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David Caldwell: Gabbert still has upside

Indianapolis Colts  v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The big story out of Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell’s introduction to the media was his firm statement that Donald Duck has as much chance of being a member of the Jaguars this season as Tim Tebow.

Tebow wasn’t the only quarterback who came up for discussion, though. Blaine Gabbert, who finished his second season with the Jaguars on injured reserve and didn’t do much to encourage confidence that he was the man for the future before that, was also on Caldwell’s list of talking points. Caldwell plans to have four quarterbacks on the roster in camp and said there would be an open competition for the quarterback job, but said that wasn’t something to interpret as writing off Gabbert altogether.

“He is still young. He’s had two different offensive coordinators in his first two years. Get a coach in here and get some sustainability for him. I think it’s important to see what he can do. Look at some quarterbacks. It takes maybe more than two years, three or four years. He came out as a junior and he’s a very young quarterback and he still has a lot of upside,” Caldwell said, via the Florida Times-Union. “I always thought Blaine was going to be a long-term project when he came out anyway. I studied him when he came out and he came out from the spread offense. I felt like it was going to be a longer process for him. Look at the quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning, they spent a full five years in college. Blaine should be a rookie coming out this year. Let’s work with him.”

There’s a long time between now and camp, to say nothing of the start of the season, so any plans are in their infancy at this point. Gabbert may yet wind up being passed over, but it sounds like he’ll get another chance or two to prove himself before the new Jaguars regime is convinced they have to pull the plug.

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Report: Shane Vereen likely to play Sunday

Shane Vereen AP

The Patriots’ top pass catching back is reportedly set to play Sunday vs. Oakland.

Tailback Shane Vereen, who was questionable with a shoulder injury, is “expected” to suit up against the Raiders, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this morning.

The 25-year-old Vereen has rushed 13 times for 76 yards and a touchdown and has caught five passes for 35 yards this season for New England, which is heavily favored against 0-2 Oakland.

Vereen and Stevan Ridley are the Patriots’ top two tailbacks, with Ridley the top option when the Patriots want to grind it out on offense. But Vereen’s versatility is a real asset to New England’s multifaceted attack.

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New domestic violence policy ignored biggest challenge in implementing it

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When rolling out the new domestic violence policy in late August, Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that, as to the Ray Rice investigation, the NFL didn’t get it right.  But in preparing the new domestic violence policy, the NFL got it wrong, again.

The new domestic violence policy wasn’t a policy; it was a formula for penalties to be imposed on players who have committed domestic violence or sexual assault.  For a first offense, the player will be suspended a baseline amount of six games, with the number possibly going up or down based on the surrounding circumstances.  For a second offense, the player will be banished for life, with the opportunity to reapply after one year.

But the new domestic violence policy said nothing about how an offense would be defined.  In the aftermath of the announcement of the new policy, ESPN reported that an offense would be determined once the legal process had ended.  The league disputed that, telling PFT by email, “Each case will be addressed individually on its merits.”

In crafting the new formula for punishment in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, the league apparently gave no consideration to the handling players in the murky waters between arrest and trial.  The problem became evident days after the policy was unveiled, with 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald being arrested for domestic violence and the team jumping behind the shield of “due process.”  Then came the Ray Rice video, and everything changed in an instant.

With McDonald and Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy and Jonathan Dwyer, the league has seemingly groped in the dark for a light switch, reaching and flailing and hoping for the best.  The outcome has shown the league at anything but its best, woefully unprepared for the challenges of implementing its new domestic violence policy and totally oblivious to the notion that, in the wake of the Rice case, waiting until a player’s legal case has ended no longer will be good enough.

“When there is evidence of misconduct by anyone in the NFL, we need to carefully consider when to act and on what evidence,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said during his Friday press conference.  “Everyone deserves a fair process.  You know I feel passionately about working in the NFL in any capacity is a privilege.”

That’s a consideration that should have been considered long ago.  Meanwhile, there’s still no clear set of rules for dealing with players accused of domestic violence or sexual assault, which invites more situations in which some players get to play and others don’t get to play — and fans are left to wonder whether the make-it-up-as-they-go approach is creating competitive advantages and disadvantages.

