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McElroy: Pay no attention to the circus behind the curtain

New York Jets offensive coordinator Sparano looks on as quarterbacks look on during first quarter of their NFL football game in East Rutherford Reuters

A year ago, third-string quarterback Greg McElroy unloaded on his own team, talking about “extremely selfish individuals” and a “really corrupt mindset within the locker room.”

To hear how much things changed, you’d think the Jets were still in the playoffs, instead of home after a 6-10 season.

During an interview with Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Radio, McElroy said the perception of the organization being a circus wasn’t accurate.

It wasn’t at all,” McElroy said, via Mike Vorkunov of the Newark Star-Ledger. “A lot of people assumed things weren’t terrible. It wasn’t the case.”

McElroy also supported fired offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, even though his one start with Sparano calling the plays resulted in 11 sacks and a concussion.

“I have a lot of respect for Tony Sparano,” McElroy said. “I think he’s a tremendous man. I think he’s a tremendous football mind and I was really blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him for this past year. . . .

“I respect and admire him. I really enjoyed working with him and I always will wish him the best. I’ll be a Tony Sparano fan for as long as I’m around.”

McElroy’s willingness to pull back the curtain on the Jets last year revealed him as one of the few honest players, willing to hang his name next to controversial remarks.

By backing a coordinator who was a flop by their standards, he has again set himself apart.

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Marshawn Lynch to miss second straight game

Marshawn Lynch AP

Marshawn Lynch returned to practice for the Seahawks on Thursday, but his hamstring isn’t ready for him to return to game action when they face the Bengals on Sunday.

The Seahawks have ruled Lynch out for the second straight week, the first time that’s ever happened during his time in Seattle. Thomas Rawls ran 17 times for 48 yards against the Lions last Monday and may be in for an even heavier workload this weekend.

Fred Jackson is listed as questionable with an ankle injury that has kept him out of practice for the last two days. The Seahawks had not completed Friday’s practice before releasing their injury report, so there’s no word on whether Jackson was able to do something during the final session of the week. Rawls is the only other running back on the 53-man roster with Rod Smith available from the practice squad if the Seahawks make a roster move.

Cornerbacks Tharold Simon and Marcus Burley are also out for Seattle while cornerback Tye Smith, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis are all doubtful.

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Julio Jones questionable, but expected to play against Washington

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The Falcons might list Julio Jones as questionable, but there’s no indication the Falcons are going to have to put their 4-0 record on the line without him.

According to Vaughn McClure of, Jones went through drills Friday and gave no indication he wouldn’t be able to go against Washington.

He’s been limited this week with toe and hamstring issues, though they don’t think it’s serious or related to previous issues.

The Falcons are also getting rookie running back Tevin Coleman back after a rib injury in Week Two, though it’s unclear how often he’ll get the ball behind Devonta Freeman, who leads the NFL with seven touchdowns.

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Josh Norman fined $8,681 for TD celebration

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 27:  Josh Norman #24 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after defeating the New Orleans Saints 27-22 at Bank of America Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers cornerback Josh Norman didn’t expect to draw a penalty flag for riding the football like a horse after returning an interception for a touchdown last Sunday, but he should have been expecting a fine from the league once he did.

Norman got that fine, which Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports is for $8,681. Norman said that he spoke to Hall of Fame linebacker and NFL/NFLPA fine appeal officer Derrick Brooks about the celebration before kickoff and that Brooks said Norman “was fine.”

That may help him if he tries to appeal, unless a Three’s Company-style misunderstanding resulted from Brooks telling Norman that he would be fined. It was still a good week for Norman, who followed up his NFC defensive player of the month honors for September by being named the conference’s top defender of the week.

Person reports that defensive end Ryan Delaire was fined $8,681 as well for a late hit on Buccaneers running back Doug Martin during the Panthers victory.

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Expensive week for Jerry Hughes

Jerry Hughes AP

Not much went right for the Bills last Sunday vs. the Giants.

