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Browns QB decision speaks to lack of security there

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The Browns are one day closer to a depth chart of Thaddeus Lewis and Josh Johnson at quarterback, after Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy were held out of another day of practice Thursday with shoulder injuries.

And that may get them one day closer to a new regime, such that they weren’t already.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns coach Pat Shurmur declined to answer which of his first two quarterbacks had the worse injury, but he didn’t rule either out for Sunday’s finale at Pittsburgh.

He also said they thought about bringing back Seneca Wallace for the final week, before opting for Johnson.

That’s another subtle sign that things are changing, and about to change even more. If they wanted a guy who was more familiar with Shurmur’s system and could get them through the week, they’d have just brought back Wallace, who was released this year in the preseason. Johnson isn’t going to be the quarterback of the future or anything, but he at least has some potential, when all the Browns really need is someone who can get the team in and out of the huddle one more time.

Shurmur said the signing of Johnson instead was a collaborative effort by new CEO Joe Banner and just-as-secure-as-Shurmur-is GM Tom Heckert.

Sure it was.

When asked about his own future, Shurmur adopted what, in print, appeared to be a dead-man-walking tone.

“I’ll think about my future after Pittsburgh,” Shurmur said. “I’m not worried about it. We have not won enough football games, and I know that’s the way this thing works.”

He also added: “we came into a less-than-ideal situation when we got here,” which is the exact thing people say right before they’re fired.

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Reshad Jones: I’m playing like the best safety in the league

Reshad Jones AP

The Dolphins Defense will be tasked with slowing down Philip Rivers and the Chargers passing attack this weekend, something that would have probably been more troubling to them before safety Reshad Jones returned from his suspension.

In the three games that Jones has played for the Dolphins this year, he has recorded 50 tackles and an interception while quarterbacks are completing under half of their passes to his area of the field. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle believes Jones is playing his best football in the three years that Coyle’s been with the team and Jones had some high praise of his own for his work in 2014.

“I’m playing like the best safety in the league, actually,” Jones said, via the Miami Herald. “Numbers don’t lie. If you compare my numbers to the other safeties in the league, with what I’ve done, it stacks up with the best of them.”

It’s a good time for Jones to be playing at a high level. The game with the Chargers kicks off a four-game stretch against teams with winning records, including a visit from the Bills that will weigh heavily on the playoff chances for both teams.

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Browns trying to bring out the dog in their defense

Oakland Raiders v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Some football players are easier to motivate than others.

And the Browns are using props to help keep their defensive players on edge, playing on the team’s Dawg Pound heritage.

According to Dan Labbe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil came up with a system to reward his guys for making plays.

“What we came up with that was unique to the Dawg Pound was to give each player a dog collar,” O’Neil said. “And those guys would be rewarded for plays on the field with a bone for every time they did something that we considered a ‘Play Like A Brown’ play.”

Now, players are competing to see who ends up with the most bones, though the coaches are withholding the standings for now

“It’s keeping guys competitive,” linebacker Jabaal Sheard said. “Not only against the other team, but against one another.”

“I don’t know how many bones you get for sacks,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “Because Paul Kruger, he should be outweighing me by a lot right now. I don’t know how many you get for a sack, but he’s got a lot.”

The Browns Defense is playing well, and has them above .500 after Halloween, which not many expected.

So if they want to dress up, more power to them.

 

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Brandon Weeden not sure if he’s getting called out of the pen

Brandon Weeden AP

Here’s a sentence that should strike more fear in the hearts of Cowboys fans than a carload of teenagers bearing eggs tonight.

Brandon Weeden is preparing to start for the Cowboys Sunday against the Cardinals.

Sure, they hope Tony Romo’s “pain tolerance” allows him to play, and he thinks it will, but the Cowboys still have to get ready as if their quarterback with a back injury might not.

Weeden compared the not knowing whether he’d be needed to his last year playing baseball, and his uneasiness with being in the bullpen.

“My last year playing baseball I was dealing with some shoulder issues, so I was a reliever and in the bullpen, and I used to get so ticked off because my manager never told me if I was hot that night or not,” Weeden said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s really hard. It’s just a different mindset. It’s the uncertainty of you may play or you may not play for six, seven, eight weeks, whatever. You just don’t know.