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Jordan Cameron expected to be in lineup for Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Browns won last week without tight end Jordan Cameron in the lineup, but it looks like they’ll have him back as they try to make it two in a row against the Ravens.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the team expects Cameron to play after being listed as questionable because of the shoulder issue that’s bothered him since the preseason. Cameron was able to play in the season opening loss to the Steelers and caught two passes for 47 yards before leaving the game because of the injury.

The Browns rallied back in that game without Cameron before winning last week, but there’s little doubt that the team’s offense is better off if they can have a healthy Cameron in the mix. How healthy he’ll be after being limited in practice during the week remains to be seen, however.

Baltimore may not get such a positive outcome after listing running back Bernard Pierce as questionable with a calf injury. Multiple reports on Sunday morning indicate that Pierce will miss the game, an eventuality that the Ravens prepared themselves for by calling Fitzgerald Toussaint up from the practice squad this weekend.

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Matt Schaub not with Raiders on Sunday

Matt Schaub AP

If the Raiders need to turn to a quarterback other than Derek Carr on Sunday, it won’t be Matt Schaub.

The team announced that Schaub will not be in New England for the game with the Patriots. Ed Werder of ESPN reports that Schaub returned home to be with his wife after she had an emergency caesarean section to deliver the couple’s baby.

The birth was premature, but both mother and child are said to be doing well. Everyone at PFT hopes things remain that way and offer our congratulations to the Schaub family on their new arrival.

Matt McGloin will back up Carr on Sunday. The Raiders travel to London for a Week Four date with the Dolphins and it’s unclear at the moment whether Schaub will be joining them for that trip.

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Whether he plays or not, shoulder injury will limit DeSean

DeSean AP

When Washington receiver DeSean Jackson landed hard on his shoulder last Sunday and then walked to the locker room with his arm drooped and dangling, it appeared likely he’d miss his Week Three return to Philadelphia.

Officially dubbed day-to-day, it appeared that Washington coach Jay Gruden was trying to put a banana in Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s tailpipe.

But Jackson practiced Friday on a limited basis, and he’s officially questionable for today’s game.  If (and it could be a big if) he plays, what can we expect from him?

“A moderate AC joint sprain (separated shoulder) is a frustrating injury for a WR,” former NFL athletic trainer Mike Ryan, a contributor to Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, told PFT via email.  “Strength and range of motion of the shoulder are typically not a major factor.  For the next three weeks, his biggest challenge will be reaching across his body and landing on the outside of his sore left shoulder.”

If Jackson plays today, don’t be surprised if Jackson wears something bigger than the Halloween costume version he usually employs.

The bigger surprise could be Jackson playing at all.

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Bruce Irvin fined $8,268 for late shove of Philip Rivers

Bruce Irvin AP

Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin drew a $8,268 fine for a late hit of Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers in Week Two, the NFL has confirmed to PFT.

Irvin was penalized for shoving Rivers after the Chargers’ quarterback had run out of bounds short of the first down marker on a third down play in the third quarter. As Rivers took his second step off the field, Irvin gave him a two-handed shove. Rivers fell to the ground, and the result was a personal foul on Irvin and a first down for San Diego, which would capitalize with a touchdown in its 30-21 upset of Seattle.

The 26-year-old Irvin has a combined four tackles in two games for Seattle, which hosts Denver in a Super Bowl XLVIII rematch on Sunday.

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Ravens’ strategy should be simple, clear

Cass Getty Images

The Ravens believe the lengthy ESPN report that dropped less than two hours after Roger Goodell’s press conference contains plenty of mistakes.  Some minor ones have been pointed out privately; at least one (a suggestion that center A.Q. Shipley watched the Week One game with Ray Rice even though Shipley was playing center for the Colts) apparently has been quietly scrubbed from the story.

But the story has two primary contentions:  (1) director of security Darren Sanders had the contents of the second elevator video described to him by an Atlantic City police officer only hours after Rice Rice knocked out Janay Palmer; and (2) team president Dick Cass (pictured) had been told by Rice’s lawyer that the video was “f–king horrible,” that Rice “knocked her the f–k out,” and that Cass urged Rice to enter a pre-trial intervention program, in part to keep the video from ever becoming public.

