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Ten ways to improve the Hall of Fame selection process


Every year, on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, 44 men and women gather in the host city and determine the members of the next class of Hall of Famers.

Typically, the panel considers 15 modern-era candidates, which systemically is whittled down to five finalists for an up-or-down vote.  The voters also consider two previously-determined finalists determined by the Seniors Committee, which comes up with two players who, for whatever reason, were passed over during past sessions.

In the end, as few as four and as many as seven secure admission to Canton.

Every year, complaints inevitably arise regarding the persons who make it and those who don’t.  At times, those complaints are aimed at the process.  Usually, the debate fizzles by the next day, when the Super Bowl starts.

This year, largely through the efforts of Jason Whitlock of, the criticism has lingered.  The fact that Whitlock’s opinions have sparked a pointed response from two of the voters has served only to give the discussion ongoing life.

Though some of the voters who perhaps feel a threat to their fiefdom may not like it, any effort to consider whether the process can be improved represents a valuable expenditure of time and effort.  In this vein, we now offer 10 specific ideas for improving the procedure for determining who gets in, and who’s left out of, the Hall of Fame.

1.  Expand the panel.

The panel currently consists only of media members, some of whom are unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, and/or semi-retired.  One voter is assigned for each team, even if the voter has no specific jurisdiction over that team.  For example, Len Pasquarelli of The Sports Xchange holds the vote that corresponds to the Falcons, even though he hasn’t focused his efforts on that team for years.  Ditto for David Elfin, the Redskins’ representative who no longer works for a Washington-focused publication.  Others, like Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, had limited experience covering the NFL but was the only guy at the only paper in the town in which the team is headquartered.

That’s not a knock on Joe, whom we know and like.  But, surely, he’ll acknowledge that he had limited experience covering the NFL when he got the assignment.  Before inheriting the Bengals beat from Mark Curnutte in 2009, Reedy previously covered the Jets for two years (1997 and 1998) at the Post-Star in Glen Falls, New York and the Jaguars for one year (1999) at the Gainesville Sun.  Many would contend that three relatively distant years at non-first-tier publications shouldn’t be enough to secure 2.27 percent of the say as to who makes it to Canton.

The panel also includes one representative of the Professional Football Writers Association and 11 at-large media members.  That’s 44 total voters.

The panel, put simply, is too small.  (And, trust me, I’m not saying that because I’m angling for a seat at the table.  I don’t want one, I don’t expect to ever be offered one — especially after writing this article — and I wouldn’t have the time to do the assignment justice unless and until I become unemployed, underemployed, self-employed, and/or semi-retired.)  Because the human beings who comprise the panel are subject to the same human factors that influence us consciously or otherwise, one way to neutralize those realities is to involve more voters.

As explained below, that doesn’t mean more media members.  To enjoy the full faith and confidence of football fans, the process needs more voices, more perspectives, and less power in the hands of any one voter.

Many of the persons who hold these votes take great pride in the assignment.  As a result, they naturally will be inclined to resist any changes that will make the achievement less significant, such as adding significantly more people to the process.

Regardless, significantly more people need to be added to the process.

2.  Overhaul the Board of Trustees.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is governed by a Board of Trustees.  Some of the names are instantly recognizable, like Commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.  (One name is recognizable but curiously out of place. ESPN’s Todd Blackledge, whose bailiwick is college football, has a seat on the Board of Trustees.)

There is also a cluster of persons with no connection to the NFL, but who hold positions of prominence in and around Canton, Ohio, the geographic location of the Hall of Fame.

With all due respect to those Canton-area businesspeople, it makes no sense for the policies and procedures of the Hall of Fame to be set by folks whose biggest contribution to the process is the ability to show up for meetings without incurring travel expenses.  Though it makes sense for the Pro Football Hall of Fame to seek the support and involvement of the Canton business community, the Board of Trustees should be composed of folks who have a direct role in the game and who have the best interests of the game at all times in mind.

To the extent that there are some Canton-area businesspeople who have a direct role in the game, such as Packers great and successful Akron businessman Dave Robinson, they should have a seat at the table.  We also realize that some members of the Board of Trustees are instrumental in organizing the events that surround each year’s enshrinement ceremony.  But most of the persons who are setting policy for the Hall of Fame should have names that ardent fans and followers of the sport instantly recognize.