“So you’ve just got to approach it like you’re going to play at some point. That way, if your number is called, you’re not caught off guard.”

The 31-year-old Weeden played well in relief Sunday night, throwing a touchdown and completing 4-of-6 passes before Romo returned to the game. He led them on two scoring drives, and the game was tied when he left.

“He performed well,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “He took us down on a couple of scoring drives. I think the thing that was most important was his demeanor. He looked very veteranlike. You could tell he’d played. He’s an older player. Young in the league, but the guy’s got a lot of maturity to him. It’s not too big for him to go out there and step in in a relief mode and play. Nor is it too big for him to be prepared as a starter, because he’s done it in this league. We’re very confident in him.”

The fact he’s gotten all the work in the preseason and on Wednesdays all season helps him familiarize, and he’ll need to be ready for long relief work, in case Romo can’t tolerate the pain which obviously has coaches worried.

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Friday morning one-liners

Mike Evans, C.J. Mosley AP

The Bills are working to get their running game on track.

It looks like Dallas Thomas will replace Daryn Colledge at left guard for the Dolphins this week.

LB Jonathan Casillas is doing all he can to learn the Patriots scheme on the fly.

Jets coach Rex Ryan remains high on T D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s play.

Ravens NT Brandon Williams is starting to play up to his size.

The Bengals are relying on their backup linebackers right now.

Browns CB Justin Gilbert feels he’s turned the corner in his rookie season.

Now that he’s healthy, Steelers WR Martavis Bryant is moving up the depth chart.

The Texans have gotten good play from cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson this season.

Colts S LaRon Landry’s status for Monday night remains up in the air.

The Jaguars will be heading to London on Sunday night.

The Titans haven’t gotten much return on their free agent investments.

Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is preparing for another matchup with the Patriots.

Assistant coaches with the Chiefs liked what they saw from the Royals during the team’s run to the World Series.

The Raiders Offense needs more points to go with a spike in yards.

Chargers WR Keenan Allen looks to TE Antonio Gates as a mentor.

A plug from Barry Switzer helped RB DeMarco Murray land with the Cowboys.

Giants T Justin Pugh wants to prove he’s better than he’s looked in recent weeks.

The Eagles may need S Earl Wolff to step up this weekend.

Will the Redskins pass rush remain potent this week?

The Bears Defense hit the bye week with a lot of room for improvement.

WR Ryan Broyles may not be playing much for the Lions in the coming weeks.

A look back at some key in-season acquisitions from the past by the Packers.

Vikings QB Matt Cassel is doing what he can to help out while sidelined by injury.

The Falcons have allowed 11 plays of more than 40 yards totaling 607 yards of total offense for their opponents.

Thursday night was another quiet one for Panthers TE Greg Olsen.

The Saints got a strong outing from RB Mark Ingram on Thursday night.

Buccaneers rookie WR Mike Evans is getting more comfortable in the team’s offense.

RB Marion Grice could be on the spot for the Cardinals this weekend.

The Rams have learned this season that re-injuring ACLs is fairly common.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle compiles a list of 10 things the 49ers need to do in the second half of the season.

During his baseball days, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was once roommates with World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner.

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It’s our 13th anniversary (almost)

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OK, so PFT technically doesn’t become a teenager until midnight tonight, when Halloween yields to All Saints Day.  But since most of you will be:  (1) lethargic from all the candy you’ll be eating; (2) hungover from all the booze you’ll be drinking; or (3) both, we decided to give you a chance now to:  (1) congratulate us; (2) denigrate us; or (3) both.

ProFootballTalk.com went live on November 1, 2001.  The story of how it all came to be isn’t short enough to retell in this context or interesting enough to retell in any context.  But that was the day the servers went live, complete with a cumbersome system for posting stories that would become far more cumbersome before it would ever begin to streamline.

In September 2002, I decided to pull the plug on a venture that I was convinced at the time would never amount to anything.  (I changed my mind about 36 hours later.)  The quest to turn the thing into actual revenue began, and the dam broke in early 2006, when Sprint became our first significant sponsor.

