Erik Kuselias talks with the ageless Tony Gonzalez about the Falcons’ near-perfect season, when he’ll hang it up, and his thoughts who will present him into the NFL Hall of Fame.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: One-on-one with Tony Gonzalez
The Chiefs released tight end Tony Moeaki off of injured reserve in October, leaving him free to sign with any other team in the league that wanted to bring him on board.
He’s availed himself of that option and joined the Bills. Buffalo announced Wednesday afternoon that they’ve signed a player whose four NFL seasons have been a mixture of promising play and serious injuries.
Moeaki had 47 catches for 556 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie in 2010, but his second season was wiped out by a knee injury in the preseason. He returned last year to catch 33 passes for 453 yards and a touchdown and then hurt his shoulder this August. That led to injured reserve and to the Chiefs deciding to move in a different direction.
There’s sure to be some rust after months off the field, but those 80 catches over two seasons make Moeaki worth a look over the next few weeks for a Bills team thinking about 2014 and beyond.
And he thinks once he can put that injury behind him, he’s going to be better than ever.
“When I come back next year, I don’t think there’s going to be a tackle in the league who can stop me,” Pierre-Paul said, via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com.
Of course, he might not be able to do much until then. He was inactive Sunday, after barely making a peep the week before against the Cowboys, following the injury against the Raiders.
“It was painful,” he said. “What I expected to do, I didn’t do. It got to a point where I could only go out there on third downs, basically. I’m out there rushing with one arm, and I’m trying. But you get to a point where you can’t be Superman. You’ve got to come out and hope the next guy can do better than you.”
He said he hopes to avoid surgery, which “would set me back even more,” and wants no part of any discussion of taking the rest of the year off to get well.
“I’m doing everything I possibly can to put myself back on that field,” Pierre-Paul said. “Shutting down is not in my vocabulary. Otherwise, I would have shut it down when I got the injury in the Oakland game. Even if I can get back for one game, that would be worth it to me. I’m not going to be myself until next year. I know that. I was starting to get there before this injury, but the way I feel now, I’m not going to play unless I’m going to be a factor and I know I can protect myself.”
As long as the Giants are clinging to mathematical playoff chances, they’re going to keep holding out hope. But the moment those chances are gone, it makes sense to turn thoughts to next year.
There won’t be a game-time decision to make about Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers quarterback, who has yet to be medically cleared or officially ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Falcons, said Wednesday that there would be a call on his status before Sunday.
“It wouldn’t be fair to Matt Flynn to make a decision on his status on the day of the game,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think that’s fair to Matt if we do that. I think by Friday or Saturday at the latest there will be a decision.”
Rodgers said that there were three tests he needed to pass to get cleared – strength, range of motion and the scan of the bone — and that he’s only passed two of them at the moment. The scan of the collarbone was taken on Tuesday and Rodgers said the results weren’t “the greatest news,” but declined to discuss specifics about the results or his expectations.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Rodgers said. “There’s enough people who are supposedly getting leaks from this organization that can make their own assumptions.”
The assumption that matters the most for the Packers right now is the negative one most people are probably making about Rodgers’ chances of playing in Week 14.
Taiwan Jones has mostly been a special teams player for the Raiders in the last couple of years, but he did come to Oakland with designs on playing a role on the offense as well.
Those hopes appeared to be dashed in the offseason when the Raiders decided to move Jones from running back to cornerback, but there might be a revival in the works. Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group reports that Jones was working at running back for the Raiders during Wednesday’s practice.
Part of the reason for that might be that Darren McFadden wasn’t working at any position. We are long past the point that it is newsworthy when McFadden, who has battled hamstring issues most of the season, misses a practice, but it merits a mention because Rashad Jennings is coming off of a concussion suffered on Thanksgiving. Jennings was at practice on Wednesday, but it is unclear where he stands in the concussion protocol process
The Raiders would be short even if he’s fully cleared. Running back Jeremy Stewart missed practice on Wednesday as well. He injured his knee and ankle against the Cowboys, making it a clean sweep of Raiders tailbacks on the injury report.
