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Ten ways to improve the Hall of Fame selection process

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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 FOXSports.com, 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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Vikings knew of other abuse accusation, reinstated Peterson anyway

Zygi Wilf, Adrian Peterson AP

The Minnesota Vikings were aware when they reinstated Adrian Peterson today that Peterson has been accused of abusing more than one of his children.

Hours after news broke this evening that Peterson has been accused of abusing another one of his sons — in a separate incident from the accusation that led to his indictment last week — the Vikings released a statement admitting that they knew of that accusation and decided to bring Peterson back to the team today anyway.

“As part of the information we have gathered throughout this process, we were made aware of an allegation from 2013 in which authorities took no action against Adrian. We will defer any further questions to Adrian’s attorney Rusty Hardin,” the Vikings’ statement said.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said nothing about the prior Peterson abuse accusation when he said today that the team would let the legal process play out. The Vikings deactivated Peterson for Sunday’s game after he was indicted on a charge of injuring another one of his sons, but they said today that they will let him play the rest of the season.

The Vikings have already lost a sponsor in this mess, which may put pressure on other sponsors to act as well. If more sponsors pull out, that might be what it takes for the Vikings to take action. Apparently two separate abuse accusations aren’t enough to make the Vikings take action.

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Radisson pulling sponsorship of Vikings “effective immediately”

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptgyyje0odhkymywnjq2nwi5nzuwmmflzwrkngi5y2y5 AP

A Vikings sponsor is ending its corporate support of the club for the time being after Adrian Peterson’s Friday arrest on a charge of recklessly or negligently injuring a child.

The Radisson hotel chain announced Monday night it was “suspending its limited sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings while we evaluate the facts and circumstances.”

Said the hotel in a statement issued on the website of its parent company, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group: “Radisson takes this matter very seriously particularly in light of our long-standing commitment to the protection of children.”

The suspension of the company’s sponsorship is “effective immediately,” Radisson said.

The Radisson logo was present behind the Vikings’ press conference podium on Monday, when G.M. Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer met with the media and were asked about the decision to reinstate Peterson, who was deactivated for Sunday’s game vs. New England.

Peterson’s arrest stems from an incident in which he disciplined his four-year-old son with a switch. In a statement Monday, Peterson said he “never ever intended to harm” his son.

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Adrian Peterson’s lawyer says other abuse accusation is untrue

Peterson Arrested Football AP

The attorney for Adrian Peterson says the latest accusation that Peterson abused one of his children is untrue.

Responding to today’s news that Peterson was investigated last year for causing a head wound to one of his sons, lawyer Rusty Hardin released a statement denying the charge.

“The allegation of another investigation into Adrian Peterson is simply not true. The allegation is more than one year old and authorities took no action. An adult witness admittedly insists Adrian did nothing inappropriate with his son,” Hardin said in a statement.

However, the mere fact that Hardin is admitting there was another allegation against Peterson — in addition to the criminal charge he’s facing for allegedly abusing another son — could be enough to force the NFL to suspend Peterson. In 2010, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Ben Roethlisberger for two allegations of sexual assault, even though Roethlisberger was never arrested or charged in either case. When Goodell made that decision, he said that multiple accusations constitute a pattern of behavior, and that when there’s been a pattern established, the NFL will act.

“The issue here is with respect to a pattern of behavior and bad judgments,” Goodell told Dan Patrick in 2010. “You do not have to be convicted or even charged of a crime to be able to demonstrate that you’ve violated a personal conduct policy.”

Peterson has not been convicted, but he has been charged in one case and accused in another. Based on the precedent Goodell set with the Roethlisberger case, there’s more than enough reason to suspend Peterson now.

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Richardson struggles, Bradshaw gives Colts an early lead

richardson AP

Trent Richardson is the starter, but Ahmad Bradshaw is the Colts’ best running back.

Bradshaw played well after replacing Richardson on the Colts’ second drive tonight, extending the drive with a 29-yard gain on fourth-and-1 and later catching a one-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal to give the Colts an early 7-3 lead.

