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Rich Gannon: Bill Callahan was a good coach who wanted to win

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Former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon does not agree with his old teammate Tim Brown about coach Bill Callahan sabotaging the team in their Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers.

Gannon said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he believes Callahan coached to win in Super Bowl XXXVII, when the Bucs beat the Raiders 48-21.

“In terms of Bill Callahan, let me just say this: He was a good football coach, he was a good man,” Gannon said. “We all wanted to win.”

Gannon made clear that he likes and respects Brown, but he doesn’t accept Brown’s version of events, which is that Callahan “hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl.”

So why did the Raiders only run the ball 11 times while throwing 44 passes in that game? Brown says Callahan changed the game plan at the last minute, leaving the Raiders ill-prepared. But Gannon says the pass-heavy play calling happened mostly because the Raiders fell behind early and trailed 20-3 by halftime.

“I think what happened was that we came out and tried to run the football early in that game, we didn’t have a lot of success,” Gannon said. “We fell behind in the game and at that point we started throwing the ball too much.”

Considering that the Raiders gained only 19 yards on their 11 runs, that theory seems more plausible than Brown’s bizarre belief that Callahan would put in all the work necessary to lead his team to the Super Bowl and then purposely sabotage his team by changing the game plan at the last minute.

“I don’t know that the game plan really changed,” Gannon said.

Where Gannon did acknowledge the Raiders’ coaches screwed up was in not changing up the terminology they used for calls at the line of scrimmage. Jon Gruden had coached the Raiders for the four previous seasons before coaching against them in the Super Bowl, and Gannon says Callahan hadn’t changed any of the terminology the Raiders used on offense. As a result, Gruden had taught the Bucs the Raiders’ calls, and the Bucs knew what was coming when Gannon barked out his signals at the line of scrimmage.

“So much of our verbiage and terminology was a carryover from what Jon Gruden had installed in terms of our run checks, and so we were calling certain plays and guys like Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks were calling out the runs,” Gannon said. “So it kind of took us out of our no-huddle plan at the line of scrimmage.”

Failing to change the terminology so that the opposing coach wouldn’t know it was a huge gaffe by Callahan, and it’s completely reasonable to criticize him for that. But saying he made a stupid mistake in his preparation for the Super Bowl is a long way from saying he actually wanted to lose the Super Bowl.

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Reggie Wayne gets in a full practice

Reggie Wayne AP

On Thursday, Colts coach Chuck Pagano said that it was too soon to tell if wide receiver Reggie Wayne will return to the lineup on Monday night after missing last week’s game because of an elbow injury.

Friday brought some positive developments for Pagano to consider while trying to come to a decision. Wayne was a full participant in practice, which gives the team a chance to see if the elbow issue is affecting him on the field. If it isn’t, offensive Pep Hamilton explained why the team will happily welcome him back to the offense to face the Giants.

“It makes all the difference,” Hamilton said, via the team’s website. “We just finished our third-down practice and having Reggie Wayne available makes it a lot easier for the quarterback. Find Reggie and find a way to get him the ball.”

Saturday will bring another Colts practice and the release of the team’s official injury report for Monday night. Saturday is also when we should get word on the team’s plans for safety LaRon Landry. Landry’s four-game suspension is up this week, but the team doesn’t have to activate him until Tuesday if they decide he’s not ready to help the defense yet.

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Tony Romo thanks his blockers with expensive bags

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Tony Romo wanted to reward the guys who help him with his “pain tolerance,” for the fact he hasn’t had to tolerate as much this year.

According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, a week after taking five sacks and injuring his back, Romo gave tight end tight end Jason Witten and his offensive linemen Louis Vuitton travel bags just before their trip to London Monday.

Appreciate it,” Witten said. “Timing is now for the London trip, I’m assuming. So perfect timing.”

The linemen are cleaning up lately, with running back DeMarco Murray giving them iMac computers after they helped him to six straight 100-yard games.

“They’re taking care of us this year,” left guard Ronald Leary said. “We appreciate it.”

Of course, if they want the tokens of appreciate to continue, they might want to keep Romo on his feet.

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Ryan Mathews practices for first time since knee injury

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The Chargers won’t have running back Ryan Mathews in the lineup when they play in Miami on Sunday, but it looks like there’s a good chance that he’ll be able to play when they return from their bye in Week 11.

