If the Falcons beat the Lions this Saturday, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC goes through Atlanta. Are the Falcons in store for a scare on their journey to the No. 1 seed?This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Falcons still the team to beat?
Titans quarterback Jake Locker isn’t happy about getting benched. But he’s going to try to keep his chin up.
“It’s frustrating. It’s not the way you draw it up obviously,” Locker said, via 24/7 Sports. “But I don’t think you can dwell on it either. It doesn’t do anybody any good to pout about it, so I’m just gonna go forward as is now and do my part to be a productive member of this football team.”
Locker said he’ll do his best to help the man who has taken his job, rookie Zach Mettenberger.
“You want to be on the field and you want to play, but I understand that’s my role as a part of this team now. Zach was that teammate to me and I plan to do the same thing for him, help him to be as prepared as possible, as ready as possible every Sunday when he steps on the field,” Locker said.
That’s all Locker can do now. That, and wait until March, when he’ll be a free agent and can put his disappointing tenure in Tennessee behind him.
Ronnie Hillman has 283 yards rushing in Denver’s last three games. Whether he gets a chance to build on that remains in doubt, to some degree.
Giants General Manager Jerry Reese said this week that the team needs to be more aggressive on offense than they’ve been while compiling a 3-4 record.
Reese’s comments come at a time when Eli Manning is completing 64.9 percent of his passes and on a pace to throw 11 interceptions, which is exactly the kind of play that the Giants spent all offseason saying they wanted to see from the offense installed by offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. It’s come with a drop in his yards per attempt and the team hasn’t made many big plays at all, but, again, that’s the offense they seemed to want during the offseason.
Reese said that Manning is playing “pretty well,” but also suggested that the quarterback is too cautious because you have to throw the ball down the field to win. Manning has a different take on the situation.
“You can’t just start throwing it deep and [think] that’s the solution,” Manning said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News.
Setting aside the issue of the tenets of the offensive scheme that McAdoo installed, Manning spent a lot of time trying to throw it deep behind an offensive line that couldn’t block last season and paid the price for it. The line’s had some better moments this season, but they’ve been less effective the last two weeks and the loss of Victor Cruz has taken away one of the players Manning liked to look for down the field. Rookie Odell Beckham appears able to pick up some of the slack in that department, but the line will need to be more consistent and the offense will have to be crisper across the board if those plays are going to open up for the Giants in the second half.
Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter can’t seem to stay healthy this season.
Carter just returned after missing three games with a groin injury and now he’s dealing with a broken left ring finger. Carter broke the finger when it got caught in the pads of running back Lance Dunbar at practice on Thursday, but expects to play against the Cardinals this weekend after having a splint put on by a doctor on Friday.
That should work out well for the Cowboys as they’ll already have to replace at least one starting linebacker on Sunday. Justin Durant was lost for the season with a torn biceps muscle and losing Carter as well would force Dallas reach deeper into their reserves as they try to avoid their first losing streak of the season. They also have some cause for concern about middle linebacker Rolando McClain because of a sore shoulder, although McClain was able to practice Thursday after missing Wednesday’s session.
“I think for everybody, all the linebackers, everybody has to step up,” Carter said, via ESPNDallas.com. “Everybody’s role gets a lot better so we got to really prepare well. Me, Rolando, all the younger guys we really got to step up because Justin was a huge part of our defense and we’re really going to miss him. But everybody has to step up.”
On the other side of the ball, left guard Ron Leary and right tackle Doug Free both missed practice. So did quarterback Tony Romo, although his ability to practice doesn’t appear to have much bearing on whether or not he’ll play this week.
As the Seahawks return to CenturyLink Field after a two-week road trip, it’s officially homecoming weekend in Seattle. They’ll commemorate the occasion by unveiling an 11th member of the team’s Ring of Honor.
The Seahawks have announced that 2014 Hall of Famer Walter Jones will join a group that already includes Steve Largent, Jim Zorn, Dave Brown, Pete Gross, Curt Warner, Jacob Green, Kenny Easley, Dave Krieg, Chuck Knox, and Cortez Kennedy.
