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Steelers cut Chris Rainey hours after arrest

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The Steelers didn’t take long to react after running back Chris Rainey was arrested this morning and accused of slapping his girlfriend.

Just hours after the arrest, the Steelers announced that they waived Rainey. And the team made no secret of the fact that the arrest is what cost him his job.

“Chris Rainey’s actions this morning were extremely disappointing,” Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said in a statement released by the team. “Under the circumstances and due to this conduct, Chris will no longer be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

This is at least the second time that Rainey has been accused of a crime in which the victim was a woman he was in a relationship with. In 2010, when he played at Florida, he was arrested and charged with felony stalking after threatening his ex-girlfriend.

The Steelers took Rainey in the fifth round of last year’s NFL draft, and he played in all 16 games as a rookie, leading the team in kickoff returns and getting limited playing time on offense.

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Sparano says they need to let players do what they do best

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The press conference announcing the firing of a head coach and the promotion of a guy the fired coach had hired to serve as an assistant always entails some tightrope-walking by the new coach, who needs to express regret that his boss is gone while also expressing enthusiasm and preparation to embrace the challenge for cleaning up the mess that the new coach helped create.

On Tuesday, new Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano offered a clue as to how his approach may differ from Dennis Allen’s.

“We’ve got a lot of good players here,” Sparano said.  “We need to let them do what they do best.”

Assuming for the sake of argument that the Raiders have a lot of good players (quit laughing, Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers fans), Sparano’s comment could be interpreted as a disclosure that, under Allen, players were expected to fit the schemes.  By saying that the Raiders need to let the players do what they do best, Sparano could be saying that he’ll design plays and concepts based on the strengths and weaknesses of the players.

This assumes that the players have enough strengths (and sufficiently few weaknesses) for that to matter.

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LaMichael James lands in Miami

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Running back LaMichael James appeared to be on his way out of San Francisco for much of the offseason, but the team wound up keeping him on their roster to start the regular season.

It was a brief stay, however. James was dropped after the first week of the regular season and has been looking for work since then. One spot he looked was Miami, where he worked out for the Dolphins a couple of weeks ago.

Nothing happened at the time, but it seems James did make a positive impression on the team. James’s agent Jeff Sperbeck announced on Twitter Tuesday that his client has signed with the Dolphins.

The Dolphins haven’t announced anything yet and they are on their bye week, so it may be a while before we find out what kind of role they have in mind for the former 49er. Knowshon Moreno isn’t thought to be far off from rejoining Lamar Miller in the backfield, so a role as a returner might be part of the plan for James in South Florida.

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Raiders coach Tony Sparano “very excited about where we’re going”

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New Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano says he believes he can turn the team in the right direction after an 0-4 start led to the dismissal of former coach Dennis Allen.

“I’m excited,” Sparano said at his introductory press conference. “Very excited about where we’re going right now, what we’re trying to do.”

Sparano praised Allen as an “outstanding football coach” and said it was tough to see the man who was his boss until yesterday lose his job.

“This is obviously a bittersweet moment for me right now in that a great friend of mine and a person I respect a great deal in Dennis Allen was let go,” he said. “That’s unfortunately part of our business but this is the situation we’re in right now.”

Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie also spoke highly of Allen but said the move had to be made.

“I had a good talk with Dennis,” he said. “I just want to say that I appreciate everything he’s done. He worked hard, very diligent, but I had to make the move and I did that yesterday. Moving forward, I’m excited to bring before you a new interim head coach, Tony Sparano. I’m excited about the experience he brings, the leadership he brings, the passion he brings to get this organization, the Raider organization, to what we need to do, and that’s win.”

The Raiders haven’t won at all this season and haven’t won consistently since the Jon Gruden days. Unless Sparano can oversee a miraculous turnaround, fans may be clamoring for a return of Gruden after Sparano coaches out the last 12 games of 2014.

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More support for Harbaugh from 49ers locker room

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Deion Sanders says 49ers players want coach Jim Harbaugh to go.  Harbaugh says it’s a bunch of crap.  The jurors (i.e., the players) are beginning to chime, and the early verdict is . . . .

Crap.

He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around,” tackle Jonathan Martin said, via the San Jose Mercury News.  “Even though he might be cheesy at times with slogans and sayings, his enthusiasm rubs off on players.  And his record speaks for itself.”

