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ProFootballTalk: Should the Jets clean house?

Does it make sense to bring back Rex Ryan? Most say yes, but cleaning house may give the Jets a chance for a fresh start. The PFT guys debate.

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Shane Vereen not present at Friday practice

New York Jets v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Patriots’ top tailback looks to be a late-week addition to the club’s injury report.

Shane Vereen was not on the practice field for New England on Friday, multiple club beat writers reported, included Doug Kyed of NESN.com.

It’s unclear whether Vereen’s absence was because of injury or for another reason. All players who miss part or all of practice have to be declared on the injury report, per NFL rules.

Brandon Bolden, Jonas Gray and James White are the Patriots’ other backs on the roster. The club lost Stevan Ridley to season-ending ACL and MCL tears in Week Six.

The Patriots’ final injury report will be released later Friday, with players to be classified as “out,” “doubtful,” “questionable” or “probable.”

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Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett could miss extended time

Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers Getty Images

Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett came back sooner than some expected from his shoulder injury.

And it may have been too soon.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, there’s a fear that Verrett may have aggravated the initial injury, and there’s a fear he “could miss significant time.”

That would be terrible news for a Chargers team that has lost two in a row after a solid start to the season.

The first-round pick was a surprise activation last night, but may have played in part because of fellow starter Brandon Flowers being out with a concussion.

But if he rushed back and made a short-term injury a long one just for the sake of suiting up against Peyton manning and the Broncos, then the Chargers may have lost both the battle and the war.

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A.J. Green sitting out practice Friday

A.J. Green, Darqueze Dennard AP

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green’s status for Sunday’s game vs. Baltimore appears in serious doubt.

According to Paul Dehner Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Green (toe) wasn’t practicing on Friday. If Green doesn’t participate in Friday’s workout, it will mark the third consecutive practice he’s missed, and a week of no on-field work usually equates to a player being inactive on gameday.

Green has missed eight straight practices and two games in a row for Cincinnati, for whom he’s starred since entering the NFL in 2011. One of the game’s top receivers, Green is a premier vertical threat, as he showed in the season-opening win at Baltimore when he broke free for the game-winning 77-yard fourth-quarter TD.

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Larry Fitzgerald: Lack of touches is a “champagne problem”

Arizona Cardinals v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Larry Fitzgerald has piled up a lot of stats for a lot of mediocre teams.

So now that he’s not getting as many stats for a good one, he’s not going to complain, at least out loud.

While it’s clear that the Cardinals wide receiver isn’t getting the ball as much as he might prefer, it’s also clear he’s not going to rock the boat for the 5-1 Cardinals.

“I always keep it in perspective how fortunate and blessed not only me but everyone in this locker room is,” Fitzgerald said, via Darren Urban of the team’s official website. “Not getting enough targets? Where I grew up we called those ‘champagne problems.’
“This is my job and I love it, but I also put it in its proper place.”

Fitzgerald has just 23 catches for 283 yards this season, a fairly pedestrian pace for someone who has topped 90 catches five times and 1,400 yards four times in his career.

But the Cardinals are playing to minimize mistakes more than pad your fantasy stats, and it’s not as if he’s ignored. Only running back Andre Ellington has more receptions, with 25.

“We all care about our touches and looks, don’t get me wrong,” Fitzgerald said. “We just don’t put our touches and looks in front of what we are trying to accomplish as a team. There is a distinct difference. You are playing ball your whole life, you are in the NFL, you’ve been ‘The Man’ your whole life, so you have to put that aside and focus on what is best for your team. I think everyone has a good grasp of that.”

The fact that he’s playing nice about it certainly won’t hurt when it’s time to address his contract this offseason, either.

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PFT Live: Saints talk with Jeff Duncan, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Drew Brees AP

The Saints will host the Packers on Sunday Night Football in a game that the 2-4 Saints could really use if they are going to return to the playoffs this season.

Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune will join Mike Florio on Friday’s edition of PFT Live to preview the contest. They’ll discuss what the Saints defense needs to do to have a chance at knocking quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of the relaxed groove he’s been in this month and whether the team’s offense remains potent enough to overcome a shaky defense if they can’t get it together on that side of the ball.

