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Jimmy Graham’s big day gets rewarded

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Saints’ attempt to dig out from under their 0-4 start to return to the playoff picture got a huge boost from Sunday’s 31-27 win over the Falcons.

Tight end Jimmy Graham played a big role in that winning effort. He caught seven passes for a career-high 146 yards and two touchdowns as the Saints handed the Falcons their first loss of the season. As a result of that performance, the NFL announced today that Graham is the NFC offensive player of the week.

Graham wasn’t the only tight end to have a good day in New Orleans. Tony Gonzalez had 11 catches and two touchdowns, good enough to earn him (and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan) consideration for weekly honors despite the loss.

It was the first time this season that Graham topped 100 receiving yards in a game, although he has been on a pretty good roll since returning from an ankle injury three weeks ago. Graham has 20 catches for 281 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games, two of which have been Saints wins. The Saints will need him to keep producing at that level to keep their chances of moving on to the postseason alive. Based on recent results, Graham should be able to do that if he remains healthy.

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Ben Roethlisberger impressed by “phenomenal player” Marcus Peters

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 06:  Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs warms up prior to playing the Kansas City Chiefs in their NFL game at O.co Coliseum on December 6, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

It may only be Marcus Peters‘ second season in the NFL, but he’s already made an impression on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger will face Peters for the first time this Sunday. Even though the Steelers faced the Kansas City Chiefs last year, Roethlisberger didn’t play due to injury. Landry Jones started instead for the Steelers.

Nevertheless, Peters has left a mark on Big Ben.

He catches every ball that is thrown his way. What a phenomenal player,” Roethlisberger said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star.

“Offensive guys always make fun of defensive players — they play defense because they can’t catch. Well, he can catch everything. It hits him in the hands, he catches it. It bounces in the air, he catches it.

“The way that he reads routes, the way that he jumps routes, it just seems like he almost has the team’s offensive playbook.”

Peters is coming off AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors after intercepting Ryan Fitzpatrick twice last Sunday against the New York Jets. He’s already compiled 12 career interceptions and 33 passes defended in 19 career games with the Chiefs.

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Seahawks waive Terrence Magee to clear space for C.J. Spiller

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 13: Terrence Magee #30 of the Baltimore Ravens warms up against the New Orleans Saints during a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 13, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the addition of former New Orleans Saints running back C.J. Spiller on Thursday evening, the Seattle Seahawks needed to free up a roster spot.

To do so, they waived running back Terrence Magee.

Magee was signed from Seattle’s practice squad to their 53-man roster on Saturday with Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise both unable to play against the San Francisco 49ers.

Magee played limited snaps in the game and rushed for 12 yards on three carries.

Rawls is expected to miss several weeks with a cracked fibula. Prosise has a cracked bone in his wrist that has kept him from playing the last two weeks and will take several more weeks to fully heal.

Spiller’s addition gives Seattle an immediate option as a third-down back to pair with Christine Michael until the rest of their running backs can get back to full strength.

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Report: Dez Bryant missed meetings and MRI, was fined by team

Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant smiles as he jogs back to the sideline after catching a pass for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) AP

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has been fined by the team for missing an MRI and team meetings on Tuesday, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Bryant missing the MRI explains why the hairline fracture Bryant has in his right knee wasn’t diagnosed until Wednesday. The report said Bryant showed up at the team’s facility Tuesday too late for an MRI to be performed.

Bryant was injured Sunday night vs. the Bears, and Cowboys players had Monday off. After the diagnosis, his status for Sunday’s game at the 49ers is uncertain.

The report did not state the amount of Bryant’s fine.

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President Obama elaborates on NFL anthem protests

President Barack Obama pauses during a break in taping of a CNN town hall meeting with CNN news anchor Jake Tapper, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, in Fort Lee, Va., with members of the military community. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) AP

During a Presidential Town Hall that aired Wednesday night on CNN, President Barack Obama faced a variety of questions from service members and their families. One member of the armed services asked a pointed question about the ongoing anthem protests happening during football games.

