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ProFootballTalk: AFC Championship storylines

Ray Lewis may not be the only player potentially playing their final game this weekend. Erik Kuselias, Mike Florio and Amani Toomer give their insight and more leading up to the AFC Championship game.

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Report: Hasselbeck still sick, “hoping” he can play four quarters

Matt Hasselbeck AP

Stacy Dales of the NFL Network reports that Matt Hasselbeck is still fighting a bacterial infection for which he was hospitalized earlier in the week.

That’s a problem. With Andrew Luck out again due to a shoulder injury, Hasselbeck is again starting at quarterback for the Colts against the Texans on Thursday Night Football.

Dales tweeted that Hasselbeck is on antibiotics and hoping he can play four quarters. He doesn’t have much choice; the only other quarterback on the roster is Josh Johnson, who was signed last week because of Luck’s injury, released earlier this week then brought back as the Colts discovered Luck would probably miss his second game.

Luck is among the seven players the Colts made inactive for the game.

The Texans have a quarterback issue of their own with Ryan Mallett having been benched last week with the team down 42-0. Mallett is starting again, but Brian Hoyer will stay ready in a game the Texans need to win Thursday night. It’s a game that’s suddenly really interesting with Luck out again and Hasselbeck ailing.

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Luck officially inactive; Vontae Davis will play

Andrew Luck AP

The inactives have officially been turned in, and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck will miss his second straight game tonight when the Colts play at the Texans.

Matt Hasselbeck will start for the Colts. He was hospitalized earlier this week due to a virus and, like Luck, was listed by the team as questionable, but he’ll make his second straight start.

Josh Johnson — signed last week, released earlier this week and re-signed Wednesday — will be the backup quarterback.

Colts cornerback Vontae Davis and defensive tackle Henry Anderson will play. They didn’t practice in this short-week situation and had been listed as questionable.

The Colts had previously announced that Tyler Varga, Jerrell Freeman and Bjoern Werner would be out; the Colts’ other inactives are Lance Louis and Denzelle Good.

As expected, the Texans will be without veteran wide receivers Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington and running back Jonathan Grimes. The Texans’ other inactives are Akeem Dent, Quintin Demps, Greg Mancz and Kourtnei Brown.

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Daniel Fells needs a fifth surgery for MRSA

Keenan Robinson AP

The situation involving Giants tight end Daniel Fells has become a very serious health situation.

According to Jordan Raanan of, Fells remains hospitalized after having a fourth surgical procedure on Thursday. Per Ranaan, Fells needs at least one more surgery.

Fells went to the hospital over the weekend with a MRSA infection in his ankle, and doctors have tried to clear the infection out of the affected area. Earlier this week, coach Tom Coughlin expressed optimism has that Fells would be out of the hospital by Thursday.

Several teams have been affected by MRSA infections in recent years. Fells is the first Giants player to be stricken. We wish him a fast and complete recovery.

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The bashing of Jimmy Graham continues

Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham AP

On Monday night, ESPN’s Trent Dilfer and Ray Lewis teed off on Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham regarding his contributions to the offense when he’s not running pass routes.

“He is unwilling and incapable to hold up in the run game as an in-line tight end,” Dilfer said.

On Thursday, ESPN’s Darren Woodson jumped on the pile with Dilfer and Lewis, in an appearance on ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith (on his SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio show).

“Let me tell you this about Jimmy Graham,” Woodson told Smith, via a transcript provided by SiriusXM. “Jimmy Graham, to me, and I’m watching this guy and I know he’s a special athlete, I know he’s a guy that makes big plays, probably one of the best pass-catching tight ends to play the game, hands down. He can run any route you want to run, he stretches the defense, he does a lot of things you want him to do. But you talk about a complete teammate? He’s not even close. He won’t block to save his life. He’s not a teammate. I wouldn’t even call him a teammate.

“This guy is all about Jimmy Graham, and that’s the shame in this. This team has been built, and Pete Carroll has done a great job over the last few years of getting the team mentality, you know, it’s all about us winning games, who cares about the individual rewards, we want to win Super Bowls. Well, in order to do that you have to get down in a three-point stance and block someone sometimes. Sometimes you’ve got to get a little dirty for the running back so he can get that extra yard. Jimmy Graham will not do it and that is the shame in watching this Seattle Seahawks team. And I’m sure, knowing that team, knowing Richard Sherman, knowing Cam Chancellor, knowing [Michael] Bennett on the defensive line, I’m sure someone has told him or reminded him that, ‘You are a Seattle Seahawk, you had better do the dirty work.’  At least I hope so.”