Jones spent 13 years with the Seahawks, from 1997 through 2009. He starter 180 games during his career with the team, and he made it to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
Jones’ No. 71 previously has been retired by the Seahawks. Largent’s No. 80, Kennedy’s No. 96, and No. 12 (in honor of the fans) also have been retired.
As expected, the NFL is launching an effort to improve the spotting of concussions. The first step? A memo telling team medical staffs to do a better job of spotting concussions.
PFT has obtained a copy of the memo that has been sent to team doctors and head athletic trainers reminding them to continue to ensure that the steps developed to identify concussions are observed and respected. Alex Marvez of FOX Sports first reported the existence of the memo.
“We have generally been pleased with the care provided to players who have suffered concussions in both the preseason and during the first part of the regular season,” the memo states. “That said, there remain occasional examples of where more care can be given to adhering to the relevant protocols. The success of concussion prevention and treatment depends on team medical staffs, the players, and independent experts remaining diligent, working together and adhering to the mandated evaluation and treatment protocols that have been developed with the assistance of so many of you.”
The memo was written jointly by Dr. Hunt Batjer, Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, Dr. Matthew Matava, and Dr. Thom Mayer. Dr. Batjer and Dr. Elllenbogen chair the NFL’s head, neck, and spine committee. Dr. Matava, the Rams’ team physical, serves as president of the NFL Physicians Society. Dr. Mayer is the NFLPA’s medical director.
“Every concussion is a serious injury and must be treated conservatively,” the memo states. “All concussion symptoms must be taken seriously, by medical staffs and players alike. All suspected concussions must be investigated either with the Maddock’s test or the full NFL sideline exam. Each possible injury must be investigated aggressively, aided by the athletic trainer monitor and shared through the communication and video system on each sideline.”
The memo also acknowledges the reality that players may be inclined to conceal potential concussions.
“We are also aware of reports suggesting that players may not always report their symptoms and may seek to avoid being examined for a possible concussion,” the memo states. “Please remind your players of the need to be candid with the medical staffs and with one another. In this respect, you should emphasize that the NFLPA supports the concussion protocols and that players should never hide, deny or attempt to minimize their symptoms. That said, concussed players by definition have a brain injury, so close attention to mechanism of injury and subtle findings is necessary, as well as input from their fellow players, who may note subtle differences in performance or behavior.”
Attached to the memo were copies of existing documents regarding the management and treatment of concussions and the role of the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant.
As PFT reported over the weekend, last week’s failure to spot a concussion suffered by Chargers safety Jahleel Addae angered Hall of Fame coach John Madden, prompting an effort to explore current procedures aimed at identifying players who may have suffered a concussion. Presumably, Madden expects steps more extensive and pointed than a memo reminding doctors and athletic trainers to do that which some of them periodically are failing to do.
But it’s a good start.
Lovie Smith has won just one of his first seven games as the Buccaneers’ head coach, but he says things are changing in Tampa Bay.
Asked if his team is where he wants it to be, Smith answered, “The 1-6 record isn’t. It’s what it is. If the season stopped right now, that’s where we are. Numbers don’t lie. But behind the scenes, you can see they’re pointed in the right direction.”
During Smith’s previous stint as a head coach, in Chicago, he lost five of his first six games with the Bears. But after a 1-5 start that year, the Bears promptly turned things around with a three-game winning streak, and the Bears were a playoff team in Smith’s second season and in the Super Bowl at the end of Smith’s third season. He thinks the same can happen in Tampa.
“I do have a history of being in situations like this, and that’s why it’s fun now to talk about how we came back then,” he said. “I believe we can do it again. . . . Behind the scenes we’re becoming a better football team and eventually winning will become a habit for us.”
Smith noted that even at 1-6, the Bucs aren’t far out of first place in the NFC South. Every other team in the division has a losing record, too, with the 3-4-1 Panthers and 3-4 Saints meeting tonight and the 2-6 Falcons off this week.
“Football doesn’t really begin until November,” Smith said. “Two games out of first place, as I see it.”
Realistically, it’s almost impossible to picture this year’s Bucs being a division winner — even in a division as bad as this year’s NFC South. But Smith does have a track record of making a bad team better.
Wide receiver Reggie Wayne didn’t practice on Thursday, but coach Chuck Pagano said that doesn’t mean that he won’t play against the Giants on Monday night.
