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Roger Goodell State of the League press conference transcript

[Editor’s note: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had his annual State of the League press conference on Friday. This is the transcript of that press conference, distributed by the NFL.]

Opening Statement:

“Good morning. This Sunday will be the conclusion of an incredible season of NFL football. Our teams this season gave fans dramatic games and amazing performances. Think about it, the inspiring comebacks of Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson; the extraordinary rookie quarterbacks; Calvin Johnson, Tony Gonzalez catching; Aldon Smith, Von Miller and J.J. Watt sacking; the fantastic final Sunday of the regular season. Everyone is buzzing about how exciting the playoffs have been. So wouldn’t it be fitting if we have that one final struggle on Sunday night? This Super Bowl matchup has it all: the Harbaughs, Ray Lewis, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Flacco, the Pistol offense, and the list goes on. Congratulations to Steve Bisciotti, to John, Denise and Jed York. We really can’t wait to see your teams in the Super Bowl on Sunday night.

“There are two important people who are not here, but very much on our minds. Art Modell, the legendary former owner of the Ravens, who passed away in September. Art’s spirit is certainly here this week. And his name will be on the Ravens jersey on Sunday, as it has all season. And this is the first Super Bowl without Steve Sabol, the creative genius behind NFL Films. His imprint is all over our game and the Super Bowl. Steve and Art were innovators. They inspire us to exceed our expectations. As a league, we have challenges. We always do, and we embrace them for the opportunity to do better.

“On and off the field in the last couple of years, we have accomplished some remarkable things that have really strengthened the very foundation of our game. We have the most talented athletes on earth, in a game that those players and fans love. Our mission is to make it even better and we are doing the work. The changes we are making are having a positive impact. The game is exciting, competitive, tough and safer. We are making the game better while also evolving into a health and safety culture. That is a big priority. We are also improving officiating, investing in upgrading the stadium experience and engaging more people in more ways than ever. Our numbers are up in overall fan engagement, in most cases, dramatically. So a big thank you to NFL fans, the best in sports.

“Interest in the NFL is expanding as we grow internationally. In fact, today we are announcing that our two games in London next season – the 49ers and Jaguars and the Steelers and Vikings – are already sold out. It is a sign that the game is growing globally. But there is more work to do and more ways to improve. The Competition Committee’s agenda will include looking at eliminating certain dangerous low blocks; further taking the head out of the game and expanding the standards for the quality of our playing fields. We will take steps to ensure more diversity in our hiring practices. The results this year were simply not acceptable.

“On the health side, we will update our injury protocols and add neurosurgeons to our game day medical resources. We are going to implement expanded physicals at the end of each season. Three days to review players from a physical, mental and life-skills standpoint, so that we can support them in a more comprehensive fashion. We want to pioneer new approaches to player health and safety that emphasize prevention as well as treatment. This will include our commitment to supporting our retired players. Those are some of the priorities. From the quality of our game, to growing fan interest and engagement, to our commitment to evolve and innovate, we have many reasons to be optimistic about the future. I could not be more optimistic or ready to go.

“It’s also terrific for us to be back here in New Orleans. Our 10th Super Bowl here, the first since (Hurricane) Katrina. And it’s clear this city is back bigger and better than ever. Our very heartfelt thanks to Mayor Mitch Landrieu; James Carville and Mary Matalin; the Host Committee; the 7,000 local volunteers for being truly, truly great hosts this week. Also, to Tom and Gayle Benson and Rita LeBlanc, for all you have done for this community. Everybody here has done an outstanding job. You should be very proud and we are very grateful.

“Now we will get to your questions.”

The President recently said he would think twice about having a son play football, if he had a son. He also said that fans need to examine their conscience about football. Is there a deeper-rooted problem with the game and its safety than the NFL might have realized? How can the NFL deal effectively with such problems?

“Well, the issue of player health and safety has always been a priority in the NFL. We will continue to make it a priority. You have our commitment. The players have our commitment that we will do that. I started playing the game when I was in fourth grade, tackle football in Washington D.C. and I love the game of football. I started as a fan, but I wouldn’t give back one day of playing tackle football. The benefits of playing football, teaching you the values, teaching you character, teaching you how to get up when you’re knocked down, how to work with others, teamwork. They are extraordinary lessons in life that I use to this day. I welcome the President’s comments because it has been a priority and we want to make sure that people understand what we’re doing to make our game safer, not just in the NFL, but throughout sports. The changes we’re making in the NFL, I think, are changing all of sports. There is better recognition of head injuries, of treating them conservatively, and that affects every sport, beyond sports, to your children playing in the playground, to our troops overseas. What we’re doing is leading the way to try and make sure people understand that you need to treat these injuries seriously. We can make our games safer, as we have done. I believe that the changes that we’re making to our game will make football better. It will make it safer. It will make other sports safer. We’re proud of our accomplishments and we have more to do, but we will not relent on this.”