So what did the Seahawks expect when they traded for Graham? It’s not like Graham suddenly changed when the Saints traded him to Seattle. Graham is exactly what Tony Gonzalez, Kellen Winslow, Ozzie Newsome, and all other great tight ends were: Weapons in the passing game.

For whatever reason, the Seahawks feel compelled to make Graham something other than a pass-catching tight end. They want him to be a blocking tight end, too. And the bulk of the criticism for the team’s effort to make Graham into something he isn’t is landing not on the Seahawks but on Graham.

“It’s been good sometimes, it hasn’t been good sometimes,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told reporters on Wednesday regarding Graham’s blocking. “He’s willing to do it, he’s willing to continue to work on it. He’s a tight end for us. That’s something that’s part of the position. We’re trying to put him in positions to be successful, and that he’s going to be able to do it when we need it to be done, and we know that’s not where we want to make our living with him in there, but that’s part of the position. That’s going to be something that he’s going to have to do, and it’s something that he wants to do, believe it or not.”

Plenty of people want to do what they can’t do, and their employers are smart enough to not ask them to do those things. Taking a square peg like Graham and trying to jam him into the round hole of Seattle’s vision of a complete tight end makes no sense, and it’s unfair to Graham for guys like Dilfer, Lewis, and Woodson to blame Graham for the team’s decision to trade for a player who has one specific skill set and then asking him to do things that fall beyond it.

Maybe he can rush the passer, too. Cover receivers. Kick extra points. If being a “teammate” in the eyes of Darren Woodson requires embracing everything about football, maybe Graham also should play some quarterback. (At least he’d be able to see over the team’s makeshift offensive line.)

Graham is who he is. The Seahawks knew who he is. They now want him to be who he isn’t. And no one is criticizing the Seahawks for that, for failing to get the ball in his hands, and for trading for him in the first place.

Surely, they didn’t give up a first-round pick and $27 million over three years for a blocking tight end. They made that investment for a weapon in the passing game. And he’s quickly becoming the latest high-priced weapon in the passing game that the Seahawks can’t figure out how to properly use.

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Malcom Floyd practices, Stevie Johnson doesn’t for Chargers

Malcom Floyd, Pierre Desir AP

The Chargers will be getting one of their key passing-game weapons back on Monday night, when tight end Antonio Gates returns from suspension. They may be missing another key passing-game weapon for the Week Five home game against the Steelers.

Receiver Stevie Johnson missed Thursday’s practice with a hamstring injury, according to the team’s official injury report. Johnson injured the hamstring in Sunday’s game against the Browns.

The better news is that receiver Malcom Floyd (pictured), who exited the Cleveland game with a concussion, fully participated in practice. He’ll still need to be separately cleared by an independent neurologist to play.

Also missing practice were tackle King Dunlap (concussion), guard Orlando Franklin (ankle), receiver Jacoby Jones (ankle), cornerback Craig Mager (hamstring), and linebacker Tourek Williams (foot).

Limited in practice were safety Jahleel Addae (ankle), guard D.J. Fluker (ankle), cornerback Jason Verrett (foot), and center Chris Watt (groin).

Cornerback Brandon Flowers, who also suffered a concussion against the Browns, fully participated in practice, along with guard Chris Hairston (ankle).

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Tashaun Gipson still in boot, misses another practice

Tashaun Gipson AP

Browns safety Tashaun Gipson is still wearing a protective boot due to an ankle injury and missed a second straight day of practice Thursday.

Gipson was one of four players to miss practice Thursday; the others were Shaun Draughn, Craig Robertson and Brian Hartline. Robertson is expected to miss at least another game, while Hartline had been limited Wednesday with rib and thigh injuries before sitting out Thursday.

Gipson briefly left the Browns’ Sept. 27 game vs. the Raiders with what the team called a groin injury. He was limited in practice last week but played last Sunday at San Diego.

If Gipson can’t play Sunday in Baltimore, Jordan Poyer would likely be his replacement. Rookie Ibraheim Campbell would also be in line for extended action.

Gipson led the NFL with six interceptions last November before he suffered a knee injury in late November that ended his season. He’s playing this season on a restricted free-agent tender and is eligible for unrestricted free agency next March unless he works out a new deal with the Browns before then.

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Alshon Jeffery remains limited by hamstring injury

Alshon Jeffery, Keenan Lewis AP

The Bears picked up their first win of the season last Sunday without wide receiver Alshon Jeffery in the lineup, but their chances of adding to that total would look better if the wideout gets back into the lineup.

It remains unclear when that is going to be. Jeffery was limited in practice on Thursday because of the hamstring injury that has kept him from playing in the last three games, just as he was on Wednesday and last week, and said that he was trying to stay patient while waiting for the injury to feel better.