There are plenty of other games to talk about and we’re curious to hear what’s on the minds of PFT Planet heading into the weekend. You can send in questions for Florio on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 during the show to share what you’re thinking about this Friday.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Ryan Mallett: I’ll be ready to start if I’m called on

mallett AP

Texans backup quarterback Ryan Mallett isn’t exactly campaigning to unseat starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. But he says he’ll be ready if that’s what happens.

After coach Bill O’Brien said this week that Mallett is putting in work in practice and getting better, Mallett said he’ll be ready to go if O’Brien hands him the ball.

“If it happens, it happens,” Mallett said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I’ll be ready. I’ll be prepared. I prepare like I’m the starter. I have since I’ve been in the NFL. I’ve just got to continue to do that and be ready when my number’s called.”

Mallett has never started an NFL game and has barely played, getting just a bit of mop-up duty during his three seasons as Tom Brady’s backup in New England. But O’Brien, who coached in New England during Mallett’s rookie year, has praised his work in the film room, and seems to agree with Mallett’s self-assessment that he’ll be ready. There’s a very good chance that at some point soon, O’Brien will call on Mallett and we’ll all see just how ready he is.

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Reggie Bush doubtful, Calvin Johnson questionable

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Running back Reggie Bush missed practice for the second straight day on Friday, but said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, that he will play against the Falcons at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

The team isn’t quite as confident. Bush has been listed as doubtful on the team’s final injury report of the week because of his ankle injury, leaving him unlikely to play when the two teams kick off Sunday’s action with a game for the American audience to watch while they eat their breakfast.

There’s more hope for wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain. He was a limited participant in practice all week and his ability to go each day is a good sign for how the ankle might hold up in a return to action this weekend. Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle is also questionable after suffering a concussion last week, but his chances of playing look better after he got in a full practice on Friday.

Tight ends Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron were both ruled out and Brandon Pettigrew is doubtful, which should mean a lot of work for Kellen Davis and Jordan Thompson when the team needs a tight end this weekend.

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Free tickets to 49ers games create problems for San Jose police

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A troubling picture has been painted in recent weeks regarding the relationship between the 49ers and San Jose police.  In addition to the team routinely hiring San Jose police officers to provide security services (a practice that has been suspended due to the handling of the Ray McDonald case), the 49ers also have given free tickets to multiple San Jose police officers, in violation of the applicable rules.

According to ABC7, the team gave free tickets to two members of the department for at least two 49ers games.  The San Jose gift ordinance prohibits police officers from receiving items worth more than $50.

“Tickets to an athletic event like a Sharks game, an A’s game, a Giants game, a 49ers game,” San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle told ABC7, “if the face value of those tickets are more than $50 dollars, which is probably the case most of the time.”

In this case, the team told ABC7 that the tickets had a face value of $187.

Accepting the tickets also violates the police department’s internal guidelines, according to Judge Ladoris Cordell, who serves as San Jose’s independent police auditor.

“Things like that, those are deemed to be gifts,” Judge Cordell told ABC7.  “So a discount, a gratuity, a favor, if they’re not offered to everybody, you can’t take them.  We don’t want officers, our police officers in San Jose, to be getting special favors from certain people because it might compromise them at some point.  And it doesn’t look good.”

The two officers in question — Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia and Deputy Chief Jeff Marozick — have since reimbursed the 49ers for the tickets.  But that doesn’t satisfy Judge Cordell’s concerns.

“The fact is the duty manual, the rule itself says you may not accept these,” Judge Cordell told ABC7. “It doesn’t say, you get around it by accepting it, and later paying money back.”

She’s right; the money was reimbursed only because the issue was discovered.  If no one ever raised a question or a concern about it, nothing would have happened.

Moving forward, the question is whether San Jose and other Bay Area municipalities will establish the kind of arm’s-length relationship with the 49ers that will insulate any investigations of players or team employees from scrutiny or suspicion.  The bigger question for the NFL is whether steps will be taken to ensure that neither the 49ers nor any other teams are attempting to short-circuit the personal conduct policy by maintaining relationships that can undermine the willingness of police officers to aggressively pursue potential violations of the law.

