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Weeden says Browns ran routes they hadn’t practiced

Cleveland Bowns v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Maybe next week they’ll just draw them up in the dirt. 

Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden explained some high throws against the Cowboys last week by saying certain routes his receivers ran in Dallas weren’t practiced during the week.

“There’s a couple of routes we ran on Sunday for the first time all week and that’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to the receivers, it’s not fair to any of us, because when you’re getting thrown in the fire and the bullets are flying . . .” Weeden told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. 

Weeden kept talking, saying his elbow was low on some throws. And coach Pat Shurmur disagreed, saying practice wasn’t the problem.

“I disagree with some of that because I do think that we make an effort of the ones we’re going to call we practice,” Shurmur said. “A lot of the plays that we practice, we’ve been running all year and you run them in training camp. It’s nearly impossible with the amount of time and then the length of the season to practice every single thing multiple times. You see it going on behind me [after practice] right now. 

“They spend extra time working on the individual routes. That’s what you’ve got to do.”

Weeden admitted it would be impossible to run every route for every player in practice, as you’d like to have some degree of legs left for game day.

“We can’t be out there for three hours and we can’t go out and run every single route and make every throw,” he said. “It’s tough. That’s why I like to do it after practice, walk through them or whatever. And you look at guys like Peyton Manning, that’s what he does. Those guys are on point because he takes a lot of pride in being on time with all of his guys.”

Honestly, this sounds like a problem bigger than practice reps, as if there’s a communication problem between players and coaches and players themselves.

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Patriots put Alfonzo Dennard on IR

Dennard AP

The Patriots have lost some of their enviable cornerback depth.

The club placed reserve corner Alfonzo Dennard on injured reserve on Saturday. To replace Dennard on the roster, the club called up wide receiver Josh Boyce from the practice squad.

The 25-year-old Dennard has started 20 games in three seasons with New England, but he had fallen down the depth chart in 2014. Nevertheless, he was an experienced option to call upon if needed. Dennard had been ruled out of Sunday’s regular-season finale vs. Buffalo with a hamstring injury.

Boyce, 23, appeared in nine games for New England in 2013, catching nine passes for 121 yards. However, New England waived him after the 2014 preseason, then re-signed him to the practice squad. A TCU product, Boyce was a fourth-round pick in 2013.

Boyce’s promotion comes with wide receivers Julian Edelman (thigh, concussion) and Brandon LaFell (shoulder) questionable for Sunday. The Patriots have clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC and are in a position to rest starters if they so choose — and it appears they will, at least to some extent.

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Gordon may appeal suspension

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It’s known that Browns receiver Josh Gordon won’t play in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Ravens.  It isn’t known whether Gordon will simply accept the suspension.

Per a league source, Gordon will explore all options — including the possibility of an appeal through the NFL Players Association.  According to the source, it’s not yet known whether Gordon’s suspension applies with or without pay.  If unpaid, it’s far more likely that Gordon will appeal.

The suspension, if unpaid, limits Gordon to five regular-season games in 2014.  Some league insiders believe that prevents him from adding an accrued season toward free agency; the plain language of Article 8 of the 2011 labor deal seems to suggest that Gordon will get a year of credit toward free agency, since Article 8 says nothing about losing a year of credit due to substance-abuse suspensions or team-imposed suspensions.

The question becomes whether Gordon will receive credit for the third year of his four-year contract by playing in only five games.  The Joey Galloway decision suggests that credit will be applied, despite the lingering language of paragraph 16 of the standard player contract, which suggests that any failure or refusal to perform a player’s duties results in a one-year extension of the deal.

None of it matters unless the Browns decide to suspend Gordon without pay and then take the position that he remains under contract through 2016.  If that happens, there apparently will be two separate squabbles to resolve between player and team.

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Browns WR Phil Bates won’t play Sunday

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The practice-squad player whom the Browns called up to take the place of suspended wideout Josh Gordon will not play Sunday.

According to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Browns announced wideout Phil Bates has been ruled out of tomorrow’s game against the Ravens. It’s unclear why Bates won’t play, but the club did say it was not an injury-related decision, per the Beacon Journal. Bates did not accompany the club to Baltimore, according to the report.

