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Arians points to possible December 30 return from Pagano

Indianapolis Colts  v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

After Indy’s Week Nine win over the Dolphins, interim coach Bruce Arians said he’s hopeful the team makes the playoffs because there’s a chance coach Chuck Pagano could return from leukemia treatments by then.

Before the team’s Week 10 win over the Jaguars, Arians said in an NFL Network feature that the target is Week 17.

“[Pagano] and I have a hope that he’ll come out of the tunnel December 30 for our last home game coaching the team,” Arians said.

That last home game could be a big one.  On December 30, the Colts host the Texans.

The Texans, by the way, never have won in Indianapolis.  The Texans, by the way, will hold only a one-game lead over the Colts if the Texans lose on Sunday night at Chicago.

While few expect the Colts to challenge the Texans for the AFC South crown, the Colts will have two chances only two weeks apart to beat their division rivals.  If Indy can stay within a game of the Texans through Week 14, the Colts could (key word:  could) steal the division crown.

The fact that it’s even a remote possibility is amazing.  But the Colts have tripled their win total from last year and, more importantly, doubled their victories from Peyton Manning’s rookie season.  Regardless of how it turns out, they’ve already done more than most thought they’d do.  With the genuine sense of team emerging from their coach’s illness, the Colts could still do a lot more.

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Report: Jets waiving Stephen Hill, confirm three other cuts

Stephen Hill AP

Wide receiver Stephen Hill’s tenure with the Jets appears to be coming to a close.

The club will be waiving Hill, their 2012 second-round pick, Brian Costello of the New York Post reported Saturday.

The Jets have yet to announce the move.

The 23-year-old Hill struggled to meet expectations in New York, catching 45 passes for 594 yards and four touchdowns in two seasons. He showed major promise right off the bat, catching two TDs in his NFL regular season debut. But sustained success has eluded the Georgia Tech product.

However, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Hill seems tailor-made to be picked up by a club hoping a change of scenery is what he needs. Hill was clocked at 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash in the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, and he has the size clubs crave in their receivers.

For the Jets, the pending release of Hill could be the final chapter in one of the club’s most notable personnel missteps in recent years. Two picks after the Jets selected Hill, the Bears took wideout Alshon Jeffery, who has become a Pro Bowler.

In other roster moves confirmed by the Jets on Saturday, the team released tailback Daryl Richardson, cornerback Johnny Patrick and linebaker A.J. Edds. Richardson, the ex-Ram, could be a candidate to land elsewhere as a backup.

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Patriots to cut recent trade acquisition Jerel Worthy

Jerel Worthy AP

The Patriots didn’t need a long look at Jerel Worthy to decide they didn’t need him.

According to Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe, the Patriots have decided to release the defensive tackle.

The Patriots acquired him in a deal with the Packers two and a half weeks ago, in exchange for what was described as a late-round pick. If that was a conditional pick, it would mean the Patriots likely gave nothing up in the exchange.

Knee and back problems plagued the former second-round pick, part of the reason the Packers were willing to give up on him.

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Josina Anderson issues statement through ESPN

Sam Getty Images

The Labor Day weekend NFL bad news dump was highlighted by Aldon Smith’s nine-game suspension and a plea deal for Colts owner Jim Irsay.  Buried even deeper in the pre-three-day-weekend flurry of things everyone hopes we’ll forget about by Tuesday was a statement from ESPN’s Josina Anderson regarding the Michael Sam’s shower habits report.

Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing spotted the 5:08 p.m. ET statement on the ESPN P.R. site.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to say I understand the vast and varying perspectives regarding our Michael Sam report,” Anderson said.  “I’m particularly sensitive to those who feel the content therein worked to perpetuate stereotypes surrounding the LGBT community, or was just overall insensitive.  In all humility, I truly understand these viewpoints and have taken time to reflect on how our story had this unintended consequence.  To Michael Sam, I truly empathize with and respect your journey thus far on many different levels.  Ultimately, I’ve always believed making a professional sports roster should and will come down to production.

“In my role as reporter, it’s also important for me to emphasize that I highly value accuracy and in this case gathered facts using well-accepted journalistic standards. I can also appreciate that there are always lessons to be gained in any situation regardless of experience or tenure.

“As I move on, I look forward to leading off ESPN’s regular-season NFL coverage next week and I appreciate their continued support.”

Bristol has been suspension-happy in recent weeks, from the well-deserved Stephen A. Smith suspension to the possibly deserved Max Kellerman suspension to the completely unjustified Dan Le Batard suspension.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Anderson has not been suspended for her role in the report that left many bewildered and Rams coach Jeff Fisher pissed off.

While reasonable minds may differ on whether an apology is needed, the statement includes no apology to the Rams, to Fisher, or to Sam.  In fact, some (including Fisher) could interpret the portion of the statement defending the gathering of facts as an expression of defiance.