“It just comes with the territory of playing football,” Jeffery said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “There’s a 100 percent chance that you’re going to get injured. I mean I miss being out there a lot, but at the same time, it’s a process. But I’ll be back out there soon, hopefully.”

Wide receiver Eddie Royal and safety Antrel Rolle missed a second straight day of practice Thursday because of ankle injuries and left tackle Jermon Bushrod remained out with a concussion.

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Levy practices again, on track to make season debut

New York Giants v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy was a full participant in practice Thursday for the second straight day and is on track to make his season debut Sunday vs. the Cardinals.

The 0-4 Lions anxiously await his return. Levy, who led the team and was second in the NFL with 151 tackles last season, has been battling a hip injury.

Levy participated in practice last week but the Lions listed him as limited on their injury report for all three days. He ended up not making the trip to Seattle.

The Lions were without four players in practice for the second straight day: Joique Bell, Eric Ebron, Haloti Ngata and Travis Lewis. Larry Warford also missed practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. He’s battling an ankle injury.

The Lions have signed two defensive tackles in the last two days, a sign they believe Ngata will be at best limited for Sunday’s game.

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Joseph Randle: Leap “wasn’t the most fundamental thing to do”

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At this point, the Cowboys kind of have to accept that bad decisions are part of the deal with Joseph Randle.

But the running back swears, this time, he’s learned his lesson.

Randle was chewed out by coaches two weeks ago for leaping in the air and reaching across the goal line against the Falcons. He showed contrition by doing the exact same thing last week against the Saints, with the ball swatted away and ruled a fumble, before it was reversed and called a touchdown.

It wasn’t the most fundamental thing to do, but I’m going to keep grinding,” Randle said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Whether “grinding” includes continuing to ignore direct instructions from his coaches in the future is unclear, because Randle then ended the interview after four questions.

But it’s reasonable to wonder if he learned his lesson.

After all, this is the same guy who said that if he knew he’d have been arrested for stealing underwear and cologne from a mall last year, that he’d have kept walking when approached by a security guard. Then when he was being processed at the jailhouse, he offered a female cop $100 for a massage while wondering aloud if the arrest would make the local news.

It hasn’t been enough to keep him off the field entirely, though it’s easy to wonder if he gets lost in the locker room at halftime. He has 17 carries for 117 yards in the first halves of the last two games, but just eight carries for minus-4 yards in the second halves.

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Kiko Alonso: ACL wasn’t injured, no timetable for return

Gavin Escobar, Kiko Alonso AP

When Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso hurt his left knee in Week Two, there was some fear that he re-injured the ACL he tore before the start of the 2014 season.

That injury kept him out for the entire year, so another similar injury would have been a terrible turn of events for Alonso. He went to see Dr. James Andrews for an evaluation, which Alonso says confirmed his initial feeling that there was no injury to the ACL after he had his knee scoped.

“I knew it wasn’t that bad, because obviously I’ve had it twice,” Alonso said, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It didn’t feel like that. I knew I didn’t have it. They went in there and cleaned it out. …Like when you take a car for a clean.”

While Alonso avoided another season-ending injury, he’s not sure when he’ll be able to return to the team. He isn’t practicing and says there’s no timetable for when he’ll be able to get back on the field with hopes it will be sooner rather than later. Until then, the Eagles will rely on DeMeco Ryans, Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks at inside linebacker, although Kendricks is currently sidelined by a hamstring injury.

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Lions owner Martha Ford upset with NFL over bad calls

Martha Ford AP

Lions owner Martha Ford has maintained a very low public profile since becoming the sole owner of the franchise following the death of her husband, William Clay Ford, last year. But privately, Ford is speaking up about NFL officiating.

That’s the word from the Lions’ website, which is highlighting a statement coach Jim Caldwell made during his weekly radio appearance about Ford’s frustration with the bad call that went against the Lions on Monday night.

“I think people were kind of expecting our organization to put out a public statement about how egregious that particular no-call was, and all those kinds of things,” Caldwell said. “And don’t think Mrs. Ford is not upset. Don’t think that she doesn’t tell them [NFL officials] and give them a piece of her mind, because she is there at the league meetings – this week or yesterday. And without question, that’s done. We have a protocol that we go through.”

The NFL has told teams not to criticize the officials publicly, but the Lions are tiptoeing around that directive with Ford complaining privately and the team website spotlighting Caldwell’s confirmation of Ford’s complaints.

However they’re expressing their concerns, the Lions have every right to be miffed. Their 2014 season ended with a bad call in a playoff loss to the Cowboys, and now their 2015 season has been dealt a crippling blow in Seattle. Ford absolutely should complain to the league about that.