Currently, it’s roughly a 50-50 split.  That needs to change.

3.  Change the bylaws.

The Board of Trustees ultimately determine the contents of the Hall of Fame’s bylaws.  All too often, members of the panel who are faced with criticism of the selection process instantly explain that their hands are tied by the bylaws.

So change the bylaws.

Every year, the NFL changes multiple rules in the hopes of making the game better.  In the past half-decade, the only meaningful change to the bylaws occurred when the modern-era finalists were increased from 13 to 15.

The bylaws shouldn’t be used as a shield for avoiding change, but as a sword for implementing it.  All too often, the bylaws become an excuse for the status quo, not the impetus for improvement.  For that reason alone, the powers-that-be need to be willing and able on an annual basis (or more often) to look for ways to improve the rules that govern the selection process.

4.  Include Hall of Famers.

Every year, the winner of the Heisman Trophy acquires the ability to vote on all future winners of the award.  The logic is simple, and undeniable.  Winning the Heisman represents membership in an exclusive club, and the men who have won it should have a say in who gets it.

The argument applies even more strongly to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame coach John Madden believes that the busts talk to each other at night.  If they do, the first comment when a new crop joins them shouldn’t be, “Who in the hell let that guy in?”

They say it takes one to know one, and a Hall of Famer is in the best position to know another Hall of Famer.  Though giving Hall of Famers votes would introduce the possibility of biases and prejudices, those factors surely apply from time to time (or, as the case may be, every year) to the 44 men and women who currently have the keys to Canton, especially when players who earn a reputation for being hard on the media seem to have a hard time getting into the Hall of Fame.

The only requirement?  To vote, the Hall of Famer must attend the meeting.  No proxies or absentee ballots.  If they show up, they get a say in the process.

5.  Include coaches and other established football minds.

In responding to Jason Whitlock’s column calling for change, Bob Gretz argued that “Rick Gosselin has forgotten more football in a week than Whitlock has known in his life.”  That same observation likely applies to many of the folks currently on the selection committee.

And that observation probably would apply to all of them if, say, guys like Joe Gibbs or Ron Wolf or Bill Parcells or Chuck Noll were in the room.

So why not give people who have devoted their careers to coaching football and/or running football teams a direct say in who should and shouldn’t land in the Hall of Fame?  For those not already in the Hall of Fame, they’d have to forfeit their own eligibility for the Hall until two years after leaving the committee.

Frankly, those folks are far better suited to picking the new members of the Hall of Fame than pretty much everyone on the selection committee as its currently constituted.

6.  Categorize the candidates.

Every year, the finalists are thrown into a vat regardless of the position they played, with the new members of the Hall emerging from a stew that can’t distinguish between pancake blocks and pick-sixes.  It would make more sense to allow one new member per year from each of the various positions on the field:  quarterback, running back, receiver/tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, and coach/G.M./contributor.

The finalists would be determined by position, with the list of candidates trimmed to three-to-five before the selection meeting, and with no requirement that a person be admitted from each position group.

This would expand the potential maximum size of the class from seven to eight, but the high-water mark of seven per year has been in place since 1964, the year after the charter class was inducted.  At the time, the NFL and AFL had only 22 teams.

Today, the NFL has 32 franchises, as a result of the addition of two in 1966, one in 1967, one in 1968, two in 1976, two in 1995, one in 1999, and one in 2002.  Moving the maximum annual class from seven to eight in light of the growth of the league isn’t simply justified, it’s overdue.

7.  Scuttle the Senior Committee.

The Senior Committee serves the purpose of allowing the selection committee to revisit two players from past seasons who fell through the cracks.  In other words, it gives the selection committee to right past wrongs.  By improving the selection process, there would be no reason to clean up past messes by devoting two of seven annual spots to guys who failed to get in when competing directly with their peers.

In his response to Jason Whitlock’s criticisms, Bob Gretz unwittingly proved our point.

