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PFT Live: Greg Cosell, Ravens talk with J. Michael

San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XLVII Media Availability Getty Images

We’re drawing ever closer to the Super Bowl and there’s no shortage of things to talk about.

Greg Cosell of NFL Films will join Mike Florio to share his insights on the Ravens and 49ers. Cosell has broken down these teams on film for months now, so he should have some good thoughts about how the game will go on Sunday.

J. Michael of CSN Baltimore will also be on hand to give us a feel for how the Ravens are preparing for Super Bowl XLVII. We’ll also find out how much the emotional impact of linebacker Ray Lewis‘ retirement announcement has helped the team make their run to New Orleans.

You can watch it all at 4 p.m. ET.

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Cardinals release linebacker Victor Butler

Victor Butler AP

The Arizona Cardinals released linebacker Victor Butler on Tuesday.

The team had signed Butler just two weeks ago to add some depth at linebacker with John Abraham’s placement on the injured reserve list.

However, Butler was not active for the Cardinals game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3 and was subsequently released by the team this week. With the bye week allowing Alex Okafor to recover from a thigh injury, Butler was no longer needed on the roster.

Butler missed all of the 2013 season after tearing his ACL with the New Orleans Saints. He was sidelined for the majority of training camp before finally getting cleared to return. The Saints then released him soon afterward.

Butler has not appeared in an NFL game since the final week of the 2012 season with the Dallas Cowboys. He recorded 25 tackles with three sacks and two forced fumbles for Dallas, which helped him get a contract with the Saints.

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Change in shoes alleviates ankle issues for Kam Chancellor

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor had one of the poorest performances of his career in a Week 2 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Chancellor was hampered by bone spurs in his ankle that limited his ability to move effectively. Chancellor drew coverage responsibilities against tight end Antonio Gates frequently, who caught seven passes for 96 yards and three touchdowns in the Chargers 30-21 victory over Seattle.

The issue had Chancellor considering surgery over the bye week to correct the issue so he could be fully healthy for the team’s stretch run in November and December.

Instead, a change in footwear appears to have solved much of the problem.

According to Terry Blount of ESPN.com, Chancellor has switched from low tops shoes to a version with more ankle support.

“Yeah, I was thinking about [surgery] before the Broncos game,” Chancellor said. “We found some ways to get around it and get better comfort. It feels better now. It’s feels good. No concerns at all.”

Chancellor had surgery following the 2012 season for bone spurs in his ankle as well. The problem resurfaced the week before Seattle’s game against the Chargers and had a noticeable effect on his performance.

“He made it back and did a really good job last week, played great football,” head coach Pete Carroll said Monday. “He looked fine today so we might have put that one behind us.”

 

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Harrison says the problem isn’t Brady but his supporting cast

Brady AP

So what’s wrong with Tom Brady?  A former teammate says the real question is what’s wrong with the guys around him.

Tom Brady can still play,” NBC’s Rodney Harrison told WEEI in Boston on Tuesday, via ESPN.com.  “But when you surround him — there’s a reason why Brandon LaFell was let go [by Carolina]. He’s not a great player. He’s a young guy, and he has to make his way in this league.

“And Danny Amendola, you look at him, no one ever said he was a great player. He’s always been hurt. The history is behind it.  Rob Gronkowski obviously coming off that ACL injury, he’s been hurt.  So it’s not like when you look at the Patriots on paper they just have all these weapons and teams are afraid of them.”

Then there’s the blocking.  Or lack of it.

“I think it’s one of those situations where Brady, he’s really, really frustrated,” Harrison said. “He doesn’t have any confidence in his offensive line.”

As a result, Harrison thinks Brady is “scared to death” in the pocket.

“But at the end of the day, Tom needs to play better,” Harrison said.  “The offensive line needs to protect him, but Tom — we’ve said it week in and week out — he’s missing opportunities that are there; he’s just floating the ball in the air.”

The ball may be floating some more on Sunday night.  Fresh off a 41-14 thrashing by the Chiefs on national TV, the Pats return home to face the 3-0 Bengals on Sunday Night Football.

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Bears waive two, promote WR Chris Williams

Chris Williams, Jaylen Watkins AP

The Bears waived two players off the roster and promoted a player from the practice squad on Tuesday, releasing wide receiver Rashad Ross and linebacker Terrell Manning and signing receiver/returner Chris Williams. The moves were announced in the NFL’s daily transactions.

