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Aqib Talib trade working out well for Patriots

Aqib Talib AP

When the Patriots sent a fourth-round draft pick to the Buccaneers for cornerback Aqib Talib just hours before the trade deadline, they were taking a major risk. Talib had talent, but he had also had so much off-field trouble that the Bucs were sick of dealing with him and eager to send him packing.

That risk has paid off.

The Patriots, who also got a seventh-round draft pick from the Bucs in the deal, have found themselves with a starting cornerback who helped shore up their pass defense. And Talib says he loves playing in the Patriots’ defense.

It’s real football; that’s what I like. You come here and you know you’re going to play some real football,” Talib told Mike Reiss of ESPN.com. “When you’re little and you think about being in the NFL, you think about being in this situation. It’s ideal for me.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick says Talib has been a great presence in New England.

“He’s a good football player, good teammate [and] he’s very well respected because of his professionalism,” Belichick said of Talib. “He studies hard and prepares well. He’s tough. He competes well, both in practice and on Sundays. Smart kid. I like him; the team likes him. He’s a good guy to be around, and he works hard and competes well. I think those are his most impressive qualities. I’m glad he’s on our football team. He’s certainly made us a better football team.”

If Talib helps the Patriots win a Super Bowl, that trade will turn out to be a bargain.

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Shaun Phillps lands with Colts

Blake Bortles, Shaun Phillips AP

Linebacker Shaun Phillips has taken an overnight elevator ride from the basement to the penthouse in the AFC South.

Phillips was waived by the Titans on Tuesday and he’ll spend Thanksgiving as a member of the Colts, who announced that they added Phillips via a waiver claim on Wednesday. The move for Phillips, who has 81.5 career sacks, is a signal that the Colts would like to boost their pass rush off the edge.

The Colts currently rank 11th in the NFL with 27 sacks, seven of which have come from outside linebackers Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden. They hoped to have Robert Mathis for the final 12 regular season games, but he tore his Achilles while working out ahead of his reinstatement from a season-opening four-game suspension.

Phillips had just two sacks in 11 games with the Titans, so he’s hardly been an impact player this season. Phillips did have 10 sacks last year with the Broncos, so a return to a team with postseason aspirations could be a boost to his productivity.

Linebacker Victor Butler has shuffled on and off the Colts roster a few times recently and he shuffled back off with Phillips’s arrival.

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Ryan Kalil says his brother’s hat-flick was all his fault

2014 Pro Bowl Getty Images

Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil has apologized for flicking the hat off a heckling fan last Sunday.

But the guy should probably be glad Ryan Kalil didn’t give more wedgies growing up.

The Panthers center came to the defense of his little brother, saying his treatment of Matt when they were growing up may have contributed to Sunday’s outburst.

“I was a little disappointed,” Ryan Kalil said, via John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I would have liked him to go with the, ‘You spilled something on your shirt‘ move, and then flick him on the chin. . . .

“It’s probably my fault for picking on him when he was little. That hat thing was a go-to move.”

Ryan said his brother was actually on the phone with their father when the incident occurred, saying the heckler was saying “some pretty ugly stuff.”
Of course, there’s plenty being said about Matt Kalil in Minnesota, where many feel he’s not living up to his first-round status.

And for that, a bunch of Vikings fans probably wish Ryan would have given his brother a few more noogies when they were growing up.

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Donte Whitner ruffles Fred Jackson’s feathers

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Safety Donte Whitner and the Browns will travel to meet the Bills on Sunday and Whitner’s not heading for the happiest of welcomes in the town he called home for the first five years of his career.

Whitner made a crack on Twitter over the summer about the Bills moving to Toronto, which made former Bill Darryl Talley quite upset and the bad feelings haven’t died down in Buffalo. Running back Fred Jackson said Wednesday that Whitner will “never get my respect” for what Jackson felt was talking down to people in Buffalo and in the organization.

“That’s just him being him,” Jackson said, via ESPN.com. “Donte is a guy that likes to ruffle feathers. He found any way he could to try and ruffle Buffalo’s feathers, knowing he had to come up to us. It’s just dumb for him to do, and talk about people like that, and talk about the city of Buffalo like that. But at the same time, you’ve just got to take it with a grain of salt and say it’s just some dude that’s being an idiot about some stuff.”

Whitner said he’s expecting a chilly reception from the fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but that he doesn’t care about hurting feelings if it might help the Browns win a game.

