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Falcons need Weatherspoon back to tighten run D

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

The Falcons’ 9-1 record doesn’t mask the fact they need to improve in the basic building blocks of a team — running the ball and run defense.

While they’ve generally been able to pass their way out of trouble (though Matt Ryan passed them into trouble last week), their run defense needs to get fixed quickly.

With Bucs rookie Doug Martin (1,000 rushing yards in 10 games) on deck, they have an immediate issue.

“This running team that we’re getting ready to face is doing a great job,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “The rookie running back has had some really explosive games. It will be a challenge for us.”

Even against teams without a front-line back, the Falcons have had issues. Cardinals backup-to-the-backup LaRod Stephens-Howling had runs of 40 and 52 yards. While the 35 yards on the other 20 carries doesn’t look so hot, Martin is more of a down-to-down threat.

“It’s not where we want it to be,” Smith said. “It’s got to be improved. But we are making progress. Some guys made some nice plays. The two explosive runs were definitely something that we don’t want to be dealing with.”

Part of the problem stems from the absence of linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who is getting closer to a return after missing three games with an ankle issue. That’s created alignment issues, with other players moving around to cover for him, and getting out of place. When he returns, Akeem Dent will go back to the middle in the base defense, which should stabilize things.

“Spoon is a run-and-hit linebacker,” Smith said. “Sean is one of our best football players, not only on the defensive side, but on our football team. We’ve missed him and we are looking forward to getting him back.”

If he can get back against the Bucs, it will be just in time.

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Jerry Jones identifies with John Daly because of course he does

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might not be a golfer, but he’s not exactly one to play it safe, either.

So it’s no surprise that he identifies with golfer John Daly more than most tour pros, since they seem to share a certain something.

During an interview on KRLD-FM 105.3, Jones got into a discussion about the bombastic golfer-turned sideshow, and philosophy as well.

“Well, John is – I guess it’s just obvious – when you’ve been down and out, seemingly, as many times as John has been, then you just become endeared to your fans,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “And that’s happened with John. We all know that no one’s had more foibles, or demonstrated more foibles, than John looks like than Jerry knows Jerry’s had.

“So it’s easy for me to identify with John. I like the way he plays the game. I like the way he does life. I think his swing, I think it’s indicitive of what John is about. That thing, when he draws back and hits it; he curls all the way around.  He’s got that big ol’ belly. He goes completely around and that golf club seems to touch the other toe and he just unwinds and hits that little ol’ ball on the other side of that 360-degree arc. Now that’s impossible to do almost. He does it almost every time. Imagine the leverage. It’s the way he hits life, I think.”

Jones has hit life the same way, in some regard, building the biggest stadium with the biggest TV in the middle of it, and  putting a team together in similar ways in his eternal quest for “glory hole.”

Then again, Daly hasn’t won a major since 1995. Come to think of it, that’s the last time the Cowboys got past the divisional round of the playoffs themselves.

So keep swinging hard boys, you’re at least entertaining the rest of us.

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Philip Rivers says it was “kind of fun” to be in scuffle with Seahawks

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Because they involves quarterbacks — who make the most money and get the most protections — fights involving quarterbacks tend to get attention.

But Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers laughed off his Saturday night scuffle with Seahawks pass-rusher Frank Clark, saying he sort of enjoyed it.

Via Eric Williams of, Rivers said he didn’t think it was a big deal at all.

“There’s been way more made of it than what there is,” Rivers said after Tuesday’s practice. “I always thought, shoot, what happens between the lines — what’s said and what’s done — kind of stays there.”

Of course, the NFL has sent out memos about curbing fighting on the field (as they made rule adjustments a year ago to curb abusive language on the field), so perhaps Rivers is just being old school.

After sacking Rivers, Clark appeared to push Rivers’ helmet back to the ground as he was getting up off the pile. Rivers pushed back, and Chargers tackle King Dunlap jerked Clark out of there, earning a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness for defending his quarterback.

“I certainly appreciate King and the guys sticking up for me,” Rivers said. “But there’s no hard feelings on my end — it was kind of fun to be in a little scuffle.”

The league might not necessarily agree with that assessment, at least if you believe they’re genuinely concerned about having fewer fights.

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Jon Beason’s progress has Tom Coughlin feeling optimistic

Jon Beason AP

Jon Beason still isn’t practicing, but he was running sprints with Giants trainers and working on the side Tuesday, which is enough to create optimism by and around the oft-injured middle linebacker.

