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Troy Aikman: Tony Romo is a better quarterback than I was

2012 NFL Honors - Arrivals Getty Images

Troy Aikman won three Super Bowl rings with the Cowboys and is a Hall of Famer, but if you think Aikman is the best Cowboys quarterback you’ve ever seen, Aikman says you need to take a closer look at Tony Romo.

In an interview with the Brownsville Herald, Aikman said he never played the quarterback position as well as Romo.

I think Tony already is a better quarterback than I was,” Aikman said. “I know how quarterbacks are judged but as far as his play-making ability and the things that he is capable of doing, he is a far more athletic quarterback, capable of making more plays than I ever was able to. He has a good team around him and hopefully, and I believe this will happen, I believe that he will win a Super Bowl before he is done playing.”

Aikman should be commended for his modesty, and for acknowledging that there should be more to judging a quarterback than counting how many Super Bowl rings he wears. But I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of Cowboys fans are going to disagree with his analysis.

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Blown call costs Jets a touchdown before halftime

cutlerjets AP

The officials are doing the Jets no favors as they try to come from behind against the Bears.

With a minute and a half to go before halftime, Jets linebacker David Harris hit Jay Cutler, forcing a fumble that Jets linebacker Demario Davis scooped up and ran downfield for what looked like an easy touchdown. Unfortunately, the officials blew the play dead.

It was reviewed on instant replay and correctly ruled a fumble, but because the officials had wrongly blown the play dead, the Jets didn’t get the touchdown that Davis almost certainly would have scored if the play had been correctly called on the field. The Jets’ offense wasn’t able to do anything after gaining possession, and the Jets had to punt.

Correct that blown call and the bad pass interference call that set up the Bears’ only offensive touchdown, and this game that the Bears lead 17-13 could easily be something more like a 20-10 Jets lead.

The Jets have to overcome both the Bears and the officials in the second half.

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The story behind ESPN’s Ravens story, sort of

Bisciotti AP

ESPN’s bombshell story regarding the Ravens’ mishandling of the Ray Rice investigation landed on Friday at 5:47 p.m. ET, in a spot where information typically goes to not be noticed.

The decision to publish the item in a bad-news wasteland fewer than two hours after Commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference has sparked questions in the industry about the thought process behind pulling the sheet off the story late on a Friday afternoon, versus holding it for Sunday morning or — as TMZ surely did with the Ray Rice video two weeks ago — Monday morning.

ESPN’s position is that there’s nothing to see regarding the timing of a story that may not have received the attention and traction it deserved beyond those who closely follow the NFL.  The story was published as soon as it was ready, ESPN contends.  Curiosity about the timing nevertheless exists.

The curiosity is enhanced by some of the circumstances surrounding the final hours before the report was published.  Although ESPN’s reporters worked on the story for 11 days, the first request for comment to the NFL came at 12:34 p.m. ET Friday, via a list of 15 detailed, written questions submitted roughly 90 minutes after the league announced that Commissioner Roger Godless would be conducting a press conference at 3:00 p.m. ET.  The Ravens separately received a list of written questions at roughly 1:00 p.m. ET on Friday.

The NFL declined to answer any of the written questions, and it appears that ESPN did not send anyone to the press conference with the task of posing any, some, or all of the 15 questions directly to Goodell.  Spokesman Greg Aiello told ESPN, “Mr. [Robert] Mueller is in the process of conducting his investigation into the pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.  His report will be made public.”

The story initially claimed that Rice watched Baltimore’s Week One game with center A.Q. Shipley, a clear error given that Shipley had been cut by the Ravens and claimed on waivers by the Colts.  The mistake quickly was corrected. Likewise, the contention that Ravens senior personnel assistant George Kokinis believed that Rice should be cut in February is regarded by some in the organization as a mischaracterization of his role and responsibilities.   At least one member of the Ravens organization privately has pointed to these errors as evidence that the entire story may lack full and complete credibility.

ESPN has said repeatedly that it stands by its reporting, reiterating that stance in the wake of the lengthy statement issued on Monday by the Ravens and owner Steve Bisciotti’s press conference.  During his 47 minutes with the media, Bisciotti accused ESPN of essentially rushing the story to publication, pointing to the fact that the reporters spent 11 days working on the story but that ESPN ultimately asked for input from the league and the team only a few hours before the story was unleashed.