“[The Toronto Bills comment] wasn’t excessive. It wasn’t a joke. I knew that it would get to them. I knew it would ruffle a feather. If they’re over there talking about this, maybe we are in their heads. Maybe I’m in their heads. Maybe. We don’t know, but the goal is to go 1-0, the goal is to get them talking about things other than football, and I guess that’s what they’re doing.”

Whitner and Jackson should meet up at some point when Jackson gets hold of the ball and it will be interesting to see whose feathers are the most ruffled on the other side of a collision.

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Zach Mettenberger sends himself to selfie rehab

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger made a rookie mistake by drawing too much attention to himself on social media before his first start, and incurred the wrath of Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

But Mettenberger said he’s gone cold turkey on taking selfies, in hopes of keeping a lower profile.

“I was just addicted to it I guess. I put myself in a rehab program,” Mettenberger said, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean. “And now that I’ve quit I feel like I am a much better person.”

Watt criticized Mettenberger for it after the game, and had his own selfie sack celebration during.

“It’s just kind of a reminder, this is the National Football League, not high school. Welcome to the show,” Watt said then. “I just, I take my job very seriously. If I was a rookie quarterback being named the starter for the first time in the league, I feel like I’d be a little bit more focused than that. Maybe he’ll learn from it, maybe not. We won the game, so that’s all that matters.”

On a conference call this week, Watt said he was surprised it got so much attention.

“I think that definitely got blown up more than I expected it to be. I guess I should have expected it with today’s world, but somebody asked me a question after the game and I answered it,” Watt said. “That’s all there was to it. It’s football.”

Of course, Mettenberger might want to win a game before sending out any more selfies, since he hasn’t done that yet as a starter either.

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Josh Gordon on suspension: Lowest point was disassociation from teammates

Josh Gordon, Greg Little AP

Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon looked like he hadn’t missed a beat during his 10-game suspension during last Sunday’s game against the Falcons.

Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards to help the Browns improve to 7-4 with a 26-24 victory, but the time during his suspension wasn’t as smooth as his return to the field. Gordon spoke to former Browns teammate Nate Burleson for NFL Network about feeling alienated from his teammates during the ban he received for violations of the substance-abuse and personal conduct policies.

“The lowest point of all this I think was the disassociation from a lot of friends you thought were close or you thought you were kind of cool with really not checking on you anymore, [not] hitting you up anymore, [not] wanting to hang out,” Gordon said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “As far as even people in here [with the Browns]. I don’t want to throw names around but I can see it. I’m definitely really observant so I see how people might just be more standoffish as they were before. It’s kind of like a disease. People they want to see it but they don’t really want to touch it.”

Gordon’s description of the limbo he found himself in for the first 10 games of the season sounded right to coach Mike Pettine, who called it an “uncomfortable” situation that left players who are suspended or injured on the outside looking in at the rest of the team. Pettine added that he thought any of what Gordon felt was a product of the circumstances and not anyone’s feelings about Gordon.

“Knowing the quality of the people in this building, I doubt there would be any overt maliciousness or, basically, just what’s being described,” Pettine said. “I know Josh is well liked by his teammates.  He’s certainly well-liked by the coaching staff and he’s come a long way.”

The comparison to an injured player seems like an apt one based on the way players knocked out for the season have described their experiences. Gordon was healthy and in meetings, but he wasn’t part of the team for practice or games and that’s going to make for the uncomfortable moments that Pettine mentioned. As long as everyone feels comfortable now, and it looked like Gordon did, all should be well on that front.

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No fine for Lynch’s “yeah”-filled press conference

Lynch Getty Images

Two Sundays ago, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch avoided reporters.  He was fined $100,000 for the infraction.

This past Sunday, Lynch talked to reporters, primarily by repeatedly saying “yeah,” even in response to questions that didn’t call for a yes/no answer.

So will the NFL fine Lynch for failing to comply with the spirit of the media policy?  Nope.

Per a league source, Lynch hasn’t been fined for his latest shenanigans.  It’s likely, however, that the league won’t tolerate that approach on a regular basis.

After Texans running back Arian Foster repeatedly said that he’s just trying to be a good teammate during a session with reporters, the NFL warned him that he could be fined if he engages in similar shenanigans in the future.  So if Lynch opts for “yeah” as a standard response to reporter questions, the NFL eventually will say “yeah” when asked if Lynch has been fined.

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Josh Brent not expected to play this week

Josh Brent AP

Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent is listed as probable on the team’s injury report with a calf injury, but it doesn’t sound like that will be enough to get him a spot on Thursday’s 46-man roster.

The Cowboys placed defensive lineman Jack Crawford on injured reserve Wednesday, but coach Jason Garrett indicated defensive tackle Terrell McClain would play after joining Brent on the inactive list last weekend. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sent a similar message about Brent’s chances of facing the Eagles.