Beason, who left a preseason game with a knee issue, is hoping to be back on the field by the regular season opener.

He feels better,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, via Stephen Lorenzo of the New York Daily News. “He’s got a routine now, and they get a little bit more aggressive each day with it. So he’s optimistic, let’s put it that way.”

Asked if he was too optimistic, given his injury record, Coughlin replied: “[Beason’s] optimistic. Whatever they tell me. I’m the eternal optimist.”

He needs to be in this case, one supposes. Beason has missed 40 games the last four years because of an assortment of injuries, so it’s reasonable to wonder. But the Giants are clearly better with him in the middle of the defense, so choosing to look at the glass as half-full is understandable for them as well.

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Barkley, Tebow competing in final preseason game

Matt Barkley, Tim Tebow AP

The final week of the preseason is mostly garbage, as teams rest their starters and give ample playing time to scrubs who are going to get cut the next day. But in Philadelphia, plenty of people will be watching the final preseason game to see the battle for the third-string quarterback job.

Matt Barkley will start for the Eagles on Thursday night and play the first half, and Tim Tebow will play the second half. The plan is that one of them will be the third-string quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez, while the other will get cut.

Neither player has been particularly impressive in the first three preseason games. Barkley’s passer rating is 66.6; Tebow’s is 67.2. Barkley, however, said he thinks he can show something off as a starter.

I’ll be excited – first start,” Barkley said. “Excited to get in a rhythm early on, get my feet going, get the ball moving. . . . I don’t feel any pressure at all. I don’t think it’s anything but just an exciting opportunity. I’ve been in this place to impress.”

Tebow, who has run for 50 yards on 10 carries in the preseason, is not much of a passer but may be able to use his mobility to make the Eagles’ roster. He says he’s striving to be a good teammate to Barkley even as the two of them realize that they’re trying to beat each other out.

“You’re competing for something, but at the same time, you want to do it the right way,” Tebow said. “You want to treat others the way you want to be treated the entire time – no matter what’s on the line, no matter what’s it stake. Because opportunities and positions are never more important than character.”

It’s entirely possible that neither Barkley nor Tebow will get any playing time for the Eagles this season. But one of them will likely make the roster, and that makes their Thursday night game interesting. At least by the standards of a Week Four preseason game.

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Titans nose tackle Sammie Hill may need knee surgery

Sammie Hill AP

Tennessee Titans nose tackle Sammie Hill may need surgery after suffering another knee injury last week.

According to John Glennon of the Tennessean, Hill injured his knee either in practice or early in the team’s preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday.

“We’re talking to the doctors to see,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “It feels better, but I don’t know yet.”

Hill suffered a knee injury during OTAs in May that kept him on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the start of training camp. He passed a physical and last week’s game against the Chiefs was his first game action of the preseason.

Hill played just four snaps against the Chiefs before being sidelined again.

Hill appeared in 15 games for the Titans last season and recorded 34 tackles and three sacks.

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Hard Knocks goes inside Mallett’s rough week

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It’s safe to assume Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett won’t be utilizing the ‘save forever’ function on his DVR when it comes to the fourth episode of the HBO series Hard Knocks: Houston Texans, which aired Tuesday night.

Eight days after Mallett was informed he’d lost the training camp battle for the Texans’ starting job and five days after he overslept and missed a practice, Mallett’s rough week was featured by Hard Knocks producers.

A longer version of the previous episode’s scene featuring Texans coach Bill O’Brien informing Mallett and Brian Hoyer of his decision to name Hoyer the starter aired this week. After O’Brien left the room, cameras showed Texans offensive coordinator George Godsey addressing both quarterbacks about the need to stay ready and do whatever is asked to help the team.

When Godsey finished talking, Mallett left the room without acknowledging Hoyer or Godsey.

Fast forward 20 or so minutes in another strong Hard Knocks episode and the reports that Mallett overslept last Thursday are confirmed. In one scene O’Brien is shown on the practice field telling a team security official not to check on Mallet and to call back a team official who’d been dispatched to check on him.

“I wouldn’t even try to call him,” cameras caught O’Brien saying. “Just let it go. He’s 27 years old. Tell Khalil (Reed, listed on the Texans’ website as a security and player engagement manager) to stop. He doesn’t need to do that s–t. Turn around and come back. F–k that.”