Williams, 27, was on the Bears’ roster for the Week Two victory vs. San Francisco, logging one snap on offense. His promotion comes with starting wideout Brandon Marshall dealing with an ankle injury. Were Marshall out or limited for Sunday’s game at Carolina, Santonio Holmes would see more playing time on offense, which could limit his use on special teams; the ex-Jets wideout is the Bears’ top punt returner. Williams (5-8, 175) could also be in line to replace the departed Ross on kickoffs.

Ross and Manning appeared in the Bears’ last two games. Ross, 24, played 17 snaps (10 on offense, seven on special teams) in Sunday’s loss to Green Bay, returning two kickoffs for 43 yards. The 24-year-old Manning played 11 special teams snaps vs. the Packers, his former club.

The Bears have one open roster spot.

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FCC considers banning Washington name from broadcast TV

Redskins Getty Images

With the blackout rule now scuttled, the FCC can turn its attention to another NFL-related item of business:  Preventing broadcast networks from using the name of the Washington NFL franchise.

On Tuesday, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said that the league will be considering a petition filed earlier this month alleging that the term is indecent.

“We will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we will be responding accordingly,” Wheeler said, via the National Journal.

George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf argued in the petition that the term constitutes a “racist, racially derogatory word.”  A decision that the term is indecent would block over-the-air networks (CBS, FOX, CBS, and ABC) from using the term.  The word could still be used in cable broadcasts.

But it wouldn’t matter.  A ruling from the FCC that the term is indecent would force the NFL to change the name.

To be clear, acknowledgment that the issue will be addressed doesn’t mean that the FCC will decide to characterize the term as indecent.  But it may, and that would be far more significant than today’s ruling that the little-used blackout rule no longer can be enforced by the NFL against the networks.

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Marshall apologizes for not talking to the media

Marshall AP

When Bears receiver Brandon Marshall decided not to talk to the media after Sunday’s loss to the Packers, it was obvious he’d talk about the situation during his in-week gig with Inside The NFL.  And he does.

“People in Chicago have really treated me well, and I need to give them a little more,” Marshall said during the show that debuts at 9:00 p.m. ET on Showtime.  “I tried to channel my inner emotions and it didn’t work. . . .  It’s been haunting me for the past three weeks and I know I have to give [the press, the fans, Chicago] a little more. . . .  I have to do a better job. . . .   I’ve done a great job my whole career, but these past few months I really haven’t talked to the media at all. . . .  I’ll do a better job.”

Based on Marshall’s apology, it sounds like his silence has gone on for more than a week.  Which could put him in line for a fine, if the media in Chicago ever complain about his silence.

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Santana Moss says “it hurts” to sit on the bench

Santana Moss AP

Washington receiver Santana Moss has been inactive for each of the first four games of the season, and he doesn’t like the feeling of being a bench warmer.

Honestly, man, it hurts. It does,” Moss told 106.7 The Fan. “I’m not sure if it hurts more because I know these years count so much to me, or it’s just me knowing that I put so much in to be ready. And to be able to accept coming in knowing that it was going to be harder to just say, ‘Yeah, I’m on this team.’ And all the other stuff, man, to finally be here and then sitting here and not being able to be a part of wins and losses. It’s just tough.”

It’s surprising that Washington kept Moss on the roster if he wasn’t going to be active on game days. Usually the players who are on the roster but inactive on Sundays are young guys who are still developing as players, not 35-year-old veterans like Moss.

Perhaps Washington still thinks Moss provides an insurance policy in case another receiver gets injured, or perhaps the team hopes Moss could be traded to another team that finds itself in need of a veteran receiver. (Cleveland, where Moss knows the offense of coordinator Kyle Shanahan, is a destination that could make sense.) But for now, Moss remains in Washington. Which means he remains on the bench.

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Mark Davis thinks the Raiders job will be “enticing” for a new coach

Mark Davis AP

Raiders owner Mark Davis believes a good coach will want to work for him.

Davis, whose team fired coach Dennis Allen and promoted Tony Sparano to interim head coach today, said he believes the Raiders, thanks to a great deal of cap space, are a team that NFL coaches will be interested in coaching.