Richardson looked more or less like he’s always looked since the Colts sent a first-round draft pick to Cleveland to acquire him: Slow and plodding, and prone to fumbling. Richardson did break off a nice 15-yard run, but his other four runs went for a total of five yards. Richardson also got bailed out by Reggie Wayne, who pounced on Richardson’s fumble on the Colts’ second drive.

Eventually, the Colts’ coaches may realize that Bradshaw is better than Richardson, just as they eventually realized last year that Donald Brown was better than Richardson. But Eagles fans should hope that realization does not come tonight. The more carries Richardson gets, the better chance the Eagles have of winning.

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Second Adrian Peterson case involves alleged head wound, scar

AdrianPeterson Reuters

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, revered for years as one of the nicest guys in all of sports, is turning out to be anything but nice or reasonable when it comes to administering discipline to his children.

According to KHOU 11 in Houston, the second case against Peterson, which has not yet resulted in criminal charges, arose after he administered a “whooping” to another four-year-old son by creating a head wound that reportedly left a scar over the boy’s right eye.

In a chain of text messages with the boy’s mother, Peterson admits that the wound occurred as Peterson disciplined the boy for cussing at a sibling.

Per the report, Peterson never admits what he struck the boy with, but Peterson told the boy’s mother, “Be still n take ya whooping he would have saved the [scar].”  No charges were filed, according to the report.  The boy’s mother filed a report with Child Protective Services; the outcome of the investigation is unclear.

The fact that Peterson faces allegations in a separate case compels the league to aggressively investigate both incidents, and to take action against Peterson, if the league determines that Peterson did what he is accused of doing.  Failure to act promptly would suggest a level of indifference to child welfare that justifiably should make fans equally indifferent to the NFL.

UPDATE 9:50 p.m. ET:  Peterson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, says that the allegation against Peterson is “simply not true.”

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Reports: Adrian Peterson investigated for another abuse case

adrianpeterson AP

If, as it appears, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson didn’t see anything wrong with spanking one of his children with a switch until the boy’s flesh ripped open and bled, logic suggests that it wasn’t a one-time occurrence.

According to multiple reports, it may not have been.

KHOU 11 in Houston and FOX 9 in Minneapolis report that Peterson has been investigated for a second abuse case involving another one of his sons.

The Vikings reinstated Peterson on Monday after a one-game deactivation arising from Friday’s indictment on charges of reckless of negligent injury to a child in Texas.  Stay tuned for more details regarding the second case.

Peterson is presumed innocent in a court of law.  The Vikings and the NFL will be presumed inept and immoral in the court of public opinion if either or both continue to hide behind Constitutional protections that relate only to the deprivation of a person’s liberty and not to the privilege to play football in exchange for millions of dollars and worldwide fame.

UPDATE 8:05 p.m. ET:  The full report from KHOU 11 indicates that the boy’s mother made a report of the injury to Child Protective Services, but that no charges were filed against Peterson.

UPDATE 9:50 p.m. ET:  Peterson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, says that the allegation against Peterson is “simply not true.”

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Khaled Holmes, Marcus Smith II among inactives for Eagles-Colts

Indianapolis Colts v New York Jets Getty Images

The Colts’ starting center will miss another game.

Khaled Holmes (ankle) is inactive for Monday’s matchup against the Eagles, the Colts announced this evening.

A.Q. Shipley is expected to get the call in place of Holmes, who was questionable on the final injury report. He was a limited practice participant all week.

The Colts’ other inactives are outside linebacker Chris Carter, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, center Jonotthan Harrison, tailback Dion Lewis, offensive guard Joe Reitz and wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers. Josh McNary will reportedly start for Freeman, who had been ruled out with a hamstring injury.

The Eagles made the following players inactive for Monday night: quarterback Matt Barkley, offensive tackle Kevin Graf, defensive end Taylor Hart, wide receiver Josh Huff, linebacker Marcus Smith II, offensive lineman Matt Tobin and defensive back Jaylen Watkins.

Smith, the Eagles’ first-round pick in May, is a healthy scratch. He was active in Week One but did not play.

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Raiders reach one-year deal with Vincent Brown

Vincent Brown AP

The Raiders are adding to their pass catching corps.

The club has reached a one-year contract with ex-Chargers wide receiver Vincent Brown, the San Diego Union-Tribune and ESPN reported Monday afternoon.