In the next scene Mallett is shown entering the office of general manager Rick Smith and discussing his missed practice.

“My phone turned off, man,” Mallett said. “I’m not about to (lie) or bulls–t you like that. I made a mistake. The timing f—–g looks so great. I went and got a battery alarm clock so it won’t happen again. I can’t even explain…when I woke up I was like, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me.'”

Mallett told Smith multiple times he wasn’t mad about being named the backup and that he just picked the wrong day to have his phone go dead.

After Smith told Mallett he needed to “take ownership,” Mallett responded by saying, “No question. I am not blaming technology. I didn’t get up. I’m not trying to make excuses to you, to Bill, to anybody. You don’t gotta worry about that s–t no more.”

Said Smith: “That’s a strong statement there. We need that consistency. We have to know we can count on you. If you need something, come holler at me. You can come here (any time).”

As the scene ends, Mallett tells Smith he’s been “feeling awkward just walking around the building.”

Maybe the HBO cameras made it worse.

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Fred Jackson says Doug Whaley wasn’t honest

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A couple of unnamed sources have claimed Bills G.M. Doug Whaley “went rogue” in cutting running back Fred Jackson. Jackson has an even stronger assessment of Whaley.

“There’s only one person in that organization that I haven’t gotten honesty from, and that was [Whaley],” Jackson told the Buffalo News, via Mike Rodak of

“It was a tough pill to swallow, especially because I felt like I can still contribute,” Jackson said. “They gave me a shot. I’ll always be happy about that, but . . . they closed the door on me playing there, too.”

Jackson leaves as the third leading rushing in team history, behind Hall of Famers Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson.

Whaley explained the decision to reporters on Monday, but Whaley’s comments had little meat. PFT reported that Jackson would have “done anything” to remain with the team, including taking less money. The Bills didn’t give Jackson that option.

If the Bills get back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, the incident likely will be forgotten by January. If, however, the Bills make it 16 straight years without a postseason berth, more than a few fans may be thinking of Jackson’s release when developing opinions on whether a new G.M. is needed.

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Report: Bills G.M. “went rogue” in cutting Fred Jackson

Terry Pegula, Doug Whaley, Rex Ryan, AP

As the Bills move on from running back Fred Jackson, it’s possible that the move resulted from the actions of one specific person in the organization.

Citing two unnamed sources, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reports that Bills G.M. Doug Whaley “went rogue” in cutting the veteran tailback.

As a source with knowledge of the situation explained it to PFT on Monday, it’s believed Whaley had wanted to cut Jackson since March, and that Whaley preferred Bryce Brown to Jackson. As PFT reported on Wednesday, Jackson would have “done anything” to stay with the team, but he never got the chance to take a pay cut or to make other concessions.

Graham says that the team will remain unified in any public comments on the situation. Privately, however, it’s hard not to wonder whether Whaley may have put even more pressure on himself by taking matters with Jackson into his own hands.

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Feely did indeed tell Judge Berman about the Jets K ball incident

Feely Getty Images

Last night, PFT surmised that free-agent kicker Jay Feely may have told Judge Richard M. Berman about the 2009 incident involving a Jets kicking ball during Feely’s unexpected trip to court in his capacity as a member of the NFL Players Association’s Executive Committee.

As it turns out, Feely did.

Appearing on The Doug Gottlieb Show, Feely said that he explained to Judge Berman the situation arising from a Jets-Patriots game.

“We talked about the similarities in that case and the differences in the way the NFL responded,” Feely said. “I didn’t get in trouble. I had no culpability in that case.”

As the kicker, Feely presumably would have been at least “generally aware” of the use of an unapproved piece of equipment by a Jets equipment employee, who was suspended as a result of the incident. But Feely was neither questioned nor disciplined.

It’s an important point, because the failure to investigate or to discipline Feely under similar circumstances shows that the NFL may have been acting arbitrarily in Brady’s case.

By Friday, we’ll find out whether Judge Berman agrees.

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Rex Ryan promises Buffalo is his last coaching job

Buffalo Bills v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Football coaches usually don’t stay in one place for long, but Rex Ryan is hoping he has several good years ahead of him in Buffalo. Because after he’s done coaching the Bills, that’s it.

Ryan told USA Today that he’s all done in coaching after he’s done with the Bills, so whatever goals he still has as a coach, he needs to accomplish them in Buffalo.

