would be a good idea?

It definitely will be a good idea for you to join Rodney, Paul, and me when Pro Football Talk returns to NBCSN next Monday, at 6:30 p.m. ET. The next day, we settle in to our normal time of 6:00 p.m. ET.

In early September, we’ll do a show or two live from Gillette Stadium. Side by side. Where Rodney played for the Patriots. Right on the very edge of the field where Rodney used to apply hard hits to organisms far larger than mosquitoes.

What could go wrong?

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Report: Arian Foster will need surgery, but could return this season

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It appears the Texans will be without their most important offensive player when the season begins.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, the groin injury suffered by running back Arian Fosterwill require surgery” but that he should be able to return during the course of the season.

That could mean the injured reserve/designated for return list could be in play, though there are no details yet as to the extent of the damage.

As to the damage for the Texans’ offense, it’s hard to overstate that.

Foster was the guy the whole operation was built around, as they’re trying to decide between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett at quarterback.

They’re also replacing veteran wide receiver Andre Johnson, letting him go this offseason and hoping DeAndre Hopkins is able to take on a bigger role.

As for the backfield, they have a group including Alfred Blue and Chris Polk behind Foster, so they could soon be in the market for a veteran back.

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Melvin Gordon’s mom won’t wear his jersey until he shows “a little something”

Melvin Gordon

The Chargers have high hopes for running back Melvin Gordon after taking him in the first round of the NFL draft and there will likely be some Chargers fans wearing his jersey during games this season, but one interested party is going to be waiting a while before throwing on No. 28.

That party is Gordon’s mother Carmen, who is described as thinking “she’s a coach” by her son. Like many coaches, Carmen Gordon isn’t going to put the cart before the horse when it comes to a player who still needs to prove himself at the professional level.

“You’ve got to show me a little something, but it won’t be this year,” Carmen Gordon said, via ESPN.com. “So you might see me in the stands, but I won’t have the jersey on. I did the same thing in college because I just want to hear what people are saying.”

Gordon’s arrival in San Diego will also force her mother to root against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who she says she likes because “he was a bad boy back in the day.” If her son shows more than a little something as a rookie, it would help the Chargers in their quest to succeed the Broncos as AFC West champs and perhaps convince Mom to start wearing his jersey.

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T.Y. Hilton’s agent on hand at Colts camp to talk about a deal

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The Cowboys and Broncos had to be backed against a wall and a deadline before reaching deals to keep their young wide receivers.

The Colts may be a little more proactive.

According to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, agent Drew Rosenhaus is at Colts camp to work on a new deal for wideout T.Y. Hilton.

While he also noted that “nothing is imminent,” the fact they’re talking could be meaningful.

The Colts have effectively said they’re not going to address quarterback Andrew Luck’s deal until after the coming year. They’ve already picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal to carry him through 2016, which may be why they’ve taken such a casual approach to what is going to be a huge deal whenever it is signed.

Hilton has already noted the four-year, $70 million deals signed by Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas as setting the bar. He’s currently working out the final year of his rookie deal, which will pay him $1.542 million this year.

Of course, the Colts drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round this year, so it will be interesting to see if Rosenhaus’s visit creates any momentum toward a deal.

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NFL apparently having trouble finding temporary venues in L.A.

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The NFL has asked venues in Los Angeles to let them know by tomorrow if they’re interested in being temporary hosts of a professional football team.

And mostly, what they’re hearing is “No, thanks.”

According to Nathan Fenno and Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, there isn’t a land rush to offer the Chargers, and/or Raiders and/or Rams a place to play before a new stadium can be built in Carson and/or Inglewood.

The Coliseum is the only venue to publicly admit interest.

The 27,000-seat StubHub Center, home of the MLS L.A. Galaxy, is the latest venue to pull out of the running, joining the Rose Bowl as expressing no interest.

We’ve really just begun,” NFL L.A. point man Eric Grubman said. “Aug. 5 was a date that helped us know what venues might be available in a traditional sense and I think that has sorted itself out. . . . Other, more complex opportunities could very well present themselves as the picture becomes clearer.”

That seems to point to the baseball stadiums of the Angels and Dodgers, and those facilities aren’t expected to submit proposals on the NFL’s timeline, on account of the whole maybe hosting playoff games of their own thing.

But Grubman remains confident, saying: “In any event, I think this works itself out by the end of this year.”

Of course, the NFL has been expressing that kind of optimism throughout. Whether the buildings of Los Angeles have any more interest than the citizenry remains to be seen.

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Richie Incognito: No hard feelings toward anyone from Dolphins

Richie Incognito AP

Richie Incognito has been installed as the starting left guard in Buffalo, which puts him in position to face former teammates with the Dolphins twice this season.

During an appearance on the Zaslow and Joy Show on 104.3 The Ticket in Miami, Incognito admitted that he’s circled those games in red on his calendar but says it’s not because of any hard feelings about the team suspending him in the wake of bullying allegations during the 2013 season.

“Not one bit. I don’t have one hard feeling about anybody I ever played with in Miami,” Incognito said. “I still got a lot of love for those guys, a lot of respect for those guys, still got a lot of close friends on that team. What went down went down and it was a crazy time and things were said, but I really don’t have any hard feelings toward anybody.”

If there’s another reason to pay special attention to the meetings with the Dolphins, it could be the arrival of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in South Florida. Incognito said that the Bills are going to have their hands full dealing with Suh, Cameron Wake and the rest of the Dolphins defensive line as they try to keep pace in the AFC East this season.

