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Chargers announce more coaching moves


It was fitting that Chargers receivers coach Charlie Joiner announced his retirement on Tuesday afternoon.  Because the Chargers have announced his replacement on Tuesday evening.

Fred Graves will now coach the team’s receivers.

Graves, 62, has spent the last two seasons with the Panthers.  He has 37 years of experience, with all but one of them spent coaching receivers.

The Chargers also have hired Bills offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris to coach the offensive line.  He’s a 36-year coaching veteran.

Finally, and as expected, Kevin Spencer has been named the team’s special-teams coordinator.  He served in that capacity for the last six years with the Cardinals, and five before that with the Steelers.  From 1998 through 2001, Spencer coached special teams with the Colts.

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Marvin Lewis says he talks to Bengals owner daily

Marvin Lewis, Mike Brown AP

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he’s not worried about anything anyone says about his job security.

Because he speaks with the guy who decides it on a daily basis — Bengals owner Mike Brown.

I have one stop shopping,” Lewis said, via Katherine Terrell of “I talk to Mike every day. And I don’t have to hear from someone else what they think, . . . . because it’s what he thinks.”

“I report to Mike and that’s all that really matters that way. We have the candid conversations we have all the time. It’s just the way it is.”

Of course, this year those conversations haven’t been as fun, since the team has fallen well short of expectations, on the verge of ending a five-year streak of playoff appearances. They sit at 4-7-1 entering the final four games, and only winning out will help them avoid their first losing record since 2010.

Brown doesn’t have the same kind of day-to-day control over the team he once did, delegating much of that power to his family. But he’s still the boss, and Lewis said that the one-year extension he got last year (which covered 2017) is all he needs to hear.

“We reassured it last January the day after we lost in the playoffs,” Lewis said.

One more year is far from a mandate, but Lewis said he’s not fretting about the future.

“I think the thing with Mike is that he’s been in this business a long time. And he takes every loss as hard as I do or anybody else does here. And it affects him,” Lewis said. “But on the other hand, he trusts me to move the football team in the right direction. . . . that’s the commitment that he’s made to me . . . and that’s the commitment I’ve made to him, to get his football team in the playoffs and through the playoffs all the time and be world champions. . . .

“As long as I’m going to do this here, that’s what my goal is. Anything short of that, I’d be wasting time worrying about it other than spending time worrying about how to beat the next team.”

And if he needs to know any more than that, he can just ask tomorrow.

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Jameis Winston campaigns for Mike Evans, Cameron Brate

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Cameron Brate #84 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers in the fourth quarter at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California. The Buccaneers defeated the Chargers 28-21. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Getty Images

The election happened nearly a month ago, but the effort to harvest votes hasn’t.

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has opted to lobby for a pair of his teammates in the Pro Bowl voting process.

“[I]f Cam Brate and Mike Evans don’t be on your Pro Bowl ballots, you got something wrong,” Winston said, via “Is Cam still leading the NFL in touchdowns [among tight ends]? Cam Brate has to be on your Pro Bowl ballot. I think that would be good for him. I think would be big for him. He would really enjoy that.”

While Brate may enjoy making it to the Pro Bowl team, he probably wouldn’t enjoy playing in the game — apart from the risk of an unnecessary injury (see Eifert, Tyler). The Super Bowl teams don’t play in the Pro Bowl, and that’s the best excuse for any player to have when it comes to ditching the All-Star game.

Jameis also made a general pitch for his offensive line. But he didn’t make a pitch for himself, which is admirable.

I’ll do it for him: Vote for Jameis. Who, like Cameron Brate, should hope that he’s not available to play in the Pro Bowl because he’ll be on his way to Houston.

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Jets bring back Khiry Robinson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 25: Khiry Robinson #29 of the New Orleans Saints spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets waived veteran running back C.J. Spiller on Tuesday and they made a move to bring in another former Saints back on Wednesday.

The team announced that they have signed Khiry Robinson to their 53-man roster while also promoting Brandon Wilds from their practice squad. Kick returner Jeremy Ross was also waived on Tuesday.

It’s Robinson’s second time signing with the Jets. He signed as a free agent in the offseason while he was still rehabbing from a broken leg suffered while with the Saints last season. He played in one preseason game, but was waived/injured after hurting his leg again in that game.