But the reporting isn’t the issue.  It’s the content.  Regardless of how the information was obtained and whether the information presented is accurate from a journalistic standpoint, the story isn’t a story unless the story is that Michael Sam truly is not comfortable in the locker room, supported by something far more tangible than scattered speculation that Sam may or may not be showering with teammates either because Same may or may not be doing something else at the time or because he may or may not be comfortable or because he may or may not want to make teammates uncomfortable.  Absent clear proof of actual discomfort for Sam or teammates in the locker room, “He’s one of the guys” is all anyone needs to report.

And that makes the first sentence of the statement a little confusing.  Are there “vast and varying perspectives” on the Michael Sam report?  Or is there only one perspective — the one that prompted ESPN to issue multiple apologies?

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Report: Patriots waiving Josh Boyce

Josh Boyce AP

The Patriots are releasing one of their draft picks from a season ago.

The club will waive wide receiver Josh Boyce, a 2013 fourth-round selection, ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss reported Saturday.

The 23-year-old Boyce appeared in nine games (three starts) for New England as a rookie, catching nine passes for 121 yards. A December ankle injury ended his season. He caught 7-87-0 in four 2014 preseason games.

Boyce (5-11, 205) can be added to the Patriots’ practice squad, but he will first have to clear waivers. The question now is whether he will land elsewhere by Sunday.

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James Harrison announces his retirement from football

James Harrison AP

Today’s news will be full of guys getting cut who will never play in the NFL again.

For James Harrison, it didn’t take getting cut.

The longtime Steelers linebacker announced on his Facebook page that he was retiring.

I have made the difficult decision to retire as of today,” he wrote. “My love for my family and the need to be there for them outweighs my desire to play the game. I have missed too many experiences with them because I devoted SO much time to my career. My love for the game isn’t strong enough to make up for missing one more birthday or first day of school. I am retiring as a man who is truly grateful for all of his blessings.”

Harrison recently worked out for the Cardinals, but nothing came of it, and now he’s decided to hang it up after 11 seasons.

He finished with 66.0 sacks, with 36.5 of them coming in a three-year span with the Steelers (2008-10).

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Reports: Leshoure out in Detroit

Leshoure Getty Images

With Joe Lombardi bringing the Saints’ offense to Detroit, a three-headed tailback monster could be a real possibility — which in theory gave former second-round draft pick Mikel Leshoure a spot in the rotation with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.

While the Lions may still use three tailbacks on a consistent basis, Leshoure won’t be one of them.  According to multiple reports, the Lions will cut Leshoure.

Drafted in 2011, Leshoure’s rookie year ended before it began, with a torn Achilles tendon.  In 2012, he started 14 games, gaining 798 yard.  Last year, however, he played in only three games, getting the ball twice for nine yards.

The departure of Leshoure could be good news for Theo Riddick or George Winn, or both.  They’re the next two tailbacks on the roster after Leshoure.

The move makes the team’s 2011 draft officially a disaster, given that the Lions took soon-to-be-gone defensive tackle Nick Fairley in the first round and spent another second-round selection on long-gone receiver Titus Young.

Leshoure and his non-guaranteed salary of $645,000 will now hit the waiver wire, since he doesn’t have four years of service.

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Buccaneers run Jeff Demps off the 53-man roster

Washington Redskins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Buccaneers might want to use a committee of running backs, but that committee won’t include Jeff Demps.

According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs have decided to release the world class sprinter and Florida running back.

Demps had vowed this spring to focus only on football, but his track career might come calling again.

With the diminishing importance of kickoff returns, such singular talents such as Demps are having a harder time finding a role in the NFL, if they can’t do something else. And he was never able to show that.

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Browns releasing Chris Ogbonnaya

Chris Ogbonnaya AP

The Browns are set to part ways with a recent mainstay in their RB corps.

The club will release tailback Chris Ogbonnaya, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

PFT has confirmed Ogbonnaya’s departure.

A fifth-year pro, the 28-year-old Ogbonnaya has appeared in 42 regular season games since joining Cleveland in 2011, rushing for 604 yards on 130 carries (4.6 yards per rush) and catching 95 passes for 695 yards and two TDs (7.3 yards per catch). Ogbonnaya (6-0, 225) has played fullback and tailback and can contribute in the passing game, all of which could help him garner interest elsewhere.

With Ogbonnaya and Dion Lewis set to be released, the Browns could be ready to keep rookie Isaiah Crowell as their third back behind Ben Tate and Terrance West.

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Aldon Smith apologizes for his suspension

Smith Getty Images

On Friday, the NFL announced the nine-game suspension that has been imposed on 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, for multiple violations of the personal-conduct policy and substance-abuse policy.  On Saturday, the NFLPA issued a statement on Smith’s behalf.

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the entire 49ers organization and 49ers fans for not being able to contribute on the field for the next several weeks,” Smith said.  “Over the last year, I have learned a lot and I’’m working hard to grow from my experiences. I want to thank my family and friends, my teammates, my union and the 49ers for supporting me during this process. I will be at work daily to participate in all permitted work activities, and to support my teammates, just as they have supported me.””

