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Browns won’t comment on removal of Grossi from Plain Dealer beat

MBR AP

Though the Cleveland Plain Dealer still has not acknowledged the move on its website (other than to finally remove his name and face from the roster), Tony Grossi no longer covers the Browns as a beat writer, following the accidental publication of a private Twitter message that called Browns owner Randy Lerner  (pictured) “pathetic” and an “irrelevant billionaire.”

Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis tells PFT that the Browns have no comment on the situation.

There’s still no evidence that the Browns pressured the Plain Dealer to make the move.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, however, both Lerner and president Mike Holmgren refused to accept calls from Grossi after the message was posted and deleted.  We’re also told that a meeting occurred Wednesday between Plain Dealer publisher Terry Eggar and Holmgren.

The Plain Dealer has been nearly as silent as the Browns.  Managing editor Thom Fladung called the Kiley & Booms radio show on 92.3 The Fan this morning to explain the decision, and Fladung’s explanation was less than persuasive, in our opinion.

The decision to remove Grossi from the beat was driven by this “determining factor” articulated by Fladung:  “Don’t do something that affects your value as a journalist or the value of your newspaper or affects the perception of your value and the perception of that newspaper’s value.”

That’s a pretty broad — and vague — rule.  And that’s the kind of standard that gives a news organization the ability to do pretty much whatever it wants whenever it wants, because there’s pretty much always something to which someone can point as proof of “something that affects your value as a journalist or the value of your newspaper or affects the perception of your value and the perception of that newspaper’s value.”

Making Fladung’s “determining factor” even more confusing is the fact that he admitted that Grossi could have deliberately expressed a strong opinion about Lerner in a column published and printed in the Plain Dealer without conseqeuence.  “Let’s say Tony had written that Randy Lerner’s lack of involvement with the Browns and their resulting disappointing records over the years has made him irrelevant as an owner, that’s defensible,” Fladung said.  “That’s absolutely defensible.”

What’s indefensible is the failure of the Plain Dealer to acknowledge the fact that Grossi never intended to make the statements available for public view.  He fell victim to the subtle but significant differences between a “direct message” (which is private) and a “reply” (which is public) on Twitter.  It was an accident.  A mistake.

Let’s go back to the days of typewriters and shorthand, and let’s say that Grossi’s editor has two boxes on his desk.  One is for article submissions and one is for proposed topics.  And let’s say that Grossi scribbled out a scathing column about Lerner as a proposed topic, but Grossi accidentally put it in the box of actual submissions for print.

That’s the low-tech version of what happened here.  Grossi accidentally put his message in the wrong box.

So when Fladung says he “felt very strongly” that the Twitter message “was inappropriate and unprofessional and . . . it’s not the kind of opinion a journalist covering a beat can express,” Fladung presumes that Grossi actually intended to articulate that opinion to the world.  He didn’t.  It was inadvertently blurted out, like a temporary case of Twitter Tourette’s.

Some have suggested that the Twitter blunder provided the Plain Dealer with a vehicle for addressing pre-existing concerns regarding Grossi’s overall job performance.  Undercutting that theory was Fladung’s assertion during the radio interview that Grossi is a “very good” and “very successful” beat writer.

I’m continuing to write about this because it’s the kind of mistake that could happen to anyone, and everyone should be entitled to the benefit of the doubt in a case like this, especially when newspapers and other media companies want their writers to engage with the audience through various new technologies and platforms.  It also just “feels” like an unjust result, whether because the Plain Dealer is being obtuse or because the Plain Dealer is cowering to the Browns or because the Browns are remaining deliberately silent in order to secure the preferred outcome of having Grossi removed from the beat.

Regardless, we’re disappointed in the Plain Dealer, in Fladung, in the Browns, in Lerner, and in Holmgren.  And we hope that one or more of them will snap out of it and do the right thing, or at least let the rest of us know in far more convincing fashion why they believe the right thing was done.

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Peyton Manning shouts “Romo!” before snap, hands off

Peyton Manning AP

As Denver tried to run out the clock in the final three minutes of Thursday night’s game vs. San Diego, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning barked signals near the line of scrimmage.