While the Ravens have deferred listing the alleged inaccuracies in the report until after Sunday’s game at Cleveland, it should be easy to address the key contentions in the story, if the Ravens contend that those contentions are in dispute.  Sanders needs to say that the allegations relating to him aren’t true.  And Cass needs to say that the allegations relating to him aren’t true.

That’s precisely what Saints G.M. Mickey Loomis did in April 2012.  After ESPN’s Outside the Lines claimed that Loomis had tapped into the in-game conversations of opposing coaches, Loomis went on the record and flatly denied it.

Nothing ever came of any of it, and by all appearances the Outside the Lines report landed outside the lines, literally.  While it’s open to debate and discussion regarding whether the apparently erroneous report about the Saints undermines the new report about the Ravens, the point for now is that, when Loomis faced allegations that he deemed to be untrue, he said so.  Loudly.

The longer the Ravens wait to do that, the harder it will be to get anyone to believe it.

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NFL uniform cops fine Suggs for pre-game gladiator helmet

suggs AP

Terrell Suggs thought it would be fun to fire up the fans in Baltimore by wearing a gladiator helmet in pre-game warmups. The No Fun League thought there was nothing fun about it.

The NFL has confirmed that it fined Suggs $5,512 for a uniform violation.

I thought we needed a boost. We couldn’t afford to start slow,” Suggs said of his choice in headwear.

The league is strict about what players can wear, even before the game starts, and so Suggs is lighter in the wallet as a result. But this fine seems silly. It’s not like Suggs wore a gladiator helmet during the game.

If he did that, he’d get fined a lot more than $5,512.

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Report: Arian Foster thought to be “longshot” to play Sunday

Arian Foster AP

Texans running back Arian Foster’s status for Sunday is reportedly in doubt because of a hamstring injury.

According to multiple sources, Foster is anticipated to be a “longshot” to suit up for today’s 1 p.m. game at the Giants, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported this morning.

Foster is listed as questionable on the injury report. He was limited all week with the hamstring ailment. Foster has racked up 241 yards on 55 carries for 2-0 Houston.

If Foster can’t play, Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes and Ronnie Brown would be the options in the Texans’ backfield. Blue has received the most work behind Foster this season, rushing 12 times for 40 yards. Grimes has received four carries, with Brown getting three rushes.

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Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson fined for scuffle with Packers

Muhammad Wilkerson AP

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was ejected from last week’s loss to the Packers for throwing punches at Packers guard Josh Sitton, a development that caught the attention of the league office.

PFT has confirmed with the league that Wilkerson was fined $20,000 for his actions during the scrap, which came after the Packers took a 24-21 lead in the second half of the game. The Jets would tie the score on their next drive, but wide receiver Jordy Nelson scored an 80-yard touchdown on the next Green Bay offensive play to give the home side a lead that they would not relinquish.

Wilkerson’s fellow defensive end Sheldon Richardson was also involved in the scuffle and drew a penalty for unnecessary roughness in the process. The penalty was declined in favor of the flag on Wilkerson, but Richardson also drew a fine from the league of $8,268 for his actions.

Both players will be in the lineup as the Jets try for a better result against another NFC North foe against the Bears on Monday night.

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Upshaw fined $16,537 for illegal hit on Roethlisberger

Ben AP

The opening drive of the Week Two Thursday night game was extended after Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw planted his helmet into the stomach of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

For the infraction, Upshaw was flagged.  He also has been fined.

The NFL has confirmed that Upshaw will lose $16,537 as a result of the illegal use of his helmet on a defenseless player.  The hit left Roethlisberger claiming he’s the most sore he’d been in a year, although it didn’t land Roethlisberger on the Week Three injury report.

Meanwhile, some Ravens fans will ask why Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict for planting his face mask into the groin of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco four days earlier.  Per a league source, no fine was levied because the NFL believed Burfict simply struck Flacco with a face mask while making a form tackle.

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Welker ready to go, without limitations

Welker AP

When Broncos receiver Wes Welker last played, in the third game of the preseason, he suffered his third concussion in 11 games.

After a surprise suspension under the PED policy that became, thanks to the new, retroactive PED policy, a violation of the new substance-abuse policy that didn’t trigger a suspension, the league has reinstated Welker after two missed games.