The 25-year-old Bates appeared in one regular season game with Seattle earlier this year. He has spent about two months on Cleveland’s practice squad.

With Gordon and Bates out, the Browns have five available receivers: Travis Benjamin, Taylor Gabriel, Andrew Hawkins, Marlon Moore and Rodney Smith. However, Hawkins is questionable with a thumb injury, though he did put in a limited practice on Friday after not practicing Wednesday. (The club had Thursday off.)

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Report: Browns fine Johnny Manziel for being late for treatment

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Josh Gordon isn’t the only high-profile player in trouble with the Browns.

Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel has been fined by the team for being late for treatment on his injured hamstring, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

That news was broken just hours after the Browns announced that Gordon is suspended for the regular-season finale for missing today’s walk-through practice. Manziel is on injured reserve and was not expected at the walk-through, but the report that he didn’t show up on time for treatment is concerning.

Manziel’s tardiness today comes just days after he vowed to take his work more seriously. Apparently taking work seriously doesn’t include showing up to work on time.

So now the Browns, at the end of a season that showed some promise, are ending the season on a low note: Their best offensive playmaker is such a troublemaker that his future with the team is in question, and their franchise quarterback doesn’t show up to work on time.

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Rolando McClain to miss regular-season finale with illness

Delanie Walker, J J Wilcox, Rolando McClain AP

Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain didn’t make the trip to Washington for Sunday’s regular-season finale.

The Cowboys have announced that McClain has an illness and will not play.

Sunday’s game is not particularly important for the Cowboys, as they’re likely to be the No. 3 seed in the NFC playoffs regardless of whether they win or lose. As a result, it makes sense to rest McClain and any other player who’s less than 100 percent healthy.

It’s been a rough week for McClain, who also lost his Alabama home to a suspicious fire.

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Buffalo shakeup could result in Polian reunion

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The silence has become deafening in Buffalo regarding the intentions of new owners Terry and Kim Pegula regarding the future of the franchise.  There’s growing speculation and rumor in league circles that the team’s immediate future could include a blast from the past.

Some in league circles firmly believe that, as soon as Monday, former Bills G.M. Bill Polian could be returning to the team.  It’s unclear what his role and duties would be; Polian and the Bills could try to engineer the job title and description in a way that doesn’t re-set the clock on his looming election to the Hall of Fame.  Nominated for the first time in the new contributor category, Polian’s candidacy will be debated and determined on January 31.

It’s also unclear what would happen after Polian’s return, if that indeed occurs.  Some think that G.M. Doug Whaley and CEO Russ Brandon would be in jeopardy, based on factors such as the ill-advised decision to use a first-round pick on quarterback EJ Manuel in 2013 and the surrender of a first-round pick and fourth-round pick in 2015 to move up five spots in the 2014 draft for receiver Sammy Watkins. Some saw the trade as a way to get to the postseason right away, increasing the chances of sticking with the franchise under new ownership.

Brandon, who was hired by the team in 1997 and who rose to a key level of influence in 2006, doesn’t have much to show for his time in Buffalo.  More importantly, he has no pre-existing connection to or allegiance with the Pegulas, who may want their own people to run the team.

The wild card moving forward is coach Doug Marrone.  Polian recently praised the second-year coach, which could be a sign that, if Polian gets the reins in Buffalo, Marrone won’t get the boot.

“Doug Marrone, the Bills’ head coach, should be very much in the running for coach of the year,” Polian said on ESPN earlier this month.  “The Packers are a much better team, but they weren’t yesterday in Ralph Wilson Stadium, and that’s to Doug Marrone’s credit, that’s to [defensive coordinator] Jim Schwartz’s credit and that team’s credit.”

Some think Polian would find a role in Buffalo for his son, Chris, who currently serves as the director of pro personnel in Jacksonville.  At one point, it was believed that Bill Polian was trying to set the table for Chris to become the G.M. of the Colts.  Then came the disastrous 2011 season, which resulted in owner Jim Irsay cleaning the decks.