Pagano said, via Mike Chappell of WRTV, it is “too early in week” to decide about whether Wayne’s elbow injury has healed enough for him to return to the lineup this week. Wayne missed the Week Eight loss to the Steelers, the first time that he was out of the lineup this season.
Wayne has usually rested on the first practice day of the week this season and Pagano indicated that was at least part of the reason why Wayne didn’t practice when he said he wanted to see Wayne in practice the next two days before deciding on his status.
Running back Trent Richardson and cornerback Vontae Davis both practiced and both players look to be on track to play their usual roles on Sunday. Davis left last week’s game early with a knee injury and Richardson dressed but didn’t play while dealing with a hamstring injury.
The Bears have a bye this week, so they won’t have to face the possibility of incurring more wrath from their fans for losing a fifth game in their last six tries.
The last time the Bears played at home, they heard plenty of boos from their fans while losing a game to the Dolphins and guard Kyle Long reacted angrily toward the people paying to watch him play football. Bears chairman George McCaskey was asked about that during an appearance on CSN Chicago and thinks that the team’s play this season has justified the response.
“They have every right to be [upset],” McCaskey said. “We’re 3-5. That’s a losing record. We’re winless at home and that doesn’t fit the formula for making it to the postseason. You’ve got to dominate at home. You’ve got to control your division and you’ve got to do pretty well for yourself on the road. We’re outside that formula right now and we need to correct that.”
McCaskey said he’s “very disappointed” in the 3-5 start for a team that “everybody in the building was expecting this team to contend for a Super Bowl,” adding that he is interested now in seeing how the team reacts to adversity. McCaskey said he has “every confidence” that General Manager Phil Emery, coach Marc Trestman and the players will have a successful response. Left unsaid are the possible repercussions if they again fail to meet the bar that ownership’s set for the team, but such reading can be done between the lines.
The Chargers might not have cornerback Jason Verrett back for a few weeks or longer, but they are starting to get some guys healthier.
According to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, the Chargers welcomed back cornerback Brandon Flowers (concussion), outside linebacker Jerry Attaochu (hamstring) and center Rich Ohrnberger (back) to practice .
Getting Flowers back is huge for the Chargers, especially because Verrett’s status is so up in the air. Flowers hadn’t practiced since suffering his concussion Oct. 19 against the Chiefs.
But the Chargers have had a revolving door at center as well, and get any kind of stability there is going to help.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t a doctor, but he sometimes plays one on his team’s sideline. And elsewhere. Eagles coach Chip Kelly has no desire to do that.
Asked on Thursday why Kelly takes a hands-off approach to injuries, the coach was pragmatic.
“Because I’m not a doctor, so ‑‑ I mean, I think that’s simple,” Kelly told reporters. “I can’t tell the guy, you know, ‘You’re this, you’re that.’ Just tell me who can play and who can’t play. I think people waste a lot of time on things that you don’t control.
“No, I don’t control injuries; so, if someone can play, the doctors and the medical staff here I think are outstanding. They tell me who can and who can’t. For me to weigh in on it is ludicrous. What am I going to ‑‑ what position could I take? ‘Dr. [Peter] DeLuca, I see it this way.’ It’s kind of stupid, right?”
So why does Kelly want detailed info about player sleep habits and nutrition but not detailed injury information?
“Because I can’t affect that,” Kelly said. “I can affect their sleep patterns. I can’t affect their injury, though. If a guy tore a muscle ‑‑ I’m not Dr. Miyagi. I can’t put my hands together, rub them together, touch his leg and make him better. Just tell me who can play, who can’t play. I’m really good at what we can control and what we can’t control, and we can’t control that. So let’s go play.”
He’s right, to an extent. Sometimes a stern talking-to from the coach transforms an injured player into a guy who can play. Because sometimes a guy doesn’t feel like playing and is looking for a way to avoid it.
Of course, that problem can be addressed by having the right guys on the roster — guys who won’t milk an injury to avoid practice or games. Even then, Kelly apparently wouldn’t do anything about it.
“We never force a player to play here,” Kelly said. “I can’t turn around and tell a rookie, ‘I know you think it feels like this, but it doesn’t. Go play.'”