The time off allowed him to recover from the concussion, and he’s fully cleared for Sunday’s game at Seattle.  Per a league source, Welker has no limits or restrictions as he returns to action.

But the looming question is whether he’ll suffer another concussion today, or at any time in the near future.  At some point, Welker’s chain of concussions could make doctors far more reluctant to clear him to play.

The issue takes on extra importance with the Broncos facing a team that beat Denver in February, thanks in large part of a level of physicality that the Broncos weren’t been able to match.

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Jamaal Charles a game-time decision

Charles Getty Images

The official diagnosis on Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles suggested that he’d miss time.  And he still may.  But there’s a good chance he won’t.

Despite having a high ankle sprain (and a bone bruise, per a source with knowledge of the situation), Charles remains a game-time decision for Sunday’s contest at Miami.

With only seven carries for 19 yards in Week One and a mere two carries for four yards before suffering the injury, Charles’ 2014 seasons has started off in disappointing fashion.  He could get a chance to improve on the initial 1/8th of the season, if he can play — and if Charles is healthy enough to be effective.

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Sunday morning one-liners

Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby, Alfred Morris AP

Special teams play is one big reason the Bills are 2-0.

DE Cameron Wake leads the Dolphins with both words and actions.

The Patriots are looking for more from their wide receivers.

S Dawan Landry’s experience is needed in the Jets secondary.

The Ravens hope things go better on the road than they did last season.

Does the Bengals backfield need its own nickname?

Browns LB Karlos Dansby is “sick to his stomach” about the team’s struggle to stop the run.

Previewing what the Steelers defense will have to deal with on Sunday night.

A few key questions for the Texans to answer on Sunday.

Colts TE Jack Doyle grew up to play for his hometown team.

The Jaguars defensive line wants to make up for last week.

DL Mike Martin is healthy and hoping to make an impact for the Titans.

The Broncos are looking forward to their matchup with the Seahawks.

Chiefs WR Albert Wilson’s trip to the NFL included the helping hands of his foster parents.

The Raiders promoted LB Bojay Filimoeatu from their practice squad.

Replacing RB Ryan Mathews will be a group effort for the Chargers.

Will the Cowboys ride the running game to victory again this week?

Steve Serby of the New York Post thinks the secret to the Giants turning things around is the team somehow being more like Derek Jeter.

Screen plays have been a positive for the Eagles.

Redskins QB Kirk Cousins wears his wedding ring on the field.

Bears C Brian de la Puente is preparing himself for the Jets defense.

Lions CB Darius Slay will be on the spot against the Packers.

Would Julius Peppers be more effective for the Packers if he played less?

Trying to figure out a way the Vikings can win in New Orleans on Sunday.

The Falcons celebrated their alumni before Thursday night’s big win.

The Panthers aren’t stressing about DE Greg Hardy’s absence.

Former Saints WR Rich Mauti will see his son, Vikings LB Michael Mauti, square off with his old team this weekend.

The Buccaneers hope better health will lead to better results.

Said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians of injuries, “It’s something that we’ve been through and it’s what you hold each other accountable to, not lip service and looking for excuses. There are no excuses.”

The story of Rams QB Austin Davis’s career keeps getting better.

Perseverance has been an essential trait for 49ers LB Dan Skuta.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson wants to emulate great athletes from other sports.

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Former Titans kicker Rob Bironas killed in car crash

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Rob Bironas, who spent nine years as the kicker for the Tennessee Titans, has died in a car crash. He was 36.

Nashville police confirmed that Bironas was in a single-car crash at around 11 p.m. on Saturday. According to the Tennessean, Bironas lost control of his SUV and hit several trees. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Police say Bironas was driving toward his home and there was no evidence of alcohol on the scene.

Bironas grew up in Louisville and played college football first at Auburn and then transferred to Georgia Southern. After playing a few years of Arena Football and trying out for NFL teams, he signed with the Titans in 2005. His best season came in 2007, when he was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro. The Titans released Bironas this offseason, but he was still hoping to get back into the NFL, and just had a tryout with the Lions last week.

Bironas is survived by his wife, Rachel Bradshaw, the daughter of Pro Football Hall of Famer and FOX broadcaster Terry Bradshaw.

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