The expensive aftermath for Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes includes fines totaling more than $30,000.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Hughes was fined $8,681 for unnecessary roughness and $23,152 for using abusive language towards an official. Fines stemming from the previous Sunday are generally delivered to players at the end of the week.

Hughes is a second-time offender on the abusive language front. He was fined $22,050 last November for a similar offense.

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Brian Hoyer back in the saddle for Texans

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 08:  Brian Hoyer #7 of the Houston Texans reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to end the second quarter of play against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium on October 8, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

It didn’t happen in a room closed to all but Hard Knocks cameras this time, but Texans coach Bill O’Brien has again named Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback in Houston.

Hoyer relieved Ryan Mallett on Thursday night after Mallett came out of the game following a hit to the chest and piloted the Texans the rest of the way in the 27-20 loss to the Colts. Hoyer was 24-of-31 for 312 yards, two touchdowns to rookie Jaelen Strong and an ugly interception on the team’s final offensive play, which was enough for O’Brien to put him back in the starting lineup against Jacksonville.

“We are moving on to Jacksonville. Brian Hoyer will start the game and we will go from there,” O’Brien said.

The Texans have played both of their quarterbacks in three of their first five games this season, which suggests that this may not be the last change we see in 2015. Hoyer’s play on Thursday night was the best work either has turned in during any of those appearances, which probably made for an easy short-term decision for O’Brien.

All of the shuffling means the long-term problem remains for Houston and an answer isn’t likely to come until the offseason.

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Chuck Pagano becomes a master of hyperbole

Chuck Pagano AP

Hyperbole is a fact of life in football, and one coach has become the all-time greatest master of it in the history of the universe, known and unknown. (Sorry, when in Rome.)

Here’s what Colts coach Chuck Pagano had to say about quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck after Thursday night’s win over the Texans: “He was literally on his deathbed Monday and Tuesday and mustered up enough to come in on Wednesday and practice.”

Yes, it’s a figure of speech. And, no, literally apparently no longer literally means literally. Still, it seems a bit much to suggest that Hasselbeck pulled a Lazarus and not only rejoined the realm of the living but also quarterbacked an NFL team to a prime-time win.

It’s not the first time that Pagano has gone a little far with his choice of words, apart from the whole “supremely confident” and “absolutely confident” fiasco of a week ago. Asked last Friday whether injured quarterback Andrew Luck is even in the state of Indiana, Pagano said, “That might be the craziest question that I’ve gotten in the history of football.”

It wasn’t all that crazy, given that Luck wasn’t spotted at practice on Friday after being seen there on Wednesday and Thursday. The Colts had been sending out mixed signals about Luck’s condition all week, and it was reasonable to wonder whether he was getting some sort of exotic treatment in New York or Mexico or wherever when he wasn’t present on Friday.

Regardless, the pressure of coaching for his job seems to be getting to Pagano, literally and figuratively and in any other way possible.

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Sean Lee cleared to return after last week’s concussion

Minnesota Vikings v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

As rapidly as they’ve lost offensive pieces, the Cowboys are getting defenders back this week.

According to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee has been cleared by the independent neurologist after last week’s concussion, and will play Sunday against the Patriots.

He left last week’s loss to the Saints in the first quarter, and was just the latest in a long line of injuries for Lee, who was coming back from last year’s torn ACL.

“It’s brutal,” Lee said. “It’s something that I’ve done too much. I need to be on the field more. I’ve found my way off the field too consistently and it’s something that eats at you. At the same point, you have to move on from it and that’s in the past.

“You can’t allow that to affect weeks coming forward and especially this week. So, it’s frustrating at the time, but you have to move on. And I’m healthy to go and excited to play.”

You can’t lump a brain injury in with knees and feet and other body parts, so this shouldn’t further the perception that Lee’s injury prone.