The wisdom in Kelly’s approach could be that he trusts the locker room to keep guys honest, policing the roster for anyone who may be embellishing.
The Ray Rice appeal hearing won’t be the only important legal proceeding on the docket for NFL next week. On Tuesday, November 4, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will have a pre-trial hearing in Texas on pending felony charges of child abuse.
With a trial set for December 1 (and amid chatter that lawyer Rusty Hardin will still try to get the trial moved to November 18), the case is moving forward, quickly. Plenty needs to be done; while many plea bargains happen on the eve of trial, plenty of prosecutors prefer to wrap cases up before investing significant time into preparing for trial.
In the Peterson case, prosecutors could indeed be looking for a way to work things out. In addition to the challenge of facing Hardin, one of the more accomplished and experienced lawyers in the country, a grand jury originally refused to indict Peterson. While an indictment eventually came, the inability of the prosecution to secure an indictment while having the stage to itself doesn’t bode well for the prosecution’s ability to secure a conviction under the very high “if it doesn’t fit you must acquit” standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
From Peterson’s perspective, the sooner the charges are resolved, the sooner he can play football. The only problem is that he doesn’t know what the NFL ultimately would do under the personal conduct policy if he pleads guilty to the pending charge or some lesser included offense. Already, Peterson has missed seven games with pay; as of Sunday, it will be eight. A strong argument could be made that time served plus forfeiture of a certain number of the game checks he has received should be the fair outcome.
Regardless of what the league would do, the time is quickly coming for the prosecutors and Peterson to decide whether there will be a trial, or whether there will be a plea bargain.
All the signs have been pointing to the return of Robert Griffin III to the starting quarterback job in Washington for this Sunday’s game against the Vikings, but there’s no more reason to read even the most obvious of tea leaves.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden gave up the masquerade game on Thursday and announced at his press conference that Griffin will be the starter as long as he doesn’t have any setbacks with the dislocated ankle that has kept him out of the lineup since Week Two.
“He’s our starter and he gives us the best chance to win,” Gruden said, via Mike Jones of the Washington Post.
Gruden added that Griffin has been medically cleared to play and that there’s no great benefit to holding him out until after the bye week because the team will be off for so much of the time rather than practicing. With Griffin cleared on the physical front, the focus now turns to “getting him ready from a quarterback standpoint.” Based on how Griffin looked pre-injury and in the preseason, there’s ample work to be done on that front. Barring another injury, that work will likely continue throughout the second half of the season.
The Bengals look like they have a good chance of getting wide receiver A.J. Green back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Jaguars as Green participated in practice again on Thursday.
Green’s return would be a reason for happiness in Cincinnati even with the rest of the lineup in tiptop shape. It could be even more welcome this weekend as the probablity that running back Giovani Bernard will miss the game grows.
Bernard missed a second straight day of practice on Thursday because of the hip injury he suffered against Baltimore last weekend. Geoff Hobson of the team’s website reported Bernard’s absence and added that “you have to figure he’s going to be out” when the Bengals take the field against the Jaguars.
Jeremy Hill would stand to see a spike in playing time and touches if Bernard is indeed out of the lineup this week. Cedric Peermand and Rex Burkhead would be other backfield options for Cincinnati, with Hobson opining that this could be the week for Burkhead, a second-year player, to get his first NFL carry.
The Packers lost right guard T.J. Lang to a left ankle injury after the first series of their game against the Saints last Sunday night, but it doesn’t look like that his absence will extend too long as a result.
Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports that Lang avoided structural damage when he went down while blocking on the extra point after the Packers Offense opened the game with a touchdown. Per Demovsky, the injury was diagnosed as a sprain and there’s no timetable for his return as yet.
The Packers are on their bye this week, which allows Lang a good chunk of time to recover before the team would need to make a decision about his status for their Week 10 date with the Bears.
Lane Taylor replaced Lang against the Saints and had a bad moment when he got pushed backward on a failed fourth down conversion try by running back Eddie Lacy. Demovsky suggests that J.C. Tretter could also be an option if Lang can’t play. Tretter was set to start at center this year, but landed on injured reserve with the designation to return because of a knee injury. Corey Linsley has done a solid job at center and could remain there even though Tretter is now eligible to return.