Then, he shouted a word — a surname, it sure seemed — that caught the attention.

“Romo!” Manning barked, as this NFL.com clip confirms.

A few seconds later, Manning handed off to tailback Juwan Thompson, who gained five yards up the middle, giving Denver its final first down in a 35-21 victory.

Was “Romo” a reference to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo? Or was it a nod to Giants pitcher Sergio Romo? Or could it be a shout out to United Kingdom clothier The Romo Group?

Anyways, in the final minutes, Manning was also heard barking “Elway! Elway!” before the snap. This would figure to be a reference to former Broncos quarterback / current G.M. John Elway. “Apple!” and old-standard “Omaha!” were also yelled by Manning.

These 21st century microphones sure are powerful.

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Jahleel Addae says he had a stringer, not a concussion

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

San Diego Chargers safety Jahleel Addae appeared to come up woozy after a play in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game against the Denver Broncos.

Addae charged up to deliver a hit to Broncos running back Juwan Thompson and came away from the play noticeably affected.

It appeared as though Addae may have suffered a concussion on the play. However, Addae says he was evaluated on the sidelined and cleared to return to the game.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Addae said he suffered a stringer on the play instead.

Addae had four tackles for the Chargers in the 35-21 loss to Denver.

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Manning, Sanders lead Broncos to 35-21 victory over Chargers

Sanders Getty Images

Peyton Manning tossed three touchdown passes to Emmanuel Sanders, Juwan Thompson rushed for two scores and the Denver Broncos cruised to a 35-21 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.

Ronnie Hillman also rushed for 109 yards for Denver as the Broncos offense looked in fine form against the Chargers.

Manning connected with Sanders for touchdowns of 2, 3, and 31 yards as the Broncos took a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter. Thompson’s first score of the night extended the score to 28-7 with 7:34 left to play in the third quarter.

Sanders finished with nine catches on the night for 120 yards and three touchdowns while Demaryius Thomas also eclipsed the 100-yard mark with eight grabs for 105 yards for Denver.

The Broncos completely shut down the rushing offense of the Chargers Thursday night and forced Philip Rivers to do everything for San Diego offensively. Branden Oliver carried 13 times for just 36 yards on the night with Donald Brown carrying once for 8 yards. Rivers was the Chargers leading rusher due to one 17-yard scramble until Oliver broke a 23-yard run on the game’s final play.

Rivers 4-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates to cap a 12-play, 80-yard drive gave the Chargers some life. However, the Broncos answered right back with another touchdown drive to extend the lead to 35-14.

Rivers and Gates hooked up again on a 10-yard touchdown to again cut the deficit to 14 points with 9:31 left to play. A missed 53-yard field goal by Brandon McManus gave the Chargers a change to further cut down Denver’s lead, but Rivers was intercepted by Rahim Moore to all but seal the win for Denver.

San Diego had some questionable officiating decisions go against them that significantly hurt their chances. A fumble by kick returner Andre Caldwell was overturned upon replay review despite video showing the ball being ripped out of Caldwell’s hands by San Diego before his elbow hit the ground. In addition, the Broncos scored a fourth quarter touchdown one play after an interception by Eric Weddle in the end zone was negated by a defensive holding penalty on Marcus Gilchrist.

But Denver was clearly the better team on Thursday night and appears to clearly be the best team in the AFC right now.

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Chargers cut Denver’s lead to 28-14

Antonio Gates AP

After three straight Denver touchdowns turned a 7-7 game into a 28-7 deficit for San Diego on Thursday night, the visiting Chargers finally counter-punched.

Antonio Gates‘ four-yard fourth-down TD pass from Philip Rivers cut the Broncos’ lead to 28-14 with 2:39 left in the third quarter in Denver. The touchdown capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive highlighted by a leaping 26-yard reception by Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd. However, Floyd appeared to suffer an arm injury on the play and went inside for medical treatment.

Rivers has completed 24-of-34 passes against the Broncos with a pair of scores, but nothing has come easy for San Diego, which has largely dinked-and-dunked in the passing game.

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Malcom Floyd heads to locker room after impressive catch

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

San Diego Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd made a stellar reception leaping between two Denver Broncos defenders.