More on the same issue – Joe Flacco on Media Day said the current fine system isn’t working. It’s not changing the way that defensive players are playing. He’s going to get hit no matter what, and all that you’re doing is taking money out of their pockets. Steve Bisciotti said that he thinks maybe intent needs to be taken into consideration. Flacco also said maybe suspensions, but with pay, might get through to some of these guys. I wonder what you think about their comments and about maybe whether suspensions is where you need to go? I know that the league did try to suspend Ed Reed.

“I’m glad that you reminded yourself of that. This is something that we have seen, an escalation in the discipline, because we are trying to take these techniques out of the game. I think it was about four years ago at this very press conference, I said, ‘We have to take these hits out of the game that we think have a higher risk of causing injuries.’ The focus was on defenseless players, and I stand by our record because I think we have made those changes and made the game safer. I think we’re going to have to continue to see discipline escalate, particularly on repeat offenders. It’s not just the player, the defenseless player, that’s being protected; it’s the person doing the striking. We see in the injury rates that the defenseless player and the defensive back are having a higher injury rate. Taking these hits out of the game can be positive. The most effective way of doing that, and I’m not for it because we want to see all of our players on the field, is when they are repeat offenders and they are involved with these dangerous techniques, that we’re going to have to take them off the field. Suspension gets through to them. It’s gets through on the basis that they don’t want to let their teammates down, and they want to be on the field. We want to see them on the field. We’re going to continue to emphasize the importance of following those rules. When there are violations, we will escalate the discipline.”

I know that the system for discipline for on-field violations, the way the system exists now, you have neutral arbitrators in Art Shell and Ted Cottrell. Also, my understanding is that in a new drug policy, the league would be willing to have neutral arbitration in that, too. If you can confirm that, fine, but also, the NFLPA said yesterday that it is seeking to have neutral arbitration for off-the-field discipline issues. I’m wondering if you see a connection with that demand as another component to the standstill in negotiations for HGH testing?

“Well interesting, Jarrett, to that point, you are correct. In our Collective Bargaining Agreement that we signed two years ago, we did agree to HGH testing. As part of that, we agreed to neutral arbitration for drug cases. We will do that as soon as we reach agreement on the HGH, which I expect and hope will be very soon. We have moved down that path in an effective way. On the field, we have a system that I think has worked quite effectively. I don’t agree with all of the decisions, but I don’t expect to. Off the field, beyond the drug issue, it is very important for us to maintain our integrity and our brand. We expect that the people that are involved with our game from the commissioner to the players to the coaches will uphold those standards. We have three great young men here today that are finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. I’m proud of our players. I’m proud of what they do, but we always have to make sure that we’re reflecting positively on the shield. When there are violations along those lines, they impact on the integrity of the game. That is something that the commissioner has had the authority on for several decades, several versions of the CBA, and that is not something that we’re going to relent on. We’re going to always uphold the standards of the NFL because the fans deserve that, and I believe the players deserve that. That is the commissioner’s role, and you can hold me accountable for it, and I will stand by my decisions.”

I wanted to ask you about your comment about minority hiring in coaching, and you saying that you weren’t satisfied with it. What do you think are some of the issues that continue to make this a problem and what’s going to bring about real change?

“First, the Rooney Rule has been very effective over the last decade, but we have to look to see what the next generation of the Rooney Rule is. What’s going to take us to another level? We’re committed to finding that answer. That’s going to have to come from conversations with a lot of people in this league to find out exactly what can be most effective in allowing our talent to excel. And that’s what it is – we want to make sure we have the best people in the best possible positions, and give everybody the opportunity to do that. We want to focus on how do we get to a Rooney Rule, or an extension of the Rooney Rule, or a new generation of the Rooney Rule, that will allow us to do that? There was full compliance with the Rooney Rule. There were, in fact, I believe, a record number of interviews. But we didn’t have the outcomes that we wanted, and the outcomes are to make sure that we have full diversity throughout our coaching ranks, throughout our executive ranks, and throughout the league office. It’s very important to the success of the league to do that, and we’re committed to finding those solutions.”