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Harry Douglas a game-time decision for Sunday

Harry Douglas AP

The Falcons had wide receiver Harry Douglas at practice for the second straight day on Friday, leading to more hope that the team will get him back in the lineup after four games on the sideline because of a foot injury.

While it’s a good sign that Douglas’s return to practice on Thursday didn’t result in any adverse reaction in his foot, coach Mike Smith said that there won’t be any final determination made about his playing status until Sunday.

“Harry’s done very well,” Smith said, via the team’s website. “He will be a decision that we make as we get closer to the game, but he’s been able to come out and participate in practice the past two days, so he was a limited participant again today, but I like the progress he’s made through the week.”

Getting Douglas, who has 12 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown, back would expand Atlanta’s options against a good Lions defense, although they’ll need a reverse in course from the offensive line to take full advantage of them.

Smith said defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux is also headed for a game-time decision after missing practice all this week.

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Paul Allen gives $100 million to fight Ebola

Allen AP

With Ebola finally arriving in New York City and a lingering sense of uncertainty as to whether Americans should not worry about the disease at all or retreat to an underground bunker for the next five years, Seahawks owner Paul Allen has decided to try to stem the tide of a disease that, while still very new to our country, continues to ravage West Africa.

Via the New York Times, Allen has donated $100 million to the fight against Ebola.

“Everybody feels called sometimes to really pursue a certain thing that resonates with them, and this has resonated with me,” Allen said.  “The exponential nature of the growth of this disease is really a challenge — we’ve already seen in the U.S. where one case quickly became two.”

Allen also has created the TackleEbola.com website, where donations much smaller than $100 million can be made for small, specific projects.

Regardless of whether Ebola ever becomes a serious public health situation in America (and as best I can tell while monitoring the Internet from my underground bunker is that it won’t), it is a serious public health situation in various other countries that lack sophisticated medical facilities and/or a basic public understanding of what the disease is and how it spreads.  So we applaud Allen for his generosity (after all, $100 million is still $100 million, no matter how much money a guy has), and we encourage everyone to make a donation to one of the various projects being funded by TackleEbola.com.

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Getting through first practice brings “mixed emotions” to Amobi Okoye

dal_a_okoye_kh_200x300 AP

It was one practice.

But for a guy who spent three months in a coma, it was a pretty big deal.

Cowboys defensive tackle Amobi Okoye went through yesterday’s practice, signaling the start of a three-week window to work before the Cowboys have to decide to activate him or leave him on the reserve/non-football injury list.

It was good, it was worth it,” Okoye said, via Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. “It was mixed emotions. It felt like it naturally was coming back. I’ve played six years in the league [and], it doesn’t take too long for stuff to come back to you.”

Okoye is recovering from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a brain condition which causes memory loss and seizures. He last played in a game in 2012, and lost 78 pounds during his battle.

He said he’d talk more about his condition during the bye week in November, but he’s impressed his teammates with the work he’s already put in.

“He’s been through a lot,” linebacker Bruce Carter said. “His story is amazing. A guy like that who works real hard, I see him all the time working [with strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Woicik] one-on-one. Just to see him actually working with [us] and see it pay off is a great thing. I think he’s going to do great things for us.”

There’s still no guarantee Okoye will play this year. But after what he’s been through, simply getting through a practice is a big first step.

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Eddie Royal says loss to Broncos is motivating, not discouraging

Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The Chargers opened the season 5-1, but even as they were piling up wins they knew that they had a big obstacle standing in the way of their hopes for the season.

Two meetings with the Broncos loomed and there’s not much chance of winning the AFC West title without handling Denver at least once. The Chargers couldn’t get the job done on Thursday night, losing 35-21, but wide receiver Eddie Royal says the loss won’t leave the team licking their wounds for too long.

“It’s not discouraging,” Royal said, via ESPN.com. “It’s motivating. We just know what we need to work on. We know how good of a team they are, and we know we can play with these guys. It just motivates us to go back and put in some work. I think we’ve got the right guys in this locker room to get ready to go and get a win.”

The schedule should be a help to the Chargers in the next few weeks. They play the Dolphins in Week Nine and then head on their bye, which means they’ll have a big window to get some players healthy ahead of the stretch run. They then have home games against the Raiders and Rams once they’re back in action, giving them a chance to get back on the winning track before they face the Ravens, Patriots and Broncos in a three-week stretch that should go a long way toward determining their playoff fate.