The deal has yet to be announced, but the club has put a nameplate above a locker for Brown, according to CSN Bay Area.

A fourth-year pro from San Diego State, Brown (5-11, 190) has hauled in 60 passes for 801 yards and three touchdowns in his NFL career, all with San Diego, which drafted him in the third round in 2011.

Brown missed the 2014 preseason with a calf injury and was released with an injury settlement in September. His deal with the Raiders comes after wideout Rod Streater suffered a hip injury in Oakland’s 30-14 loss vs. Houston on Sunday.

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Dennis Allen’s job security already in question in Oakland

dennisallen AP

Raiders coach Dennis Allen was already on the hot seat before the season started. That’s what happens when you go 4-12 in each of your first two seasons.

But after an 0-2 start succinctly summed up by Charles Woodson saying, “We suck,” the question is less whether this will be Allen’s last season in Oakland and more whether Allen will even make it to the end of the season.

Raiders owner Mark Davis is already privately expressing his displeasure, according to CSNBayArea.com, to the point where Allen’s tenure as Raiders coach may come to an end this season. According to the report, the Raiders already have a plan to promote offensive line coach Tony Sparano to head coach if Allen gets fired during the season. Sparano spent four seasons as head coach of the Dolphins and is a more experienced coach than Allen.

Allen knows his team needs to get better.

“We need change,” Allen said after Sunday’s loss to Houston. “We need to do better, because we’re a better football team than what we put out on the field today.”

Allen is running out of time to show he’s a better football coach than what his team has put on the field in his first two-plus seasons.

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Bears place Charles Tillman on injured reserve

Charles Tillman AP

Charles Tillman’s season with Chicago has officially reached a close.

The Bears have placed the 12th-year cornerback on injured reserve with a right triceps injury, the team announced Monday. A similar injury ended his 2013 season.

Tillman, 33, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He indicated Monday he will work to return from his latest injury, which was suffered in the third quarter of Sunday’s win at San Francisco.

“I know this feeling way too well, but this isn’t the end of the road for me,” Tillman said, according to ChicagoBears.com. “As I rehab my injury, my role will transition to helping coach and support my teammates. I will be at Halas Hall and do everything I can to help our team reach its goals.”

Tillman has played his entire career with Chicago. He was named 2013 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, which recognizes excellence in on-field and community work.

First-round pick Kyle Fuller stepped in for Tillman on Sunday night and starred, intercepting a pair of passes. But losing Tillman’s experience and playmaking ability is certainly a blow to the Bears’ defense. A starter for Chicago since his rookie season of 2003, Tillman has forced 42 fumbles and intercepted 36 passes in regular season play.

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Tom Coughlin: I’m a believer in this team

Arizona Cardinals v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants piled up another set of mistakes on Sunday during their 25-14 loss to the Cardinals, dropping their record to 0-2 and providing unhappy memories of their start to last season.

Even after opening 0-6, coach Tom Coughlin never stopped selling that 2013 squad as a playoff contender until mathematics made such claims impossible. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Coughlin says he’s “a believer” in this year’s squad and invited his team and the team’s fans to join him as believers with 14 games left to play this season.

“I don’t see this as being a reason for them not to be. Our task and our goal is to toughen up. Let’s go. Come on. Stop beating ourselves. This is professional football,” Coughlin said, via NJ.com. Make the plays necessary to win and do it on a consistent basis. Eliminate these bizarre events which take the heart right out of you. I hope they’ll respond to the fact that I’m counting on them to accept the challenge, to not feel sorry for ourselves and to realize the work that has to be done for us to win. I hope the fans will join in in that exact feeling.”

Coughlin’s passion never fades, but the Giants have faded on the field too often over the last two years to think that they can just flip a switch and start winning again. As Coughlin said, there’s “work that has to be done” and it will have to be done quickly and consistently for the Giants to avoid starting their season in another deep hole.

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Lovie Smith says Doug Martin would have practiced if Bucs practiced

Doug Martin AP

The Buccaneers have a short week this week thanks to their Thursday game against the Falcons and that means they have to produce a simulated practice report for Monday even though they didn’t practice.

