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The sight of ice bucket challenges has become common across NFL training camps, but in Tennessee, it had a little more meaning Wednesday.
Former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw was there for it, a day after announcing he had been diagnosed with ALS in April.
“I would never say I am not afraid of anything,” Shaw said, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean. “If you look at what ALS has done to people, that is a scary process. So I am not scared to die, but the process is a little daunting.”
The 30-year-old Shaw was visibly emotional while describing the process, as he said he could tell he was losing athletic ability and his muscles were twitching long before the diagnosis, which he called: “the hardest thing I’ve ever had to hear.”
“Every thought runs through your mind, but as a man you have a choice,” Shaw said. “What are you going to do? Are you going to stand up and fight for your life? Or are you going to accept what someone else tells you is reality and just fade away? As staggering as that news was and as shocking as it was to hear and to say, I made that choice to stand up and live life to the fullest like I believe I always have.”
Along with former Saints safety Steve Gleason, that’s the kind of face ALS needs, to inspire others to fight one of the most despicable diseases known to man.
Well, this is interesting.
Earlier Wednesday, the Eagles said they were waiving Fluellen, a Toledo product. And the Colts, for their part, had announced Tuesday evening they would be parting ways with Parkey, who played collegiately at Auburn.
In the end, both clubs struck a deal rather than placing the players on waivers.
And in the end, it might be a good fit for both players, especially Parkey, who will have a chance to compete with Alex Henery, whose performance reportedly has come under some scrutiny.
On Tuesday, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp indicated the club would be evaluating both Henery and other potential kicking competitors, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“All options are available. We’ll look at everybody, and we’ll continue to watch Al. The biggest thing is we hope to get Al a bunch of work in these next two games, and we’ll find out,” Fipp said, per the Inquirer.
Fluellen joins a crowded backfield in Indianapolis, which has six healthy tailbacks on the roster. However, the Colts liked him enough to trade for him as opposed to hoping he could be landed on waivers.
The Browns officially named Brian Hoyer their starting quarterback for the first week of the regular season on Wednesday, leaving first-round pick and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to serve as the No. 2 quarterback to start his first year in the NFL.
Browns coach Mike Pettine said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that Manziel reacted “as expected” because he’s “a competitor.” He also said that he didn’t question Manziel’s dedication to the game after an offseason that had some wondering whether Manziel’s fondness for the good life would have the Browns doing just that.
For his part, Manziel said he felt he got a fair opportunity to win the starting job and that “I don’t feel like I would’ve gone back and done anything differently” over the last few months. Instead, he put the focus on his own performance and said he didn’t “necessarily” feel like he was ready to get the nod from Pettine.
“If I would’ve come out and played better, I think it would’ve been a different outcome,” Manziel said.
It’s probably a fair assessment of the situation. Hoyer didn’t set the world on fire this summer, so it’s hard to feel that all of the rolled up dollar bills, drinking on inflatable swans and extended middle fingers in the world would have stopped Manziel from getting to the top of the depth chart if he’d been the clearly superior player on the field.
We now know that Brian Hoyer will start Week One for the Browns. We don’t know how long beyond Week One he’ll keep the job.
The hot spot seems to be Week Five, after Cleveland opens against Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and Baltimore — and then has a Week Four bye. After the Sunday off, owner Jimmy Haslam takes his football team back to his home state of Tennessee.
Which could coincide with Haslam bringing his new car out of the garage and showing it off.
Provide your own answer below, and join Kevin Gilbride, Ross Tucker, and yours truly at 6:00 p.m. ET to see what everyone thinks.
We’ll also address five questions regarding offensive line play, and we’ll play the “Analyze This” game with recent comments from J.J. Watt and Tony Gonzalez.
The Bills were dealt a heavy blow this summer when linebacker Kiko Alonso tore his ACL while working out before training camp.
That injury will keep Alonso out for the entire season and the Bills announced Wednesday that he’ll have some company in the linebacker section of injured reserve. They have placed Stevenson Sylvester on injured reserve because of what Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports is a torn patella tendon.
Sylvester, who spent the last four years with the Steelers, signed with the Bills in July after Alonso was hurt and was part of the mix of players looking for snaps at outside linebacker.
Nigel Bradham, another one of those players and the one pencilled into Alonso’s spot in the starting lineup, will serve a suspension in the first week of the regular season. With Sylvester out of the picture as a possible replacement, Preston Brown is the likeliest candidate to be in the starting lineup against the Bears come September 7.
While Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley has lost his starting job, one of the club’s stars still has hope he can find his way.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, fellow defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh indicated Fairley’s skill set remains strong — and that now is the time to show it.