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Kickalicious visits the Lions in London

Havard Rugland AP

Kickalicious is back with the Lions. But only for a visit, to the chagrin of some Lions fans.

Havard Rugland, the Norwegian kicker whose trick kick video made him an Internet celebrity and got him a spot on Detroit’s preseason roster last year, stopped by the team’s practice today in London, according to Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.

The Lions have shown no interest in signing Rugland, even though their kicking situation has been appalling this year. Detroit is already on its third kicker of the season, and although the current kicker, Matt Prater, is the best of the three, that’s not saying much: Prater is 2-for-4 this season, and one of the two he made was a 21-yarder that came courtesy of a fortunate bounce off the upright. Rugland went 3-for-3 in the preseason last year, with a long of 50 yards.

Rugland visited with Prater, punter Sam Martin and special teams coach John Bonamego. It appears that it was just a visit, and there’s no chance of Rugland taking Prater’s job. Although perhaps if Prater misses a couple of kicks on Sunday against the Falcons, Bonamego will consider bringing Rugland back to Detroit with him.

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Akeem Ayers happy to be somewhere he has a chance to play

Rob Ninkovich, Akeem Ayers AP

Linebacker Akeem Ayers had fallen out of favor in Tennessee this season, leaving him as a healthy scratch for five of the team’s seven games and, unbeknownst to him, on the trading block.

The Titans pulled the trigger on a deal this week, sending Ayers to the Patriots along with a 2015 seventh-round pick in exchange for a sixth-round selection. Ayers has only been a member of the Patriots for a few days, so he’s still learning the team’s schemes and figuring out how he’ll fit into the mix for a team that lost Jerod Mayo for the season. However those things resolve themselves, Ayers says he’s pleased to be somewhere that offers him a chance of getting back on the field.

“I’m pretty much just happy to be here. Obviously, I wasn’t playing there, and I just happened to get in a good situation here,” Ayers said, via the Boston Herald. “As I’m learning the playbook, I’m trying to simplify things as much as I can and the coaches are helping me out with that. We’re trying to keep things simple and try to learn to the best I can to play as fast as I can when I’m on the field.”

This Sunday will bring the first look at how quickly Ayers is picking things up in New England with the team surely hoping that the process moves fast enough for him to help the defense when the Broncos roll into town in Week Nine.

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O’Brien disputes report that Cushing will miss time with knee injury

Cushing AP

On Wednesday night, PFT reported that Texans linebacker Brian Cushing will miss at least one game due to lingering issues with his surgically-reconstructed knee.  On Thursday, coach Bill O’Brien disputed the report.

“First of all, no, I wasn’t aware of that report,” O’Brien told reporters on Thursday.  “I was trying to figure out how to try to get a first down against the Tennessee Titans because it was third-down night.  And secondly, there is no accuracy to that report.”

O’Brien’s reaction is predictable.  Schooled in the art of injury misdirection from his time with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, O’Brien knows he’s required to disclose only whether and to what extent a guy has practiced in the week preceding a game, and then eventually to apply a label to an injured player — out, doubtful, questionable, or probable.

Even if O’Brien knows Cushing won’t play on Sunday (and Cushing won’t play), O’Brien gains nothing from admitting it on Thursday.  Admitting it on Thursday eliminates the possibility of listing Cushing as questionable, extending until Sunday morning the uncertainty for the Titans as to whether Cushing will play.

Indeed, the signs already are pointing toward the 50-50 “questionable” label for Cushing, who did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday.

“I think he feels he’s getting better every day,” O’Brien said.  “I think coming off that [ACL] injury, you know, postgame is always, there is a lot of soreness.  We have to ease him back into the week.  Like how we say, he’s day-to-day.  We’ll see how he is tomorrow. We’ll bring him to Tennessee and we’ll see how he is before the game.”

Yep, Cushing will be questionable on Friday.  And then on Sunday, the pregame shows that no one will be watching because of the Lions-Falcons game that starts at 9:30 a.m. ET will have a stream of reports that Cushing, while listed as questionable, won’t play.

And probably that linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, while listed as questionable, will.

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