Robinson had 186 carries for 766 yards and eight touchdowns over three years in New Orleans. Wilds, who spent the summer with the Falcons before making his way to the Jets’ practice squad, has not played in a regular season game.

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A.J. Green not participating in Wednesday’s practice

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 12:  A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs the football upfield during the game against Minnesota Vikings at Paul Brown Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was not suited up Wednesday as his teammates started practice, a sign that Green figures to miss at least another game with a hamstring injury.

Last week, Green said he’s dealing with a Grade 2 tear that wouldn’t require surgery and said he was still hopeful he could return this season. Green was working on a side field with trainers as the Bengals began practice Wednesday afternoon.

Green said he did mostly light work last week. He’s been out since suffering the injury early in a Nov. 20 loss to the Bills.

The Bengals are 4-7-1 and 2.5 games behind the Ravens and Steelers in the AFC North. If the Bengals can win this week in Cleveland and get a little help in terms of the Ravens and/or Steelers losing, things could get interesting with the Steelers coming to Cincinnati next week.

Green is 36 receiving yards short of going over 1,000 for the sixth consecutive year to start his career.

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Adrian Peterson: No return if we are out of playoff contention

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 6: Adrian Peterson shakes hands after the game on November 6, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

If the Vikings want to get running back Adrian Peterson back on the field this season, they’re going to need to win their next couple of games.

Peterson spoke to reporters at the team’s facility on Wednesday and said that he expects his surgically repaired knee will feel well enough for him to return to action for the final games of the regular season. He appears to be targeting the December 24 game against the Packers as a possible return date, but added that it would be “pointless” to play in that game or their Week 17 matchup with the Lions if the Vikings are already out of playoff contention.

“Obviously, if we lose two games, we’re out,” Peterson said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “So we’ll just play it by ear. … I’m thinking that we’re going to make the playoffs so that’s what I’m keeping my mind set on.”

The Vikings are in Jacksonville this weekend, so they stand a pretty good chance of winning their second game since October 9. They’ll play the Colts at home in Week 15 and winning both won’t give them a playoff spot, but it seems it would make it a lot likelier that they’ll have Peterson’s help for a final push.

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Bills give Sammy Watkins Wednesday off, but get Robert Woods on field

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 20:  Robert Woods #10 of the Buffalo Bills carries the ball during the first quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Injuries have led the Bills to employ a variety of different wide receiver groups over the course of the season and few of them have included both Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins, but there may be a chance to get another look at that tandem that before the year is out.

Coach Rex Ryan announced that Woods is practicing in a limited capacity for the Bills on Wednesday. It’s his first time on the field since injuring his knee in Week 11, which could leave him in play for a spot in the lineup against the Steelers this weekend.

Watkins is expected to be in the lineup, although he isn’t joining Woods in Wednesday’s practice. Watkins returned to action in Week 12 after a stint on injured reserve and also sat out practice last Wednesday to rest his foot. Ryan said that Watkins feels better this week than he did after his initial return to action.

The Bills need to win out to have any chance at making the playoffs, which is a long shot but they can still try to play spoiler by beating the Steelers this Sunday. Having Woods and Watkins in the lineup at the same time would help on that front.

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New PA and Florio podcast is ready for you to not listen to

jeffrey-dean-morgan-as-negan-704042 Getty Images

For eight straight weeks, Paul Allen (not the really rich one, the other one) and yours truly have recorded a podcast for your consideration and/or consternation.

The latest episode is available now.

In it, we address a variety of vitally important topics, including whether the “Negan Lean” should be a touchdown dance or a sack celebration. Along the way, I threaten to take a barb-encrusted baseball bat to Paul’s unibrow.

So, basically, we get along as well as always. To hear it for yourself, you can download the podcast at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Report: Coroner to perform another autopsy on Joe McKnight

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 27:  Joe McKnight #25 of the New York Jets in action against the Buffalo Bills during their game on November 27, 2011 at  MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Nearly a week after former NFL running back Joe McKnight was shot and killed, a third autopsy will be performed on his body.

According to David Hammer of WWL-TV, the Jefferson Parish coroner will retrieve McKnight’s body from a funeral home for further testing.

Per the report, the family had a second autopsy performed due to concerns about the initial conclusions of the coroner.