Mathews was a limited participant in Friday’s practice, which marked the first time that he’s been able to practice in any capacity since getting hurt in the second week of the regular season. It’s the first step back toward being active for a game, something coach Mike McCoy suggested would be happening sooner rather than later.

“He’s getting close,” McCoy said, via Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.

The backfield should have one returning player this weekend even with Mathews ruled out once again. Donald Brown is listed as probable to play after recovering from a concussion, although Branden Oliver will likely continue to be the top option on the ground given how he’s played over the last few weeks.

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Eric Berry set to return this Sunday

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The Chiefs have won four of their last five games and they’ll get some help in their quest to make it five of six against the Jets this Sunday.

Coach Andy Reid said Friday that safety Eric Berry will play for the first time since spraining his ankle in September. Berry has missed the last five games while recovering from the injury and Reid said he wasn’t sure what his role would wind up being against the Jets.

“We’ll just see how he does, see how he feels,” Reid said, via Herbie Teope of the Associated Press.

Ron Parker has replaced Berry in the starting lineup during his time on the sideline and done a solid job, so Kansas City will likely find a role for him once Berry resumes a full workload in the secondary.

Cornerback Jamell Fleming, linebacker Josh Martin, cornerback Chris Owens and wide receiver Donnie Avery have all been ruled out.

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Jordan Cameron out this week after his third concussion

Jordan Cameron AP

The Browns will be without tight end Jordan Cameron for at least another week, as coach Mike Pettine said he’d miss this week’s game against the Buccaneers because of his concussion.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Pettine said “we’ll see about next week” when asked about Cameron for next Thursday night against the Bengals.

Cameron’s concussion last week against the Raiders was his third in two seasons.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to do it right at this time when it’s still fresh and [he's] recovering from it,” Pettine said when asked about long-term concerns. “We’ll see how long it takes and the severity of this one. If that’s something we need to address we will.”

Without Cameron, the Browns will rely on Jim Dray and Gary Barnidge.

Also, defensive lineman Phil Taylor will miss his fourth straight game because of a knee injury, while Billy Winn is expected back after missing three games with a quad injury.

 

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Rivera thinks Hardy should be allowed to return to the Panthers

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Panthers coach Ron Rivera wants defensive end Greg Hardy back.

Hardy, who is awaiting a jury trial on a domestic violence charge, has been on the commissioner’s exempt list (essentially the NFL’s version of paid leave) since Week Three. Now that Hardy’s trial has been postponed until after the season, Rivera believes it’s only fair that Hardy be allowed to play, rather than to have to wait indefinitely for due process.

In so many words, yes,’’ Rivera said when asked by reporters if Hardy should be allowed to return, via ESPN. “If things had all transpired and gone a certain way, then his availability might be now.’’

Hardy, who was initially allowed to play in Week One before being deactivated for Week Two, has already missed eight games. The NFL’s proposal to toughen the rules against players who commit domestic violence included a suspension of six games for a domestic violence conviction, so you could make the argument that Hardy should already be finished with his league-imposed discipline.

Of course, you could also argue that Hardy has been lucky to be placed on paid leave, rather than a suspension without pay. And you could argue that it’s simply untenable in the NFL right now to allow Hardy to play until and unless he’s been cleared of the domestic violence charge. Now it appears that Hardy will neither be convicted nor cleared until after this season is over, which means that he may remain in the limbo that is the commissioner’s exempt list for the rest of the season. Even if Rivera thinks that’s unfair.

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Hall re-tore Achilles by slipping while getting pizza

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The Noid strikes back.

For the second straight year, a pizza-related incident has resulted in an injury to an NFL player.  Last year, former Lions receiver Nate Burleson broke an arm in a car accident that happened after Burleson tried to keep a pizza from falling onto the floor.

This year, Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall re-tore his surgically-repaired Achilles tendon when he slipped and fell in his kitchen while getting a slice of pizza, according to Tarik El-Bashir of CSN Washington.

Hall will have a second surgery to re-attach the tendon.  At this point, there’s no reason to think he won’t be ready to go in 2015.

As long as he’s more careful during those late-night pizza runs.