I know you highlighted player safety in your opening statement. What was your reaction to the NFLPA’s study yesterday that said 78 percent of players do not trust their team’s medical staffs?

“I did hear that yesterday. Last week, we met for four hours with union officials. Several players were there. Several owners were there. They did raise the issue of making sure we have proper medical attention, but they didn’t raise those statistics. That was news to me as of yesterday. I’m disappointed, because I think we have tremendous medical care for our players. These are not just team doctors. These doctors are affiliated with the best medical institutions in the world – the Cleveland Clinic, Stanford, Hospital for Special Surgery. The medical care that is provided to our players is extraordinary. Now, we will always seek to improve it. We will always seek to figure out how we can do things better, provide better medical care, but I think it’s extraordinary. And as I talk to players – including one yesterday – they feel the same way, but we’ll have to address that and we’ll have to figure out what we can do to try to improve it. One of those I also mentioned in the opening. We’ll add a neurosurgeon on the field that can be there for consultation, that can be there for another set of eyes on the field, and to support the doctors in making the best possible decisions on the field, and off the field. And I believe our doctors do that.”

You went to owners meetings in Dallas last year and met with MADD. How disappointing is it that so soon after Jerry Brown’s death that his teammate is arrested for DWI, and is there something else that the league can do to tell the players that this is unacceptable?

“Well, Charean, I think we have to go beyond telling players or telling executives. The reality is we have to do a better job of educating people in the NFL that this is a priority. This is for your safety, for the safety of the people in your car, and for innocent people that are out there. There are services designed to help them make better decisions before they leave their homes. We have to make sure that they understand those services, and most importantly, take advantage of them, use them. We did meet with MADD, and I met with MADD last week. We’re going to engage in a number of programs to help educate all of our clubs – players, coaches (and) executives – on what we can do. Victim impact programs have been very effectively used with several clubs over the past several months. We’re going to do that because this is a high priority, not only for the sake of safety, but it’s part of our responsibility in the communities that we live.”

Yesterday, the NFLPA was very vocal about singling out dissatisfaction with Dr. David Chao, the Chargers’ team doctor, and said it requested the league find a ‘suitable replacement’ for him. What is your response to that request and also comments that NFL players deserve better than Dr. Chao?

“In the CBA, at the union’s request, we entered an agreement that is called Article 50. Article 50 states that if there is an issue with any medical decision, or the medical professionals of the club, there can be a solution by engaging with independent doctors, I believe three neutral doctors, including an NFL attorney, and they will review the matter. As I understand it, that is exactly what is going on in San Diego. We’ll allow the process to unfold. I’m confident our doctors make the best possible decisions for the players, and we’re going to stand behind that. We’ll engage in the process and let it unfold.”

The Rams and local stadium authority are waiting for an arbitrator’s decision on stadium improvement proposals there. Are you confident that the parties can resolve their differences and that the Rams will stay in St. Louis?

“I haven’t gotten an update on the arbitration process. I expect the possibility of a decision in the next couple of weeks. It is, as you know, a clause and a part of a contract that they initially agreed to when the Rams came to St. Louis 12-15 years ago. That is something we are engaging in. We want to make sure that the team gets the stadium issues resolved because they need to have the type of stadium that will help support them for the long term in St. Louis. I believe that the business community and the officials in St. Louis want that outcome. I believe Stan Kroenke wants that outcome. They’re all working together to try and get there. Again, the process is unfolding and I hope they’ll be able to reach that agreement. I’m optimistic they will.”

If they cannot pass the renovations, is the NFL willing to provide any stadium funding for those improvements?

“We’re willing to do that in any market where there is a public/private partnership, to allow the other 31 clubs to help contribute to financing the stadium that will help solve the problem for the long term. If we can get to the point where we have the structure of a deal, I’m very confident that the league will support that and participate.”

The 18-game schedule is still on the table. Is that a reality? And, HGH testing. is that going to happen or not?