Gretz explained that, ever year, a pair of Hall of Famers join the Seniors Committee to assist in the process of whittling down the previously overlooked players to two finalists, who seem to almost always get in.  For the 2011 class, Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham and Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders worked with the Seniors Committee.

Ham, per Gretz, made a strong case for linebacker Chris Hanburger.

“Ham told the group that when he went to the Steelers in the 1971 NFL Draft out of Penn State, the Pittsburgh coaches gave him film of Hanburger to study,” Gretz writes.  “There was no doubt in Ham’s mind that Hanburger was a legitimate candidate.  Whose word are your going to take on this subject:  Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, or Jason Whitlock?”

Gretz essentially is admitting that the selection committee screwed up by not putting Hanburger in the Hall years earlier.  With the involvement on the selection committee of guys like Hall of Famer Jack Ham convinced that Hanburger should get in, that wouldn’t have happened.

In other words, if Ham and the other Hall of Famers had a seat at the table, perhaps Hanburger wouldn’t have been erroneously passed over.

After all, whose word should the Hall of Fame been taking on this subject:  Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham, or any member of the media?

8.  Embrace transparency.

Though many voters seek refuge in the bylaws and regard them as if they’d been etched onto stone tablets by the hand of God, many also will acknowledge the validity of Whitlock’s complaint that the process unfolds in secrecy.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated and NBC, who has nothing but the best interests of the process in mind (and I say that not because he’s a friend and a colleague but because I’ve spent enough time around him to know that’s who he is and how he operates), would welcome transparency.

I’d be fine with our votes being made public, which the Hall currently doesn’t want us to do,” King wrote in his February 7 Monday Morning Quarterback column.  “The feeling from Hall officials is if our votes are published, then some voters might vote differently; if a voter from Buffalo, for instance, didn’t vote for Andre Reed (and this is only an example, not the truth), he might face a backlash when he goes back to cover his team. Or in some small way it might affect his vote if he or she knew everyone would know exactly how the vote went. I believe it’s incumbent on us to not hide behind the privacy of the room. The Hall is a huge deal, obviously, with burgeoning interest every year. If we’re going to sit on the committee and sit in judgment of these men for enshrinement, I think you ought to know how we vote.”

If one of the most respected members of the NFL media believes that the process should be more transparent, then it’s fair to say that the process should be more transparent.  With an expanded panel of voters, anyone who covers the team on which a player played most or all of his career could abstain from voting, thereby addressing the biggest concern that King raised.

9.  Involve the NFL.

As mentioned above, the Commissioner and various owners occupy seats on the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees.  But the NFL should be even more involved than that.

Though it’s called the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s essentially the NFL Hall of Fame, and the NFL should be in position to propose changes to bylaws and initiate procedural enhancements aimed at improving the process of determining each class of enshrinees.

One change the NFL would likely make relates to the consideration of off-field conduct.  Currently forbidden by the bylaws, the reality is that plenty of voters consider the things a candidate did when not playing football, especially in close cases.  The bylaws, then, should change to reflect the reality of the process.

If the NFL is the perpetual custodian of the highest levels of the sport, the NFL should have much greater involvement in and dominion over the museum that celebrates those who made the biggest impact on the game.

10.  Commit to continuous improvement and change.

Most of the criticisms of the current selection process arise from a perception that the system is stale and stagnant, in large part because change doesn’t happen often and doesn’t seem welcome.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly explains that the league constantly must look for ways to enhance and improve the game.  That same attitude must infect, and overtake, the Hall of Fame.

So many things about the selection process need to be changed because so little change has happened in the 48 years since the Hall of Fame opened.  Egos and agendas and pride and any other factor that stands in the way of change needs to be set aside, and folks need to look for ways to make the process better, and ultimately more fair.

We’re not advocating change for the sake of change.  But in this case there has been little or no change.  Changes need to be made, and then the Hall of Fame needs to be willing to consider future change without external calls for it.

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Mike Pettine: I misspoke, Joe Haden wanted to play

Mike Pettine AP

Browns coach Mike Pettine made some headlines this week when he said that cornerback Joe Haden didn’t play after being listed as probable on the final injury report of the week because the team “left it up to Joe and he made the decision that he didn’t want to go.”