While 2014 was hardly a disaster for the Bills, it’s been 15 years since the franchise last qualified for the postseason.  Which means that whatever they’ve been doing hasn’t been working.  Which means that a guy whose work helped the team to four straight Super Bowl appearances could soon be back in the fold.

UPDATE 6:07 p.m. ET:  Joe Horrigan, the Executive V.P. of Museums, Selection Process & Chief Communications Officer for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, tells PFT that the clock does not reset for contributors.  So Polian can return to the NFL and be elected to the Hall of Fame.  Which would make 2015 a pretty good year for Polian.

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Browns suspend Josh Gordon for violating team rules

Cleveland Browns v St. Louis Rams 8-8-2013 Getty Images

Josh Gordon is suspended again.

Gordon, the wide receiver who began this season on a suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, has now been suspended by the Browns for violating team rules.

The Browns have not revealed what Gordon did, but PFT has confirmed the multiple reports that he missed today’s walk-through practice. Whatever the reasons, this suspension provides Gordon’s detractors with one more reason to think that he simply doesn’t get it. Gordon has phenomenal talent — as much talent as almost any wide receiver in football — but his history of off-field problems stretches back to college and may end up derailing his career.

If Gordon ever gets himself straightened out and dedicates himself to being a professional, he’ll be among the league’s elite players. If not, he’ll be remembered as a player who let his great talent go to waste.

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Brady, Gronk, Revis likely won’t last long on Sunday

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady both said this week that they take Sunday’s regular-season finale seriously, even though they’ve already clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. But the reality is that the Patriots likely won’t approach this game like any other regular-season game.

Instead, top players like Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Darrelle Revis are likely to start but get pulled early to avoid risking an injury.

That’s the word from the Patriots’ website, which notes that Belichick’s usual approach is to play the starters just long enough so they don’t get rusty, but then pull them fairly early in the game.

Belichick did famously keep playing his starters into Week 17 in 2007, when the Patriots were en route to the only 16-0 regular season in NFL history. But without a historical accomplishment like that on the line, it seems unlikely that Belichick would want to leave Brady and Co. on the field for long. The Patriots know first hand that a Week 17 injury can be costly, as Wes Welker suffered a torn ACL in Week 17 of the 2009 season.

So expect to see Brady throwing to Gronkowski early in the game on Sunday. But not after halftime.

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League has no comment on report of Casserly contacting Jets candidates

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On the surface, the report from that former NFL G.M. Charley Casserly has begun contacting potential coaching and G.M. candidates for the Jets seems reasonable and expected.  At a deeper level, the report (if true) creates potential problems.

If Casserly is indeed contacting candidates currently under contract with other teams, he’s engaging in tampering.  The potential violation becomes more glaring in light of the fact that he currently works for the NFL, through its in-house media conglomerate.

The league has no comment on the situation.  One league source with knowledge of Casserly’s efforts tells PFT that he’s making calls about candidates, but that Casserly is not directly contacting candidates.

What makes the situation a bit more complicated is the report from the New York Daily News that Casserly has been doing background work on candidates in connection with his role as a member of the NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel.  That connection makes Casserly more attractive to the Jets as a potential consultant, because he’s in position to provide much more meaningful input given his role on the panel that identifies the best candidates for the looming wave of vacancies.

Whether individual teams should be in position to purchase the information and access obtained by members of the advisory panel by hiring them as consultants is a philosophical question the league needs to address, if it so chooses.  For now, Jets owner Woody Johnson’s decision to retain a consultant who is in a unique position to provide consultation is one of the smartest moves Johnson has made in a long time.

Then again, when it comes to smart moves made by Johnson, the bar is pretty low.

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Watt could be first defensive player since 2008 to get an MVP vote

Watt Getty Images

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt probably won’t win the Most Valuable Player award. But if he even gets a vote, he’ll be doing something rare for a defensive player.

The league MVP award is voted upon by 50 members of the media, chosen by the Associated Press. And those 50 members of the media almost never vote for a defensive player.