Three years later, NBC came calling.  I resisted and refused and rebelled until the servers exploded on the first day of free agency and NBC provided the temporary canvas for our busiest news weekend of the year.  Roughly four months later, the partnership with NBC launched.

The five-plus years since then have been too hectic to allow for much reflection.  But plenty has happened as this thing has continued to grow.  PFT’s team of contributors currently stands at six — with MDS, Josh Alper, Darin Gantt, Mike Wilkening, and Curtis Crabtree filling out a roster that keeps the news flowing every day of the year.

Thanks to each of them and thanks to all of you for allowing us to keep doing this by regularly visiting these pages to see what we’ve been doing.  Hopefully, we’ll keep doing whatever it is that we do for a lot longer than 13 more years.

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Eric Decker’s wife makes Twitter war worse, then retreats

Fall 2014 Men's Designer Party Getty Images

We noted yesterday that new Jets wide receiver invited the wrath of Jets fans on Twitter when he made the mistake of asking for some honest feedback.

Now, his wife has gone and made it worse.

Via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, country music singer Jessie James Decker took a poke at the Jets fans who mocked Decker, probably not helping things.

“You think he really cares what y’all think haters? He’s laughing his ass alllll the way home…. Life is pretty good here. Can’t complain,” she wrote on Twitter.

Of course, her bio claimed “I pee in the shower,” so delicate public relations skill isn’t her forte either. She’s since deleted her Twitter account.

To his credit, the Jets wideout said “you’ve got to expect that,” regarding the blowback to his initial attempt, and tried to play nice.

“I don’t think it’s against the law to try to unite or reach out to fans,” he said. “People obviously enjoy winning a lot more than losing, I get that. For me, that’s the biggest thing, making fans feel like they are important, because they are.

“Obviously I wish things could be different. I didn’t expect everything to be all happy and gung-ho; I knew I was going to get some sarcastic remarks.”

So at least he handled them better than his wife did.

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49ers getting away from printed tickets

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Ticket stubs will soon be going the way of the dodo bird.

According to Don Muret of SportsBusiness Daily, the 49ers will stop printing tickets to games in 2015.

The decision flows from heavy adoption of the team’s mobile ticketing device.  The 49ers expect 30,000 fans to use mobile ticketing for Sunday’s game against the Rams.

“Our goal when we launched this system was to drive adoption and the numbers have been mind-boggling,” COO Al Guido told Muret. “We want to rip the Band-Aid in year two, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Customers will still be able to print tickets at home, but gone are the days of the collectible piece of tangible proof of attendance at a game.  And the 49ers will save a lot of money by doing it.

“We’ll be using those dollars for other gifts,” Guido said.

Of course, in 18 years (or a lot sooner) those duffel bags, ear phones, and wireless chargers will be long gone.  Unlike, for example, the ticket stub from the 1995 AFC title game in Pittsburgh, where it cost a mere $65 to see Bill Cowher’s Steelers narrowly beat 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and the Colts.  (It’s not for sale, but if it were, it would cost more than $65.)

At a time when the NFL wants to make the in-stadium experience better than the at-home experience, giving the fans something that will make going to the game even more memorable doesn’t hurt.  Here’s hoping other teams won’t follow the 49ers’ lead on this one.

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Nick Foles: I have to do a better job

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

People with realistic expectations for the 2014 season knew that Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was going to throw more interceptions this season.

He threw picks on a minuscule 0.6 percent of his throws last season, a number that wasn’t going to be sustainable for another season. Even those who knew Foles would be throwing more interceptions may not have expected him to throw quite as many as he’s been throwing.

As it’s turned out, Foles has thrown interceptions in all but one game this season and he’s thrown seven in the last four games. That’s led to criticism of his footwork and decision making, some of it from Eagles coach Chip Kelly, and work in the film room on identifying the problems. Foles knows that more is expected of him and that continuing to talk about the issues won’t do anything to make them better.