That comment led some to criticize Haden and that criticism was met by a defense of Haden from some of his Browns teammates. On Wednesday, Pettine addressed Haden’s absence from the lineup again and said that the criticism was “unwarranted” because Haden’s decision was based on what he thought was best for the team. Pettine said he has spoken to Haden and “will bear some of that blame” for not explaining the decision as clearly as he should have.

“Joe made the decision based on he didn’t feel he could be 100% and he felt it would hurt the team if he played,” Pettine said, via “Nobody questions his toughness, his leadership, how important the Browns are to him, what being a Cleveland Brown means to him and vice versa, so I think it’s unwarranted and I misspoke. Joe wanted to be out there. He wanted to play. … He did not want to put the team at risk knowing he could not be at the percentage in his heart he knew he couldn’t get to.”

Pettine also said that they have presented their explanation for why Haden didn’t play to the league, which is doing their standard investigation into why a player listed as probable wasn’t in the lineup on gameday.

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Coughlin “disappointed” by Beckham’s behavior, wants him to remain physical

ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 04:   Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants breaks free of Duke Williams #27 of the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Several members of the Bills defense said this week that Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham threw punches at them during last Sunday’s game between the two teams.

There’s video showing Beckham throwing a quick jab at safety Duke Williams at the end of a play to support the notion that Beckham lost control of his emotions during the game. On Wednesday, coach Tom Coughlin said that Beckham came to discuss what happened during the game with him.

“Odell actually came to me and talked about it,” Coughlin said, via the New York Daily News. “Obviously I was disappointed because I think he’s beyond and above a lot of that stuff. And I think he’ll put it behind him.”

While Coughlin would prefer not to see Beckham throwing any more punches at opposing players, he also said he doesn’t want the receiver to be any less physical during games.

Beckham wasn’t penalized during the game, but Dan Graziano of ESPN reports he’s been fined “about $9,000” (most likely $8,681 based on this year’s fine schedule) by the league.

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Ryan Tannehill: It’s slanderous to report things I didn’t say

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It’s been a rocky few weeks for the Dolphins and things didn’t get any calmer this week with the firing of head coach Joe Philbin and reports of practice altercations between quarterback Ryan Tannehill and members of the defensive scout team at a practice last Saturday.

Philbin reportedly asked the scout team to go easy on the offense during Saturday walkthroughs and that Tannehill got into a shouting match with linebacker Chris McCain when that didn’t happen. Per the reports, Tannehill told McCain that he’d build a scout team trophy case for him and told another member of the team to enjoy his scout team paycheck.

On Wednesday, Tannehill admitted that things boiled over during the practice and that he made the crack about the scout team trophy case. He strongly denied saying anything about a paycheck, however.

“I said nothing about a paycheck. I hold myself to a higher standard than to say something like that,” Tannehill said, via Jeff Darlington of NFL Media. “Yeah, I’m upset. It’s slanderous to report things I didn’t say, to degrade my reputation, it’s sickening to me.”

If Wednesday’s practice with interim coach Dan Campbell, which featured the Oklahoma drill, is any indication, there won’t be any calls to take it easy in Dolphins practices for the rest of the season.

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DeSean Jackson back on the practice field for Washington

DeSean Jackson AP

Washington has made it to 2-2, which in the NFC East means a share of first place.

And now, there’s even more reason for hope.

According to Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, wide receiver DeSean Jackson is taking part in practice today, his first action since a Sept. 13 hamstring injury.

To what degree he’s participating isn’t known, but the sight of him will be good news for Kirk Cousins, who had to throw it 95 times the last two games, but is averaging just 6.38 yards per attempt over that span.

It was enough to beat the Eagles, but at some point, Jackson’s big play ability is something they’re going to need.

He was injured on the second series of the opener, and they have muddled along decently without him, running and playing enough defense to be .500. Getting him back on the field could turn them into something more, which in a sloppy division, might be enough.

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Greg Hardy won’t “reminisce,” will talk about Tom Brady’s wife

Greg Hardy AP

Defensive end Greg Hardy is back with the Cowboys this week and, as Darin Gantt noted, he’s ready to come out “guns blazin’” after his four-game suspension to start this year and his long stay on the Commissioner’s exempt list last season.