In fact, no defensive player has received even one MVP vote since 2008, when James Harrison of the Steelers got three votes. Here’s how the MVP votes have broken down this century, with the AP sometimes having fewer than 50 voters and some voters occasionally splitting their votes between two candidates:

2013: Peyton Manning 49, Tom Brady 1
2012: Adrian Peterson 30.5, Peyton Manning 19.5
2011: Aaron Rodgers 48, Drew Brees 2
2010: Tom Brady 50
2009: Peyton Manning 39.5, Drew Brees 7.5, Philip Rivers 2, Brett Favre 1
2008: Peyton Manning, 32, Chad Pennington 4, Michael Turner 4, Adrian Peterson 3, James Harrison 3, Philip Rivers 2, Chris Johnson 1, Kurt Warner 1
2007: Tom Brady 49, Brett Favre 1
2006: LaDainain Tomlinson 44, Drew Brees 4, Peyton Manning 2
2005: Shaun Alexander 19, Peyton Manning 13, Tom Brady 10, Tiki Barber 6, Carson Palmer 2
2004: Peyton Manning 47, Michael Vick 1
2003: Peyton Manning 16, Steve McNair 16, Tom Brady 8, Jamal Lewis 5, Priest Holmes 3, Ray Lewis 2
2002: Rich Gannon 19, Brett Favre 15, Steve McNair 11, Priest Holmes 1, Derrick Brooks 1, Michael Vick 1
2001: Kurt Warner 21.5, Marshall Faulk 17.5 votes, Brett Favre 5, Kordell Stewart 4, Brian Urlacher 2
2000: Marshall Faulk 24, Donovan McNabb 11, Eddie George 8, Rich Gannon 5, Peyton Manning 1, Ray Lewis 1

As you can see, it’s virtually impossible for a defensive player to win the MVP award, or even to come close: Only Harrison, Ray Lewis, Derrick Brooks and Brian Urlacher have received any votes at all, and they were distant also-rans.

If Watt gets four MVP votes this year, he’ll have the most of any defensive player in the 21st century. That’s a major accomplishment. Just not an accomplishment that comes with a trophy he can put on his mantle.

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Full-blown Bears house-cleaning could be coming

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Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s predictions regarding the team’s future could end up being a lot more accurate than many of his passes this year.

Cutler recently acknowledged that “everyone could get axed.”  There’s chatter in league circles that that could indeed be the case.

By “everyone,” the scuttlebutt includes everyone.  From coach Marc Trestman to G.M. Phil Emery to team president Ted Phillips, who has held the position for nearly 16 years.

Cutler could still stay, depending on who gets the coaching job going forward.  With Mike Shanahan, who traded up to draft Cutler nearly nine years ago, making it clear that he wants to get back into the NFL, Shanahan becomes the obvious pick to try to turn Cutler around — if ownership decides not to bite the bullet on the millions still owed to Cutler under the contract negotiated by Emery or to give Cutler away to another team to avoid paying the money.

Regardless, big changes could be coming in Chicago after one of the worst seasons the franchise has endured.

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Harbaugh, 49ers move closer to divorce

Harbaugh Getty Images

Soon after the season ends, the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh are destined to be no longer engaged in an employer-employee relationship.  To his credit, Harbaugh isn’t telling any untruths or half-truths about the future.  To their blame, the 49ers continue to allow the clear and unmistakable impression to exist that Harbaugh’s days can be counted.

Presently, they can be counted on the hand of a guy who has lost two or three fingers to a table saw and/or cherry bomb.

Instead of a Saban-style denial, Harbaugh reiterated a Dr. Seuss-style saying on Friday when asked again about the immediate future.

“What will happen, will happen,” Harbaugh told reporters.  “What will not happen, won’t happen.”

No one quite knows exactly what will happen.  While many in the media have reported/predicted that Harbaugh will be traded, we’ve mentioned once or twice (or more often) that the logistics require a level of patience and planning in which the two sides may not be willing to engage.  The details make a trade highly unlikely, which in turn makes that pair of third-round picks that the 49ers would have gotten from Cleveland in February as a practical matter unavailable.