“I haven’t said this a lot or to many people, more or less, but Nick is more athletically gifted than me, and he has an opportunity to be better than me, and that’s what I want to see out of him,” Suh said Wednesday, according to Ashley Dunkak of CBS Detroit.
The Lions’ 2011 first round pick, Fairley has shown intriguing ability in his NFL career. He recorded a half-dozen sacks a season ago — an impressive total for an interior lineman.
However, it’s clear Fairley still has something to prove to the Lions. The club didn’t exercise an option to extend his contract through 2015, and he was demoted from the starting lineup last week in favor of C.J. Mosley.
According to CBS Detroit, Fairley told reporters Wednesday he wants to shed 10 pounds from his current weight of 315. He also indicated he believes he’ll be starting by the regular season opener vs. the Giants.
Fairley said Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin wants him to “play consistent.”
“That’s just something I’ve got to do this season,” Fairley said, per CBS Detroit.
And time is of the essence for Fairley, with unrestricted free agency around the corner.
With the addition of a pair of contributor nominees, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is only nominating one player from the Seniors Committee this year.
And that player is one of the most durable and productive players in football history.
The Hall announced this afternoon that longtime Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff was this year’s lone Seniors nominee.
He won’t be competing for a spot in Canton with modern players, as he will be subject to a yes/no vote, and needs 80 percent to earn his spot. While not a rubber stamp, the recent record is good for those presented by the seniors committee.
A six-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro, Tingelhoff started all 240 games he played for the Vikings over a 17-year career.
Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney didn’t impress Falcons running back Antone Smith when he buried Smith in the backfield during last weekend’s preseason game, but he’s impressed most other people with his first couple of performances in the NFL.
He impressed the Broncos during Tuesday’s joint practice with Houston as well, but Wednesday didn’t go as well for the first overall pick. Lindsay Jones of USA Today reports that Clowney left the session during 9-on-7 drills and went to the medical tent. Per Jones, Clowney “was walking OK, but looked uncomfortable” on his way to get checked out by the doctors.
Clowney didn’t return to practice after heading to the tent and Jones reports that he took off his shoulder pads so trainers could have a look at the left side of his neck.
We’ll have to wait to get a more detailed update on Clowney’s condition, but it seems a safe bet that the Texans will take every precaution necessary to make sure that their first-round pick is clear of any concerns before he returns to the field.
Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick is going to work harder during his suspension than he had to during training camp.
Scandrick, who was suspended four games for violating the league’s PED policy, said he intends to be ready when he walks back in the door, and will be putting himself through two-a-days each day while he’s away from the team. He’s going back to Los Angeles to work with the personal trainer he uses in the offseason.
“I’m not going to do anything but train and prepare myself to play every day,” Scandrick said, via Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com. “I’m going to come back ready.”
While it’s impossible to duplicate football practice without the benefit of a team, he will be doing defensive back drills and catching tennis balls out of a machine in addition to his strength and conditioning.
With a little luck, none of those sessions will be in Mexico, and he’ll always know what he’s drinking.
The amount of flags for defensive holding and illegal contact have been a major talking point throughout the preseason and one player affected by them thinks he knows why the league moved to emphasize those calls this season.
Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said there are “no ifs, ands or buts” about the league’s reaction coming as a result of the Seahawks’ victory over the Broncos in the Super Bowl. The Seahawks secondary was one of the most, if not the most, physical defenses in the league and Hall thinks they used that to their advantage and that the rest of the league’s defensive backs are paying the price.
“Seahawks got their ring, they did it their way … now we have to pay the consequences,” Hall said, via Dianna Marie Russini of NBC Washington.
This year’s shift hasn’t really hurt the Seahawks, who have been called for a relatively low three illegal contact penalties, although it’s not the first time that anyone has drawn a line between the Seahawks’ style of play and the league’s decision to crack down on those types of infractions. It is hardly the first time that the league has moved to make life more difficult on pass defenders in recent years, though. Defensive backs have been paying the consequences of the league’s moves to create more passing offense for a while now and this year’s emphasis on holding and illegal contact falls right in the same line.
The Jaguars are reportedly set to add another fullback.
The club will sign blocking back Eric Kettani, who was most recently with the Chiefs, Aaron Wilson of National Football Post reported Wednesday. Kansas City waived the 27-year-old Kettani in May.
To sign Kettani, the Jaguars will have to clear a roster spot, as they are at the 90-player limit.
A Navy product, Kettani (5-11, 240) has also had stints with Washington and New England. His NFL career has twice been put on hold for naval service.
Before adding Kettani, the Jaguars had two fullbacks — Will Ta’ufo’ou and Harvey Unga.
The Dolphins held their playoff destiny in their hands heading into the last two weeks of the regular season, a fairly remarkable position given the turmoil on and off the field caused by an offensive line that was far harder on members of the Dolphins than they were on the opposition.