The Cowboys are also getting defensive end Greg Hardy and linebacker Rolando McClain back from suspensions, so they’re getting closer to full strength at a time they’ll need to be.

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Haloti Ngata will miss game with Cardinals

Haloti Ngata, Teddy Bridgewater AP

Tyrunn Walker and Haloti Ngata were the starting defensive tackles for the Lions against the Seahawks last Monday night.

Neither of them will be on the field when the Cardinals visit Ford Field on Sunday. Walker is out for the season with a broken leg and Ngata will be out this week as well. Ngata hurt his calf in the loss to Seattle and missed practice this week.

The Lions prepared for this possibility by signing Andre Fluellen and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen this week. Ngata is confident the newcomers, Caraun Reid, Gabe Walker and Jermelle Cudjo can hold the Cardinals in check.

“Man, those guys are going to do great,” Ngata said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “Those young guys. Caraun, Gabe, we brought in Flu. Cudjo. They’ve been practicing real hard this week and they’re going to do a lot of good things. I think they’re going to surprise some people.”

Ngata declined to speculate on his chances of returning in Week Six, calling himself “day-to-day” as he looks toward Week Six.

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Ravens list Gillmore out, Smith as doubtful

Crockett Gillmore AP

The Ravens will play without starting tight end Crockett Gillmore for the second consecutive week Sunday.

The team’s final injury report of the week listed Gillmore (calf), defensive end Chris Canty (calf) and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) as out. Top wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. has not practiced this week due to broken bones in his back and is listed as doubtful.

The team called Smith “week to week” earlier in the week. The doubtful designation is interesting because Smith figures to press trainers and coaches to be allowed to play all the way up until the Sunday morning active roster deadline.

Exactly who will be catching Joe Flacco’s passes Sunday is the Ravens’ No. 1 question this week. Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown figure as the starting receivers and rookie Maxx Williams should again start at tight end. Williams, who’s just 21, was a second-round pick last spring.

Ravens starting left tackle Eugene Monroe is listed as probable. He’s missed the last three games due to a concussion.

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Ty Sambrailo will miss another game

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 13:  Ronnie Hillman #23 of the Denver Broncos takes a handoff from Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos and follows the block of Ty Sambrailo #74 of the Denver Broncos against the Baltimore Ravens at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 13, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Ravens 19-13.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos will try to move to 5-0 against the Raiders this weekend without left tackle Ty Sambrailo.

Coach Gary Kubiak announced Friday that Sambrailo, who took over the starting job when Ryan Clady was lost for the season, will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury.

The Broncos used Ryan Harris at left tackle and Michael Schofield at right tackle last weekend, but Kubiak said, via Mike Klis of 9News in Denver, that Tyler Polumbus will also get some work on Sunday. Harris has been limited in practice this week because of a knee issue.

Polumbus isn’t the only reserve lineman that Kubiak expects to see time against Oakland. Left guard Evan Mathis is questionable because of a hamstring injury and Kubiak said Max Garcia will rotate into the game as well.

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Baylor’s RG3 statue vandalized, apparently by TCU fans

Robert Griffin III AP

The statue of Robert Griffin III on the campus of Baylor was vandalized this week.

Griffin, who won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor in 2011, was immortalized with a sculpture on the campus this year. But that sculpture was defaced with purple paint, apparently by fans of rival TCU.

After the RG3 statue was vandalized, someone got revenge by vandalizing the TCU campus, using green spray paint to deface a wall with “61-58,” the score of Baylor’s victory over TCU last year.

The athletic directors of both schools have released statements saying they will work together to find the perpetrators of the vandalism, and that fans of both teams should show their support in appropriate, respectful ways.

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Matthew Stafford fined for wearing blue shoes

Matthew Stafford AP

The NFL’s uniform police have come down hard on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford for having the temerity to wear blue shoes.

Stafford was fined $5,787 for wearing blue shoes on Monday night against the Seahawks, Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News reports.