“Let me start with the second portion of your question. I believe that HGH testing is going to happen prior to the 2013 NFL season. It’s the right thing to do for the players, for their health and well-being long-term. It’s the right thing to do for the integrity of the game. It’s also the right thing to do to send the right message to everybody else in sports. You don’t have to play the game by taking performance-enhancing drugs. The science is there. There is no question about that. Baseball, Olympics, everyone believes that the science is there and are utilizing the tests, so we need to get to that agreement. On the first part of your question, we’re always going to reevaluate our season structure. We’ve been very open about the fact that we want to address our preseason. Do we need four preseason games? Do we only need two or three? How do we continue to develop talent? How do we continue to evaluate players? The fans’ reaction to the quality of preseason is a big concern. So, we have to do that collectively. That’s what our CBA does. If we wanted to implement an 18-game schedule, we could have done that in the prior CBA. The ownership and management agreed that we would do that collectively and we would consider and balance the player health and safety issues with that. So, we’ll continue to evaluate that. I think the changes we made in the CBA, particularly in offseason training, the training camp period and even during the regular season – eliminating contact, allowing players to get away from the game – that’s been great for the players. They deserve that. Every player I talk to tells me they feel better at this time of the year than they’ve ever felt in the past. I think that’s a direct result of some of the changes in the CBA. We will continue to figure out how we can improve with our season structure, but we will not make changes if we can’t do it in a safe and effective way.”

The union yesterday advocated the appointment of a chief safety officer to overview all player safety, and that would be mutually agreed upon, whoever that person is. Also, advocated credentialing for all team doctors and trainers. Do you see anything that could stand in the way of those kinds of advancements with player health and safety?

“Well again, Albert, let me start with the fact that we spent four hours last Friday meeting with union officials, including many players and owners, and that issue did not come up. It was not raised during that entire four hours. That being said, I would tell you that I believe safety is all of our responsibilities. I can’t appoint somebody who’s going to make the game safer as an individual. That’s all of our responsibilities. I’ll stand up, I’ll be accountable. It’s part of my responsibility, I’ll do everything. But the players have to do it. The coaches have to do it. Our officials have to do it. Our medical professionals have to do it. All of us are going to have to do that. All that being said, since I just heard this in the last 12 hours, I’ll do anything that’s going to help us make the game safer and better. They have my commitment on that, so I’ll be happy to engage in the dialogue in a meeting where we can talk about the plusses and the minuses and how we make the game safer.”

First of all, I have been to 41 Super Bowls. I don’t want to brag on that, but here is what I want to ask you for all of these people. The first ticket to the Super Bowl only costs $12 and that was in Los Angeles. Now, the tickets cost $850, $950 and $1250.

“It sounds like the prices went down.” (Laughter)

Well yeah, they are down in a certain manner.

“I hear you. I understand your point.”

The thing I wanted to know, and I have asked you before, is there some way to put a cap on this thing so the ticket only sells for a certain price? The other thing I was going to say is about the Pro Bowl and that you will still leave it in Hawaii except come after the Super Bowl. A man makes the Pro Bowl, and he might make the Super Bowl, but the way it is with this arrangement is I still think it would be better after the Super Bowl the way it was before.

“OK, well let me start with your question because the second was a comment. The first part of your point was, ‘Could there be a cap on the Super Bowl ticket prices?’ I would tell you that we have worked very hard to try to keep them reasonable and to try to give access to people so they can attend the Super Bowl. It is very difficult because, as you know, they are being sold on the secondary market at multiples of the face value. So, a couple of years ago, it may have been five years ago because it was the first year I was the commissioner, we put a cap on a certain number of tickets so that they could go to the fans. I think we capped it at $500. We found that a lot of times, most of the time, those tickets ended up on the secondary market at multiples. I want our fans to be able to attend NFL games. I want them to be able to come because they want to enjoy the experience and enjoy the event and it’s affordable and that it’s safe. But the realities are that there is a market demand, and there is a limited number of tickets. Only 70,000 people are going to get into that Superdome, but there are hundreds of thousands of people here in New Orleans that are celebrating and part of the event. We work hard to try to engage fans, create the NFL Experience and allow people to be able to come and be part of the event, but there is only a limited number of seats.”

Looking back, do you have any regrets on how the Saints bounty investigation was handled? Even though the player penalties were overturned ultimately, do you feel like the message was still sent to the teams and to the players to avoid this type of behavior in the future?