Of course, Martin would be likely to say that, since Harbaugh coached Martin at Stanford and helped resurrect Martin’s pro career after he decided to walk out on the Dolphins as the result of intense bullying in 2013.  But Martin, who said he has seen no evidence of discord, wasn’t alone.

“Everything’s great,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “I mean, we play, he coach. We can’t really control anything else.”

(It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it’s also no evidence that players want Harbaugh gone.)

Ditto from punter Andy Lee: “I don’t see that anywhere in this locker room.  From my point of view, everything is normal.”

And from linebacker David Wilhoite: “His attitude is the attitude we take. That toughness, that grind, that grit — it’s been bred in us since I first got here. It was known we were going to be tough. It was known we were going to have a callous that we had built up. It was known that we were very physical, we ran the ball, we stopped the run, we played good football and we were disciplined.”

So maybe Deion is simply wrong.  Or maybe there’s a small pocket of malcontents who won’t complain about Harbaugh on the record.

Or maybe Deion is playing a psychological game with one of the various teams for which he once played, like Tom Jackson once claimed he did when picking the Jets to lose to the Patriots in the playoffs.

Regardless, Deion’s “report” that the players don’t like their coach seems to be galvanizing the 49ers.  Maybe in February Harbaugh will snub Deion after winning the Super Bowl like Bill Belichick once did with Jackson, who had proclaimed in September that the Patriots players “hate their coach.”

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Jadeveon Clowney thinks he’ll be back in a few weeks

Jadeveon Clowney AP

The Texans are 3-1 even though they’ve only had rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney in the lineup for the first half of the first game of the season and the first overall pick in this year’s draft said it has been “very tough” to be on the sideline for the last three weeks.

Clowney is recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, a procedure that left him with a four-to-six week timetable for his return to the lineup. We’re closing in on the front end of that projection, but Clowney said Tuesday that it will still be a bit more time before he thinks he’ll be ready for a return to action.

“Everything is starting to come along just like I want it to. … I think I’ll be back in a few weeks — that’s the goal,” Clowney said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Right now I’m just taking it day by day, just trying to get back healthy. Rehab is coming along good. My leg feels a lot better. I’m just taking it a day at a time right now.”

J.J. Watt’s weekly feats of strength have made it easier to forget that Clowney is supposed to be on the field causing more havoc for opposing offenses. If he can get back without too much rust accumulating on his game and the Texans can keep winning in his absence, Clowney’s return could be a big factor in how the AFC South race plays out this season.

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Teddy Bridgewater held out of Vikings practice again

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The Vikings have sounded optimistic, and they’ve sounded cautious.

The Packers are just assuming.

But those are subjective measures.

In the cold, calculating world of the NFL injury report, the news is quantifiable.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did not participate in practice today, according to the Vikings’ report submitted to the league. Linebacker Chad Greenway and tight end Kyle Rudolph didn’t either, but that’s not what you’re here to read about.

With just one more day between doing nothing and playing the Packers Thursday night, the chances of Bridgewater playing might not appear great. But that’s part of the reaility of short-week games anyway.

If he can’t go, the Vikings would have to start Christian Ponder, and promote one of their practice squaders so they’d have a viable backup.

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Belichick bears the blame for current Patriots’ mess

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When reporters asked Patriots coach Bill Belichick about a burgeoning quarterback controversy, he shouldn’t have scoffed.  He should have been grateful.

The focus on Tom Brady has kept many from looking at the guy squarely responsible for the current state of the team — Belichick himself.

The head coach and de facto G.M. has been heralded as a genius for much of the last 13 years, and rightfully so.  Belichick has found a way to keep the team competitive on a consistent basis in an age of parity and a salary cap.

But the quality of the roster has eroded in recent years.  The offensive line presently stinks.  While the departure of long-time line coach Dante Scarnecchia likely played a role in the ability of the line to play its role the right way, the players aren’t good.  Which makes the decision to dump guard Logan Mankins after he refused to take a pay cut even more bizarre.  Belichick miscalculated the ability of the line to thrive without Mankins, and as a result the Patriots could miss the postseason for the first time since 2008.