Given the potential damage that an inflammatory report like this can do to the broader relationship between ESPN and the NFL, it’s odd to say the least that ESPN opted to push forward at a time when the parties against whom the allegations were made didn’t have a full and fair opportunity to respond to details that took nearly two weeks to compile.  Perhaps ESPN wanted to redirect blame from the NFL to the Ravens in the aftermath of the Goodell press conference.  Perhaps ESPN wanted to make Goodell seem less credible.  Perhaps ESPN simply believed that publishing the story within the hours after Goodell’s press conference would generate the most attention for the story, and in turn for ESPN.

Or perhaps ESPN simply decided that it didn’t make sense to wait for someone else to report the same information ESPN was poised to report.

The timing of the publication has no bearing on the accuracy of the report.  But with the Ravens now issuing a lengthy statement identifying the many flaws that it believes the report contains, ESPN may feel compelled to continue to work the story even harder, in order to prove that the Ravens are wrong, and that ESPN is right.

Ultimately, the tie may be broken by Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who is investigating the Rice investigation.

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Jets have pick-six, muffed punt, down 14-0 in first five minutes

ryanmundy AP

The Jets got off to a bad start tonight against the Bears. A very bad start.

On the game’s first series, Jets quarterback Geno Smith threw a pass right into the hands of Chicago’s Ryan Mundy, who raced 45 yards for a touchdown to make the score 7-0.

An exchange of punts ensued, but Jets return man Jalen Saunders muffed his punt, and the Bears recovered. A Jay Cutler deep ball to Alshon Jeffery resulted in a highly questionable pass interference penalty on the Jets, setting up first-and-goal.

From there, Jay Cutler hit Martellus Bennett in the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown, and it was 14-0 Bears, barely five minutes into the game.

This one’s a long way from over. But early on, it looks like we could have another prime time mismatch on our hands.

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Bisciotti shrugs at possibility he’d be forced to sell over Rice situation

Bisciotti AP

In the aftermath of Friday’s ESPN report regarding the alleged mishandling of the Ray Rice investigation, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti met for 47 minutes with the media to answer many questions about the report and the investigation.

Informed that a Forbes article has raised the possibility of Bisciotti being forced to sell the team, Bisciotti said, “If they force me to sell, then I guess I’ll sell.”

He then added that, because he doesn’t work very hard as owner of the team, he really wouldn’t have a major void in his life.

Bisciott’s version of the situation, as articulated at the press conference and set forth in the the lengthy statement from the team, could be interpreted as Bisciotti believing that he did nothing that would justify a decision to force him to sell the team.  Ultimately, the decision regarding what the Ravens knew, when they knew it, and what if anything they did wrong will be made by former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is conducting an investigation of the entire situation.

And that’s when things could get even more interesting.  If Bisciotti disputes Mueller’s version of the events, will Bisciotti change his mind regarding whether any employees of the team should no longer be employees of the team?  Or will Bisciotti dispute Mueller’s report the same way Bisciotti disputed the ESPN report?

That’s an angle that, like so many other issues in this situation, the NFL and the Ravens possibly haven’t thought all the way through.  Are the league office and the Ravens prepared to accept Mueller’s conclusion, or will they reserve the right to disagree, like Goodell did when former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned the suspensions imposed by Goodell in the Saints bounty scandal?

Ultimately, Mueller’s investigation could result in many eye-opening conclusions.  At this point, nothing should be ruled out.

Included a possible decision by ownership that Bisciotti should sell the team.  If that happens, it sounds like he’ll go more quietly than Donald Sterling did.

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Reports: James Harrison to rejoin Steelers

James Harrison AP

Less than a month after retiring, James Harrison is set to rejoin the club with whom he’s had his greatest success, per multiple published reports.

The Steelers will sign the 36-year-old Harrison this week, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported Monday.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Harrison will meet with the Steelers on Tuesday and is on track to sign, barring any snags.

Long-time Steelers beat reporter Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also reported that Harrison will rejoin the team after a season away.

And on Instagram, Harrison posted a video suggesting he would be returning to Pittsburgh.

The Steelers are in need of outside linebacking depth after Jarvis Jones was placed on injured reserve/designated for return on Monday, and Harrison is well-versed in Dick LeBeau’s defense. The 36-year-old Harrison played 10 seasons for Pittsburgh (2002, 2004-2012), recording 64 sacks. He played 10 games for Cincinnati in 2013.