“The organization itself is in a very good position to move forward, whether Tony Sparano wins this year and becomes the permanent head coach of the Raiders or we bring in another head coach,” Davis said. “I believe the salary cap, contracts, all of those things, I think we’re going to have $60-$65 million in cap space next year and so it’s quite an encouraging thing and enticing for a new head coach if in fact we find one and go through a search that this could be an organization they would want to be with.”

Davis may be right about the attractiveness of ample cap space, but the Raiders job hasn’t been enticing in many years. Getting a coach to come to Oakland may be a tougher sell than Davis realizes.

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Sparano says they need to let players do what they do best

Sparano Getty Images

The press conference announcing the firing of a head coach and the promotion of a guy the fired coach had hired to serve as an assistant always entails some tightrope-walking by the new coach, who needs to express regret that his boss is gone while also expressing enthusiasm and preparation to embrace the challenge for cleaning up the mess that the new coach helped create.

On Tuesday, new Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano offered a clue as to how his approach may differ from Dennis Allen’s.

“We’ve got a lot of good players here,” Sparano said.  “We need to let them do what they do best.”

Assuming for the sake of argument that the Raiders have a lot of good players (quit laughing, Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers fans), Sparano’s comment could be interpreted as a disclosure that, under Allen, players were expected to fit the schemes.  By saying that the Raiders need to let the players do what they do best, Sparano could be saying that he’ll design plays and concepts based on the strengths and weaknesses of the players.

This assumes that the players have enough strengths (and sufficiently few weaknesses) for that to matter.

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LaMichael James lands in Miami

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Getty Images

Running back LaMichael James appeared to be on his way out of San Francisco for much of the offseason, but the team wound up keeping him on their roster to start the regular season.

It was a brief stay, however. James was dropped after the first week of the regular season and has been looking for work since then. One spot he looked was Miami, where he worked out for the Dolphins a couple of weeks ago.

Nothing happened at the time, but it seems James did make a positive impression on the team. James’s agent Jeff Sperbeck announced on Twitter Tuesday that his client has signed with the Dolphins.

The Dolphins haven’t announced anything yet and they are on their bye week, so it may be a while before we find out what kind of role they have in mind for the former 49er. Knowshon Moreno isn’t thought to be far off from rejoining Lamar Miller in the backfield, so a role as a returner might be part of the plan for James in South Florida.

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Raiders coach Tony Sparano “very excited about where we’re going”

tonysparano AP

New Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano says he believes he can turn the team in the right direction after an 0-4 start led to the dismissal of former coach Dennis Allen.

“I’m excited,” Sparano said at his introductory press conference. “Very excited about where we’re going right now, what we’re trying to do.”

Sparano praised Allen as an “outstanding football coach” and said it was tough to see the man who was his boss until yesterday lose his job.

“This is obviously a bittersweet moment for me right now in that a great friend of mine and a person I respect a great deal in Dennis Allen was let go,” he said. “That’s unfortunately part of our business but this is the situation we’re in right now.”

Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie also spoke highly of Allen but said the move had to be made.

“I had a good talk with Dennis,” he said. “I just want to say that I appreciate everything he’s done. He worked hard, very diligent, but I had to make the move and I did that yesterday. Moving forward, I’m excited to bring before you a new interim head coach, Tony Sparano. I’m excited about the experience he brings, the leadership he brings, the passion he brings to get this organization, the Raider organization, to what we need to do, and that’s win.”

The Raiders haven’t won at all this season and haven’t won consistently since the Jon Gruden days. Unless Sparano can oversee a miraculous turnaround, fans may be clamoring for a return of Gruden after Sparano coaches out the last 12 games of 2014.

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More support for Harbaugh from 49ers locker room

Jim+Harbaugh+cpUYrtG9pt2m Getty Images

Deion Sanders says 49ers players want coach Jim Harbaugh to go.  Harbaugh says it’s a bunch of crap.  The jurors (i.e., the players) are beginning to chime, and the early verdict is . . . .

Crap.

He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around,” tackle Jonathan Martin said, via the San Jose Mercury News.  “Even though he might be cheesy at times with slogans and sayings, his enthusiasm rubs off on players.  And his record speaks for itself.”

Of course, Martin would be likely to say that, since Harbaugh coached Martin at Stanford and helped resurrect Martin’s pro career after he decided to walk out on the Dolphins as the result of intense bullying in 2013.  But Martin, who said he has seen no evidence of discord, wasn’t alone.