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Joseph Randle and Dez Bryant try to step slowly away from spat

Dez Bryant, Michael Irvin AP

Maybe it’s the second-biggest mistake he’s ever made in his life.

Cowboys running back Joseph Randle, who has made all the wrong kind of headlines lately, was on the apology trail again after practice Friday.

According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Randle said he regrets everything he said during his booking on charges of stealing underwear and cologne.

That apparently includes asking a female cop for a massage in exchange for $100, and invoking teammates Dez Bryant and Josh Brent in an effort to minimize his own mistake.

The mention of Bryant triggered a spat at practice today, with veteran tight end Jason Witten stepping in to tell Randle to shut up.

Bryant tried to de-escalate the matter, telling Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com it apparently wasn’t a deal of any substantive size.

“Oh man, it’s all good, it’s all right,” Bryant said. “That ain’t no big deal, it ain’t a big deal. It ain’t no big deal.”

Of course, the adventures of a backup running back wouldn’t be a big deal at all if he learned to pay for his own drawers and not talk too much.

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Illness has Jadeveon Clowney unlikely to play this weekend

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The Texans got linebacker Jadeveon Clowney back in the lineup last weekend after a long spell on the sideline following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, but coach Bill O’Brien indicated Friday that Clowney may not be able to play this Sunday.

Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com reports that O’Brien said that the chances of Clowney playing against the Eagles don’t look good at the moment.

It’s not a setback with his knee that is causing concern for the team, however. Ganguli reports that Clowney is ill and presumably that sickness has left him drained enough that the team is concerned he won’t be back to full strength in time for Sunday’s kickoff.

The Texans website doesn’t mention the illness, but calls Clowney a game-time decision and reports that the team will check him out on Saturday before making a final determination.

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A.J. Green on track to play, Giovani Bernard ruled out

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The Bengals announced some good news and some bad news for their offense on Friday.

The good news is that it looks like wide receiver A.J. Green should be in the lineup against the Jaguars this Sunday. Green has missed the last three weeks with a toe injury, but he practiced every day this week and coach Marvin Lewis said on Friday that he should play this weekend.

“A.J. has looked fine,” Lewis said, via the team’s website. “He wants to play. He’s telling everybody he wants to play. If everything stays the way it is, he’ll play.”

Green is officially listed as questionable and now it’s time to get to the bad news. Running back Giovani Bernard has been ruled out because of the hip injury that’s kept him out of practice this week. It’s a setback for the Bengals Offense, although it will likely give them a chance to take an extended look at rookie Jeremy Hill on Sunday. The Bengals play the Browns next Thursday night, but Lewis said it was too soon to say whether Bernard would be healthy enough to play at that point.

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Lovie Smith takes a jab at Mark Barron’s “passive” comment

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Now-Rams safety Mark Barron took a shot at his former team on the way out the door, so they returned fire.

After Barron referred to the Buccaneers Defense as “passive,” Bucs coach Lovie Smith took a dig at the former first round pick.

Via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, Smith was asked about wide receiver Mike Evans trying to chase down Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr during last week’s game-winning overtime fumble return.

“The effort he gave, he looked like a safety on that play,” Smith said. “One that wasn’t real passive on that play, going down and trying to strip the ball.”

Zing.

Then asked specifically about Barron’s comments, Smith defended his style.

“I’m not going to talk about any players that aren’t here anymore,” Smith said. “Our safety position that we play, one of the requirements isn’t for you to be passive, I will say that.”

That must be why the Bucs were willing to take a fourth- and a sixth-round pick in exchange for a guy who was the seventh overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, a choice not made while Smith was there.

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Bashaud Breeland headed for MRI after knee injury in practice

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Redskins rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland had a strong game against Cowboys receivers Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams last Monday night as Washington was on its way to beating Dallas in overtime, but he may not get an immediate chance to follow up on it.

Coach Jay Gruden said, via Mike Jones of the Washington Post, that Breeland got his cleat caught in the grass during Friday’s practice and hurt his knee. Breeland is going to have an MRI so the team can assess the severity of the damage.

While we can’t know what the imaging will turn up, non-contact knee injuries have a habit of costing players a fair amount of time. If that’s the case for Breeland, it will interrupt his rookie season at a moment when things appeared to be coming together for him. Breeland saw his playing time rise after DeAngelo Hall’s initial Achilles tear and he’s responded to the increased responsibility well.