No one can question Belichick’s coaching ability.  But when it comes to handling the personnel side of the operation, he’s either losing his fastball or he needs more help.  Because it’s not enough to find ways to trade down or to draft backup quarterbacks lower than perhaps they should have gone.  At some point, the players need to be good enough to play.

Right now, they’re not.  And that lands at the feet of the guy who runs the show.

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Texans part ways with Shiloh Keo

Chris Johnson, Shiloh Keo AP

The Texans have made a change at safety.

According to multiple reports, the team has waived safety Shiloh Keo and promoted Josh Aubrey to the 53-man roster.

Keo was a 2011 fifth-round pick in Houston who saw action in every game for the team in 2012 and 2013. He spent much of the 2013 season as a starter after the team’s move for Ed Reed failed to pan out, but did little to suggest that he has a future in the league as a first-team defensive player. Keo had 63 tackles and an interception last year, but saw most of his other work on special teams and that’s probably where any NFL future lies as well.

Aubrey had one tackle in six games with the Browns last year. He didn’t make the team out of camp this year and spent a brief spell with the Seahawks before landing on Cleveland’s practice squad.

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McKenzie announces that Allen has been fired

McKenzie AP

It’s not entirely Dennis Allen’s fault that the Raiders stink.  And so it was fitting that the guy who shares in the blame for the current state of the team made the official announcement that Allen has taken the fall for the team’s predictable 0-4 start.

“After thorough evaluation, we have determined to move in another direction,” G.M. Reggie McKenzie said in a statement released by the team.  “We appreciate Dennis Allen’s dedication to the organization and wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

The different direction, at least for now, will be offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who took the Dolphins to a 29-33 record over four years before being fired after the 2011 season.  It’s hard to imagine the outcome being any different with Sparano than with Allen, given the lack of talent and other issues with the franchise.

But Sparano will have a far more extended opportunity to earn the job on an ongoing basis, given that 12 games remain on the schedule.  That’s actually better for the Raiders; it makes an artificial improvement in performance from players who prefer to keep the current staff less likely.  Far too often, the interim coach has success in the last 2-3 games of the year, secures the job, and then the wheels come off.

The Raiders have scheduled a press conference for 5:00 p.m. ET.  Even though the press release didn’t include any quotes from owner Mark Davis, he presumably will be there.  There’s even a slim chance we’ll see an overhead projector.

That last part is a joke.  I think.  It nevertheless will be interesting to see whether Mark Davis continues his father’s habit of trying to find ways to stiff fired coaches out of the balance of their remaining salary.

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John Conner returns to Jets

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In The Terminator, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s robot from the future who said “I’ll be back” while trying to stop Sarah Connor from becoming the mother of mankind’s future savior John Connor.

We’re not sure if fullback John Conner, dubbed “The Terminator” by Rex Ryan when the Jets drafted him in 2010, said the same thing when the Jets released him in 2012, but he made good on the promise if he did. The Jets announced Tuesday that Conner is back with the club.

He’ll take the spot of fullback Tommy Bohanon, who broke his collarbone against the Lions. Bohanon suffered the injury early in the game, but, in a move any time traveling cyborg could appreciate, was able to remain on the field for the duration of the contest.

Conner played 13 games for the Giants last season, but lost a training camp battle to Henry Hynoski this summer and has been unemployed since the Giants dropped him as part of their cut to 53 players.

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West says Browns will go with the “hot hand” at running back

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Veteran tailback Ben Tate suffered a knee injury in Week One.  Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell performed well in his absence.  Now that he’s back, will there be enough touches to go around?

“We’ll see,” Tate told reporters on Tuesday, via comments distributed by the team.

As to who’ll get the carries, the answer is less unclear.

“Whoever’s got the hot hand and whoever’s going to get us the win, that’s who we’re going to roll with,” West said.

That’s a far cry from Tate’s assessment before the season that he’s the starter and there’s no competition.

“I probably would have said the same thing,” West said.  “Everybody should have that personality coming onto the field. If you’re on the field, you should think you’re the best. If you don’t you shouldn’t be out there.”

West has emerged as the top option for the Browns, with 47 carries for 204 yards and two touchdowns.  Crowell has 27 attempts for 141 yards and three scores.

