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Mike Ditka calls the Bears “stupid” for firing Lovie Smith

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Former Bears coach Mike Ditka is not happy that Lovie Smith got the boot following a 10-6 finish in 2012.

Ditka called the Bears “stupid” for making the decision, noting that if the Packers had beaten the Vikings on Sunday afternoon, Smith would be preparing to coach the Bears in a playoff game on Sunday. According to Ditka, it makes no sense to fire a coach who would be in the playoffs were it not for the results of another game.

“If Minnesota would have lost last night and the Bears were in the playoffs this wouldn’t have happened. That’s a fact. So how stupid is it then? It really is stupid,” Ditka said on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. “If they would have made the playoffs this would not have happened. They did what they did. They took care of their business and Minnesota played a great game against Green Bay.”

Ditka believes the Bears’ ownership should have thought more about the team’s 7-1 start and less about the 3-5 finish.

“I think Lovie is a very good coach,” Ditka said.

He may be, and he’s reportedly already drawing interest from several other teams. In which case he may soon be a very good coach for some other team.

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Jason Verrett expected to make preseason debut

Jason Verrett AP

The Chargers made cornerback Jason Verrett their first-round pick in May knowing that he’d need time to recover from March shoulder surgery before he’d be ready to hit the field.

Verrett missed spring work, but started practicing in training camp and added more to his plate as his shoulder proved up to the challenge. Now he’s ready to take the next big step in his preparation for his rookie season as Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Verrett is expected to make his first appearance in a preseason game when the Chargers face the 49ers on Sunday.

His teammate Brandon Flowers is looking forward to seeing what Verrett can do in a game situation.

“He sticks in coverage,” Flowers said. “He’s a playmaker. He has that ‘want to’ in his eyes. I’ve been around a lot of cornerbacks in my days, from old guys to young guys. He wants to be the one to make a play. He’s not going to shy away from it like, ‘I hope the quarterback doesn’t throw my way on third down.’ He wants the quarterback to throw his way on third down. Just having that ‘want to,’ his athleticism, I can’t wait to see him when the lights come on.”

Cornerback was a weak spot for the Chargers last season and they weren’t shy about addressing it this offseason with the additions of Flowers and Verrett. If both live up to expectations, the chance to at least compete for a second straight playoff berth should be within reach in San Diego.

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Montori Hughes on leave from Colts after death of daughter

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Colts defensive tackle Montori Hughes has taken a leave from the team to deal with a family tragedy.

Coach Chuck Pagano announced on Thursday that Hughes’s three-month old daughter Maveah Alice died last week and that Hughes will be away from the team while dealing with the loss. Pagano said that the little girl had visited practice early in training camp and “she was perfectly fine” before getting ill.

“I can’t imagine. No parent should have to bury a child. We all go through circumstances. This is an extremely, extremely difficult time for Montori and his family. But we’ve got his back and we’ll get through this thing as a family like we get through anything,” Pagano said, via the Indianapolis Star.

We offer our condolences to Hughes and his family as they deal with their loss and hope he can make a successful return to the field when he feels ready to resume his career.

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Nate Burleson: Johnny Manziel’s still the man

Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel may not have won the starting quarterback job in Cleveland, but at least one member of the team’s receiving corps thinks that the future is still very bright for the first-round pick.

Nate Burleson said that Manziel’s extracurricular activities were not a problem for him because he has seen that Manziel “loves this sport and he wants to be great at it.” Burleson also thinks that a stint as a backup could make Manziel even better down the road.

“Johnny’s still the man. He’s still a really good quarterback. He’s an NFL-quality starting quarterback. … Johnny being the No. 2, as you want to call it, we got arguably the best No. 2 in the NFL,” Burleson said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “Johnny will be successful in this league. He’ll have his opportunities. Regardless of how many chances he’ll get or waves of opportunities he gets, he’s going to take advantage of them. It’s not a bad thing for him to be the No. 2 [quarterback] Week One. He is a rookie, still has a lot to learn and to do as a professional and as a player when it comes to the playbook. He’s going to be all right. I’m a Johnny Football fan.”

Burleson’s support for Manziel doesn’t come at Brian Hoyer’s expense as he said he felt the team had two “winners” to choose from and praised Hoyer’s command of the offense. That command hasn’t been as evident to many others during the team’s preseason work, something that will have to change if Manziel is going to remain the No. 2 in Cleveland.