Get it right.
That’s the goal of officiating in every sport, at every level. For the NFL, which has seen its popularity skyrocket over the past 20 years, getting it right has never been more important.
So why are NFL officials getting so many calls wrong?
To answer that question, and to improve the product, the NFL needs to be willing to consider revolutionary changes, beyond putting cameras in the pylons or using lasers to determine first downs. The league needs to consider completely revamping its officiating function.
That doesn’t mean hiring officials on a full-time basis. While doing so would create the impression that the league is doing everything in its power to reduce the mistake rate to Blutarski’s (or at least Flounder’s) GPA, the use of human beings will continue to entail the reality of human error.
Along with human nature.
Peter King of TheMMQB.com recently finagled total access to referee Gene Steratore and members of his crew for a full week. Among the eye-opening (but not shocking) revelations? Officials obsess over their grades like a teenage girl obsesses over her Twitter followers.
It makes sense, given that the NFL determines postseason assignments (including the coveted Super Bowl gig) based on the number of mistakes an official makes during the course of a season. Still, the notion of grading officials for hair-splitting decisions made in a real-time crucible occupied by young, large, strong, and fast men wearing full football-equipment potentially puts too much pressure on them to make the right decision.
The league’s new V.P. of officiating gets it, even if he doesn’t yet have the juice to fully change it.
“One of the things I’m loving about Dean Blandino is his attitude of, ‘Guys, let’s stop officiating for the grades. Don’t worry if it’s a coin-flip play and you were downgraded,’” Steratore tells King. “‘Let’s dissect it, and let’s learn from it.’”
Then why not ditch the grading process entirely? That could be Blandino’s eventual goal.
That said, the NFL needs a system for spotting the guys who are simply getting too many calls wrong. In those situations, where a guy is getting too close to having too many mistakes, the pressure of a grading system can’t make the situation much worse. For those good officials who become consumed — especially late in the season — with fear that another mistake will mean the difference between working a playoff game or working the Super Bowl, the higher stakes could fuel a flub.
That’s just one aspect of the system the league needs to change. With players constantly getting bigger, faster, and stronger, it could be time to remove middle-aged-and-older men from the vortex of metal, plastic, and muscle, and to handle the bulk of the officiating function from the booth, with binoculars and the many network camera angles helping to spot the fouls and to determine when and where a guy stepped out of bounds and at all times to get it right the first time, even if it takes a little time to get it done.
Currently, every fan watching the game at home enjoys a perspective that is at least as good if not even better than anything the officials can see in real time. Cameras blanket the gridiron, and the league could, with some creativity and determination, devise a system that would allow the game to be officiated even better from above than it is being officiated from field level.
For a league that constantly strives to improve, lingering flaws in the officiating function become more and more glaring. At some point, the NFL needs to realize that the current system is as good as it can possibly be, and in turn to start looking for a better system.
The Chiefs called left tackle Branden Albert’s hyperextended knee a “day-to-day situation” on Monday and it wasn’t feeling well enough two days later for Albert to participate in practice.
Albert was one of three key members of the Chiefs lineup who sat out the first practice of the week. Linebacker Justin Houston, who sat out last week’s loss to Denver after suffering a dislocated elbow, and tight end Anthony Fasano, recovering from both a concussion and a knee injury, joined him on the sideline.
Coach Andy Reid said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, that Donald Stephenson will play left tackle as long as Albert is out. First overall pick Eric Fisher will return to the starting lineup at right tackle with Stephenson swapping sides of the line. Reid also said that Geoff Schwartz will continue to start at right guard with Jon Asamoah’s shoulder feeling “a bit tender.”
It will probably be Friday at the earliest before we know anyone’s status for certain, but having any of Albert, Houston or Fasano will be a boost as Kansas City tries to halt its losing streak at three games.
The NFL is trying something different with a 2014 game in London: An early kickoff.