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Pettine tiptoes around crucial offside call in San Diego game

Mike Pettine AP

Plenty has been said in the last day regarding whether the NFL admitted to an officiating error late in Sunday’s game between the Browns and Chargers. Browns cornerback Tramon Williams contend the league acknowledged the blunder; the league has denied it.

On Thursday, Browns coach Mike Pettine opted to say as little as possible about it.

“It is our policy, I am not going to comment on the officiating reviews,” Pettine told reporters on Thursday. “Just on a general statement on that — I have said this before – I think [NFL V.P. of officiating] Dean Blandino and his crew in New York do an excellent job. They are very candid when mistakes are made — I am not saying that is the case here — but just in general, they are very open about it. That crew in New York is working hard to get the officiating right, and we are very appreciative of it. I don’t get into the details of the report for obvious reasons, but I think also even if you took the TV copy of that play or had access to the All-22 and just watched it in slow motion, it is such a difficult thing to officiate. Imagine putting yourself on the line in front of it and trying to gauge if somebody moves exactly and nobody else moves what it looks like. That is behind us. I have had good communication with the league about it. I feel good about their stance and I feel good about where we are with it.”

Technically, the officials got it wrong. But Tramon Williams’ jump was so perfect, his timing so much better than everyone else’s, that he looked offside. Only careful inspection of the All-22 tape shows that Williams begins to move just as the snap process is starting.

It’s all the more reason for the NFL to embrace replay in all situations where it can fix a mistake. Not every mistake is an error; some mistakes happen because the naked eye can’t process the speed of the game properly. In those cases, it’s even more important to rely on any and all available technologies.

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Report: Washington may play a 2016 home game in London

GettyImages-484657144.0 Getty Images

When it comes to selling football tickets (or, you know, anything), the law of supply and demand applies. In Washington, the supply has been outweighing the demand in recent years. And so the time possibly has come for owner Daniel Snyder to shrink the inventory.

According to Mike Jones and Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, Washington may be exporting a 2016 home game to London. Other teams are under consideration. An announcement could come by next month.

The NFL is expected to stage three games in London next year, with a fourth international game played in Germany or Mexico.

As noted by the Post, Washington is one of the 12 teams that have not yet played a regular-season game in London. Eventually, more and more teams will have to give up home games, if the NFL intends to continue to play more and more games in other countries. At some point, the league will have to expand the supply of total regular-season games if it ever hopes to persuade teams with a high demand on tickets to host a game somewhere other than their home stadium.

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Jeff Burris gets a promotion on Dolphins’ defensive staff

2926109 Getty Images

As Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell continues to shake up the coaching staff he inherited from the fired Joe Philbin, former NFL player Jeff Burris has received a promotion.

Burris’s title has changed from “defensive assistant” to “assistant defensive backs coach.” That might sound like a minor distinction akin to the difference between “assistant regional manager” and “assistant to the regional manager,” the Dolphins’ website makes clear that the move is considered a promotion.

Burris was an All-American at Notre Dame and a first-round draft pick of the Bills in 1994, and he played cornerback for 10 seasons in the NFL with the Bills, Colts and Bengals. He has been with the Dolphins since 2013 and has previously served on the coaching staffs at UMass and on the United Football League’s Sacramento Mountain Lions, as well as having a coaching internship with the Bills.

The Dolphins have also confirmed, as PFT reported, that Lou Anarumo has been promoted to defensive coordinator and Kevin Coyle has been fired.

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Victor Cruz to meet with doctors next week

Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham AP

The Giants won’t have wide receiver Victor Cruz in the lineup against the 49ers on Sunday night and they should have a better idea of when he’ll be able to make his first appearance of the 2015 season next week.

That’s when Cruz is scheduled to have his injured calf reevaluated by doctors. Cruz had platelet-rich plasma therapy done on the calf last week and explained on Thursday, via Jordan Raanan of, that doctors said it would take 10 days to see if it worked well enough for him to ramp up his rehab work.

Cruz doesn’t need that examination to give him confidence in his ability to come back and help the team this season.

“I’m thoroughly convinced at some point this year I’ll be back on the field playing at high level,” Cruz said.

While Cruz likely has plenty of company in believing he’ll be back on the field at some point this season, the high level part of things is going to be a harder sell until he’s actually able to do it.

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Ahmad Brooks won’t play this week after death of sister

San Francisco 49ers v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Injury reports come and go, and news of players in and out of lineups can make our eyes glaze over sometimes.

