Mike Florio chats with Charean Williams of the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram in preparation for the Cowboys at Redskins game this Sunday. Florio asks if this is the most important game in the Dallas-Washington rivalry, how much impact this game will have on Tony Romo’s legacy, if Dallas’ defensive injuries will hamper their game plan against Robert Griffin III, and more.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Can Cowboys contain RGIII this time?
Rodgers isn’t the only injured starter on offense, however. Running back Eddie Lacy hurt his ankle when the Packers chose to run the ball instead of taking a knee on the final play of the first half last weekend and wasn’t able to practice on Wednesday despite being able to finish the game against the Falcons.
Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that Lacy would try to practice on Friday and Dunne deemed McCarthy “cautiously optimistic” that Lacy will be able to play against the Cowboys this weekend.
Lacy has been a workhorse for the Packers as a rookie, carrying the ball 20 or more times in eight of the last 10 games, so his absence would force them to improvise even more on offense than they’ve been doing since Rodgers got hurt. James Starks, Kahlil Bell and John Kuhn are the other backs available for the Packers.
At a time when New England needs a pass-catcher or two (or more) to step up in the absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is out for the year with a knee injury, a former #Tommy favorite has surfaced with one of the Patriots’ former arch rivals.
Deion Branch had a Tryout Tuesday tire-kicking in Indianapolis, per a league source with knowledge of the league’s official transaction report.
Branch played for New England as recently as 2012, catching 16 passes for 145 yards in 10 regular-season games. He also played in both postseason games last year.
In September, quarterback Tom Brady denied a report that he had been texting Branch and receiver Brandon Lloyd regarding their availability. At the time, Brady seemed to be frustrated with young wideouts who were doing more dropping than catching.
The Colts’ interest in Branch, who has not been signed, possibly arises from the leadership vacuum created by the season-ending knee injury suffered by Reggie Wayne in the team’s signature win over the Broncos. Since then, Indy’s wins have come only against teams that currently play or used to play in Houston.
The Colts also worked out receiver Ty West and running back Shaun Draughn. The Patriots have reported no tryouts or visits since Gronkowski was lost for the balance of the season.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has taken a lot of heat for the way the Dallas defense is playing, but Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones says the people who should be taking heat are the players.
Jones, the son of owner and General Manager Jerry Jones, told ESPN.com that the players need to be held accountable.
“You turn on the tape and guys we count on week in and week out didn’t show up,” Jones said. “I don’t know what it was, but we didn’t get it done and I’ve got to believe we can do better than that.”
Jones called out several defensive players by name.
“They’ve all got to be better,” Jones said. “Sean Lee has got to be better. Brandon Carr has got to be better. Bruce Carter has got to be better. Jason Hatcher has got to be better. We’ve all got to be better. We’ve got to do a better job when we do have injuries of having better players to get up and be there. It’s an organizational thing. You just have to do better on the defensive side of the ball. If we want to get to where we want to get to we can’t play that type of defense.”
The Cowboys are giving up 426.8 yards a game, worst in the league and on pace to allow the second-most yards in a season in NFL history. Jones wasn’t expecting that.
“Obviously you expect better,” Jones said. “We have to be better. You can’t play defense like that and be last in the league and expect to ultimately get to where we want to get to. Ultimately it’s got to improve. We know there’s circumstances with injuries — no excuses — our defensive line is kind of where it starts. We’ve been beaten up there but that’s part of it and we’ll have to keep churning there. But I fully expect us to play better these last three games on the defensive side of the ball.”
If the Cowboys don’t play better, they’re going to be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin.
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew once stayed away from an entire offseason when he was unhappy with his contract.
And now, though his role is changing, he wants to sign another one.
The veteran running back said he wants to hang around for the Jaguars sudden turnaround, and sign a new deal there.
“I want to be here,” Jones-Drew said, via Mark Long of the Associated Press. “It’s a fun environment. It’s different than I’ve ever been a part of. It works. It takes time to build anything. It’s starting to turn around for us, and we’re starting to play well. That’s exciting.”