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Jeremy Maclin relieved after knee scare last night

Jeremy Maclin AP

When Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin went down in the second quarter last night, it was natural to jump to the conclusion.

With Maclin coming off a torn ACL, and going down without contact and clutching the same knee, even Eagles coach Chip Kelly “thought the worst.”

But moments later, Maclin was back on the field, disaster averted.

If I was fine, I was going to play,” Maclin said, via John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com. “I got up fine. It wasn’t anything. I was excited to get back out there and play. I think God definitely had my back on that one. When I got up and I was walking, the initial shock kind of went away, and I was pretty good.”

After last year’s injury, Maclin has had to work through some soreness in his legs, but the bigger challenge was the mental one.

“It’s tough,” Maclin said. “You need a strong-minded person to get through stuff like this. I’ve always been in a good place mentally. Initially, when it first happened a year ago, I was emotional. I was upset. I think the thing that kind of helped me in rehab and kept me going was the fact that I was mentally tough. Now I’m excited about going forward.”

The Eagles are excited about getting Maclin on the field with Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews, and for a moment last night, it appeared that plan was dashed.

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Friday morning one-liners

Alex Henery AP

Bills WR Sammy Watkins ran routes against air in Thursday’s practice.

CB Will Davis has shown more consistency for the Dolphins.

Patriots RB Brandon Bolden thinks competition this summer has made him better.

CB Darrin Walls is expected to start for the Jets on Friday night.

Ravens WR Torrey Smith won the Tim Wheatley Award for his community service work.

RB Jeremy Hill may get work with the Bengals starters this week.

Said Browns T Joe Thomas of RB Ben Tate, “One of the bright spots on offense is how we’ve been able to run the ball with Ben back there and I expect him to have a great season for us.”

Steelers LB Ryan Shazier was “very disappointed” with the team’s play on Thursday night.

WR DeVier Posey did well during the Texans’ practices with the Broncos.

The state of G Jack Mewhort’s knee is an issue for the Colts.

The Jaguars are still waiting to name a starting center and right guard.

Titans QB Charlie Whitehurst probably won’t play this week.

WR Emmanuel Sanders was back at practice for the Broncos.

The Chiefs are one of many teams adjusting their defensive play due to the increased flags for illegal contact and holding.

Young cornerbacks are bidding for roles on the Raiders defense.

The Chargers aren’t worried about the field at Levi’s Stadium.

LB Anthony Hitchens got a turn with the first team at Cowboys practice.

Giants RB Andre Williams balked at those who thought he was talking trash about the Jets this week.

Eagles K Alex Henery missed another field goal Thursday night.

Ryan Clark likes what he’s seen from fellow Redskins S Bacarri Rambo.

Jordan Palmer is still trying to be the Bears’ backup quarterback.

Is there a role for RB Mikel Leshoure with the Lions?

The Packers have decisions to make at outside linebacker.

Vikings QB Matt Cassel isn’t worried about the reaction he’ll get from Chiefs fans.

The Falcons want to play at a higher offensive tempo.

Panthers CB Josh Norman has to avoid bad decisions on the field.

QB Drew Brees is ready to “just play ball” for the Saints.

Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith and C Evan Dietrich-Smith have bonded over their love of vintage cars.

WR Walt Powell is looking for a chance to show the Cardinals what he can do.

Rams LB James Laurinaitis has resumed practicing, but might not play this week.

WR Stevie Johnson thinks the 49ers will have a dynamic offense.

Seahawks DE Michael Bennett will have a chance to square off with his brother Martellus this weekend.

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Report: High Bills bid by Sabres owner Terry Pegula

Terry Pegula, Kim Pegula AP

Through all the twists and turns of the sale of the Bills, with all the potential celebrity possibilities, it appears the high bid so far has come from a local.

Via the Buffalo News, Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula turned in the highest of the three bids so far for the team.

According to a report by Forbes, the three non-binding bids all came in under $900 million.

The report said Pegula’s bid of $890 million topped the $820 million bid by the Toronto group faced by Jon Bon Jovi and the $809 million from Donald Trump. (What happened to $1 billion, all cash?)

Those numbers aren’t final, and the Forbes report suggested they’re so low that the league might want to scuttle the sale process and start over. But it does point to what has been reported previously, that Pegula was the front-runner to buy the team.