The league announced today that the Lions-Falcons game on Sunday, October 26 will kick off at 1:30 p.m. UK time, which is 9:30 a.m. Eastern time. That’s believed to be the earliest kickoff in NFL history. (The other two London games in 2014 will kick off at the customary time of 1 p.m. Eastern.)
FOX will broadcast the game nationally as the lead-in to its normal 1 p.m. Eastern kickoffs. And, given that everything the NFL does draws big TV numbers, FOX can probably expect big numbers for this game, too — not as big as a typical Sunday afternoon game, but huge compared to what TV networks normally draw on Sunday mornings.
And that leads to an interesting question: If the NFL follows through with the talk of eventually moving eight games a year to London, will it have all eight of those games kick off at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, and then sell that package of eight games to a TV network? If so, the NFL may have just found another lucrative revenue stream. As if the league’s billionaire owners need it.
As the great Vincent LaGuardia Gambini once muttered under his breath to Judge Herman Munster, “There’s a f–kin’ surprise.”
Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who if the league office were handing out $100 bills would complain that they aren’t sufficiently crisp, has griped about the punishment imposed on coach Mike Tomlin for his Thanksgiving night side-step right.
Asked by Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review whether Clark believes it’s fair to delay the decision on stripping a draft pick, Clark said: “It’s not supposed to be fair. It’s Roger Goodell. When has he been fair?“
Clark’s disdain for Goodell is preventing him from understanding the fairness inherent in the decision to wait. Taking a pick without knowing where that pick falls could hurt the Steelers, based on how high they finish in the draft order. Thus, the most fair outcome to the Steelers would be to wait for the draft order to be established before deciding how to proceed with the final portion of the penalty, which includes a $100,000 fine for Tomlin.
And that’s exactly what Goodell is doing.
In past cases (such as Spygate and Bountygate), the draft pick forfeiture was specified at the time of the penalty. This provides certainty in the event of potential trades. Once the trade deadline passes, there’s no reason to make a decision about draft-pick forfeiture or modification until the final order is set.
In this regard, modification becomes an intriguing possibility. In tampering cases, the draft-pick penalty included a flip-flopping of picks between the teams involved. Based on where the Steelers and Ravens pick, Pittsburgh may not lose a draft pick; the Steelers may simply have a pick downgraded.
Regardless, the potential modification or forfeiture of draft picks constitutes a significant penalty for the Steelers, far more significant than a six-figure fine. One Steelers source told PFT over the weekend that the team would prefer a one-game suspension of Tomlin to the loss of draft picks.
How big of a deal would it be for the Steelers to lose a late-round pick? Receiver Antonio Brown was a sixth-round pick.
The weekly quarterback question has been answered in Minnesota, and it’s the old guy again.
Cassel was perfectly acceptable in Sunday’s win against the Bears, and has played in all three of their wins this season.
The fact that there are only three wins kind of makes the question of a week-to-week starter kind of a moot one, since it ought to be somebody else next year.
But it’s becoming clear they’re not comfortable running Josh Freeman out there again, which only adds to the importance of finding a new one this offseason.
The number of Buccaneers on injured reserve has hit 14 with the announcement that linebacker Jonathan Casillas has been shut down for the season because of a knee injury.
Casillas signed with the Bucs as a free agent before the season and had played in all 12 games for the team this season. He started four of those games, including the Week 13 loss to the Panthers that he couldn’t finish because he hurt his knee. Casillas finishes the year with 24 tackles and a forced fumble on defense as well as a team-high nine tackles in kick coverage.
They could also use Danny Lansanah, who they signed off the Jets’ practice squad to take Casillas’ place on the roster, but Lansanah hasn’t played in an NFL game since the 2008 season so he may not be the best option. Lansanah is the fourth player Tampa’s signed off another team’s practice squad this season.
The Dolphins defensive end had 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the Dolphins’ blasting of the Jets.
Granted, it was against the Jets, but he led a defensive attack which allowed just 177 yards of total offense.