“Mr. President,” said First Lieutenant James Sutter, “we honor those who have given deep meaning to the phrase ‘home of the brave’ by making the ultimate sacrifice for the land of the free.  Lately, some players in the NFL have been choosing to take a knee during the national anthem, a time which I believe should be reserved to respect our service members.  As Commander-in-Chief, how do you feel about those NFL players choosing this typically respected time to voice their opinions?”

“As I’ve said before, I believe that us honoring our flag and our anthem is part of what binds us together as a nation,” President Obama said. “And I think that for me, for my family, for those who work in the White House, we recognize what it means to us, but also what it means to the men and women who are fighting on our behalf. But I’m also always trying to remind folks that part of what makes this country special is that we respect people’s rights to have a different opinion and to make different decisions about how they want to express their concerns. And the test of our fidelity to our Constitution, to freedom of speech, to our Bill of Rights is not when it’s easy, but when it’s hard. We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with, but that’s what freedom means in this country.

“My hope would be that as this debate surfaces, we’re always reminding ourselves that in a democracy like ours, there are gonna be a lot of folks who do stuff that we just don’t agree with. But as long as they’re doing it within the law, then we can voice our opinion objecting to it, but it’s also their right.

“And I think that it’s also important for us to recognize that sometimes out of these controversies we start getting into a conversation, and I want everybody to listen to each other. So I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who for example had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing. But I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody who’s lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.

“And one of the things I always say about American democracy is that it can be frustrating but it’s the best system we got. The only way that we make it work is to see each other, listen to each other, try to be respectful of each other, not just go into separate corners. And I do hope that anybody who’s trying to express any political view of any sort understands that they do so under the blanket of protection of our men and women in uniform, and that that appreciation of that sacrifice is never lost.”

It sounds good in theory, but it’s hardly an accurate reflection of modern political discourse, where middle grounds are never acknowledged, and where so many people have a hardened belief that their view is correct and anyone who disagrees with them is stupid, corrupt, and/or un-American.

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Who has the best defense?

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after scoring a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 26, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Wednesday’s PFT Live, Broncos safety T.J. Ward made the case for his team having the best defense in the NFL. So we’ve decided to put it out to a vote on Thursday’s PFT Live.

Cast a ballot below, and then add a comment below that — including any and all complaints about teams included and excluded from the list of finalists.

Then tune in at 6:00 a.m. ET for the three-hour tour of the National Football League. The first hour airs only on NBC Sports Radio. The next two are simulcast on NBCSN.

Guests include Falcons running back Devonta Freeman, who’ll face the Panthers on Sunday.

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Palmer tells Goff to be patient, prepare diligently

OXNARD, CA - MAY 06:  Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams and quarterback coach Chris Weinke discuss a play during a Los Angeles Rams rookie camp on May 06, 2016 in Oxnard, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

As a former No. 1 overall pick who didn’t play immediately, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has been where Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff is.

Palmer’s advice for Goff includes maximizing his time on the sideline and studying for Sundays knowing he won’t be a backup or a spectator for long.

“You have a chance to watch how you prepare as a starter, how you go about your business as a starter, especially if you’re coming from a very non pro-style offense,” Palmer said Wednesday. “Seeing how offenses prepare, seeing the different pressures you’re going to see and the different defenses you’re going to see…it’s tough if you’re not ready and you get thrown in there. If you struggle it can linger, so I think it’s important.”

The Bengals made Palmer the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft. He spent his entire rookie season watching from the sideline before taking over in 2004. Goff, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, is currently waiting behind Case Keenum.

Palmer said he understands every situation is different and said that while Goff waits, he needs to make sure he’s improving and mastering the offense.

“There’s such a fine line between throwing a guy in there, making him play…and he knows he’s going to go in and struggle because the team is not good like some guys have been,” Palmer said. “The Rams are different. That’s a very good team. They don’t need to throw a rookie in there and him learn on the run and the team suffer.”

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Russell Wilson fully participates in practice

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the San Francisco 49ers at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 37-18.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

High ankle sprain? Big deal. MCL sprain in the other leg? So what?