Although other Lions wore black and white shoes (with some pink thrown in for the NFL’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign), Stafford decided to wear all blue. But he says he doesn’t see what the problem was: Stafford said he wore the shoes in the preseason, but this was the first time he ever heard anything about the shoes running afoul of the league’s rules.

Stafford plans to appeal the fine. He says he’s already packed the blue shoes in his game bag for Sunday against the Cardinals.

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Giants won’t have Devon Kennard Sunday

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13:   Devon Kennard #59 of the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Linebacker Devon Kennard had a big game for the Giants against the Bills last weekend, but he won’t be able to follow it up against the 49ers this Sunday night.

Kennard will not play because of the hamstring injury that kept him from practicing with the team this week. Kennard made a great play to pick off Tyrod Taylor and set up a Giants score early in last Sunday’s game and also broke up two other passes in a performance that highlighted his status as the most athletic member of the team’s linebacking corps.

The 2014 fifth-round pick won’t be the only member of the Giants defense missing on Sunday. Defensive ends Robert Ayers and George Selvie have also been ruled out. That makes three straight weeks without Ayers, who is suffering from a hamstring injury, and it will be the first game Selvie has missed this season.

That leaves the Giants thinner than they’d like in the front seven, although they can take some solace from the lack of any signs that the 49ers offense is equipped to take advantage.

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Cam Newton’s not the only one too young for Ed Hochuli calls

Ed Hochuli AP

Because the league was quick to go into full Frank Drebin denial mode, and because we’ve moved onto other things since then, the controversy over what veteran referee Ed Hochuli did or did not say to Cam Newton has largely gone away.

In most places, anyway.

According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, Newton and the Panthers aren’t the only ones upset that Hochuli might have different standards for different quarterbacks because of age.

Another team with a “young franchise quarterback” also had a similar experience with Hochuli, according to Breer’s report. That team’s quarterback was told he was too young to get borderline calls, which meshes with Newton saying Hochuli told him he was “not old enough” two weeks ago.

Perhaps Hochuli says some of these things in jest to players, and has enough of a relationship with some that it could be construed as good-natured ribbing. But even a cursory look at the video of Hochuli’s interaction with Newton undermines the notion he was kidding, as Hochuli was stone-faced when Newton reacted visibly.

Whether or not Hochuli’s just an out-of-touch old guy trying to make jokes with the youngsters, someone needs to look around the rug to see if any other quarterbacks who lack AARP cards have been swept under there.

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LeSean McCoy could be out through Bills bye week

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 20:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball during the second half against the New England Patriots on September 20, 2015 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York.  New England defeats Buffalo 40-32.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills ruled running back LeSean McCoy out for this week’s game against the Titans because of a hamstring injury and it may be a regular occurrence on Fridays in October.

McCoy told reporters Friday that he has a “grade 2” hamstring pull and that he was told after the Dolphins game in Week Three that he would need 3-4 weeks off the field before he’d be ready to return to action. McCoy said, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, that he is a “quick healer” and will need to be if he is going to make it back into the lineup before the team’s bye in Week Eight.

Whether he should be pushing to do that is something worth considering for both player and team. McCoy said Friday that he thinks he made the injury, which initially occurred in training camp, worse by playing in the first three games this season. At the very least, he re-aggravated it and that provides plenty of reason for caution when deciding when to ramp things back up.

If staying out through the bye means McCoy will be 100 percent to open up the second half of the Bills schedule, it’s probably a wiser way to play things than playing a weekly guessing game about his status.

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Cassel says he’ll be active Sunday

Matt Cassel AP

Matt Cassel told reporters Friday that he’ll be active Sunday when the Cowboys play the Patriots.

Cassel, acquired in a trade last month with the Bills to provide quarterback insurance following Tony Romo’s injury, figures as the No. 2 quarterback behind Brandon Weeden Sunday.

With Romo out until at least mid-November, we’ll see how long it is before there are calls for Cassel to be No. 1.