Smith largely has stayed out of trouble since his September 2013 DUI incident, but for that whole fake bomb threat thing at LAX.  He’ll need to stay out of trouble going forward, or he’ll get suspended again — possibly even longer than nine games.

Speaking of nine games, we (or at least I) continue to believe that, with good behavior and given that Smith apparently waived his appeal rights under both policies, he possibly will be reinstated in fewer than nine games, if he can stay out of trouble and otherwise do what is expected of him.

It’ll be much easier for Smith to do that, given that he’s permitted to be around the team.  The outcome remains confusing, since if he’d been suspended only under the personal-conduct policy, he would have been frozen out.  Again, the apparent waiver of his appeal rights may have had something to do with that decision.

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Report: Packers expected to keep just one backup for Rodgers

Scott Tolzien, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn AP

The Packers are looking likely to enter the season with just one backup for Aaron Rodgers.

The club isn’t expected to keep both Scott Tolzien or Matt Flynn on the 53-player roster, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reported Saturday. In short, the Packers are likely to decide between Flynn and Tolzien.

The 26-year-old Tolzien would be subject to waivers. He has practice squad eligibility. Flynn, 29, would be free to immediately sign elsewhere if released.

Tolzien had a strong preseason, completing 38-of-56 passes for 477 yards and three TDs with no interceptions. However, Flynn has risen to the occasion in relief of Rodgers throughout his career. What’s more, Flynn outplayed Tolzien in the 2013 regular season.

In all, both quarterbacks could very well end up on NFL rosters this season. But both won’t be on Green Bay’s 53-player roster, it appears.

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Panthers cut guard Chris Scott

3bfc3bf764715a79c4c28ccbbe5f56e2-e1384822481148 AP

The Panthers’ offensive line has gone several changes in the offseason due to retirement.  On Saturday, the Panthers opted to make a change via termination of employment.

Per a league source, guard Chris Scott has been released.

In 2013, his first year with the team, Scott appeared in 10 regular-season games, with eight starts.  Rookie Trai Turner is expected to start at right guard for the Panthers in 2014.

Scott has four years of service, so he’ll instantly become a free agent.

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Browns part ways with veteran wideout Nate Burleson

Nate Burleson AP

The Browns didn’t do nearly enough to fix the wide receiver position this offseason, knowing Josh Gordon would be suspended.

But it seemed that bringing in Nate Burleson was a wise move, to lend some ballast to a young group.

But the Browns apparently thought they didn’t need him, as Burleson was cut this morning, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

The Browns will be counting on Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins and a a number of young players, and you get the sense there will come a time when they wished they had a veteran in the locker room.

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Vikings set Fred Evans free

Evans Getty Images

An early surprise on 53 day comes from the land of 9,947 more lakes than that.

The Vikings have parted ways with veteran defensive lineman Fred Evans, per a league source.

Evans has served as a key member of the team’s defensive tackle rotation since 2007.  In 2013, he appeared in 14 games with three starts.

His departure should be regarded as good news in one respect.  If Linval Joseph wasn’t expected to be ready to return from getting shot in the leg after a preseason game, Evans probably wouldn’t have been cut.

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Idonije out in New York

Idonije AP

The Giants’ march to 53 includes a veteran defensive lineman who possibly is reaching the end of an intriguing road in professional football.

Per a league source, veteran defensive lineman Israel Idonije has been cut by the Giants.

He played at the University of Manitoba and wasn’t invited to the Scouting Combine.  So he showed up on his own, handing out tapes of his performances from a brown paper bag.

It didn’t work on draft day, but Idonije got an initial shot with the Browns before finding a nine-year home with the Bears.  Following the 2012 season, Idonije signed with the Lions for 2013.  He then re-joined the Bears earlier this year, but he was cut in June.

Idonije landed with the Giants in early August, but the Giants have moved on.  Idonije instantly becomes a free agent, able to sign with any team.  If he has the same relentlessness that earned him a spot in the NFL in the first place, Idonije may not be done yet.

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Reports: Washington cuts Zach Hocker, keeps Silas Redd

Silas Redd AP

Washington has reportedly made a decision in its kicker competition.

The club will waive rookie Zach Hocker, John Keim of ESPN.com reported Saturday morning. The seventh-round pick from Arkansas had been challenging incumbent kicker Kai Forbath.

In other Washington personnel news, undrafted rookie tailback Silas Redd is set to make the 53-player roster, Dianna Marie Russini of NBC Washington reported. The former USC and Penn State running back led Washington in rushing yards (157) and carries (34) in the preseason.

While Washington will keep Redd, it will be releasing second-year tailback Chris Thompson, Lake Lewis Jr. of SportsJourney.com reported. A Florida State product, Thompson was a fifth-round pick in 2013.

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