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Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery all active tonight

Eric Decker AP

Three starting wide receivers were listed as inactive for tonight’s game. They’ll all play.

Jets receiver Eric Decker and Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are all active. They may not be 100 percent healthy — Decker’s hamstring in particular has caused some concerns — but they’re all going to play.

Inactive for the Jets is cornerback Dee Milliner, meaning the Jets’ secondary will have a tough task against Marshall and Jeffery.

The Jets’ other inactives are defensive tackle T.J. Barnes, offensive tackle Dakota Dozier, linebacker A.J. Edds, defensive end Ikemefuna Enemkpali, receiver Walter Powell and offensive tackle Ben Ijalana.

The Bears’ inactives are center Roberto Garza, tackle Charles Leno, linebacker Shea McClellin, cornerback Sherrick McManis, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, defensive end Trevor Scott and guard Matt Slauson.

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Clay Matthews: “Hard to answer” if groin injury will keep him out

Clay Matthews AP

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews wasn’t on the field for the final minutes of his team’s 19-7 loss to the Lions on Sunday because of a groin injury.

Matthews got hurt while trying to avoid a cut block by Lions wide receiver Golden Tate and said after the game that he wasn’t sure how severe it might be. He didn’t have a much clearer idea on Monday either.

“It’s hard to answer that right now,” Matthews said, via ESPN.com. “Obviously I think it’s something I can play with, but you’ve got to make sure you’re operating at a high level. That will be the biggest obstacle, not obstacle but thing to find out, and I think we’ll know more on Wednesday or Thursday.”

Injuries have cost Matthews, who has a sack in three games this year, nine games over the last two seasons and the Packers have suffered when he’s been out of the lineup. Matthews did say that he feels good a day after the game and his condition will be updated once the Packers start practicing later this week.

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Peyton Manning: Overtime rules put a premium on the coin toss

peytoncarroll AP

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning led his team to a stunning comeback in Seattle on Sunday, tying a game in the final minute after it appeared to be lost. Then Manning made a mistake that cost his team the game: He called tails.

After the Broncos lost the overtime coin toss, Manning could do nothing more than stand on the sideline and watch as Russell Wilson led the Seahawks down the field toward a game-winning touchdown. After ending the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion pass, Manning never touched the ball in overtime.

As Manning noted afterward, that coin toss loomed large.

It puts a premium on the coin toss,” Manning said. “I called tails at the beginning of the game, and went with it again in overtime. It was heads, and it proved to be a significant call. But that’s the way it is. And you’d like to not leave it to that, leave it to get to that situation.”

For years, overtime in the NFL was true sudden death, with the first team to score winning. The newer rules make the coin toss a bit less important, as a team can’t win with a field goal on the first possession. But the coin toss still matters. Some fans prefer the college format, where teams alternate possessions from the 25-yard line, but winning the coin toss matters in college, too, as it’s advantageous to win the toss, play defense first and then know on the subsequent possession whether to play it safe for a field goal or whether a touchdown is necessary. An auction-style overtime rule, where the teams would “bid” on a yard line to start from in overtime, could eliminate the coin toss but has never really caught on.

The NFL probably won’t change the rules on overtime any time soon, if ever. So players who don’t want to deal with a rule that puts a premium on the coin toss will just have to win the game in regulation.

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Bucs work out Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor AP

The Bucs may be without quarterback Josh McCown for the next few weeks after he suffered a thumb injury in the team’s blowout loss to the Falcons last Thursday and that may have them in the market for some help at the position.

Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that the team worked out former Raiders and Steelers quarterback Terrelle Pryor on Monday. Pryor was let go by the Seahawks at the end of the preseason after Seattle gave the backup job to Tarvaris Jackson. He started nine games for the Raiders last season, throwing seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions while also running for 576 yards.

Pryor isn’t up to speed on the Buccaneers offense, obviously, so he wouldn’t be an ideal choice if they needed to turn to someone in a pinch behind Mike Glennon. Mike Kafka is on the practice squad, which likely leaves him better suited to role.

Pryor’s athleticism could intrigue the Bucs from a longer term perspective, however, so we’ll see if anything develops for him in Tampa.

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Jarvis Jones placed on injured reserve/designated for return

Jarvis Jones, Jerry Olsavsky AP

The Steelers are losing one of their starting linebackers until at least late November.