“I’m the decision-maker on offense,” Foles said, via ESPN.com. “I have the ball every single play. Yes, I have to do a better job. Words can’t describe it. I have to go out here and keep working. It doesn’t feel good at times. You have to keep working on fundamentals and on decision-making. I’m going to keep working, and I’m going to fix it. My words don’t mean anything. I have to go out here, and I have to prove it.”

Foles will try to stop the flood of interceptions against J.J. Watt and the Texans in Houston this weekend.

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Difference in schedules gives Panthers somewhat of a chance

New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Saints took control of the NFC South race Thursday night.

Such that a 4-4 team can be in control of anything.

They’re now clear of the 3-5-1 Panthers after last night’s 28-10 win in Charlotte, but nothing is as it appears in the dirty south (The NSFW South?).

The Saints have the edge now, but play a tougher schedule down the stretch, significantly tougher than the Panthers.

In fact, after playing the Eagles on the road next Monday night, the only team the Panthers play the rest of the season which has a winning record now is the Browns (and no that’s not a typo).

The combined record of the rest of the Panthers’ opponents is 21-32. Of course, those teams are looking at the Panthers as examples of the relative strength of their own schedules as well.

The Saints, meanwhile, have to play some actual teams. Their next three opponents, all at home, are a combined 13-8-1 (San Francisco, Cincinnati and Baltimore).

Then come road trips to Pittsburgh and Chicago, and they haven’t been a particularly good cold weather team outdoors. Their opponents’ record the rest of the way is 27-33-2. That’s not good, but it’s Bataan-like compared to the Panthers’ schedule.

Heck, at that rate, even the 2-6 Falcons aren’t really out of it.

(Tried to type this with straight face. Couldn’t. Sorry.)

But as clean as the Saints have looked the last two games, and as hapless as the Panthers have looked the last seven (1-5-1), this division and the home playoff game that comes with it isn’t settled by a long shot.

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Junior Galette: We didn’t listen to the white noise of criticism

New Orleans at Carolina Getty Images

Linebacker Junior Galette made one of the biggest plays of Thursday night’s Saints win when he hit Panthers quarterback Cam Newton from behind in the second quarter to force a fumble that New Orleans recovered on the doorstep of the end zone.

They cashed in with the first points of the game a few plays later and the Saints were off and running to their first road win of the season. The win improved their record for the season to 4-4 and continued a trend of improved defense that has led to 12 sacks over the teams last 13 quarters of action and a 3-1 record. That unit drew a lot of criticism early this season, but Galette said the team never let it get to them.

“We didn’t listen to the white noise,” Galette said, via ESPN.com. “And here we are, first place in the division, and we can’t get complacent. We still won’t listen to the white noise and the good things people will say about us. Because we know how bad it feels when you’re down. So we’re just gonna keep our foot on the gas and not look back.”

As Galette noted, the win moved the Saints into the lead in the NFC South. The play of the defense, which shut Carolina out in the first half despite two turnovers by their offense, over the last month is a good development for their chances of remaining there the rest of the way.

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DeAngelo Hall tears Achilles tendon, again

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall has torn his Achilles tendon.  Yes, he did it last month.  He also has now done it again.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Hall re-tore the tendon this week.  He’ll need to have a second surgery to repair it.

The good news, if there is any, is that the second injury has happened early enough that Hall should be able to get ready for the 2015 season.  But his rehab could be a little more tentative this time around, given that the thing has torn again.

Washington has adjusted well to the absence of the team’s best cover corner, especially since Bashaud Breeland has continued to develop well in his rookie season.

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Saints blast NFL for short turnaround from SNF to TNF on road

New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Saints coach Sean Payton held his tongue all week.

But after beating the Panthers on the road Thursday night (which followed beating the Packers Sunday night), Payton was finally ready to let the NFL know how he felt.

I just think it’s foolish,” Payton said, via Katherine Terrell of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I’ve got three guys that are hurt in there now.”

Right tackle Zach Strief left the game with a back injury. Wide receiver Kenny Stills (groin) and running back Mark Ingram (shoulder) got dinged up but returned.

The Saints didn’t send a player to the NFL Network’s post-game set either, a quiet protest.