After losing their first eight games, the Jaguars have come out of the bye as one of the league’s hottest teams, winning three straight and four of their last five.
That has him willing to forgive and forget the fact he never got the new contract the previous administration promised him, while adapting to a new role that involves sharing the ball more. The Jaguars have indicated they’d like to have him back at the right price.
“I just want to be a leader,” he said. “Back when I was young and doing some wild stuff, we had older guys that would be like, ‘All right, calm down.’ Well, now I look around here and I’m like, ‘All right, where are these older guys at?’ Oh, I’m one of them. So you’ve kind of got to change some things, especially with what we’ve been going through.”
That kind of change underscores the progress coach Gus Bradley and General Manager Dave Caldwell have made in a short time, one which gives the Jaguars hope for the future.
Lions running back Reggie Bush still isn’t quite sure how it happened, but he said he will be back this week after a strange muscle pull in his right calf kept him off the field last week against the Eagles.
Bush pulled up lame moments before the game after aggravating the injury, and went back to the locker room to try to warm up and get it ready, but it wasn’t happening.
“I can’t even sit here and lie and say I would have been able to push through it,” Bush said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “I couldn’t push through it.”
The Lions clearly missed him in the snowy loss to the Eagles, after they already deactivated Mikel Leshoure.
“I felt ready to go. Coaches asked me if I was OK to go and I said, ‘Yeah, I feel good,’” Bush said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s honestly never happened to me before. I’ve never missed a game for a pulled muscle, so I look forward to getting back this week.
“It’s very frustrating because what was at stake, playing on the road and just being out there with my teammates,” he said. “It’s always hard watching from the sideline being a spectator. I hate it, so I look forward to getting back this week.”
Bell fumbled twice in the blizzard with an increased workload (23 carries for 69 yards). But if Bush is ready to go Monday against the Ravens,and can get to game time, the Lions have a much better chance of taking another step toward a division title.
The Dallas Cowboys defense took a thumping at the hands of the Chicago Bears on Monday night. A pair of Cowboys defenders also felt the beating in their wallets.
Scandrick was fined $21,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit with Chicago receiver Brandon Marshall. Selvie was hit for a hit below the knees of Bears’ quarterback Josh McCown – though he didn’t reveal the fine amount.
Selvie said he intended to appeal the fine.
According to Jim Wyatt and John Glennon of the Tennessean, Pollard said the NFL told him the officials had made a mistake in throwing a flag for an illegal hit against a defenseless receiver.
“They said the ref made a bad call,” Pollard said. “It doesn’t help us on Wednesday.”
Pollard hit Decker shoulder-to-shoulder on the play and was still flagged for an illegal hit. The play came early in the third quarter with the Titans still holding a 21-20 lead over the Broncos. The penalty gave the Broncos a first down at the Titans’ 42-yard line. Two passes to Demaryius Thomas later and the Broncos were in the end zone to take a 27-21 lead.
It was a lead the Broncos wouldn’t relinquish.
For a player that has been fined over $60,000 this season for illegal plays, Pollard believes referees aren’t getting enough scrutiny from the league for missed calls.
“If we make a bad decision in a competitive game when we don’t mean to, we are fined 50-plus thousand dollars and some guys $200,000 plus a game check plus suspensions,” Pollard said. “But refs are making bad calls and nothing is happening. … And it is messing our group up because we don’t know how to play now, as far as how we hit the receivers. It is tough as a defensive back.”
The Dallas Cowboys will get a reinforcement back to help try to patch an ailing defensive unit.
Jones was placed on the reserve/designated to return list in October after suffering an abdominal/groin injury. Jones appeared in the first four games of the season for Dallas after being acquired from Kansas City at the end of the preseason. Jones recorded five tackles and a pass defense in those four games.