Coach Lovie Smith said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, there were three players that wouldn’t have participated in practice and none of them was running back Doug Martin, who missed Sunday’s loss to the Rams with a knee injury. That would suggest he has a chance to get back on the field for this week’s game.

Running the ball wasn’t much of a problem against St. Louis as Bobby Rainey picked up 144 yards on 22 carries. That may work in Martin’s favor when it comes to the decision about dressing him on Thursday since the Bucs wouldn’t need him to be the bell cow in their running game.

Defensive end Michael Johnson was also on the list of Bucs who would have practiced. Johnson missed Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (broken hand), linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) were the three players who would have been on the sideline at a Monday practice.

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Report: Tavon Austin could miss two weeks with MCL sprain

Tavon Austin AP

The Rams could be without Tavon Austin for the rest of September.

The good news? It’s possible he may miss just one game.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports Austin, the Rams’ 2013 first-round pick, is expected to miss “roughly two weeks” with a sprained MCL suffered in Sunday’s win at Tampa Bay.

The Rams have their bye in Week Four (Sept. 28). In short, if Austin misses just two weeks, the Rams might be without him for just one game. So while this is unwelcome news, the timing couldn’t be much better for St. Louis.

Austin (three catches, 34 yards; five rushes, 26 yards in 2014) is one of the Rams’ primary wide receivers and their top punt returner. Austin Pettis, who made a key 27-yard catch late in the Rams’ 19-17 victory against the Bucs, is listed as the top backup to Tavon Austin both at receiver and on punts.

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Gruden won’t rule out Cousins keeping job over a healthy RG3

cousinsgruden AP

After leading Washington to victory in relief of the injured Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins declared, “This is Robert’s team.” But it may not be RG3’s team for long.

Coach Jay Gruden was asked today if Cousins could play well enough in the coming weeks to hold onto the starting job even after Griffin’s dislocated ankle has healed well enough for him to play. Gruden declined to give a definitive answer.

“We’ll cross that bridge when that comes. Right now we’re going to prepare with Kirk Cousins as our starter, and Robert’s going to rehab. All decisions after that will come after that,” he said.

Cousins played very well on Sunday, completing 22 of 33 passes for 250 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Of course, that was in a home game against Jacksonville, one of the worst teams in the league. But if Cousins plays that well again next week in Philadelphia, and he leads his team to a win on the road against the NFC East rival Eagles, the calls for Cousins to keep the job will increase. If he keeps playing well, it’s going to be hard for Gruden to send him to the bench when Griffin is ready to go.

Gruden, however, isn’t going to commit to either quarterback until he has to.

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Previously, the Vikings have exhibited concern in abuse cases

MJUST1

The Vikings have proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they will not tolerate a player laying hands on a family member.

Oh, wait, that was last year with a scrub.

While Adrian Peterson apparently isn’t getting more than a paid weekend off after admitting to beating/disciplining his 4-year-old son, the Vikings have acted swiftly before.

Last November, the Vikings released cornerback A.J. Jefferson less than 24 hours after he was arrested for probable cause for domestic assault. I’d look up the disposition of the case, but it’s not like anyone cares anyway.

Jefferson was a reserve, and not worth the trouble of clattering on about due process while pretending to care about anything but the bottom line, so he was released.

That’s life in the NFL. If you can help a team win, excuses will be made for you no matter how ridiculous they sound falling out of the mouths of the excuse-makers.

That’s not to pile on the Vikings. Everybody does it.

The Panthers released sixth-round linebacker Lawrence Wilson in 2011, five days after he was arrested for driving in possession of marijuana (and perhaps because he cried in front of the cops). He was on the practice squad at the time, after they realized he wasn’t worth that sixth-round pick.

But Greg Hardy was arrested in May and found guilty by a judge in July of assaulting his then-girlfriend and communicating threats, including saying he’d kill her and throwing her into a futon full of guns.

He played in the opener at Tampa, and it took video of Ray Rice punching his wife in the face to force them to deactivate him Sunday (that was some punch, that it was felt 450 miles away in Charlotte).

The league can hire women into prestigious jobs with titles and salaries, and they can educate and legislate, but until the paying customers demand accountability from everyone involved — and not just the disposable — nothing is going to change.

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