“He’s coming along fineS,” Marinelli said, via the Dallas Morning News. “It’s just that we have some guys who are playing pretty well for us right now, too. So we’ll keep you updated when we feel he’s ready to go and I’ll alert you.”

Wide receiver Terrence Williams is also probable after hurting his finger against the Giants and practicing in full on Friday.

Cornerback Tyler Patmon is out with a knee injury, linebacker Dekoda Watson is out with a hamstring injury and safety Jeff Heath is doubtful after having thumb surgery earlier this week. Crawford also had thumb surgery and the team promoted linebacker Keith Smith from the practice squad to fill his spot on the roster.

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Latavius Murray practicing after last week’s concussion

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Raiders running back Latavius Murray had an eventful Thursday night against the Chiefs.

Murray saw his profile grow exponentially when he scored on 11- and 90-yard touchdown runs in the first half of the Raiders’ nationally televised first win of the 2014 season. Just as a wider group of people were getting to know who Murray was, things took a negative turn when Murray was forced out of the game with a concussion.

Sunday’s game against the Rams won’t have quite as big a viewing audience, but it looks like there’s a good chance that they’ll see Murray. According to multiple reports from Oakland, Murray was on the field and taking part in the team’s first practice of the week. That doesn’t mean he’s cleared to play Sunday, but it puts him on the right track to follow up on his four carry,112 yard breakout.

The Raiders also announced a roster move on Wednesday. Tight end David Ausberry was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury and promoted defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin from the practice squad. Ausberry had two catches in six games this season and missed all of last season.

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Devon Still refutes claims he’s not paying child support

Atlanta Falcons v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still has responded to a report that he wasn’t paying child support for his daughter Leah, but said he didn’t want to get into the details of the case.

The report in this morning’s New York Daily News said that Still hasn’t paid any child support since August 2014, while Leah has become a national storyline during her battle with cancer.

“My daughter’s battle with cancer has been inspirational to many all over the world,” Still said in a statement released by the team, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “When she gets older, I want her to be able to look back and read about her positive impact on the world, not about the private issues her parents were going through. I am not going to retaliate against the mother of my daughter, and the untruthful reports in the New York Daily News article, by criticizing her character. I am going to continue to allow the court system to handle this matter, as it has been doing these past couple of months.”

The Bengals are circling the wagons around Still, after more than $1.3 million was raised through sales of his jersey to benefit children’s cancer research.

Coach Marvin Lewis said he met with Still Wednesday morning, and remains “very confident” in his defensive tackle.

“We’re not privy to all the facts of it,” Lewis said. “But Devon is very confident that he’s taking care of business the right way and eventually, at some point, if there’s things that need to be done through the legality through the courts, that all would come out that way. We’re going to continue to support him. We’re very confident in the things he’s done. . . .

“Devon has grown up so much through this unfortunate illness that his daughter’s dealing with. It’s really grown him as a man and as a person. I told him that just today how he’s handled everything. I’m so impressed.

“He’s really a beacon for a lot of people. He will be for a lot of young guys as they face different trials and tribulations as an NFL player. There are the outside pressures that no one understands that guys go through. There’s the pressure of playing, the pressure of performing. All those things that occur, and this one is really outside of football.”

The hope is that the legal fight doesn’t take away from Leah’s continuing battle, and that the adults in this situation resolve things with her welfare in mind.

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Dominic Raiola fined for hit to the head, not for hit to the knees

Dominic Raiola AP

Lions center Dominic Raiola was fined for a cheap shot against the Patriots on Sunday. Just not the cheap shot everyone has been talking about.

Raiola, who admitted he took a shot at Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore’s knees on the final play of the game, was not fined for that. But he was fined $10,000 for taking a swing at Moore’s head on another play.

“Dominic Raiola was fined $10,000 for unnecessary roughness,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said. “Specifically, on a pass play, he unnecessarily struck his opponent, violating Rule 12, Section 2, Article 12(c) of the NFL Rule Book which prohibits ‘striking, swinging at, or clubbing the head, neck, or face of an opponent with the wrist(s), arm(s), elbow(s), or hand(s).’ The play was a third-and-nine from the Detroit 35 with 57 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Again, Raiola was not fined for his block on the final snap of the game.”

That the NFL fined Raiola for that play and not for the cut block to Moore shows that the NFL is a lot more cautious about protecting players’ heads than about protecting players’ knees. Many NFL players, especially defensive linemen, have said that all blocks to the knee should be outlawed. But the NFL is particularly sensitive about hits to the head, and it was a hit to the head that got Raiola fined.