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has shrugged off both injuries to fully participate in practice on Wednesday.

The development is an encouraging sign regarding Wilson’s potential availability for Sunday’s game at the Jets.

Running back Thomas Rawls (fibula) didn’t practice. Limited were tight end Jimmy Graham (knee), tight end Nick Vannett (ankle), guard Germain Ifedi (ankle), receiver Tyler Lockett (knee), and linebacker Mike Morgan (hip).

Running back CJ Prosise (wrist) and defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring) fully participated.

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Brian Cushing returns to practice, could play Sunday

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09:  Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans leaves the field after their 30-0 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The good news for the Texans, if there can be any on the day three-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt landed on IR, is that linebacker Brian Cushing could be back in the lineup, as soon as Sunday.

Cushing has returned to practice, two weeks and three days after injuring his MCL.

“It’s really good to get him back,” coach Bill O’Brien told reporters. “He looked good today. Moving around and looks like he’s ramping it up to be able to play in the game.”

O’Brien was noncommittal regarding whether Cushing will play against the Titans.

“The expectation is that he’s going to practice tomorrow and we’re going to see where that is,” O’Brien said. “Then he’ll practice Friday and we’ll see where that is.”

“[J]ust a lot of hard work,” Cushing said when explaining his ability to return so quickly. “I didn’t want to believe it would be four to six [weeks]. I’m not saying I’m all the way back yet. I’m not saying for sure what I’m doing, but I know I practiced today. I know I felt good. I’m happy about the progress, that’s for sure. I’ve been hurt too much in my career, in my opinion. It’s something that I don’t want to do anymore, or want to be, so anything I can do to get back and get out there as soon as I possibly can and be healthy and be effective, I’ll do. Just excited to be back out there with the guys.”

Cushing said there’s a “possibility” he’ll play Sunday, but that they’re “taking it day by day.”

The Texans may be a little hesitant to put Cushing back on the field so quickly, after what happened to Watt. But Cushing said that, structurally, his knee is “great.” If so, there’s no reason for Cushing to not play.

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Spiller plans to sign with Seahawks

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 13: Running back C.J. Spiller #28 of the New Orleans Saints runs with the ball in the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** C.J. Spiller Getty Images

Veteran running back C.J. Spiller will sign with the Seahawks, per multiple reports.

The Saints cut Spiller earlier this month. The Seahawks have been hit hard by injury at the running back position, so taking a flyer on Spiller makes sense.

Spiller, 29, played for the Saints last season after five seasons in Buffalo. He has 12 rushing touchdowns and eight receiving touchdowns in his career.

The Seahawks are planning to be without injured starter Thomas Rawls for a few weeks, so Spiller will probably get a chance to play on third downs behind Christine Michael while he catches up with the offense.

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Dolphins cut Justin Hunter

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 23: Justin Hunter #15 of the Tennessee Titans runs for a touchdown after making a catch in the second quarter of the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 23, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins released wide receiver Justin Hunter on Wednesday.

The Dolphins play in Cincinnati Thursday night. The timing of Hunter’s release indicates the Dolphins need a roster spot due to injury or other circumstances and could promote someone from their practice squad.

Hunter was released by the Titans in early September and claimed by the Dolphins. He played in one game this season and did not record a reception.

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Jets waive Dee Milliner from injured reserve

New York Jets v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The disappointing Jets tenure of Dee Milliner has now officially come to an end.

Milliner, the former No. 9 overall pick in the draft, was waived/injured before the start of the regular season, and when he cleared waivers he went to the Jets’ injured reserve list. Now the Jets have waived him off their injured reserve.

That means if any team wants Milliner, he can be claimed on waivers. If he goes unclaimed he’ll become an unrestricted free agent and can play this season, assuming he’s healthy enough to do so. If he had stayed on the Jets’ injured reserve he wouldn’t have been able to play this year.

An excellent cornerback at Alabama, Milliner was a big disappointment in the NFL. He may still have a chance to catch on somewhere else, but he’s now officially done as a Jet.