If Breeland is out, E.J. Biggers, Chase Minnifield and Tracy Porter are likely options to see increased playing time in his absence.

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Steelers having trouble filling stadium for night games

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have no issues when it comes to selling tickets.  When it comes to playing night games, however, the Steelers have a hard time  filling up the stadium.

As explained by Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, three of the last four Monday night games played at Heinz Field have featured 9,125, 7,856, and 7,346 no-shows.  Last December’s Sunday night game against the Bengals had a whopping 19,627 no-shows.

“It’s a Monday and people have to work on a Tuesday. I understand,” cornerback Ike Taylor told Kaboly.  “Everybody has to pay bills.  Those 9,000 people who couldn’t make it had some bills to pay.”

But it would be a little easier to pay the bills by selling the tickets via the online exchange program the NFL has adopted.  That’s the strangest part of this.  If you’re not going to the game, sell the tickets to any of the thousands of Western Pennsylvania/Eastern Ohio/Northern West Virginia resident who would love to go to a game, but who assume it’s too hard to get tickets.

It’s something the team and the league should promote, under the same reasoning that supports the blackout policy.  Full stadiums make games more compelling on TV.

In Pittsburgh, where those retina-scorching yellow seats become obvious to the viewer when asses aren’t in them, it’s even more important to fill those chairs with folks swinging yellow towels conceived by the man with the eardrum-scorching voice.

Indeed, if the late Myron Cope saw all those empty seats, he’d say “Hm-hah!” and “Triple yoi!” over a situation that should be anything but “okey dokel” in Pittsburgh.  Each of those chairs could be and should be occupied by Steelers fans cheering on the team to a win with the same enthusiasm that Cope always had.

So if you have tickets to Sunday night’s game against the Ravens but you don’t plan to go, take advantage of the available technology and stuff and sell those tickets to someone who’ll show up.

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Doug Martin not practicing Friday

Doug Martin AP

Buccaneers starting tailback Doug Martin could be set to miss his third game of the season.

According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, Martin (ankle) wasn’t practicing Friday. And with Martin also sitting out Wednesday and Thursday’s workouts, his availability for Sunday’s contest at Cleveland seems tenuous at best.

It has been a tough season for Martin, a first-round pick in 2012. He’s rushed for just 166 yards on 58 carries, failing to exceed 45 yards in any of his five starts.

Backup Bobby Rainey will start if Martin is unavailable. Rainey filled in for the injured Martin in Weeks Two and Three and racked up 144 yards rushing in the Buccaneers’ Sept. 14 loss to St. Louis. Since then, however, Rainey has gained just 131 yards on 36 carries (3.6 yards per rush).

The good news for the Bucs? The Browns are allowing the third-most rushing yards per game (143.4) and second-most yards per rush (4.8).

Whether Tampa Bay can capitalize is another matter, though.

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Joseph Randle and Dez Bryant argue before Cowboys practice

Joseph Randle AP

Joseph Randle has managed to top himself, and this one is the kind of thing that could have consequences for him.

According to Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Cowboys running back has made his own dumb situation worse by dragging teammates into it, and it spilled over into practice today.

Randle and wide receiver Dez Bryant were apparently in a “snit,” before practice today, and veteran tight end Jason Witten had to step in and tell Randle to “shut up.”

It’s possible that it’s because of something Randle said during the infamous jailhouse video after his arrest for stealing underwear and cologne.

In addition to offering a female cop $100 for a massage, Randle committed an even dumber crime — he compared himself to a teammates’ situation.

Dez didn’t miss no games for smacking his momma,” Randle said during his booking on the theft charges, referencing Bryant’s 2012 arrest on family violence charges following an altercation with his mother.

He also referenced defensive tackle Josh Brent’s situation during his booking, in an apparent attempt to justify or lessen the seriousness of his own situation.

The amazing streak of stupidity involved in this case is breathtaking, as Randle seemingly doesn’t know not to take other people’s things, have any respect for law enforcement, or the good sense to keep a (more valuable) teammates’ name out of his mouth.

Randle doesn’t seem to have the good sense to shut up when he’s behind, and might eventually find out how replaceable a fifth-round running back can be.

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