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Report: Arian Foster dealing with groin injury, may need surgery

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Texans running back Arian Foster spent most of Monday night’s practice on the sideline, but coach Bill O’Brien said after the workout that it was just a rest day for the veteran back.

“We’ve got to monitor Arian, like I told you guys that in the offseason and I think that’s what that’s all about today,” O’Brien said.

A pair of ESPN reports that there was more to the decision than that. Adam Schefter reports that Foster came up limping after a pass play that was his final action of the evening and Tania Ganguli reports that he suffered a groin injury on the play.

There’s no word on the severity of the injury and there’s certainly no reason to push Foster through a muscular injury that could get worse at this point in camp, but it does offer a reminder that Foster has missed 11 games over the last two seasons with injuries. Even if this isn’t a serious issue, it’s a good bet that the Texans do what they can to rest Foster and raise the chances that he will be on the field to help take pressure off their quarterback come the regular season.

UPDATE 1:50 p.m. ET: Jayson Braddock of ESPN 97.5 in Houston reports that Foster may need surgery, something that Ganguli and John McClain of the Houston Chronicle are reporting as well. Braddock adds that Foster may be a candidate for injured reserve/return, which would keep him out of the lineup for at least eight games.

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Chip Kelly: DeMarco Murray was held out of practice because of hydration issue

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Eagles running back DeMarco Murray didn’t take part in team drills on their first day of training camp and told reporters he didn’t know why the team decided to hold him out.

Murray said he didn’t ask coach Chip Kelly for an explanation because he just does what he’s told, but Kelly did get a question about Murray’s absence from the field when he met the media on Tuesday. The coach who doesn’t like answering questions about himself had no problem sharing that dehydration was the rationale behind the team’s decision.

Kelly said the team checks players’ hydration levels and they didn’t want to put Murray on the field because they felt there was an increased chance of further problems.

“It was a training staff decision,” Kelly said, via NJ.com. “Especially, with the way the weather has been, we didn’t want to take any chances. It’s not just for [Murray], we treat every player on a daily basis.”

Murray is back to work and says he feels fine, so all should move forward without incident as long as Murray continues to check out on the sports science side of things.

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Jaguars don’t expect Justin Blackmon to play again

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Three years ago the Jaguars used the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft on receiver Justin Blackmon. Now the Jaguars think Blackmon’s career is over.

Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said today that Blackmon, who has been suspended by the NFL for the last 21 months because of repeated failed drug tests, appears to have decided that he’s not willing to put in the work to get himself back on the field.

“I have not heard anything and I guess I harbor a little bit of hope but realistically I think when you’re away from the game for two-and-a-half years what you were once is not what you probably will be,” Caldwell said. “Your skills do erode and especially if you’re not staying in tip-top shape and you’re not in football shape. I don’t know to expect but I would say common sense would probably be if you haven’t played football in two-and-a-half years apparently that’s not a priority for you.”

That’s a shame. Blackmon has great, great talent. He was a two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award for the best wide receiver in college football, and he was the first wide receiver ever to win the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Award. He could have been something special in the NFL.

Instead, Blackmon will be a cautionary tale of a player whose great talent wasn’t enough to overcome his off-field problems.

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Patriots’ website spotlights anti-Goodell fans

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When NFL teams have a complaint with the league office, they usually address it behind closed doors. But the Patriots are taking their issues with Commissioner Roger Goodell into the open.

That includes the Patriots’ website, which has published a slide show featuring pictures of fans holding anti-Goodell signs.

Although the slide show is titled “12 awesome public displays of affection for TB12,” not all of the fans shown are simply supporting Brady. Some are going after the commissioner, with signs like “Stop Goodell” and “Free Brady, Fire Goodell.”

A great deal of anti-Goodell sentiment exists among NFL fans, especially in New England. The Patriots’ website has decided to turn the spotlight on some of those anti-Goodell fans.

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Stephen Jones: Lack of pass rush cost us chance at title last year

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The question of whether Dez Bryant caught the ball or not has been debated quite often since the Packers outlasted the Cowboys in the playoffs last season, but one prominent member of the Cowboys organization doesn’t think the ruling of no catch was the reason why Dallas didn’t advance to face the Seahawks.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones points to the other side of the ball as the reason why the Cowboys fell short in the postseason. The pass rush is what Jones feels was missing and says it is something the team is focused on improving this summer.

“At the end of the day, it’s probably what cost us a chance to win a championship last year, we just didn’t quite have the pass rush we needed to stop an Aaron Rodgers when we needed to stop him or make the play that needed to be made when you’re trying to win a Super Bowl, so these guys are getting a lot of good teaching,” Jones said on KRLD, via the Dallas Morning News. “Rod Marinelli is one of the best in the business, you’ve got Leon Lett, who’s certainly a Cowboys legend in his own right. It’s just a great group of guys out there helping these young guys hopefully get better at rushing the passer.”

There were plenty of teams staying away from both Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory this offseason because of off-field red flags, but you need not look too far beyond Jones’s comments to understand why the Cowboys rolled the dice on both players. If they perform as hoped, Demarcus Lawrence makes strides in his second season and Tyrone Crawford keeps providing pressure on the interior, the Cowboys should be providing more pressure on quarterbacks and a weakness will turn into a strength.

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