Weeden has lost 10 straight starts and his only two with the Cowboys. He knows the natives are getting restless, too.

The Bills cut Cassel after Tyrod Taylor won the training camp battle to be the team’s starter. That move saved the team money, and Cassel was brought back before being traded on Sept. 22. Cassel, 33, started nine games over the past two seasons with the Vikings and has made 71 career starts.

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Joe Haden questionable this time around

Joe Haden, Harry Douglas AP

The Browns listed cornerback Joe Haden as probable to play against the Chargers last week with a finger injury, but Haden wound up missing the game after Sunday came and he felt that he’d be hurting the team if he tried to play through the injury.

The late change in status elicited an inquiry from the league and led to some dancing by coach Mike Pettine at press conferences as he first said that Haden didn’t want to play before being a little more specific about the decision-making process. It’s not clear whether Haden will play against the Ravens Sunday, but there won’t be as much drama attached to the final call.

Haden has been listed as questionable for this week’s game and coach Mike Pettine said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, that he would talk to Haden on Saturday to get a better idea of how the cornerback is feeling in regard to Sunday’s game.

Linebacker Karlos Dansby, running back Robert Turbin, wide receiver Brian Hartline and linebacker Scott Solomon join Haden on the list of questionable players for Sunday. Safety Tashaun Gipson has been ruled out with a foot injury.

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Jadeveon Clowney in a walking boot after Texans loss

Jadeveon Clowney AP

Any time a No. 1 overall pick appears anything other than 100 percent, there’s going to be concern.

But for Texans pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, his history is going to cause people to notice even the slightest limp.

According to Tania Ganguli of, Clowney was wearing a walking boot on his right foot Friday.

He left Thursday’s game against the Colts briefly, but returned to finish the game, playing more than half the snaps.

Of course, Clowney missed most of his rookie year with knee problems, and is coming back from microfracture surgery anyway.

The boot might not be a sign of serious injury, but with Clowney, it’s worth keeping an eye on.

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Reed, Culliver among four Redskins who will miss Falcons game

Jordan Reed, J.J. Wilcox AP

As expected, Redskins tight end Jordan Reed will miss Sunday’s game at Atlanta due to a concussion and cornerback Chris Culliver will miss the game due to a knee injury.

The team announced Friday, too, that wide receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerback DeAngelo Hall aren’t yet ready to return and will also miss the game. Jackson has been out due to a Week 1 hamstring injury, while Hall suffered a toe injury in the season’s third game.

Jackson has been testing the hamstring in practice over the last two weeks, but his absence of at least one more game is not a surprise.

An MRI showed no structural damage in Culliver’s knee, but he wasn’t able to practice this week. Bashaud Breeland and Will Blackmon are second on the team’s depth chart at cornerback behind Hall and Culliver.

Derek Carrier, acquired in August trade when an initial wave of tight end injuries hit the Redskins’ roster, is the likely starter at tight end with Reed out.

The Redskins also plan to list middle linebacker Perry Riley Jr. as questionable.

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Sammy Watkins questionable for Bills

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Getty Images

The Bills are going to be down two running backs against the Titans on Sunday, but we won’t know until shortly before kickoff whether they will also be missing wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Watkins has been listed as questionable for the game because of the calf injury that sidelined him against the Giants last weekend. Watkins didn’t participate in practice on Wednesday or Thursday, but stretched with the team on Friday and coach Rex Ryan said that the wideout has made progress toward a return to game action.

“I feel really good about how Sammy has progressed,” Ryan said. “He’s excited. So hopefully we’ll get him back.”

As expected, the Bills ruled out running back LeSean McCoy for the second straight week due to a hamstring injury. Karlos Williams is also out with a concussion, leaving Boobie Dixon and Boom Herron as a colorfully named running back duo for the game against the Titans.

Ryan said he expects John Miller back at right guard after missing time with a groin injury, but safety Bacarri Rambo has also been ruled out for this weekend.

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