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Ron Rivera: Shula hire was to ensure continuity

Ron Rivera AP

When the Panthers replaced offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski with quarterbacks coach Mike Shula, the obvious message was that the team wanted stability on offense.

Coach Ron Rivera made it official. Rivera said that the play of quarterback Cam Newton over the second half of the season, when he threw 13 touchdowns and four interceptions, was the deciding factor in the decsion to go with Shula instead of an outside candidate.

“That was it. Mike was with (the other candidates) step-for-step in terms of offensive thinking and planning and strategy. But the bottom line is familiarity with who we are as a football team,” Rivera said, via the Associated Press. “You also have to be concerned (with a new coordinator) with how much of what you do will he use and how much of what he’s done in the past will he add? The thing I felt like we needed to do was stick to what we did down the stretch, refine those things and, in some cases, correct the things we had problems with. Listening to Mike, if we were going to add something it was going to be in line with what we’ve done in the past.”

Rivera might not have had much choice heading into what’s surely a make-or-break season, but he’s wound up doubling down on what the team’s done before. If it doesn’t work, he certainly can’t complain he didn’t get a shot to do things with his guys.

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Jordan Reed likely out for Week Four

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Washington looks set to again be without one of its key passing game targets.

According to John Keim of and multiple other reporters who cover the team, tight end Jordan Reed indicated Tuesday he’s doubtful to play Thursday night vs. the Giants because of a lingering hamstring injury.

Reed, who did not practice on Tuesday, has missed the last two games. Niles Paul has been the primary pass-catching option at tight end in his absence for Washington (1-2).

In addition to Reed, left guard Shawn Lauvao (knee) sat out practice on Tuesday. Josh LeRibeus is listed as the top backup to Lauvao on the depth chart.

Nine Washington players were limited on Tuesday, including wide receiver DeSean Jackson (shoulder) and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (finger). Orakpo has signaled he will play against New York.

Also, tailback Alfred Morris (knee) was among five Washington players who put in full practices Tuesday despite landing on the injury report.

For the Giants (1-2), six players were limited on Tuesday, including linebacker Jon Beason (foot, toe), wideout Odell Beckham (hamstring) and punter Steve Weatherford (left ankle). For Beckham, the club’s No. 1 pick in May, the practice is his first of the regular season; he’s missed the first three games with his injury.

Reserve outside linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) was the only Giants player to sit out practice on Tuesday, according to the injury report.

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With Pitta gone, Ravens kick tires on tight ends

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Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta has dislocated the same hip he dislocated in training camp a year ago.  He’s done for the year, and the Ravens are looking for help.

Per a league source, the Ravens worked out four tight ends on Tuesday:  Kellen Davis (pictured), Matthew Mulligan, Jake Murphy, and Emmanuel Ogbuehi.

Veteran Owen Daniels becomes the top option for the Ravens, with Pitta gone.  Also on the roster at tight end are Crockett Gillmore (or is it Gillmore Crockett?) and Phillip Supernaw.

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Jags, Raiders, Bucs acquire dibs on waivers

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From the end of one regular season through the third week of the next regular season, the team with the worst reason in the prior season has dibs on all players placed on waivers.

This year, that was the Texans, from February through today.

As of today, that ended.  The Jaguars, Raiders, and Buccaneers — all 0-3 and tied when it comes to strength of schedule played so far — are tied for the top spot.  If two or more make a waivers claim for the same player, the issue will be resolved by the flip of a coin.

The Jets and Rams are tied for fourth position, and the Chiefs, Vikings, and Saints are tied at No. 6.  Again, coin flips would decide priority.

A five-way tie exists at No. 9, with the Browns, Packers, Colts, Dolphins, and Washington.  Ditto for the coin flips.

The Bengals currently are last on the 32-team pecking order.

The deck will now be reshuffled on a weekly basis, based on won-loss record and schedule strength.  Through the trade deadline, all players with less than four years of service pass through waivers.  After the trade deadline, all players who are released must first go through waivers.