McKnight’s family also is concerned, according to the report, about Sheriff Newell Normand’s stated support for them but also his suggestion that Ronald Gasser, who shot and killed McKnight, may be able to make the “stand your ground” defense stick.

The placement and positioning of McKnight will be critical to determining whether and to what extent Gasser had a legitimate fear for his well-being in connection with the encounter that ended with Gasser firing three shots at McKnight.

For more on the “stand your ground” defense, check out the first hour of the podcast of Wednesday’s PFT Live, which can be downloaded at iTunes or audioBoom.

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Christian McCaffrey declares for 2017 NFL Draft

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal runs with the ball against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Brace yourselves for a spring full of Danny Woodhead comparisons, even if they’re only accurate at a skin-deep level.

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey just announced on Twitter that he’s leaving the Cardinal after three seasons and entering the 2017 NFL Draft.

He joins a deep group of early entry running backs including LSU’s Leonard Fournette, but has a unique combination of talents which will intrigue some coaches and should enable him to contribute immediately.

He set the FBS single-season record for all-purpose yardage last year, rushing for 2,019 yards, adding 645 receiving yards and 1,200 yards worth of kick and punt returns. That earned him a runner-up finish for the Heisman Trophy (losing to Derrick Henry).

While his numbers weren’t bad this year (1,603 rushing, 310 receiving, 414 returns), his team didn’t have the same kind of success and he was less of an object of fascination.

He’s the son of former Broncos, 49ers and Giants wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, who played 13 seasons in the league.

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Colts promote linebacker after D’Qwell Jackson suspension

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 04:  Indianapolis Colts helmets rest on the sidelines during the pregame warmup before the AFC Wild Card game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts won’t have linebacker D’Qwell Jackson in the lineup for the final four games of the regular season, leaving them with a hole on their defense and on their roster as they try to outlast Houston and Tennessee in the AFC South.

They filled the hole on the roster on Wednesday by promoting linebacker Luke Rhodes from the practice squad. Rhodes has been on the practice squad since October and spent the summer with the Buccaneers before being waived in early September. The undrafted rookie started 45 games at William & Mary during his time in college.

While he will be filling the roster spot, Rhodes’ lack of experience in the NFL would seem to make him an unlikely choice to step into Jackson’s spot in the lineup. Antonio Morrison and Josh McNary appear to be likelier choices to take over alongside Edwin Jackson.

The Colts will have to hope that whoever steps in is able to help the defense keep the Texans under wraps this weekend so the team can get a leg up in the final push for a playoff spot.

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Stephon Gilmore wishes for chance to match up against Antonio Brown

TAMPA, FL -  DECEMBER 8:  Cornerback Stephon Gilmore #24 of the Buffalo Bills sets for play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers December 8, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  The Bucs won 27 - 6. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. I wish I’d never heard that saying.

Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore may be wishing he’d never heard it either, because he has a wish as the Bills prepare to face the Steelers.

I wish I could follow the best receiver, but whatever the coach want me to do, I’ll do,” Gilmore said, via Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News. “It’s another good receiver this year I’m playing against. I went against a lot of great receivers and did my thing.”

The great receiver Gilmore would be or could be facing on Sunday is Antonio Brown. With cornerback Ronald Darby expected to return to the lineup after missing the loss at Oakland with a concussion, the Bills may assign each guy to one side.

“When you do have two really good corners you feel great about, then most of the time . . . they’re really comfortable playing left and right,” coach Rex Ryan said, via Skurski. “But, I will say this: Stephon is playing about as good as any corner in the league right now, probably. I mean, he’s right there. The last three weeks in particular, he’s been absolutely outstanding.”

That’s high praise from Ryan, which could be parlayed into higher dollar for Gilmore. His contract expires after this season, and the Bills may need to use the franchise tag in order to keep him around.


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Julio Jones not practicing Wednesday

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) heads to the turf after a reception against Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson (20) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) AP

Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Monday that wide receiver Julio Jones suffered a turf toe injury during last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, but that the team doesn’t believe it will be a long-term injury.

It appears that part of their approach to ensuring the outlook remains that way is to limit his time on the practice field heading into their game against the Rams this weekend. During an appearance on 92.9 The Game on Wednesday morning, Quinn said that Jones will not participate in the team’s first practice of the week.