Floyd landed hard after hauling the pass and headed into the locker room shortly after with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

Floyd caught two passes for 42 yards on the night for San Diego, the final one covering 26 yards before heading inside to get further evaluation.

The Chargers announced that Floyd was probable to return to the game, which is a big boost for San Diego as they attempt to rally from a 14-point deficit late in the third quarter.

UPDATE 11:00 p.m. ET: Floyd returned to the game for the Chargers on their ensuing offensive possession.

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Manning to Sanders for third TD of night extends Broncos lead

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Peyton Manning connected with Emmanuel Sanders on a 3-yard touchdown pass to extend the Denver Broncos lead to 21-7 over the San Diego Chargers in the third quarter.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

It was the third touchdown of the night between Manning and Sanders. The two players hooked up for a 2-yard touchdown and a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give the Broncos a 14-7 lead at halftime.

Manning led Denver on a six-play, 51-yard scoring drive with the touchdown to Sanders extending the Broncos lead.

Sanders has six catches for 92 yards and three scores on the night for Denver. Manning is 18 of 25 for 221 yards.

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Danny Smith: Dri Archer going through “growing pains” as returner

Dri Archer AP

As a third-round pick and the fastest player in the 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine,  rookie Dri Archer will get every chance to become a return ace for the Steelers.

However, it’s been a rough go on kickoffs thus far for the Kent State product.

In five regular season games, Archer has returned just 1-of-9 kickoffs beyond his own 20-yard-line, and he’s yet to even reach the 25 on any return. He also has one punt return for two yards.

Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith believes Archer is going through “growing pains” as he learns his craft, especially as it pertains to using other elements of his game than speed. But he also believes the 5-foot-8, 173-pound Archer is “going to be a good football player” once everything clicks.

“There are a lot of fast guys working at McDonald’s that can’t play this game. There just is,” Smith said Thursday, according to the club. “There are a lot of things that you have to do, and he’s learning those things, and it’s a maturation process.

“I love the guy. I’ll never give up on him because he works.”

Smith believes Archer “presses” with an eye on making a big play, something the long-time special teams coach believes is to be expected.

But Smith also expects Archer to break out at some point.

“As soon as that kid makes a big play we’ll all be jumping on the bandwagon,” Smith said. “We’ll all be celebrating, ‘Hey he’s what we thought he was.’ It will come. It really will. I’ve seen it too many times. (It’s) because of his work habits and because of his athleticism and because of his want to I think he’s going to be fine. And the sooner the better.”

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Broncos dodge bullet, with help from officials

McAulay Getty Images

After the Chargers knotted Thursday night’s game at seven, Broncos kick returner Andre Caldwell appeared to fumble the ensuing kickoff at the Denver 26.  The ruling on the field was indeed a fumble, with a recovery by Chargers tight end Ladarius Green.

All turnovers are subject to replay review.  After referee Terry McAulay went under the hood, with real-time assistance from V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino, McAulay reverse the ruling on the field:  “After review, the runner’s elbow was down and in complete control over the football.”

But that’s not what the video showed.  The ball was being ripped out before the elbow hit.

The ruling on the field becomes even more important in this situation.  Because the officials determined a fumble had happened, McAulay needed to see indisputable visual evidence that it hadn’t.  If anything, the clear, indisputable visual evidence showed that it had.

In other words, the evidence was strong enough to overturn a ruling on the field that Caldwell hadn’t fumbled.  Instead, the evidence erroneously was determined to be indisputable that the ball wasn’t coming out.

UPDATE 10:07 p.m. ET:  NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino has defended the decision on Twitter.  “On the fumble that was reversed the forearm was down before ball came loose,” Blandino said. “Forearm down before elbow.”  The movement of the ball before the forearm is down would seem to prevent a finding of indisputable visual evidence that the ruling of a fumble was incorrect.  Former NFL referee Mike Carey has repeatedly said during the CBS broadcast that, in his view, the outcome of the replay review was incorrect.

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Chargers even things up on Allen’s first touchdown catch of the year

Allen Getty Images

If Chargers receiver Keenan Allen ever becomes a free agent, he should sign with the Broncos.  Because in his third career game in Denver, Allen has now scored his fifth touchdown.