“Everything’s great,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “I mean, we play, he coach. We can’t really control anything else.”

(It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it’s also no evidence that players want Harbaugh gone.)

Ditto from punter Andy Lee: “I don’t see that anywhere in this locker room.  From my point of view, everything is normal.”

And from linebacker Michael Wilhoite: “His attitude is the attitude we take. That toughness, that grind, that grit — it’s been bred in us since I first got here. It was known we were going to be tough. It was known we were going to have a callous that we had built up. It was known that we were very physical, we ran the ball, we stopped the run, we played good football and we were disciplined.”

So maybe Deion is simply wrong.  Or maybe there’s a small pocket of malcontents who won’t complain about Harbaugh on the record.

Or maybe Deion is playing a psychological game with one of the various teams for which he once played, like Tom Jackson once claimed he did when picking the Jets to lose to the Patriots in the playoffs.

Regardless, Deion’s “report” that the players don’t like their coach seems to be galvanizing the 49ers.  Maybe in February Harbaugh will snub Deion after winning the Super Bowl like Bill Belichick once did with Jackson, who had proclaimed in September that the Patriots players “hate their coach.”

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Jadeveon Clowney thinks he’ll be back in a few weeks

Jadeveon Clowney AP

The Texans are 3-1 even though they’ve only had rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney in the lineup for the first half of the first game of the season and the first overall pick in this year’s draft said it has been “very tough” to be on the sideline for the last three weeks.

Clowney is recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, a procedure that left him with a four-to-six week timetable for his return to the lineup. We’re closing in on the front end of that projection, but Clowney said Tuesday that it will still be a bit more time before he thinks he’ll be ready for a return to action.

“Everything is starting to come along just like I want it to. … I think I’ll be back in a few weeks — that’s the goal,” Clowney said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Right now I’m just taking it day by day, just trying to get back healthy. Rehab is coming along good. My leg feels a lot better. I’m just taking it a day at a time right now.”

J.J. Watt’s weekly feats of strength have made it easier to forget that Clowney is supposed to be on the field causing more havoc for opposing offenses. If he can get back without too much rust accumulating on his game and the Texans can keep winning in his absence, Clowney’s return could be a big factor in how the AFC South race plays out this season.

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Teddy Bridgewater held out of Vikings practice again

Bridgewater Getty Images

The Vikings have sounded optimistic, and they’ve sounded cautious.

The Packers are just assuming.

But those are subjective measures.

In the cold, calculating world of the NFL injury report, the news is quantifiable.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did not participate in practice today, according to the Vikings’ report submitted to the league. Linebacker Chad Greenway and tight end Kyle Rudolph didn’t either, but that’s not what you’re here to read about.

With just one more day between doing nothing and playing the Packers Thursday night, the chances of Bridgewater playing might not appear great. But that’s part of the reaility of short-week games anyway.

If he can’t go, the Vikings would have to start Christian Ponder, and promote one of their practice squaders so they’d have a viable backup.

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Belichick bears the blame for current Patriots’ mess

Belichick Getty Images

When reporters asked Patriots coach Bill Belichick about a burgeoning quarterback controversy, he shouldn’t have scoffed.  He should have been grateful.

The focus on Tom Brady has kept many from looking at the guy squarely responsible for the current state of the team — Belichick himself.

The head coach and de facto G.M. has been heralded as a genius for much of the last 13 years, and rightfully so.  Belichick has found a way to keep the team competitive on a consistent basis in an age of parity and a salary cap.

But the quality of the roster has eroded in recent years.  The offensive line presently stinks.  While the departure of long-time line coach Dante Scarnecchia likely played a role in the ability of the line to play its role the right way, the players aren’t good.  Which makes the decision to dump guard Logan Mankins after he refused to take a pay cut even more bizarre.  Belichick miscalculated the ability of the line to thrive without Mankins, and as a result the Patriots could miss the postseason for the first time since 2008.

No one can question Belichick’s coaching ability.  But when it comes to handling the personnel side of the operation, he’s either losing his fastball or he needs more help.  Because it’s not enough to find ways to trade down or to draft backup quarterbacks lower than perhaps they should have gone.  At some point, the players need to be good enough to play.

Right now, they’re not.  And that lands at the feet of the guy who runs the show.

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