That wasn’t a particularly good choice of words for a player whose absence was caused by a domestic violence arrest that included allegations that he threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend and threw her on a pile of guns. It wasn’t the only time during Tuesday’s media session that Hardy made a questionable statement.

Hardy made it clear that he wasn’t going to express any remorse or regret for his actions. He said he doesn’t “reminisce” at one point and also said only that he’s sticking to the game plan when asked if he planned to do any work with groups working against domestic violence. That game plan apparently has something to do with Gisele Bundchen.

“I love seeing Tom Brady, he’s cool as crap,” Hardy said via the Dallas Morning News. “Have you seen his wife? I hope she comes to the game. I hope her sister comes to the game, all her friends come to the game. One of my favorite games of the year, guys.”

For some reason, Hardy was then told by a reporter that Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles probably has an attractive wife as well.

“Is she?” Hardy said. “This kind of information is important. That’s how I select my Pro Bowls.”

Brady responded on Wednesday by saying he doesn’t care about Hardy’s “personal comments” and is only worried about Hardy’s football ability.

We’d love to say that the same might not be true of some NFL teams considering signing Hardy after this season, but history says that Hardy will keep getting jobs in the NFL as long as he keeps sacking quarterbacks. Sunday will bring the first chance to see if his unchanged personality off the field is matched by his production on it.

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PFT Live: Justin Forsett, Dashon Goldson, Sam Farmer

of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the Baltimore Ravens during the game at Heinz Field on October 1, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Getty Images

The NFL owners are meeting in New York this week and the topic of a team or teams moving to Los Angeles is once again a big part of the proceedings.

On Wednesday’s PFT Live, Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times will join Mike Florio to discuss the latest developments on the L.A. front. Colts owner Jim Irsay said Tuesday there’s a “high likelihood” that at least one team will be in the city next season and we’ll find out how the Rams, Raiders and Chargers bids to be in that group stack up.

We’ll also be talking to Ravens running back Justin Forsett, who had his best outing of the season in last Thursday’s win over the Steelers. At 1-3, the Ravens aren’t where they want to be after the first quarter of the season and we’ll see what Forsett thinks needs to happen to change that.

Redskins safety Dashon Goldson rounds out the guest list on Wednesday’s show for a chat about this week’s game against the Falcons.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour through the links at PFT.

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Interim Dolphins coach busts out Oklahoma drill

Dan Campbell AP

Wednesday marked the first day on the practice field for Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell, and those watching have reported that Campbell started practice by dividing the offense and defense and holding Oklahoma drills.

So, Campbell probably has his team’s attention. And maybe the NFL Players Association’s attention, too.

The Oklahoma drill — named for longtime Oklahoma University coach Bud Wilkinson — is a full-contact, full-speed drill that includes players either blocking or tackling (or both) in a confined area.

With the emphasis on concussion prevention and player safety, most NFL teams no longer do the Oklahoma drill in training camp — and it’s hard to imagine any team doing it during an in-season practice, even during a bye week like the Dolphins have this week. The Bengals used to open training camp with it, but Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has canceled it the last two seasons.

Campbell, who played 10 NFL seasons as a tight end, obviously thinks his 1-3 team needed a wakeup call and a firm sign that things will be different going forward. It will be interesting to hear what his players think about his methods.

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Philip Rivers named AFC offensive player of the week

Philip Rivers AP

Even though it was against the Browns, it was still a good comeback.

Philip Rivers bringing the Chargers back to beat Cleveland earned him the AFC offensive player of the week honors this week.

Rivers completed 23-of-38 passes for 358 yards and three touchdowns in the win.

While other quarterbacks are left to dink and dunk, Rivers averaged 9.4 yards per pass attempt, showing his willingness and ability to move the ball downfield.

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Colts bring Josh Johnson back

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 03: Quarterback Josh Johnson #8 of the New York Jets warms up before a pre-season game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on September 3, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Colts released quarterback Josh Johnson earlier this week, it looked like a sign that Andrew Luck would be able to return to the lineup for Thursday night’s game against the Texans.