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Sharrif Floyd drops 30 pounds, feels ready for a big year

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When the Vikings drafted defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd with the 23rd overall pick in last year’s draft, it was widely viewed as a steal. But Floyd had a mediocre rookie year in Minnesota.

This year, Floyd expects to be better, in part because he’s thinner: Floyd, who weighed in at 297 pounds at last year’s Scouting Combine, ballooned up to 330 during his rookie season. Now he’s back down around 300, and he thinks it will make a difference.

I’m feeling a lot better,” Floyd told the Pioneer Press. “It’s much easier on my knees. . . . I feel good and have confidence in my body weight.”

Floyd was a backup last year but will be a starter this year, and he says his improved cardiovascular conditioning will be important.

“I just feel lighter,” Floyd said. “I feel healthier. I feel like I can last a lot longer in the games and stuff like that. I feel great all-around as a player.”

Thats good news in Minnesota, where new coach Mike Zimmer needs Floyd to be a big part of his defense.

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Joe Mays to have surgery on injured wrist

Chiefs Training Camp AP

The Kansas City Chiefs will have to get by without the services of linebacker Joe Mays for the immediate future.

According to Dave Skretta of the Associated Press, Mays is set to have surgery on a wrist injury suffered last week against the Carolina Panthers.

Mays was penciled in as the second starting inside linebacker for Kansas City alongside Derrick Johnson. He is expected to have surgery later this week. Though no timetable is given for Mays’ expected return, the Chiefs will have to move forward without Mays for the time being.

Mays appeared in 14 games, making 13 starts, for the Houston Texans last season. He compiled 67 tackles, a sack and three passes defended on the season. The injury likely means linebackers James Michael-Johnson and Josh Mauga will be called upon to fill the void in the meantime.

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49ers replacing turf at Levi’s Stadium

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After being forced to move practice out of Levi’s Stadium due to poor turf conditions on Wednesday, the San Francisco 49ers have decided to replace the playing surface altogether ahead of Sunday’s preseason game with the San Diego Chargers.

The 49ers cut short a public practice open to fans at their brand new stadium on Wednesday after several players continued to slip on the loose surface.

According to Janie McCauley of the Associated Press, the 49ers are working to re-sod the surface ahead of Sunday’s game.

“The 49ers organization would like to apologize to any fans who were inconvenienced by today’s practice ending early,” the team said Wednesday. “We have determined the appropriate measures necessary to have the field ready for Sunday and look forward to hosting the San Diego Chargers.”

It’s not unusual for stadiums with grass fields to need their field replaced during a season. It is unusual for it to happen after one game in the middle of August.

It appears as those some of the grass at the stadium just didn’t take hold to the ground strongly enough to provide a stable surface. After Sunday’s game against San Diego, the 49ers do not play at home again until Sept. 14. It could give the stadium a couple extra weeks for the new sod to take hold and provide a safe surface for the players.

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Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount play into fourth quarter vs. Eagles

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On the same day they were cited for marijuana possession, Steelers tailbacks Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount both played into the fourth quarter of Pittsburgh’s 31-21 preseason loss at Philadelphia.

Bell (nine rushes, 23 yards) and Blount (seven rushes, 32 yards) were the only Steelers tailbacks to carry the ball against the Eagles.

Afterwards, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin shed some light on why Bell and Blount played.

“From my perspective, in terms of their participation tonight, I didn’t view it as punishment to send them home to be quite honest with you, to not play in this preseason game. I would rather them play more than anticipated than to remove them from the game,” Tomlin said, according to a transcript of his remarks from the club. “That’s why we took the stance that we took tonight.”

Tomlin called the Bell and Blount incident “conduct  . . . detrimental to our efforts. They’ll be dealt with appropriately.”

However, Tomlin said the club’s lackluster play Thursday night wasn’t related to the backs’ legal issues.

“We are not going to make any excuse for that performance. We are going to own that. What happened yesterday had nothing to do with how we performed tonight,” Tomlin said.

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Justin Britt looks set to win Seahawks starting right tackle job

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The Seattle Seahawks hoped Justin Britt would develop into their starting right tackle when they selected him in the second round of the draft out of the University of Missouri in May.

Turns out he may ascend to the starting role even earlier than anticipated.

Britt appears set to win the job over veteran tackle Eric Winston to replace departed starter Breno Giacomini. After an up and down preseason debut against the Denver Broncos, Britt fared much better against the San Diego Chargers last week. Seattle’s coaching staff has been pleased with Britt’s progress throughout the preseason and signs are pointing toward him starting the season opener against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 4.