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Titans cut T.J. Graham, sign Chase Coffman

T.J. Graham AP

Wide receiver T.J. Graham’s career prospects looked pretty bright when the Bills drafted him in the third round of the 2012 draft, but they’ve dimmed significantly this season.

Graham caught 54 passes in his first two years with the Bills, but failed to make the team of training camp this summer and was claimed off of waivers by the Titans. He didn’t see action in any of the first three Titans games of the season, however, and the team decided to move in a different direction on Tuesday.

The Titans announced that they have waived Graham and signed tight end Chase Coffman. Coffman has four catches in 22 career games with the Bengals and Falcons and spent training camp with Tennessee before being dropped as the team set its initial 53-man roster.

Graham’s speed was his big calling card coming into the NFL and it could earn him looks from other teams in the future, but it takes more than a good set of wheels to make it in the NFL and Graham is running out of time to show that he has the other requisite skills.

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Joe Philbin again declines to name Ryan Tannehill the starter for Week Four

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

On Monday, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin declined to say that Ryan Tannehill would start at quarterback against the Raiders in London this weekend and that guaranteed he’d be asked about it again on Tuesday.

Philbin didn’t change course when the inevitable question came. Philbin said, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, that the team would play the “best 46″ against Oakland and that the team’s coaches would take this week’s practices into account before making the call between Tannehill and Matt Moore.

Dolphins players don’t seem to be buying into the uncertainty at quarterback. Salguero reports that it “seems obvious” to several members of the team that Tannehill will remain the starter this week.

That does seem to be the likeliest outcome. Making a move to Moore at this point would strap Philbin’s future as the team’s coach to Moore’s performance, which is at least as risky a proposition as moving forward with Tannehill and comes with the added demerit that Tannehill hasn’t progressed nearly as much as the team would have hoped under Philbin’s tutelage.

That said, Tannehill hasn’t played well enough to have the job on lockdown and there’s no reason for Philbin to try to make him feel otherwise going into a game that would deal a serious blow to both men if the Dolphins fall to 1-3.

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Goodell meets with former players to discuss conduct policy

Goodell AP

As Commissioner Roger Goodell embarks on an overhaul of the personal-conduct policy, he has done something that some players would say he hasn’t done enough — he has asked former players for input.

According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, Goodell met with 11 former NFL players to discuss changes to the NFL’s current approach of off-field player misconduct.

Attending the session at 345 Park Avenue were Mike Singletary, Willie McGinest, Roman Oben, Eddie Mason, Matt Birk, Patrick Kerney, Robert Porcher, Charles Way, Scott Turner, Tony Paige, and Marty Lyons.

A 12th former player, Troy Vincent, attended the 3.5-hour meeting in his capacity as the executive V.P. of football operations.

Goodell plans to seek input from other experts and the NFL Players Association, with the goal of unveiling a new conduct policy before the Super Bowl.  The biggest question continues to be Goodell’s role in the enforcement of the new policy.

Currently, Goodell makes the initial decision regarding discipline, and he has the right to handle the appeal of the outcome.  At a minimum, look for him to surrender the initial decision to an expert in disciplinary matters.  Ultimately, Goodell will have a hard time yielding final say regarding any punishment that comes from presiding over the appeal process.

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John Brown unfazed by climb from Pittsburg State to NFL

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If Cardinals receiver John Brown were currently where he was a year ago, he’d be preparing to play Fort Hays State.  Instead, Brown’s next game will come against the Denver Broncos.  And he doesn’t seem to be freaked out by that.

“It’s not too much of a big transition,” Brown tells Paul Burmeister of NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk in an interview that will be televised on today’s edition of the show.  “At the end of the day it’s just football to me I just have to do a lot more studying and learn guys.”

One thing he’s learning is to forget about his blunders.

“Just learning from those guys every time I make a mistake they just tell me to forget about it,” Brown said regarding teammates Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.  “They don’t remember the time they made a mistake, they make me have a short-term memory and just extra work putting it in after practice to be where those guys are.”