Luck was a limited participant in practice on Monday and Tuesday and told reporters on Tuesday that he’s preparing to start this week. He also added that he wasn’t where he’d want to be in an ideal world, however, and the situation at quarterback got even cloudier when Matt Hasselbeck missed Tuesday’s practice with an illness.

As a result, the Colts have turned back to Johnson to give them some insurance for this week. The team announced on Wednesday that Johnson has been re-signed. Johnson backed up Hasselbeck in the Week Four victory over the Jaguars and last saw regular season action with the Bengals during the 2013 season.

The Colts will issue their final injury report for the Texans game later on Wednesday and it should provide a bit more clarity about where things stand with Luck and Hasselbeck.

Cornerback Jalil Brown was placed on injured reserve after hurting his groin against Jacksonville.

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NFL approves measure to extend international series through 2025


As NFL owners continue to slog through a fight to get the game back in the United States’ second-biggest market, they’ve extended their deal to take it beyond our borders.

The league announced they had approved a resolution to extend their international series of regular season games through 2025, with the ability to take games beyond the United Kingdom.

There has been talk of Germany, Mexico and perhaps Brazil hosting games in the future, and this opens the door for that.

“This marks an important step in our long-term international growth,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Fans in the UK have responded incredibly well to the regular-season games we have played in London since 2007. They have demanded more NFL games, and we have worked to accommodate them. We think it’s time to expand our International Series to other countries and respond to the growing interest in our game not only in the UK, but elsewhere around the world.”

Next year’s international games will be announced later this fall. The league had previously agreed to a 10-year partnership with English Premier League soccer club Tottenham Hotspur for two games per year at their new stadium, which will open in 2018.

While London may never be logistically feasible to host a franchise, it’s clear the NFL wants to add inventory there, as they’ve gradually built to three games this season.

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T.J. Ward named AFC’s top defender of the week

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 4:  Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings has the ball stripped by strong safety T.J. Ward #43 of the Denver Broncos to end the game in favor of the Denver Broncos by a score of 23-20 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 4, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos defense continued to be the thorniest in the league in Week Four and one of its standouts was honored for his play in the 23-20 victory over the Vikings.

Safety T.J. Ward had six tackles and two sacks in the win. His second sack came late in the fourth quarter and also resulted in a fumble that the Broncos recovered to seal their victory over Minnesota. He joins John Lynch as the only Broncos safeties with two sacks and a forced fumble in the same game.

For those efforts, Ward has been named the AFC’s defensive player of the week. It’s the second time in the first four weeks that a Bronco has been so honored with cornerback Aqib Talib taking the honors in the opening week of the season.

Ward missed that game while serving a suspension and has recorded 19 tackles to go with his two sacks in the last three weeks.

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Brees named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

Drew Brees AP

Saints quarterback Drew Brees has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for Week 4 of the season.

Brees, who missed the Saints’ previous game with a shoulder injury, completed 33-of-41 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns against the Cowboys, including the game winner in overtime that marked his 400th career touchdown pass.

Brees recorded a 119.4 passer rating for the game and posted his 46th career game of at least 350 passing yards, the most in NFL history. Brees also became the third player in NFL history to complete 5,000 passes for his career.

Since joining Saints in 2006, Brees has won 19 player of the week awards, the most in the NFL during that span. With 21 such awards in his career, he joins Peyton Manning (27) and Tom Brady (24) as the only players with 20 or more.

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Josh Norman is the NFC defensive player of the week

Josh Norman, Brandon Myers AP

September was a very good month for Panthers cornerback Josh Norman and October started off the same way.

Norman intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown in last Sunday’s 37-23 victory over the Buccaneers. That was enough to make him the NFC’s defensive player of the week.

Norman also intercepted two passes and returned one for a score in the first three games of the season, plays that helped him get honored as the NFC’s defensive player of the month for September.

About the only thing that’s gone wrong for Norman so far this season is the flag he drew for celebrating his latest touchdown by pretending to ride the football like a horse. Norman said he was told that was legal, but it’s a pretty small demerit given all he’s done for the 4-0 Panthers so far this season.

If Norman’s play remains at this level, the impending free agent should have a pretty good offseason as well.