Jones is eligible to play this week against the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys’ defense is coming off another pathetic on Monday night. The Chicago Bears scored on all eight possessions and Josh McCown threw four touchdowns and ran in for another in handing the Cowboys a 45-28 defeat.
Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery quickly has become a man among boys, using a six-foot, three-inch frame and arms that seem to belong to an even taller man to make acrobatic catches in traffic.
Jeffery’s performance and potential will surely make folks who passed on the former South Carolina wideout regret not putting his name on a card.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News points out that the Jets surely rue the decision to take receiver Stephen Hill over Jeffery. Hill was the 43rd pick in the 2012 draft; Jeffery went two picks later.
Other teams that surely are muttering profanities when watching Jeffery’s sizable sizzle reel include the Rams (who took Brian Quick with the 33rd selection) and the 49ers (who selected A.J. Jenkins with pick 30).
Teams that drafted players at other positions likely are feeling remorse, including the team that used the 42nd overall pick. On a tackle. Named Jonathan Martin.
Between Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, it’s hard for the Bears to go wrong at the quarterback position. Whether Jay Cutler or Josh McCown or Cade McNown, plenty of guys would look pretty good with Marshall and Jeffery running the routes and making difficult catches look routine.
Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin continues to struggle with a hip problem that kept him out of action until Week 11, and that has kept him out of action since then.
Harvin didn’t practice on Wednesday in advance of a trip to New York to play the Giants, and coach Pete Carroll characterizes Harvin as week-to-week.
“We’re trying to figure this thing out and when he gets out on the practice field, then it’s truly day-to-day and we’ll see how he responds,” Carroll said, via quotes distributed by the team. “So as of today, he’s not going. He won’t be going, he’s rehabbing. That means that he’s running in his rehab work and we have to see if he can tolerate it and come on back and give us a couple of days work. We’ll have to make sure that he’s right. So we’re going to take our time and I know it seems like, ‘How can you take your time when you’re this close to the end of the season?’ But we still have to do that to take care of him.”
Carroll explained that the hip has gotten better and gotten worse.
“It has fluctuated,” Carroll said. “He has gone back and forth, where he’s gotten close and then it got aggravated a little bit. Just hasn’t quite got over the hump where he’s really clear. He has a whole lot of new movement in that hip that he hasn’t had before and he’s trying to become accustomed to that.”
The Seahawks have been fine without him. They’ll be even better if/when he can play — even if the next time he plays is the next time the Seahawks play in MetLife Stadium.
Mike Shanahan’s wide-ranging and at-times rambling Wednesday press conference included plenty of intriguing nuggets. MDS has done a great job of distilling the most salient points.
There’s another point that relates back to the report that got this giant ball of dysfunction rolling. Shanahan still hasn’t denied the ESPN bombshell that Shanahan nearly quit in January due to the relationship between owner Daniel Snyder and quarterback Robert Griffin III.
“What I said is there’s always bits and pieces of an article that are true,” Shanahan told reporters. “I’m not going to go into detail what was true about the article. I don’t think it’s fair to the organization and I would speak to that person first before I would speak to anybody else. But when you get partial truths — and I’m not one to say somebody is lying or this isn’t reported correctly — but I’ve heard that my whole life. I think everybody in this room knows that I don’t talk to anybody off the record.”
If Shanahan truly doesn’t talk to anybody off the record, he’s the only person connected to the NFL in any significant capacity who doesn’t.
Everybody talks to somebody off the record. With local and national media more prevalent and aggressive than ever, everyone knows someone they’ll talk to without attaching their name to it.
In this case, Shanahan or someone close to him was talking off the record to someone at ESPN. The fact that Shanahan has failed to dispute the notion that he was ready to quit in January proves it.
For more and more NFL teams, the time of the year has come to think about next year.
In a salary-cap environment, one of the biggest things about which to think is the spending limit. Per multiple reports, league owners were told at Wednesday’s quarterly meeting that the salary cap for 2014 currently is expected to be $126.3 million per team.