Vernon has 5.5 sacks in the last three games, giving him 10.0 for the season. And his progression in his second year has allowed the Dolphins to bring rookie Dion Jordan along slowly this year, since Vernon and Cameron Wake are playing at a high level.
Ravens kicker Justin Tucker and Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri each hit five field goals in their Week 13 games, providing their sometimes sputtering offenses with points they needed to win games that loomed large in the AFC playoff race.
Their exploits weren’t enough to earn them recognition as the conference’s special teams player of the week, however. The honor went to Bengals punter Kevin Huber instead.
Huber averaged 55.5 yards on his four punts in last Sunday’s 17-10 victory over the Chargers. Huber dropped two of those punts inside the 20 to help the Bengals win the field position battle while holding onto a slim lead. One of Huber’s punts traveled 75 yards, tying a franchise record and giving Huber the second-longest punt in the league this season.
Huber’s the first Bengals punter to be named special teams player of the week. Tucker, Vinatieri, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski and Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee were also nominees for this week’s award.
The man who recruited quarterbck Marcus Mariota to Oregon has no issue with Mariota’s decision to stay there. Especially since Chip Kelly doesn’t currently need a quarterback.
Kelly applauded Mariota’s decision to stay in school, via John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com. And Kelly suggested that Mariota’s decision could extend through 2015.
“I’m happy for him,” Kelly said. “I know he comes from a great family. His dad and mom value education. Marcus is going to stay and get his degree. He’s a really special young man. I think everyone in the league is going to have to wait a couple of years.”
Kelly said that he didn’t consult with Mariota about the decision. League rules prohibit it.
Then again, League rules also prohibit talking about an underclassman who has yet to be certified for the draft.
“I love coaching him,” Kelly said of Mariota. “He’s exactly what you want in a football player.”
It’s a good thing Nick Foles has been named the starter for the next 1,000 years. Otherwise, Foles could get the wrong idea.
Speaking of wrong, Mariota could be making the wrong decision. While it’s an intensely personal choice, we’ve seen more than a few guys wait — and suffer for it via their future draft stock. NFL teams want guys who crave the opportunity to compete at the highest level. When a guy’s draft stock already is as high as it likely will be, why wait?
Waiting also delays the player’s ability to get a second contract, which has become even more important in the wake of the new rookie wage scale.
Still, Mariota has the right to continue playing football for no money. Or, more accurately, for plenty of money that flows into someone else’s pockets.
But at least he gets to wear a different helmet every week.
There was a bye week in between, but Eagles punter Donnie Jones has won his second straight NFC special teams player of the week award.
As he did two weeks ago for his work against the Redskins, which included a 70-yard punt, Jones took home the weekly honors.
Against the Cardinals Sunday, Jones dropped seven punts inside the 20-yard line, which was a new team record. He also hit a 69-yarder, showing power along with control.
Jones has been an excellent pickup for the Eagles this year, as the 10th-year punter’s 41.3 net average is the highest for a single season in franchise history.
So much for the notion that 106.7 The Fan in D.C. shied away from radio ads protesting the team’s name because it didn’t want to alienate the local NFL team.
The NFL team officially has become alienated, via a series of parodies that mock the team and its radio broadcast crew.
According to Paul Fahri of the Washington Post, team spokesman Tony Wyllie has complained to the station about the parodies. Fahri cites unnamed station sources in support of the notion that Wyllie claimed that “the routines were malicious — so malicious that they could prompt legal action by the Redskins.”
Wyllie tells the Post that all is currently well.
“All we did was ask questions about what they were doing,” Wyllie said. “Once they said it was all in jest, we were fine with it. . . . I have a sense of humor, like everyone else. It’s a joke, and I take it as a joke. Once they said it was all a joke, that’s all there was to it.”
And the jokes will continue. The station plans to continue the parodies.
Also, the Redskins will continue to play games. Which, at least for the rest of this year, will continue provide plenty of fodder for laughter.