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Robbie Gould named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week

Robbie Gould, Pat O'Donnell AP

Robbie Gould’s busy and productive day last Sunday has brought the Bears kicker NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

Gould made a 49-yard field goal with two seconds left as the Bears defeated the Raiders, 22-20. The 12th game-winning kick of Gould’s career gave the Bears their first win in 314 days.

This is the third special teams player of the week award of Gould’s career.

Gould hit three field goals on the day, including a 54-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth game.

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Justin Tucker named AFC special teams player of week

Justin Tucker, Sam Koch, James Harrison AP

The Ravens aren’t one of the teams having kicking problems. In fact, their kicker may have just saved their season.

Justin Tucker was just named AFC special teams player of the week, after hitting the game-winning field goal in overtime against the Steelers last week.

It helped the Ravens avoid an 0-4 start which might have been an insurmountable hole to dig out of, but he’s been digging them out for years.

It’s his fifth such award in four seasons, and comes at a time when teams are getting rid of kickers left and right.

He also hit two field goals in the fourth quarter to put them in position, before the game-winning 52-yarder. That was the longest field goal ever in Heinz Field by a Steelers opponent, as it’s a difficult place to kick because of the swirling winds and generally poor surface.

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Report: St. Louis stadium would cost taxpayers $215 million more than previously believed

St. Louis Rams v Oakland Raiders AP

With NFL owners currently in New York and trying to figure out which team(s) will move to Los Angeles, a push-and-pull has emerged between the Rams and St. Louis.

St. Louis struck the first blow, with the well-timed announcement that National Car Rental has committed to buying the naming rights for the stadium that would allow Missouri to keep ownership of the Rams. The Rams have responded (or at least benefited from coincidence), with St. Louis Magazine (via Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal) reporting that the proposed stadium would cost taxpayers $215 million more than previously believed.

That’s the kind of thing that can get the attention of politicians, especially at a time when the national mood has changed dramatically regarding the concept of subsidizing stadiums for sports teams owned by billionaires. If (as the thinking goes) Rams owner Stan Kroenke, one of the richest men in the world, is going to pay for his own stadium in Los Angeles, why shouldn’t he pay for his own stadium in St. Louis?

The mentality actually helps Kroenke, because he doesn’t want taxpayer money to shackle him to St. Louis. He wants to pay for his own stadium — and he also wants to pick the location for it.

While the information came to St. Louis Magazine via an open records request, the timing suggests that someone specifically selected the two-day window of October 6-7 to drop the news, in the hopes of throwing a wrench into the plan by some owners to let the Chargers move to San Diego and to keep the Rams in St. Louis, with a new stadium partially funded by taxpayers.

If that extra $215 million keeps the St. Louis stadium from being built, it becomes a lot harder to keep the Rams in St. Louis. Which makes it easier for Kroenke to keep his L.A. plan on track.

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Myles Jack surprised Jim Mora questioned his decision

Myles Jack, Jim Mora AP

Injured UCLA star Myles Jack had talked it over with head coach Jim Mora, heard his concerns, but thought he had his former coach’s blessing to withdraw from school to prepare for his NFL career.

Little did he know Mora was going to take shots at his decision, saying it was “very risky to do this” with just three games of film from his junior season for NFL scouts to evaluate.

(Never mind that Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie was drafted 19th overall with no games of film from his junior season because of a torn ACL, Mora has a UCLA program to run here.)

“It was kind of a brief conversation, straight and to the point, and we just came to the agreement that it was the best decision,” Jack told Michael Silver of the NFL Network. “It went pretty smoothly. He wanted to make sure I was 100-percent sure, and that it was really what I wanted to do, and not just what others wanted.

In the end, he said that if that’s what I want to do, he would back me up 1,000 percent, and that whatever I needed to do to try to get to the next level, he would help me any way he could.”

So Jack was taken aback to hear Mora’s remarks, but was comfortable with his own call.

“It definitely surprised me, but I don’t know — maybe that’s what he felt,” Jack said. “I mean, it’s a little crazy down there right now. They just suffered their first defeat [to Arizona State], and these are crazy times around here. But I’m still riding with the Bruins.