And sometimes, you remember these are human beings playing games.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks won’t play this week against the Giants, after the death of his sister.

Agent Greg Williams said that Brooks’ 40-year old sister Casandra died of Lupus.

Brooks has been having a tumultuous last few months, including facing a misdemeanor count of sexual battery, though the league chose to not place him on paid leave, and he has played as normal for the 49ers so far this season.

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Jason Peters says he’s playing this week

Jason Peters AP

Eagles coach Chip Kelly raised the possibility that the Eagles would be without left tackle Jason Peters against the Saints this week, but Peters shared a different opinion of his chances of playing through the quadriceps injury that knocked him out of the Week Four loss to the Redskins.

Kelly said that he didn’t want to be caught short on players again this week after watching Peters leave the loss to Washington after just a handful of snaps, although Peters says that’s not something that Kelly has to worry about. Peters, who was a full participant in Thursday’s practice, said that he’s going to play against New Orleans and explained why he won’t be forced out of the game again this week.

“Because I am who I am,” Peters said, via Reuben Frank of CSN Philly.

It’s always hard to argue with an answer that worked so well for Popeye, but the Eagles will probably still be weighing all of their options in the next few days before deciding whether to put Peters in the lineup on Sunday. The risk of losing him mid-game (and perhaps aggravating the injury) and forcing an already beleaguered offensive line to shuffle its pieces on the fly may be one they are unwilling to take.

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Dolphins make Anarumo defensive coordinator

Dolphins Getty Images

The Dolphins will promote defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo to defensive coordinator, a source told PFT.

The team fired Kevin Coyle as defensive coordinator Thursday, three days after firing head coach Joe Philbin and replacing him with interim coach Dan Campbell.

Anarumo, 49, has been with the team as defensive backs coach since 2012. He previously was a college assistant coach for 23 years and spent 2004-2011 at Purdue.

The Dolphins are off this weekend after falling to 1-3 in London last week. They play at the Titans on Oct. 18.

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Report: Dolphins parting ways with Kevin Coyle

Kevin Coyle AP

Before the Dolphins fired coach Joe Philbin on Monday, there were reports that had defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle on the chopping block as well.

During interim coach Dan Campbell’s introductory press conference, he said he wasn’t ready to talk about potential changes to the staff which meant Coyle was still employed if not exactly safe and sound in the job. Reports that the Dolphins had reached out to Jim Schwartz, Mike Smith and Greg Schiano about taking over their defense didn’t do much to make things any cozier.

The other shoe reportedly dropped on Thursday. Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the Dolphins have decided to fire Coyle.

There’s no word on who will take over the Dolphins defense with Coyle out of the picture. Whoever does get the reins will be tasked with bringing together a defense that balked at playing Coyle’s scheme and held a closed-door meeting with coaches last week about making changes to it.

The new coach will also be tasked with finding a way to get big-ticket defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to perform at a level closer to the one he was at in Detroit before signing a huge contract with Miami as a free agent this offseason. It’s a full plate with a little more than a week to go before the Dolphins are back on the field.

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Roddy White on his role with Falcons: “It’s really not a controversy”

Roddy White ,Devin Hester AP

OK now, it’s settled — Roddy White is totally and completely gruntled.

The Falcons veteran wide receiver said Thursday that he met with coach Dan Quinn about his role in the offense, after comments that could reasonably be construed as dissatisfaction with becoming a third option in the passing game. And he swears he’s OK with that.

It’s really not a controversy,” White said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “My role is what it is. I’ve talked to DQ and we’ve gotten past that. It’s just certain things that just get out into the media and certain people just take it way too far. I’m on positive note. We are 4-0 and that’s what it is right now.”

Of course, that’s a whole lot different than earlier this week, when he expressed displeasure with the amount of blocking he was doing, now that Leonard Hankerson has emerged as the No. 2 option behind Julio Jones.

White, the Falcons all-time leading receiver, has six catches for 92 yards for the undefeated Falcons. And at the moment, he has other concerns, as he missed practice Wednesday to be with his mother, who had surgery. White said she’s “doing well,” which is certainly good news.

But his position coach also said White’s not grumbling behind the scenes.

“My room is good,” veteran assistant Terry Robiskie said. “Everybody is good. Everybody is having fun. Rod is the same guy. He doesn’t catch his 12, 20 balls, but at the same time we score a touchdown he’s high-fiving we were up in the third quarter the starters were done.”

“I saw him on the sideline high-fiving with Eric Weems, joking with Eric Weems. Winning is fun. No matter what a prideful guy you are, when getting your’re ass whipped, ain’t no pride in that. You are miserable.”

And White, no matter what he might have said, apparently is not.

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