Miami couldn’t beat either the Jets or the Bills in those final weeks, however, and Miami missed the playoffs before making major changes this offseason. General Manager Jeff Ireland was fired, four-fifths of the starting offensive line changed and a new offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor, was brought in to help coach Joe Philbin try to make the playoffs for the first time since coming to Miami.
If you saw our preseason power rankings, you’ll know that there isn’t much optimism at PFT about that happening. If the Dolphins are going to prove us wrong, these are five areas where they’ll need to get positive answers.
1. Is Ryan Tannehill the answer at quarterback?
Tannehill entered the NFL with limited experience as a starting quarterback, but the Dolphins took him eighth overall in 2012 and teamed him with his college coach Mike Sherman in hopes of making a quick transition to the NFL. Tannehill has done that in one respect as he’s made all 32 starts through his first two seasons and he’s shown the kind of tools that you want to see from a starting quarterback. Consistency has been an issue, though, and it remains unclear whether or not he can vault to the next level.
Having an offensive line interested in stopping defenses from pounding him to the turf would be a good start, but Tannehill can also help himself by making quicker decisions before the pressure gets to him. Playing in Lazor’s system should help with that, although there will still be a need for Tannehill to show he can make the right decisions whether or not a defender is bearing down on him.
One way to help could be to get Tannehill throwing on the move more often as he’s been more successful in that area than he’s been when he delivers his passes from the pocket. His athleticism has always been a plus and Sherman’s scheme didn’t always take full advantage of that in Tannehill’s first two seasons. He’s played well in the first two preseason games, which creates some optimism for what’s to follow.
2. Will shuffling the linebackers lead to better results?
The Dolphins brought in two free agent linebackers last year and said goodbye to Karlos Dansby only to see Dansby thrive in Arizona while Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler helped man a linebacking corps that struggled against the run and the pass. Ellerbe played in the middle last year with Wheeler and Misi flanking him, but things will look different this time around.
Misi is in the middle, a new position for him, while Ellerbe has kicked outside in hopes that he’ll be freed up to make more plays from that spot in the defense. The group had a poor first preseason outing, which has opened the door for fifth-round pick Jordan Tripp to gain some snaps with the first team. Whoever winds up filling out the group come the regular season, there needs to be a serious improvement in execution if the Dolphins defense is going to be stingy.
3. Will Mike Wallace’s second year in Miami be more productive than his first?
Wallace came to Miami with a contract that says he’s a centerpiece of the offense, but he didn’t wind up making that kind of impact on the field. Wallace caught 73 passes, but averaged a career-worst 12.7 yards per catch as his speed never led to the kinds of big plays down the field (six catches in 36 attempts of more than 20 yards) that marked his career with the Steelers.
Lazor has plans to use Wallace in a wider variety of ways this season, but neither reports from camp nor preseason play has shown a serious difference on the field. As the most dynamic receiver on the team, Wallace will have to be a major part of the offense for Tannehill to make the kinds of strides that the team wants to see him take this season.
4. Can the offensive line come together on the fly?
The good news for the Dolphins is that the bar was set so low in 2013 that it shouldn’t be hard for this year’s group to be better. The bad news is that being better than the 2013 Dolphins doesn’t mean that the line will be good enough to keep the offense moving.
Left tackle Branden Albert is a clear and big upgrade, but the rest of the line is still a mystery. Center Mike Pouncey hopes to avoid the PUP list, but will miss some time as he recovers from hip surgery and the loss of that anchor could have a ripple effect on a line that will start inexperienced players (tackle Ja’Wuan James, guard Dallas Thomas and guard Billy Turner) and/or underwhelming veterans Shelley Smith, Daryn Colledge and Dallas Thomas.
While the pass protection got all the notice last year, the Dolphins also fell short in the ground game. The backs on hand aren’t world-beaters, so there will be pressure on the line to be much better in that area as well because a little more balance would go a long way in Miami.
5. Do they have enough in the secondary?
The Dolphins were dealt a blow this summer when starting safety Reshad Jones was suspended for the first four games of the regular season, leaving cornerback Brent Grimes as the only sure thing in the secondary to start the season.
They are going to need safety Louis Delmas to stay healthy, cornerback Cortland Finnegan to rebound from a poor 2013 season and at least one member of the Jamar Taylor/Will Davis/Walt Aikens group of young players to make strides in order to be a group that scares opposing offenses. If those things don’t fall into place, they’ll be short even after Jones returns to the lineup and there will likely be some long days for the Miami defense.
Mike Ditka is the crusty old coot of the football world, the grandpa you love even as he says things that make you cringe. So now that Ditka has waded into the controversy over the Washington NFL team’s name, it’s tempting to ignore him, just as you try to ignore the old neighbor who talks your ear off about how everything was better back in his day, when men were men and Herbert Hoover was president.