Quinn added that Jones may do something on Thursday, so the wideout may not wind up with much practice time to speak of this week. Given his significance to the team, his experience in the offense and the importance of the game, that’s not going to keep him from playing against the Rams.

Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and left tackle Jake Matthews will also be out of practice on Wednesday and Quinn said that Jones is closer to returning to action than Sanu, so the Falcons may be shorthanded at receiver even with Jones in the lineup on Sunday.

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Eagles get Ryan Mathews back after two games out

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 20:  Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on November 20, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles’ leading rusher is back on the field.

Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said today that Ryan Mathews, who missed the last two games with a knee injury, is good to go and will practice today.

Mathews leads the Eagles with 102 carries for 427 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and with Mathews out the last two games Philadelphia’s offense has struggled in losses to the Packers and Bengals. The Eagles will hope that the return of Mathews gets the offense back on track on Sunday against Washington.

Unfortunately, the Eagles’ offense is down two other starters: wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (rib) and right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) are both out of practice today.

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Joe Thomas wants to be in Cleveland for the turnaround

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 10: Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens works against tackle Joe Thomas #73 of the Cleveland Browns in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 10, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

From time to time (or, basically, every year), Browns tackle Joe Thomas finds his name mentioned in trade talks. Ten years in to his NFL career, he seems to have no interest in leaving Cleveland.

I’m a Clevelander,” the Wisconsin native told Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN The Magazine in a new profile. “I’ve spent the majority of my adult life here. Every day when I come to work, it’s ‘Let’s turn this team into a consistent winner.’ Because it would be such a special story. It would be like when the Cubs won the World Series. Everybody in the country has probably been cheering for them for so long because they’ve been suffering for so long. And you want to cheer for teams like the Browns.”

Well, Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens fans don’t want to cheer for the Browns — but it’s not unusual to believe that fans of other teams whose favorite teams are out of the running will latch onto a feel-good story, if/when good feelings ever happen for the Browns. And if/when they ever happen for the Browns, Thomas wants to be there.

“It’s so important for me to be here for the turnaround,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to just get a Super Bowl ring [by] being traded to a dream team. It would feel unsatisfying. Unfulfilling.”

As Merrill notes, Thomas was almost traded to the Broncos in 2015; agent Peter Schaffer told Merrill that, he and the Broncos simply “ran out of time.” In 2016, there was no serious run made at Thomas, and the Browns insisted that he wasn’t available.

Signed through 2018, it’s unclear how long the 32-year-old Thomas will continue to play. It’s even less clear whether the Browns turnaround will happen before he calls it quits and/or the team decides to go in a different direction.

Last month, it seemed as if Thomas was inclined to go in a different direction after saying that, when it come to a lack of talented players, the Browns have to “lie in the bed that you’ve made.” Thomas dismissed the reaction to his words.

“I think [the media] made a big deal out of it because they could, not because it actually was a big deal,” Thomas said. “If you say in life that you have consequences for your actions, that’s the most no-duh statement of all time.”

Thomas has endured the consequences of the actions of others for 10 years, because he has done everything he can to help the Browns win. If they can turn some of those many draft picks into more players like Thomas, the turnaround will happen. Finally.

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Stephen Gostkowski is the AFC special teamer of the week

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Stephen Gostkowski #3 of the New England Patriots reacts after making a field goal during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 2016 season has not seen the best of Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

Gostkowski went into last Sunday’s game against the Rams with four missed field goals in 20 tries and three missed extra points after making every regular season conversion attempt he’d tried since missing one during his rookie season. Gostkowski missed an extra point in last year’s AFC title game loss to the Broncos as well, which had some wondering if he’d lost some of his touch.

All was well last Sunday, however. Gostkowski bailed out a Patriots offense that struggled on third downs by making all four of his field goal attempts and hit both his extra point tries in a 26-10 victory. That made him the choice as the AFC special teams player of the week.

“Every week is a different challenge,” Gostkowski said, via “You just gotta battle. Keep your head down, stay humble, show up and control your attitude and your effort, make sure both of those are good, and have faith in the process that what you’ve been doing is going to continue to work.”

It’s the fifth time Gostkowski has earned the weekly honor, leaving him three back of his immediate predecessor Adam Vinatieri for the most in franchise history.

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