“Coming from him, I can’t discredit what he’s done in the NFL, so I have to value his opinion. I have no choice but to respect his opinion and take what he says into consideration. The only scout I know is my head coach, so what he says, I have to take it seriously. But I’m definitely glad I made the decision.”

Jack shouldn’t be surprised, as colleges take very seriously their custody of the practically unpaid interns who provide the labor for their multi-million dollar corporations.

“I remember when I was a freshman I saw them selling my jersey [at the student store],” Jack said. “I looked at the price tag: $65.99. I said, ‘Ah, man, that’s messed up.'”

So instead of protecting their financial interest, he chose his own. He said he plans to return to UCLA to finish his degree at some point, which is smart, since the average NFL career is around four seasons, and he’s already recovering from a major knee injury. But by that time, he won’t be able to help Mora, so it’s little surprise the support he thought he had didn’t last long.

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Bills add Billy Cundiff, Denarius Moore

Eric Martin ,Billy Cundiff AP

The kicking carousel may be spinning in Buffalo.

The Bills have announced that kicker Billy Cundiff, most recently with the Browns, has been added to the roster. The Bills already have kicker Dan Carpenter. At least for now.

Through four games, Carpenter has missed two of seven field goal attempts and one of 12 PATs. It’s possible Cundiff was signed because Carpenter is injured; he was probable last week with a left knee injury.

To create a roster spot for Cundiff, the Bills released kickoff specialist Jordan Gay.

The Bills also have signed receiver Denarius Moore. Cut by the Bengals before the regular-season opener after starting his career in Oakland, Moore was solid as a rookie but then gradually faded. He replaces receiver Marcus Thigpen on the roster.

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Calvin Johnson is no longer Megatron

Calvin Johnson, Cary Williams AP

When Calvin Johnson was the best receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson was Megatraon. Even with two defenders obsessed with his every move, Megatron would run past them, accelerate to the ball, and make contested catches.

But Calvin Johnson isn’t Megatron anymore. He no longer runs away from coverage, no longer sprints to the ball and makes the big catch. Calvin Johnson has become a possession receiver, generating stats via underneath routes or breaking off attempts to run deep and coming back for a shorter throw.

On multiple occasions on Monday night against the Seahawks, quarterback Matthew Stafford tried to find Calvin Johnson down the field, but couldn’t connect. ESPN’s Mike Tirico blamed one of the incompletions on Stafford. In past years, however, Johnson would have gotten to the ball.

Now, barely a week past his 30th birthday, Johnson is showing his age and the wear and tear that has resulted in Johnson constantly battling knee and ankle problems. This is allowing defenses to use one guy to cover Johnson instead of two, making it harder for the rest of the Lions offense to operate.

That said, he’s still on pace for more than 100 catches and more than 1,000 yards this year (assuming he plays in every game). But that’s a long way from a league record of 1,964 yards in 2012, and it’s not nearly enough to justify a $24 million cap number in 2016. Which means that it’ll likely be a new contract or a new team for Johnson in 2016 — unless Megatron unexpectedly returns.

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Roddy White says he’s not disgruntled about role with Falcons

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

When Roddy White says things such as “I’m not out here just f—ing around just to sit around to just block f—ing people all day,” it’s easy to surmise that he might be something less than gruntled.

But White said that’s not true, that he’s perfectly fine with his role with the Falcons.

Upset with the perception created by yesterday’s report that he wasn’t happy with how he was being used, White called D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to clear the air.

I’m here for one thing and that’s to win,” White said. “This is nothing to get mad over. I can’t control no plays that are being called in the huddle. All I can do is run the routes I’m supposed to run on the play and do my job. That’s all I can do.”

White’s role has diminished gradually, and he had a streak of 130 straight games with a reception stopped against the Giants. Leonard Hankerson has emerged as their new No. 2 option behind Julio Jones, limiting the chances he’s getting. But he’s convinced they’ll come.

“I know that I’m going to get my chances because of how people are going to play us,” White said. “[Doubling Julio is] the only chance that people have in playing us. I’m going to get the ball. I’m not really concerned.”

But it sounded like he was yesterday, he’s the quick effort to jam the toothpaste back in the tube, rather than disrupt a 4-0 start for the Falcons.

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