No. 5 in Denver also was Allen’s first of the season, coming at the tail end of a 13-play, 84-yard drive.

Allen already has seven catches for 47 yards.  Quarterback Philip Rivers has completed 15 of 17 passes, for 118 yards.

The game is tied at seven, with 3:07 left in the first half.

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Peyton moves the mark to 511

Manning Getty Images

Another game, another football to be sent to Canton.

After 15 minutes of football with no scoring, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw his 511th career touchdown pass early in the second to receiver Emmanuel Sanders.  It came on third and goal from the two, capping a drive fueled largely by a 38-yard catch by Sanders but the Broncos in business at the San Diego 31.

Manning has completed 10 of 12 passes for 109 yards in three drives.  The Denver defense has forced a pair of punts from the Chargers.

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Week Eight skill-position injury report — Thursday

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The following are the skill-position players listed on the Thursday injury report. Key fantasy starters are bolded.

The final injury report for Sunday games will be released Friday, with the Monday-night injury report released Saturday.

All information is from the NFL and clubs excluding the Rams’ injury statuses, which were cited from Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Byes: Giants, 49ers.

DID NOT PRACTICE

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe)

Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin).

Bills WR Chris Williams (illness).

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring).

Broncos WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Cardinals TE Troy Niklas (ankle).

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery (groin). — OUT

Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle).

Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot).

Lions TE Eric Ebron (hamstring).

Lions TE Joseph Fauria (ankle).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers WR Corey Brown (concussion).

Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot).

Ravens TE Owen Daniels (knee).

Ravens WR Steve Smith (not injury related).

Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm).

Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder).

Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman (foot). — OUT

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle). — OUT

Seahawks WR Bryan Walters (concussion).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

LIMITED PARTICIPATION

Bears TE Martellus Bennett (hamstring).

Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (ribs).

Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee).

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (right thumb).

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson (rib).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (knee).

Cardinals WR Josh Brown (ankle).

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (ribs).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring).

Colts TE Jack Doyle (knee).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Dolphins TE Dion Sims (neck).

Eagles RB Darren Sproles (knee).

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Jets WR Greg Salas (ankle, wrist).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Packers RB James Starks (ankle).

Patriots WR Matt Slater (shoulder).

Raiders FB Marcel Reece (quad).

Raiders WR Vincent Brown (hamstring).

Rams WR Kenny Britt (ankle).

Rams RB Benji Cunningham (knee).

Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Titans QB Jake Locker (right hand).

Titans RB Shonn Greene (hamstring).

Titans TE Taylor Thompson (knee)

Washington QB Robert Griffin (ankle).

FULL PARTICIPATION

Bengals TE Kevin Brock (neck).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (groin).

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (hand).

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (shoulder).

Dolphins WR Brandon Gibson (knee).

Eagles RB Chris Polk (hamstring).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (ankle).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Jets RB Bilal Powell (foot).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Lions RB Theo Riddick (hamstring).

Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (non-injury).

Seahawks RB Robert Turbin (shoulder).

Seahawks TE Luke Willson (groin).

Vikings TE Chase Ford (foot).

Washington RB Alfred Morris (ankle).

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Urlacher say Cutler isn’t getting the job done

Cutler Getty Images

When the Bears traded for quarterback Jay Cutler, former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said Cutler is a “pussy.”  Unless he didn’t.

On Wednesday, Urlacher didn’t call Cutler a guy who is succeeding at the position.

“We say it every year how talented Jay is, how much talent he has,” Urlacher told The Kap and Haugh Show.  “But the NFL is not a talent contest.  It’s a winning contest.  You want to win football games, that’s what it comes down to.

“If your quarterback can’t make plays in certain situations for you to win games, he’s not getting the job done.”

With $54 million guaranteed, Cutler undoubtedly is being paid to get the job done.

“Financially, he is one of the elite guys in the NFL,” Urlacher said.  “You look at his contract, he was paid like an elite quarterback. . . .  He just hasn’t produced like an elite quarterback. You look at the Bradys, the Mannings, the Rodgerses, the Breeses.  Those guys win every year.  Even with no one around them.  [Aaron] Rodgers has no offensive line, he wins.  [Tom] Brady has no receivers, he wins.