Tate exited the Week One loss to the Steelers with only six carries for 41 yards.

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Jordan Cameron feeling better, but thinks shoulder will be issue all year

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The bye week has done some good for Browns tight end Jordan Cameron.

Cameron said Tuesday that the sprained AC joint in his right shoulder is feeling better than it did heading into the bye week.

“I feel good. I feel healthy,” Cameron said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

There’s room for an asterisk next to Cameron feeling healthy, though. He also said that he thinks the injury, which he initially suffered in the preseason and aggravated in the season opener, is going to linger throughout the season. That’s not great news for the Browns offense, which still has a while to go before wide receiver Josh Gordon will return to the lineup.

It’s also not great news for Cameron, who is eligible for free agency after the season. Cameron has already missed one game because of the injury and had just one catch in Week Three, a pattern that would likely have a deflating effect on any contract offers that will come his way if it were to continue for the remaining 13 weeks of the regular season.

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Trent Williams hopes to play on Monday night

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The Redskins played last Thursday night and lost to the Giants in a rout that was made all the worse by the departure of left tackle Trent Williams with a knee injury.

Any initial fears of a season-ending injury subsided on Friday, but his presence in Week Five is still anything but certain. Williams didn’t practice on Tuesday and said that his knee still needed to “calm down,” but he remains hopeful that he’ll be able to play on Monday night against the Seahawks.

“I’ll probably let it calm down a little bit,” Williams said, via CSNWashington.com. “Hopefully no setback. I’ll probably get it reevaluated before the game and hopefully — I’ll leave it up to coach — but hopefully I can be out there.”

Williams may have company when it comes to returning from a recent injury. Tight end Jordan Reed participated in individual drills on Tuesday, which marks a notable step forward in his recovery from a hamstring injury suffered in the season opener. Getting Reed back would be a plus for the offense, especially if Niles Paul can’t go because of the concussion he suffered against the Giants.

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Falcons make a flurry of moves to refill their offensive line

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Well, at least Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has healthy receivers this year.

Offensive linemen, not so much.

The Falcons just announced a flurry of moves, which included putting two more starting offensive linemen on injured reserve.

They announced that center Joe Hawley (knee) and right tackle Lamar Holmes (foot) were going on IR, where they’ll join left tackle Sam Baker (knee).

They also placed safety William Moore (shoulder) on IR/designated for return, which will allow him to come back after eight weeks.

To fill the roster spots, the Falcons promoted guard Harland Gunn and safety Sean Baker from the practice squad, and signed former Jaguars tackle Cameron Bradfield.

That’s going to make a real hash of their offensive line, but no worse than it was Sunday, when they had to use tight end Levine Toilolo as their right tackle to finish the game when injuries collected at one spot.

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Mike Tomlin doesn’t mind label, he minds lazy sterotypes

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Two days after Mike Tomlin bristled at being termed a “player’s coach,” during a pregame interview, he said he mostly bristles at the broad characterization it creates.

Tomlin told reporters Tuesday that he doesn’t necessarily take it as an insult, but that he’s insulted by the undertones the phrase carries.

I refuse to be put in a box. It’s my job to be what my team needs me to be,” Tomlin said, via Scott Brown of ESPN.com. “Sometimes it’s close and cuddly and sometimes it’s not. I don’t have any problem being any of the above.

“Sometimes when they couple ‘player’s coach’ with questions about how I wear my hair or what I choose to wear on the sidelines or what type of music I listen to, then it gets kind of old and falls into that category for me. I’d like to think the manner in which I do my job, whether it’s positive or negative, has very little to do with my haircut or the clothes that I wear or the type of music I listen to, and that’s when I get annoyed with that line of questioning.”

Tomlin’s got a point, and it’s no different than the way players are characterized.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton got compared to players such as Michael Vick or Donovan McNabb before being drafted, even though he played more like Ben Roethlisberger.

Certain players are tagged as “athletic” and “instinctive” and certain players are “lunch pail guys” or “coaches on the field.”

And too often in the lazy telling of stories, those phrases fall along strict lines that just happen to coincide with the color of the players’ skin.

To that end, we agree with Tomlin. He’s not necessarily a player’s coach, any more than Dick LeBeau is.

He’s just a good one.

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