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Emmanuel Acho questionable for Thursday

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Eagles only have one player whose status is in doubt for Thursday’s game in Dallas and it looks like the call on linebacker Emmanuel Acho will wait until the last possible moment.

Acho is listed as questionable because of a groin injury that has left him as a limited participant during the team’s short practice week. Acho said that the nature of the injury was such that he won’t know until Thursday whether he will be feeling well enough to take the field.

“I made major strides from [Monday] to [Tuesday],” Acho said, via the Eagles website. “But with it being on Thursday, I can’t make a call on Wednesday, because who knows how I’ll feel when I wake up Thursday morning. So it’ll probably have to be a Thursday decision.”

If Acho doesn’t go, Casey Matthews will see increased time next to Mychal Kendricks at inside linebacker.

Quarterback Nick Foles (collarbone) is the only player ruled out for Philadelphia. Six other players, including wide receiver Jordan Matthews (knee) and left tackle Jason Peters (quad), are probable.

 

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No practice for Larry Fitzgerald on Wednesday

Larry Fitzgerald AP

The Cardinals played without wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in last Sunday’s 19-3 loss to the Seahawks and they opened this week of practice without him as well.

Coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, that Fitzgerald’s sprained MCL is improving, but the wideout isn’t ready to resume a practice schedule yet.

The Cardinals listed Fitzgerald as questionable after he missed all three days of practice last week, although it doesn’t seem like he was all that close to playing. Arians said after the loss that Fitzgerald couldn’t run during pre-game warmups, which indicates that there’s a lot of room for improvement before Fitzgerald will be given the green light to return to a full workload.

Fitzgerald is tied for the team lead in catches and leads the team in receiving yards. His presence may not have made for a different result last Sunday, but it wouldn’t have hurt the team’s efforts to gain more than 140 yards through the air during the game.

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Bears place Brian de la Puente on injured reserve

Buffalo Bills v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Among the many problems that have plagued the Bears this season is an inability to keep the same offensive line together for long stretches because of injuries.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod has missed two games, left guard Matt Slauson is on injured reserve, center Roberto Garza has missed four games and right tackle Jordan Mills has been out the last two games, leaving right guard Kyle Long as the only player to start every game. More shuffling is coming.

Brian De La Puente, who played center when Garza was out and has been at left guard for the last two weeks, is headed to injured reserve because of an ankle injury. Michael Ola, who has been filling in for Mills, is expected to step in for de la Puente with Mills on track to return to the lineup against the Lions on Thursday.

The Bears signed de la Puente before the start of this season and he can become a free agent next year if the Bears don’t re-sign him before the market opens.

Defensive tackle Brandon Dunn has been promoted from the practice squad to bring the roster back to 53 players.

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Jaguars are the new perpetual underdogs

Bradley AP

When the Giants and former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin head to Jacksonville this weekend, the home team will be on the wrong side of the point spread.  Again.

Via OddShark.com, Jacksonville has been the underdog in 40 straight games.  That’s two-and-a-half seasons of games.

And the Jags haven’t done well with those extra points.  They’re 2-10-2 in the last 14 games against the spread, and they’re 2-8-1 as home underdogs in the last 11 games played in Jacksonville.

There’s a chance the streak is even longer than 40 games.  Some had the Bengals as a one-point favorite over the Jaguars in Week Three of the 2012 season.  If the Jags were the underdogs in a game they lost by 17, the streak is 44.  The last time the Jags clearly were the favorite happened in Week 17 of the 2011 season, when they had a four-point edge over the Colts in the game that delivered Andrew Luck to Indy.

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Jordan Cameron practices, remains day-to-day

Jordan Cameron AP

The Browns got wide receiver Josh Gordon back in the lineup last Sunday and they could have tight end Jordan Cameron to help their offense this week.

Cameron has missed the past four games due to a concussion, but he was able to get some practice time in last Friday. Cameron was a limited participant in practice again on Wednesday and coach Mike Pettine said that the team would take its time determining his status for Sunday’s trip to Buffalo.

“We’re looking for him to practice symptom-free for a couple of days in a row. Still day-to-day,” Pettine said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Gordon and Cameron had 167 catches between them last season, but Gordon’s suspension and Cameron’s concussion have limited them to 21 catches this season. Having both back in form for the stretch run should only help as the Browns try to end their long playoff drought.

Linebackers Karlos Dansby (knee) and Jabaal Sheard (foot) both sat out Wednesday’s practice, although Sheard was able to play against Atlanta last weekend.

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