This is definitely going to be it,” Ryan said. “This is my last stop in coaching, and then when my days are up, I’ll turn it over to the younger generation. I’m not going anywhere else.”

The 52-year-old Ryan is young enough that he could have many years ahead of him: He’s a decade younger than Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, and a decade and a half younger than Tom Coughlin. But Ryan insists any years he has left in coaching will be with the Bills.

“I got news for you: I’m not changing. I’m going to be myself. I don’t care if you like it, or you dislike it. This is who I am,” Ryan said.

And he’ll keep being who he is in Buffalo, and then end his coaching career.

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Rolando McClain passes physical days before suspension starts

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain spent the start of training camp on the physically unable to perform list and will spend the start of the regular season on the reserve/suspended list. But for now, he’s ready for a brief stint on the active roster.

McClain has passed his physical and has been taken off the PUP list, and he’s back at practice. McClain has been out all offseason with a knee injury.

After seeming to get his career on track with the Cowboys last year, McClain was suspended this offseason for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He will miss the first four games of the season while serving his suspension.

But the good news for the Cowboys is that McClain will apparently be healthy when his suspension is over. The Cowboys are ready for him to get back on the field.

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Fifth-year options have no offset obligation

Phil Taylor AP

With the Browns deciding to cut defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who has a fully-guaranteed fifth-year option salary of $5.477 million, I initially assumed that the Browns would get a dollar-for-dollar credit for any money Taylor earns elsewhere.

As I often do, I assumed wrong.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says nothing about offset language in the fifth-year option, and the NFL Players Association believes there’s no offset obligation. Indeed, the offset duty applies only when affirmative offset language is added to a contract. Without that express language, there’s no offset.

Which means that Taylor could indeed get $5.477 million to not play for the Browns, along with whatever he makes elsewhere.

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Report: Julius Thomas to have surgery on injured finger Wednesday

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On Monday, Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said that tight end Julius Thomas was headed for a second opinion on the finger he broke in the team’s preseason opener and that surgery was a possibility depending on the evaluation.

It looks like Thomas is headed for the operating room. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Thomas will have the surgery on Wednesday and that he could miss the next month while recovering. That’s the same general timeline Caldwell gave while discussing the possibility of surgery on Monday.

It’s a blow to the Jaguars, who spent big to get Thomas as a free agent so that he could provide Blake Bortles with a reliable target in Bortles’s second season with the club. Bortles is 39-of-60 for 461 yards and a touchdown in the preseason.

Assuming the timeline holds up, Thomas should return to the lineup sometime around the team’s Week Four game against the Colts. Clay Harbor and Marcedes Lewis are the next tight ends up for the Jaguars, who will also likely look to second-year wideouts Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee more often with Thomas out of the lineup.

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Packers set their 75-man roster

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The Packers have made the necessary roster moves to get their roster down to 75 players.

It’s a list short on recognizable names other than wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who was placed on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in the team’s second preseason game of the summer.

Nelson’s injury didn’t help wide receivers Javess Blue, Jimmie Hunt or James Butler avoid the waiver wire. Their departures leave the Pack with eight wideouts still on the roster with Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis and Myles White looking like sure or strong bets to survive final cuts as well.

The Packers also waived linebacker Tavarus Dantzler, tackle Fabbians Ebbele, linebacker Josh Francis, defensive tackle Lavon Hooks, tackle Vince Kowalski, quarterback Matt Blanchard, linebacker Adrian Hubbard, defensive back Kyle Sebetic and tight end Harold Spears.

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Trindon Holliday among the cuts as Raiders get down to 75

Trindon Holliday, Seth Roberts AP

The NFL’s shortest player is among the cuts as the Raiders trimmed their roster to 75.

Kick returner Trindon Holliday, the 5-foot-5 former track star who has made some big plays but also had some costly fumbles in his NFL career, was among the veterans the Raiders cut today. Oakland also cut veteran cornerbacks James Dockery and Ras-I Dowling.

The Raiders waived punter Steven Clark, cornerback Rob Daniel, quarterback Cody Fajardo, receiver Josh Jarper, guard Lamar Mady, running back Trent Richardson, receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and receiver Milton Williams.

Offensive tackle Menelik Watson was placed on injured reserve with a ruptured Achilles, and safety Jimmy Hall was waived/injured.

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