That’s a $3.3 million increase from the current maximum, which translates to an increase of only 2.68 percent over last year.
The cap has grown slowly in recent years due in large part to unexpectedly high benefits costs. Since the 2011 labor deal was finalized, accounting creativity has been needed in order to ensure an uptick in the cap. In 2012, for example, a little pigskin-style robbing of Peter to pay Paul was needed to prevent the spending limit from actually dropping.
The cap is expected to continue to make slow, steady growth. A larger bump is possible in 2015, the first year in which the calculations will take into account the new broadcast contracts, which start in 2014.
John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach and longtime broadcaster, has a problem with Washington coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to sit Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season to ensure he’ll be healthy for the offseason.
Madden said on Madden Football on SiriusXM NFL Radio that players and teams owe it to the league to play to win, and Madden believes that if Griffin is healthy enough that he’d be playing if Washington were fighting for a playoff berth, he ought to be playing now.
“I do know this: when the going goes tough you don’t quit. And you don’t fold up. And you don’t go in the other direction. I think you stay with what you believe you stay with who you are, you stay with what you are. And we have an integrity piece here, too,” Madden said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. “You can say well they’re 3-10, they’re out of it, so now they can do these things. No you can’t. This is still regular-season football. Draft order, that’s one small thing, but you still owe it to the people that are playing, that are still in the playoff picture. And when you can affect that and you don’t affect it with an all-out performance, then I think that affects the integrity of the game. . . . If you’re in the regular season, there’s only one way to play, and that’s to play your best people to win the game, every regular season game.”
Madden said he fundamentally disagrees with Shanahan’s view that keeping Griffin healthy for the offseason is more important than playing him in the final three games of the regular season.
“I mean, you know it’s baloney,” Madden said. “I like Mike Shanahan, and I’m not talking behind his back, but when you say something like that, you know that’s not right — you’re not going to sacrifice regular season games. There’s only 16 of them a year. You’re not going to sacrifice regular season games for an offseason program.”
But sacrificing regular season games for an offseason program is exactly what Shanahan says he’s doing with Griffin.
Over the weekend, we reported that the NFL has been discussing and will continue to discuss the possibility of taking replay review out of stadiums and moving it to a central location.
On Wednesday, at a quarterly ownership meeting in Dallas, Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that such a change is being considered.
Per Albert Breer of NFL Network, Goodell acknowledged that V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino could be directly involved in the replay function.
“Our number one focus is to make sure we’re providing the best officiating,” Goodell said, via NFL.com. “We always think we can improve. Consistency is important. By bringing it into the league office on Sundays and having one person actually making that decision, you can make an argument there’s consistency.”
It looks like that one person would be Blandino. And that makes sense. Since he’s the one who draws the short straw when it comes to explaining the mistakes made by guys like Jeff Triplette, why not just have Blandino make the decisions in the first instance, under circumstances far more conducive to making an efficient and ultimately reliable decision?
Ravens safety Matt Elam is 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, while Lions receiver Calvin Johnson is 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds. So it wouldn’t seem to benefit Elam to try to get physical with Megatron when the two meet on Monday night.
But Elam, a 22-year-old rookie, says that when taking on an old guy like the 28-year-old Johnson, you always have to get physical.
“He’s pretty old, so I don’t know how physical he’ll be,” Elam said. “He’s a big guy, but he’s older. I guess when they get older they’re not going to be as physical, you know what I’m saying? We’re going to have to be physical, make him uncomfortable.”
Elam also said that Johnson is a “Big, fast, athletic, unstoppable, freak,” but you can bet those “old” comments will make their way to the Lions’ locker room. The Lions have previously acknowledged getting motivation from opposing teams snubbing Megatron, such as the time then-Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said Johnson would only be the third-best receiver on the Cowboys. After Ryan made those comments, Johnson scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in leading Detroit to a come-from-behind victory over Dallas.
In a big game for both teams’ playoff hopes, Ravens fans will have to hope Johnson doesn’t make Elam eat his words.