The club placed Jarvis Jones on injured reserve/designated for return on Monday, according to the NFL’s transactions.

The Steelers’ starting right outside linebacker, Jones suffered a wrist injury in Sunday’s 37-19 victory at Carolina. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Jones has undergone wrist surgery.

Jones, 24, has notched 14 tackles and two sacks in three starts this season for Pittsburgh. He was the Steelers’ No. 1 pick in 2013. Arthur Moats is the top reserve behind Jones on the Steelers’ depth chart.

Jones will miss at least the Steelers’ next eight games. The earliest he can return to game action is Sunday, November 30 vs. New Orleans.

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Duke Ihenacho joins DeAngelo Hall on IR

Duke Ihenacho AP

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall isn’t the only member of the Redskins secondary that saw his season come to an end during Sunday’s loss to the Eagles.

The team announced that they have placed safety Duke Ihenacho on injured reserve while also officially ending Hall’s season. Ihenacho injured his heel in Philadelphia.

Ihenacho was claimed off of waivers by Washington after he was cut by Denver at the end of the summer. He was a starter in Denver last season, but was playing in a reserve role and on special teams for the Redskins. The Redskins have Akeem Davis and Trenton Robinson as backup safeties now and 2013 fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas is on the practice squad.

There’s an open spot on the roster with cornerback Chase Minniefield coming up from the practice squad, although the team could opt to go with 52 players this week since they face the Giants on Thursday night and then round out their roster at a later date.

The Redskins also announced that they have released linebacker Darryl Sharpton from injured reserve.

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Ravens confirm Dennis Pitta will miss the rest of the season

pittacart AP

Dennis Pitta’s season is over.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh confirmed today that Pitta, the tight end who suffered a dislocated right hip on Sunday, had surgery today and will miss the rest of the season.

This is the second time in the last 14 months that Pitta has suffered a dislocated right hip. He suffered the injury last year in training camp and missed the first 12 games of the season.

Heading into this season, the Ravens thought Pitta was going to be healthy and ready for a big year, and he caught 10 passes in Week One. Now his season is over after Week Three, and he’s left to wonder if his hip is ever going to be healthy enough to withstand an NFL season.

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Antonio Cromartie has bone bruise, day-to-day heading into bye week

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals have some extra time off before they will put their undefeated record to the test against the Broncos and that should bode well for cornerback Antonio Cromartie’s chances of playing.

Cromartie left Sunday’s win over the 49ers with a knee injury, but the team isn’t worried about an extended absence. Darren Urban of the team’s website reports that Cromartie suffered a bone bruise and that he’s day-to-day as the team heads into their bye week. Coach Bruce Arians said he thinks Cromartie will be fine by the time Week Five rolls around.

There’s less certainty when it comes to Carson Palmer. The quarterback has missed the last two games with a nerve issue in his shoulder and hasn’t been able to throw in practice as a result.

Arians said that he’s hopeful Palmer can resume throwing this week, although there’s no real timetable for his return as his efforts to wake up the nerve have not been successful to this point.

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Whisenhunt: Jake Locker has right wrist injury

Tennessee Titans v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Titans’ starting quarterback has an injury to his throwing arm.

Quarterback Jake Locker has an injured right wrist, Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday, according to the club’s official Twitter feed.

Locker had an MRI on the wrist on Monday morning, Whisenhunt said, according to the club. The Titans’ head coach indicated it was not yet known whether Locker would be able to play Sunday at Indianapolis, Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean reported.

Charlie Whitehurst is the Titans’ backup quarterback.

Locker completed just 17-of-34 passes for 185 yards with no TDs and two interceptions in Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati. He also rushed six times for 50 yards. According to Whisenhunt, Locker was having trouble getting a grip on the ball at game’s end because of the injury, the Tennessean reported.

The Titans (1-2) are one game out of the AFC South lead.

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Danny Woodhead out for the season with broken leg

Chargers Bills Football AP

The Chargers can’t keep running backs on the field.

Coach Mike McCoy told reporters that Danny Woodhead suffered a broken fibula in yesterday’s game, and would be placed on season-ending injured reserve.

That’s a huge blow for a Chargers offense that was already without Ryan Mathews.

They’ll have to make do with Donald Brown now, and after he touched the ball 36 times yesterday, he’s clearly ready for a heavy workload.

The only hope for the Chargers is that he holds up until Mathews returns.

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