Still, the 74-year-old Ditka’s recent comments about the Redskins name have received enough attention that they probably merit a response. Ditka talked to a totally unbiased website called RedskinsHistorian.com, and he made it clear that he’s angry about this newfangled effort to change the name of the team in Washington.
“What’s all the stink over the Redskin name?” Ditka said. “It’s so much horse s–t it’s incredible. We’re going to let the liberals of the world run this world.”
Ditka has never made any secret of his dislike of liberals. Ditka briefly considered running against Barack Obama in the 2004 U.S. Senate race in Illinois, and he has said declining to do that is his greatest regret in life, because he believes he could have prevented Obama from becoming president. But if Ditka thinks only liberals oppose the use of a racial slur as the name of an NFL team, he’s sorely mistaken. John McCain, who unlike Ditka really did run against Obama, has said the Redskins should probably change their name. Charles Krauthammer, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post who is among the most conservative voices in the American media, has written that the team should change its name. Tom Cole, a Republican who is one of only two Native Americans in Congress, wrote to Commissioner Roger Goodell that, “The NFL can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur.”
Whether opponents of the team name are liberal or conservative, Ditka believes they’re wrong. Just as Daniel Snyder has, Ditka insists that the team’s name is meant as a sign of respect.
“It was said out of reverence, out of pride to the American Indian,” Ditka said.
Ditka appeals to tradition in support of his beliefs.
“It’s been the name of the team since the beginning of football. It has nothing to do with something that happened lately, or something that somebody dreamed up. This was the name, period. I mean, leave it alone,” Ditka said.
Ditka is wrong that “Redskins” has been the team’s name since the beginning of football. It’s actually been the team name only since 1933. It’s also true that the owner who gave them the Redskins name, George Preston Marshall, was a vicious racist who refused to sign black players until 1962, when the federal government told him his team wouldn’t be permitted to play in Washington, D.C., anymore if he didn’t agree to integrate. Times change.
Snyder won’t change, however, and Ditka believes that Snyder deserves respect for his stubborn stance against changing his team’s name.
“I admire him for it,” Ditka said. “Really, I think it’s tradition, it’s history, it’s part of the National Football League. It was about Sammy Baugh and all the guys who were Redskins way back then. I didn’t think that Lombardi and Halas never had a problem with it, why would all these other idiots have a problem with the name? I’m sorry. I’m not very tolerant when it comes to the liberals who complain about everything.”
It may be true that Vince Lombardi and George Halas had no problem with the name “Redskins” when they were involved in the NFL, many decades ago. It is also utterly irrelevant to the question of whether “Redskins” is an appropriate name for a team in 2014.
There’s a lot to respect about Ditka, a Hall of Fame tight end turned Super Bowl-winning coach who has been a great ambassador for the game of football. But Ditka also talks a lot about that which he knows nothing. This is one of those times.
The Buccaneers have some time before they have to start making any cuts, but they’ve already made at least one decision about players currently on the roster who won’t be there when the regular season gets underway.
Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune reports that the team has released veteran wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins. Hawkins signed with Tampa shortly after they traded Mike Williams to the Bills in April and some thought his prior relationship with offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford might help him nail down a spot on the final roster. Things didn’t play out that way.
Getting released now could potentially help Hawkins land somewhere else before the preseason comes to a close, although there are going to be plenty of other players hitting the street in the coming days. Hawkins played four games for the Chargers last season and was with the Titans for the previous five seasons, but has only caught five regular season passes over the last two seasons.
With Hawkins gone, it looks like Chris Owusu and Louis Murphy will be joining Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans on the team this year. Tommy Streeter, Eric Page and Skye Dawson have played the most preseason snaps of the other receivers on the roster.
Cornerback Leodis McKelvin has been limited all spring and summer as he recovers from offseason hip surgery, but he recently made the move to full practice and looked like he was on track to make his preseason debut against the Buccaneers on Saturday.
That debut may have to be put on hold. Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports that McKelvin had to leave Wednesday’s practice early because of a groin injury. Coach Doug Marrone said after the practice that there was no decision yet about whether or not McKelvin would be able to play come the weekend.
“I have no idea. They haven’t told me that yet,” Marrone said.
Marrone made it clear while discussing wide receiver Sammy Watkins’s rib injury that he won’t be giving timetables for returns this season, so we’ll have to wait and see when McKelvin is ready to go. Given McKelvin’s spot as a starter across from Stephon Gilmore and the multiple injury issues that he’s working through, it wouldn’t come as a great shock if the Bills opt for a cautious approach to giving him any preseason action.