“His progress has been really solid,” head coach Pete Carroll said Thursday. “He’s making great strides to be a legitimate starter. I’ve said before it’s all in his makeup that really kind of substantiates that he’s able to do this and handle this so it’s gone great so far”

The right tackle job has been one of few truly open competitions for starting roles on the Seahawks this offseason.

Britt was initially expected to be in competition for the job with second-year player Michael Bowie.

Bowie stated eight games as a rookie for Seattle with seven starts coming at right tackle. However, Bowie showed up to training camp 20 pounds overweight, according to Carroll. He then suffered a shoulder injury that would require surgery and was waived/injured by Seattle before being claimed by the Cleveland Browns.

Once Bowie injured his shoulder, the Seahawks signed Winston to a one-year deal to compete with Britt for the job. Up until this point, Britt has predominantly worked with the first-team offense for the entirety of training camp. If he’s able to put together another strong performance against the Chicago Bears on Friday night, the starting job will certainly be his for the taking.

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Steelers’ starters struggle in tune-up at Philadelphia

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Last season, the Steelers were compromised by an 0-4 start.

And with the regular season a little more than two weeks away, it’s clear the 2014 Steelers have some things to clean up before the gates open.

In Thursday night’s 31-21 loss at Philadelphia, the Steelers surrendered 482 yards. Eagles star tailback LeSean McCoy riddled the Steelers for 50 yards on six touches in the first quarter, and Philadelphia quarterbacks combined to complete 31-of-43 attempts for 309 yards for the game.

The Steelers’ first-team offense didn’t manage a single point until about four minutes left in the third quarter, when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a 27-yard TD pass to tight end Heath Miller. By then, though, the Eagles’ defense was playing backups.

With Roethlisberger still a blue-chip quarterback, the Steelers’ offense should be a strength this season. And on their best, the Steelers are quite capable of garnering their first playoff spot since 2011.

But Thursday’s loss had to be an uncomfortable one for Pittsburgh. Yes, the game didn’t count, but here was an elite offense making Pittsburgh look . . . well, pedestrian. Maybe it’s nothing. But even if it’s nothing, it was a cringeworthy nothing.

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Jason Worilds leaves with knee injury

Jason Worilds AP

Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds has been ruled out for the remainder of Thursday’s preseason game at Philadelphia with a right knee injury, the club said.

Worilds was credited with a sack of Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez early in the third quarter, but the play was nullified by a penalty. On the next play, Worilds appeared to be no longer in the game, and the Eagles scored a touchdown. The Steelers then ruled him out the rest of the way.

The 26-year-old Worilds had a breakout 2013 season, recording a career-high eight sacks. He’s playing under the one-year transition tender.

The Steelers have not played well in their third exhibition game of the summer, and starters have played well into the third quarer on both sides of the ball.

UPDATE 9:56 p.m. ET: Ken Laird of TribLive Radio in Pittsburgh reports Worilds was icing his knee.

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X-rays negative on LeSean McCoy’s thumb

McCoy AP

A sprain, not a break.

That’s the word on tailback LeSean McCoy’s right thumb.

According to the Eagles, X-rays on McCoy’s thumb came back negative, and he has been ruled out of the rest of Thursday’s exhibition against Pittsburgh.

Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports the injury is a sprain.

McCoy racked up 24 yards rushing on just four carries and caught a 22-yard TD pass in the first quarter before departing to get his thumb examined. He does not figure to play much, if at all, in the team’s final preseason game next Thursday.

The Eagles begin the regular season on Sunday, September 7 vs. Jacksonville.

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After scary moment, Jeremy Maclin returns to game

Jeremy Maclin AP

In what looks to be a good turn of luck for a player who’s coming back from a right knee injury that sidelined him last season, Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin stayed in Thursday’s exhibition vs. Pittsburgh after momentarily looking to have injured the leg again.

With about 10 minutes left in the second quarter, Maclin went down trying to make a sharp cut, and he grabbed his knee as he lay on the ground. However, Maclin reportedly was able to get up and walk off the field, and he was then seen walking on the sideline.

Then — happily — Maclin was back on the field on the Eagles’ next series. And he even started the drive with a nine-yard catch. In the end, it appeared to be just a brief scare for Maclin, one of the club’s key passing game players.

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