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Rams claim Marqui Christian off waivers from Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 01:  Defensive back Marqui Christian #25 of the Arizona Cardinals in action during the preseaon NFL game against the Denver Broncos aat the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 38-17.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals and Rams will square off this Sunday and the Rams have added a former member of the Arizona secondary to their roster ahead of the game.

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Rams claimed safety Marqui Christian off of waivers on Wednesday, a day after the Cardinals dropped him as part of a series of transactions. The Cardinals said the move was due to the need to bring in another punter while Drew Butler is recovering from ankle and Achilles injuries.

Christian was a fifth-round pick by the Cardinals in April. He starred at Division II Midwestern State and was named the top small college defensive player last year, but hasn’t played in the regular season as it appears the leap in levels to the NFL has been a big one.

He may have some insight into the Cardinals that the Rams could find useful over the next couple of days, however.

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Chargers list Bosa as limited again

San Diego Chargers rookie defensive end Joey Bosa trains during an NFL football rookie training camp Friday, May 13, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull) AP

Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice due to a hamstring injury.

That means it’s a new week but the same story for Bosa, who’s still trying to get healthy enough to make his NFL debut.

The No. 3 pick in last year’s draft participated his first practice in pads last week but was ultimately held out of last weekend’s game. Bosa missed almost all of training camp and the preseason due to a contract dispute, then was injured in his first practice back.

Veteran tight end Antonio Gates remained out of practice with a hamstring injury. Offensive tackle King Dunlap missed practice due to migraines, coach Mike McCoy told reporters.

The Chargers host the Saints on Sunday.

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Hue Jackson won’t say whether Alvin Bailey will play on Sunday

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Tackle Alvin Bailey #78 of the Seattle Seahawks looks on during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at CenturyLink Field on September 22, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Two days after offensive lineman Alvin Bailey was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, it’s unclear whether the Browns will take action against him for it.

“We will see,” coach Hue Jackson told reporters on Wednesday. “Obviously, this is a league matter. Those kind of things that happen, I’m not very excited about it at all. There will be consequences for it, but we have to follow league protocol as far as that is concerned. We will do what we feel is right.”

Alcohol offenses fall under the NFL’s exclusive jurisdiction, via the substance-abuse policy. A first offense generally results in a two-game suspension.

While teams can’t fine players accused of DUI or suspend them without pay, players can be released for arrests (like the Bucs did last week with tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins), they can make them inactive on game day, and they can choose not to play them, even if they are active.

So will Bailey play on Sunday against Washington?

“You will find that out on Sunday,” Jackson said.

The Browns may have a separate problem in this case. Bailey reportedly told police he drank on the team flight back from Miami. Nine years ago, however, the NFL banned teams from providing alcohol on team flights.

There’s currently no evidence the team provided alcohol to Bailey or any other player. However, there’s also no evidence that Bailey or any other player snuck a bottle of booze or a six-pack of beer onto the charter, either.

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NFL, Tom Coughlin’s agent deny meeting with Pegulas occurred

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 03:  Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants reacts in the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles during their game at MetLife Stadium on January 3, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

If Tom Coughlin eventually will be getting back into coaching in 2017 (or sooner), there’s no current effort in Buffalo to make that happen.

Both Coughlin’s current employer (the NFL) and Coughlin’s agent (Sandy Montag) have denied a report that emerged over the weekend indicating that Coughlin had met with Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

“This meeting did not happen,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT via email on Wednesday.

“I do confirm that a meeting did not occur,” Montag told PFT via email.

The Bills opted to say nothing, citing a “longstanding practice not to respond to media posts based on rumors.” While accounts of the Coughlin-Pegula meeting may have begun as rumor, Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported that a meeting occurred.

The fact that the Bills scored an unlikely win over the Cardinals likely contributed to the fizzling of the rumor/report. But if the Bills struggle again, talk of Coughlin could resurface. Regardless of what happens in the future, the NFL and Coughlin’s agent have been unequivocal: No meeting happened.

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