Brown already is where those guys are, after only three career regular-season games.  Averaging only three catches per week, he’s already got three touchdowns.

So join us at 5:30 p.m. ET for more from John Brown, along with more from Burmeister, Tony Dungy, Jason Taylor, Ross Tucker, and yours truly.

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Vernon Davis “feeling great” so 49ers cut a tight end

San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Late last week, the 49ers promoted tight end Asante Cleveland from the practice squad to give them a healthy body in the event that Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald weren’t able to play against the Cardinals because of injury.

Neither player could go, but things are looking up for Davis this week. Coach Jim Harbaugh said on Monday that he was “optimistic” that Davis would return to the lineup against the Eagles this week and Davis provided more reason for optimism on Tuesday.

“I’m feeling great,” Davis said, via the Sacramento Bee. “This is going to be a good week for me.”

If Davis is back in action, there’s not much need for Cleveland on the roster and the 49ers made a move Tuesday that showed their confidence in Davis’s condition. They waived Cleveland and re-signed quarterback Josh Johnson, who was dropped to make room for Cleveland on the roster.

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Cary Williams apologizing about his practice gripe

Cary Williams AP

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams apologized for causing a flap by complaining about the length of practices.

Sort of.

Williams said he should have kept the critiques of coach Chip Kelly’s methods in-house.

“I did that out of anger and frustration. I could have been better in that situation,” Williams said, via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I spoke to the team today. I addressed each man in there. Told them that I was sorry for what I said and put them in a difficult situation. I told them it won’t happen again.

“I told them I won’t talk negatively about the team or where we’re going. We are 3-0. That’s something to be proud of. I am happy that we are 3-0 because things could have gone otherwise.”

At the same time, he didn’t exactly walk back his criticism, saying “I try not to lie. In that situation I don’t think I did.”

Kelly declared it a non-issue yesterday, and the facts in the case seem to bear him out.

As the league noted earlier today, the Eagles have scored 74 second half points this season, more than 21 teams have scored all season.


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Aaron Rodgers: Offense will be fine

Aaron Rodgers AP

The Packers offense has not gotten off to the fast start to the season that the team would have liked.

The unit has not looked particularly good outside of scoring 28 points in the second and third quarters of the victory over the Jets in Week Two and last Sunday’s outing against the Lions wasn’t good enough in any respect. The run game never got going, quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn’t his sharpest and the offensive line didn’t serve either part of the attack all that well.

On his weekly radio show on ESPN Milwaukee, Rodgers copped to some poor throws and said that running 51 plays means the offense didn’t play fast enough in the loss to Detroit. He also said that it wasn’t time to panic or look for deeper reasons for the slow start to the season.

“Five letters. R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We’re going to be fine,” Rodgers said, via Rob Demovsky of

Rodgers called the Packers a “resilient bunch” and the fact they went from 1-2 to NFC North champs the last two years suggests that there’s something to be said for the patient approach after three weeks of the season.

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Jay Gruden on Cousins keeping job: Crazy things have happened in the NFL

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Quarterback Kirk Cousins provided plenty of support for arguments that he’s a good fit for head coach Jay Gruden’s offensive scheme in Sunday’s start against the Eagles.

Cousins went 30-of-48 for 417 yards in the 37-34 loss with only a slight downgrade for an interception to mar his record for the day. It’s the kind of performance that explains why some believe Cousins should be the team’s starter even when Robert Griffin III is healthy. It also leads to questions for Gruden about whether Griffin could wind up playing the role of Wally Pipp this season. Gruden didn’t rule it out before and he isn’t ruling it out now.

“Crazy things have happened in NFL,” Gruden said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. “I’m not going to discount anything.”

Cousins has looked very good since replacing Griffin in Week Two and more of the same in the coming weeks would make it very hard for the Redskins to pull the plug even if Griffin hadn’t looked uncomfortable in the offense during the Week One and the preseason. Since there are going to be several games between now and Griffin’s return, there’s not much reason for Washington to make a call either way at this point in the season but the stage is certainly set for Cousins to extend his run.