“You look at Jay, he’s got Brandon [Marshall], Alshon [Jeffery], Matt [Forte] and a great offensive line, Martellus Bennett and they can’t seem to put it together for some reason.  I’m not sure if it’s his fault, but for some reason they can’t seem to figure it out.”

If it’s not Cutler’s fault, then whose fault is it?  Cutler is far and away the highest-paid player on the team, so it’s on him to produce at a level that will help the team win games.

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Jason Verrett active for Chargers vs. Broncos

Jason Verrett, Brice Butler AP

The Chargers are thin at cornerback tonight against the Broncos, but not as thin as they feared.

Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett is active and will play tonight despite a shoulder injury that led to fears in San Diego that he wouldn’t be able to go. That’s a big positive for the Chargers, who are without cornerback Brandon Flowers after he suffered a concussion Sunday. The Broncos are not an opponent you want to face while thin at cornerback, so having Verrett on the field is big.

In addition to Flowers, the Chargers’ inactives are CB Steve Williams, RB Ryan Mathews, RB Donald Brown, LB Manti Te’o, LB Jerry Attaochu and DE Cordarro Law.

The Broncos’ inactives are RB Montee Ball, DB Omar Bolden, RB Kapri Bibbs, LB Steven Johnson, OL Ben Garland, OL Michael Schofield and DL Mitch Unrein.

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Rex sees improvement from Geno

rexgeno AP

Jets coach Rex Ryan thinks quarterback Geno Smith has improved since his Week Five benching.

Ryan told reporters today that while Smith’s improvements might not be apparent on the outside, they’re clear within the Jets. Ryan said he thinks Smith is growing as a quarterback and is ready to have a big game Sunday against the Bills.

“I just think he’s starting to see it,” Ryan said. “Whether the improvement are noticed by everybody or not, I’ve noticed the improvements that he’s making. Again, I think the arrows going up. Yeah, huge task in front of him this week, but I’m confident in him.

Smith has seven interceptions this season, but Ryan said Smith’s interceptions haven’t necessarily been as bad as it might look.

“If you just take the last three games, alright, yeah he’s got two interceptions in those games, but one was like, desperation against Denver, where we’re just trying to get it out of the end zone, just throw one up, we had to score,” Ryan said. “And so, we threw a pick there. We threw one, San Diego the last play of a two-minute, just a Hail-Mary type situation, so that’s it. So, I think he’s getting better protecting the football and that’s a big thing. I think his poise in the pocket’s been better and I think the fact that he was able to use his legs is another reason why I’m so confident in him.”

Despite pulling Smith for the second half of the loss to the Chargers, Ryan has given no indication that Smith might be in danger of losing his job to Michael Vick on a permanent basis. Ryan is going to trust Smith to keep improving, and perhaps help Ryan save his job.

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Gerhart practices fully on Thursday, but Robinson likely to start for Jaguars

Toby Gerhart AP

After a full practice on Thursday, Jaguars tailback Toby Gerhart looks on track to return after missing two games with a foot injury.

However, Gerhart might not return to his role as the Jaguars’ primary back Sunday vs. Miami.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley indicated Thursday that while Gerhart will play, Robinson will likely be the starter at the outset of Week Eight.

“I would look to see Denard – he’s probably the guy that we’re going with and you’ll see Toby get quite a few reps,” Bradley said, per the Times-Union.

On Thursday’s PFT Live, Robinson deferred to Bradley on the matter of whether he would start against Miami.

“Hopefully, he’ll give me a chance to start again, and we’ll continue to move forward,” Robinson said.

Gerhart rushed for just 123 yards on 48 carries in Jacksonville’s first five games, dealing with ankle and foot injuries along the way. Robinson, meanwhile, racked up 127 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in his try as the Jaguars’ featured back in Sunday’s victory vs. Cleveland.

Thus, it wouldn’t be surprising if Robinson continued to have a big role in the backfield. And if Gerhart can stay healthy and recapture his best form, the Jaguars’ ground game will be stronger for it, which will certainly help first-year quarterback Blake Bortles.

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