Whatever the reason(s) for the coming split, it’s unprecedented to see a coach who had so much success right out of the gates leave a team so quickly.  Maybe a book eventually be written on what actually happened; maybe volumes can be penned from each of the many perspectives.  Maybe the disappointment of getting so close to a sixth Super Bowl win in three straight years created a level of angst that eroded the relationship.

Or maybe the 49ers didn’t want to accept the fact that most coaches can be hard to work with at times, and that organizations capable of realizing they have an excellent head coach will find a way to work around the edges of a unique personality that drives a man to make coaching football at the highest level a 365-day passion.

Or maybe it’s the money.  Harbaugh has wanted to push a sluggish market toward $10 million per year.  The 49ers privately have dismissed his demands by saying he wants to be paid like a Super Bowl-winning coach without winning a Super Bowl.  Perhaps it’s time for Super Bowl-winning coaches — and close-to-Super-Bowl-winning coaches — to be paid a lot more.

For everyone else connected to the NFL, their compensation has continued to move upward and upward, every year.  For head coaches, it hasn’t moved much at all in the last decade.  Harbaugh tried to buck that, and now he’ll be looking elsewhere for the payday he wasn’t able to obtain from the 49ers.

If the unwillingness to increase head-coaching compensation in a way that reflects the overall growth of revenues, profits, and franchise values applies universally across the league, maybe the only way to get the kind of money Harbaugh deserves will be to accept the reported $8 million per year from Michigan.

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Jason Pierre-Paul: “I think I am worth a lot of money” in free agency

Jason Pierre-Paul AP

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is set to become a free agent in March, and he’s planning to cash in.

“I think I am worth a lot of money,” Pierre-Paul told ESPN.

Pierre-Paul has started all 15 games and recorded 10.5 sacks this season, and he believes that either the Giants or some other team will be willing to pay handsomely for that kind of production.

“I don’t know what my future holds,” Pierre-Paul said. “Who knows if I am going to be in a Giant uniform, who knows where I am going to be in the offseason. Like I said, now, the numbers are there, I had a great season, and everybody sees it. There really is nothing else to say, just negotiations and it is coming.”

Pierre-Paul says he’d like to stay with the Giants, but it’s a business decision. He’ll pick the team that’s best for his bottom line.

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Report: Casserly contacting candidates to be Jets’ GM, coach

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Charley Casserly, the former Redskins and Texans general manager who’s now working as a consultant for Jets owner Woody Johnson, is already contacting candidates to be the Jets’ next head coach and next General Manager.

That’s the word from Dom Cosentino of, who reports that the Jets are moving quickly on the idea that head coach Rex Ryan and General Manager John Idzik both figure to be fired after Sunday’s season finale.

Ryan hasn’t been told he’s fired, but that move is so clearly coming that Ryan has already reportedly cleared out his office. Idzik’s firing hasn’t been seen as quite the sure thing that Ryan’s is, but given the lack of talent on the roster, and particularly Idzik’s inability to find a franchise quarterback, it’s easy to see why Idzik would get the boot as well.

Big changes are needed with the Jets. It appears that Johnson will begin making those changes within the next 48 hours.

UPDATE 11:40 a.m. ET:  The league has no comment on the possibility that, if the report is correct, Casserly and the Jets are violating the league’s tampering rules.

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Chargers worked out Austin Pettis

Austin Pettis AP

The Chargers reportedly took a late-season look at a notable free agent wide receiver.

According to ESPN’s Adam Caplan, the Chargers put former Rams receiver Austin Pettis through a workout on Wednesday. He remains unsigned.

The Chargers could be down a key receiver for the regular-season finale at Kansas City, with second-year pro Keenan Allen doubtful with ankle and shoulder injuries.

The 26-year-old Pettis caught 107 passes for 1,034 yards with nine touchdowns in four seasons with the Rams, who released him in October. In November, he worked out for the Seahawks, Caplan reported. He also got an audition with the Panthers.

NFL teams can start signing free agents to 2015 offseason rosters beginning on Monday.

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