Nobody likes Thursday games except the people who count money, and Payton gets that he has to play them sometimes. He just objected to losing an entire Sunday by playing a night game then having to travel on Wednesday.

When the Broncos did the Sunday night-Thursday double, they got to play both games at home.

“I think the challenges were obvious with regards to logistics,” Payton said. “Thursday night games are one thing, but to come out and play on a Sunday night and come back and play on a Thursday. It’s not an excuse for your players, you don’t want it to be, but I would say it’s crazy. It’s silly. It shouldn’t happen.

“When you actually go through the logistics and see what your players go through, they get out of the stadium Sunday night at midnight. And look, it’s an easy thing to fix.”

That’s why Strief said he didn’t buy the league’s contention that Thursdays had no affect on health and safety.

“At the end of the day, it’s baloney,” Strief said. “Do you think it’s fair to play a night game and then turn around and travel and play on a Thursday? Being conscious of player safety, why would you do that? . . .

“Nobody wants to hear it,” he said. “What difference does it make if you’re upset about it? It makes no difference about it. What’s the point in complaining? Control what you can control.”

The Saints did that on the field, handling the undermanned Panthers easily. But then it was time to talk.

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Tony Jefferson cleared from concussion

Michael Crabtree, Larry Foote, Tony Jefferson AP

When the week opened, the Cardinals were looking at potentially facing the Cowboys without two key members of their defensive backfield because of concussions.

Now, though, they’ll almost certainly have both cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tony Jefferson in the lineup for their date with Dallas. Peterson was cleared to practice on Wednesday and got in a full workout on Thursday, putting him firmly on track to return to action.

Jefferson was a day behind Peterson, but the result is the same. Jefferson was limited in practice on Thursday, his first day on the field this week, and Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports that he got full clearance later in the day after passing his final test in the concussion protocol.

Jefferson has 50 tackles and a sack as one of the the four safeties who see notable playing time in the Cardinals Defense and his presence will be a welcome one as the Cardinals try to remain the frontrunner in the NFC in Dallas this weekend.

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Cam Newton takes the blame for Panthers’ loss

camnewton AP

Cam Newton had one of the worst games of his career on Thursday night, completing just 10 of his 28 passes, for 151 yards with an interception and a fumble. Afterward, he put the blame on his own shoulders.

“I know I missed a lot of throws,” Newton said, “and I’m not blaming anybody but myself.”

Newton is right: He did miss a lot of throws, and the Panthers missed on some potential big plays as a result. Although Newton had a solid game running the ball, gaining 43 yards and scoring on a 10-yard run, this was a rough night for him.

And it was a night when the Panthers fell to 3-5-1 and ceded first place in the NFC South to New Orleans. This is now the Saints’ division to lose.

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No sign of settlement talks in Rice appeal hearing, yet

Ray Rice AP

From the moment former federal judge Barbara S. Jones decided that Commissioner Roger Goodell will testify in the Ray Rice appeal hearing, a distinct possibility emerged that the challenge to Rice’s indefinite suspension will be resolved.

And while a settlement could indeed come at some point before the hearing commences on November 5, there’s no current indication of any negotiations aimed at concluding the case without requiring Goodell to answer questions under oath from lawyers Jeffrey Kessler or Peter Ginsberg or, possibly, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith himself.

Settling the case wouldn’t be a simple process.  Simply reinstating Rice surely wouldn’t cut it.  Rice would also want compensation for some of the time he already has missed as a result of a second punishment that prevented him from returning after Week Two, the duration of his original suspension.

Then there’s the reality that the financial value of avoiding the appeal hearing could be worth much more to the NFL than whatever it would take to fairly compensate Rice.  And Rice’s lawyers surely know this.

Settling the appeal also would create a delicate P.R. situation for the league, creating the impression for some that the NFL hopes not to do the right thing with Rice but to protect Goodell from having to answer questions about what happened — especially since anything Goodell says while testifying can be used against him by investigator Robert Mueller, who surely will be examining all testimony to compare it to the things that were said by those same witnesses when meeting with members of Mueller’s team.

So at this point a settlement would be a surprise, even if a settlement ultimate would make the most sense for everyone involved.

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