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Michigan could be moving closer to making a run at Harbaugh

Harbaugh AP

With the University of Michigan struggling to such a bad start that the program has been forced to give tickets away to anyone who purchased a bottle of Coca-Cola (unless it didn’t), the speculation already has begun regarding the next coach of the Wolverines.

Coincidentally, the speculation has been ongoing regarding the future of 49ers coach (and former Michigan quarterback) Jim Harbaugh for a while.  Mired in a contractual impasse that has been tabled until after the season, any college or program now knows that Harbaugh is in play for a jump to a new job come 2015.  With the 49ers already mired in a disappointing, stressful year, that jump could be more likely.

And while other NFL programs technically must wait to openly pursue Harbaugh until after the NFL season ends, Michigan can get a jump on everyone by dumping Brady Hoke and beginning the discussions with a man who has had great success at every stop of his coaching career.

Could Harbaugh be tempted to leave?  If he’d leave the NFL for any job, it surely would be the Michigan job.  And the Michigan job likely won’t be open every few years.  This could be the only time the planets line up just right, allowing Harbaugh to exit the 49ers after four seasons and return to the college game.

Where he can run the show.  And run the town.  And run to the bank with more money than the 49ers will pay him.

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Brian Orakpo has torn ligament, will play with cast

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Brian Orakpo might not be able to tackle anybody.

But he still plans to play.

The Washington outside linebacker said he has a torn ligament in his hand, but plans to get a big cast to try to stay on the field.

Via Tarik El-Bashir of, Orakpo met with a hand specialist this week. X-rays were negative, but he has a torn ligament which needs to be kept straight. He had a splint on his left middle finger.

Orakpo only missed a few plays against the Eagles

“I don’t feel as bad this week as I did in the game so I can still play my normal right side,” Orakpo said. “I’ll be fine. . . .

“I don’t know how it will affect me because I haven’t been in that situation yet. We’ll see. I should be fine. I’m on the edge. I can hold the edge. I only need to grab [when I] tackle.”

If he can stand the pain and get somebody to the ground, playing with a club should be manageable.

His only limitation will be his inability to fly the Double Bud Adams, limiting him to the Manziel.

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Jaguars sign Sherrod Martin amid flurry of moves

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The Jaguars are 0-3 and they brought in three players on Tuesday they hope will help them get rid of that zero in the win column.

The team announced that they have signed safety Sherrod Martin, tight end Nic Jacobs and linebacker Jeremiah George to their 53-man roster. Martin is the only member of the trio with professional experience.

Martin was a second-round pick in Carolina in 2009 and made 36 starts for them before tearing his ACL in December 2012. He didn’t play in the league at all last season and was with the Jaguars this summer. The need for Martin’s help arose when Chris Prosinski hurt his triceps. He was waived/injured on Tuesday and his departure leaves the Jags with only wide receiver Cecil Shorts and defensive tackle Tyson Alualu to show from the 2010 and 2011 drafts.

Jacobs was signed off of the Saints practice squad, where he landed after failing to make the team as an undrafted free agent. George was a Jets fifth-round pick this year and joins the Jaguars front heir practice squad.

The Jags also announced that they waived wide receiver Kerry Taylor and tight end Marcel Jensen and that defensive tackle DeAndre Coleman has left their practice squad for a job on Miami’s 53-man roster.

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Kaepernick, Houston dispute quarterback’s use of slur


The NFL’s letter informing 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick that he’s been fined for using abusive language doesn’t specific what he said.

Bears defensive end Lamarr Houston now says that Kaepernick used the “N” word.  Kaepernick contends he didn’t.

Via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Houston said Monday night that he heard Kaepernick utter the slur.  After the Week Two game, however, Houston had said he heard nothing.

Ultimately, the available audio tape may resolve this one.  Especially since receiver Michael Crabtree wore a microphone during the game and seemed to be close enough to Kaepernick to pick up whatever he said.

Maybe Kaepernick simply said, “Bobby, give me my money.”

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