“Let me just take a moment and get back and make sure everyone is clear on the record. There is no question there was a bounty program in place for three years. I think that that is bad for the players, for the game, and I think the message is incredibly clear, and I don’t believe that bounties will be part of football going forward. That’s good for everybody. I do think that message has come through clear. As it relates to the regrets, I think my biggest regret is that we aren’t all recognizing that this is a collective responsibility to get them out of the game to make the game safer. Clearly the team, the NFL, the coaching staffs, executives and players, we all share that responsibility. That’s what I regret, that I wasn’t able to make that point clearly enough with the union, and with others. That is something we are going to be incredibly relentless on.”

How do you define innovation to improve the NFL? Whether it’s consumer marketing, digital media, player safety, game operations, or the fan experience, is it solving a problem or satisfying a need in a glamorous way that increases value? Within the NFL, is innovation primarily viewed as an ideology or viewed as a process that is less glamorous but more productive?

Well, innovation is something that we are proud of. I made that point in my opening remarks. It’s a philosophy. It’s about you can always get better and it’s your responsibility to seek solutions. I like solutions. I believe in solutions. You have to identify problems and find those solutions. But you also have to have a commitment to finding a better way, and that is part of innovation. What is tricky in an organization like the National Football League is we rely a lot on our tradition. That is important to us. We believe in it. It’s what we are all about. I said this when I became commissioner, I said it to the owners when they fortunately selected me for this job. I said, ‘Our biggest risk is being complacent. We cannot assume that our success is going to continue just because we have been successful.’ I think the last six years, we have continued to find ways to improve. Whether it’s player health and safety, whether it’s making the game better or more exciting, whether it’s giving the fans more opportunity to engage with the game of football closer. The NFL Network is now fully distributed. People are engaging with the NFL on their cell phones. We have more ways for fans to engage, and that’s why I like to say that there has never been a better time to be a fan. Innovation is not just some theme. ,It is something that we feel in our core and something where we are always going to live, to try to make things better.”

You’ve mentioned on previous occasions that the Competition Committee will revisit blocks toward the knee so we don’t have situations like Brian Cushing with the Houston Texans losing a season on a block like that. Is the long-term goal of player safety to create a baseball-type of strike zone, which is mid-chest to just above the knee? Have your studies shown that this is the safest way to avoid the head injuries and maybe some of the lower-limb extremity issues?

“There are several things. First, we’re going to review all low blocks. In working with our Player Advisory Committee that Ronnie Lott and John Madden chair we talked about that earlier this year shortly after the Brian Cushing injury. We need to review all of those low blocks. It’s important for us to try to find ‘Is there a better way of doing what we’re doing?’ We are focused on that with the Competition Committee. As it relates to what you call the ‘strike zone’, there is no question that there is a focus to try to get back to the fundamentals of tackling. The number one issue is: take the head out of the game. I think we’ve seen in the last several decades that the players are using their head more than they have, when you go back several decades. There are several theories on that. The helmets are better; they feel safer using their head. The facemask. You can come up with a lot of theories that we’ve discussed. But the reality is we have to get back to tackling, using the shoulders, using your arms properly to tackle. And there is a strike zone, and that’s where we are encouraging our players to focus and our coaches to coach that way, and it’s made a difference. We have seen a dramatic change in the way that’s happening over the years, so we’ll continue that.”

Vincent Gray, the Mayor of Washington D.C., recently said if the Redskins were ever going to entertain the idea of coming back to the District, there would have to be discussion about the name issue. Recently, the most recent “Indian Country Today” polls, the largest Native American magazine, they dispute and contradict everything Sports Illustrated or the NFL did about 10 years ago. They say that the overwhelming number of Indians, American Indians, do not like the name, they feel it’s offensive: Does the league try to absorb the legal costs for the team when they are sued over trademark infringement by American Indians? And, as a progressive commissioner, how do you feel about the name, and do you have any problem with it going forward?

“Well, the first part of your question, I couldn’t answer. I have no idea who pays the legal costs. I do know that, growing up in Washington, I do understand the affinity for that name with the fans. I also understand the other side of that, and I don’t think anybody wants to offend anybody, but this has been discussed several times over a long period of time. I think Dan Snyder and the organization have made it very clear that they’re proud of that heritage and that name, and I believe the fans are, too.”

The various committees that are down here for next year’s Super Bowl have talked a lot about feeling a little bit of pressure carrying the banner for cold-weather cities. Is what they do next year, and the success or problems of the logistical challenge they have, will that affect your future decisions or consideration of other cold-weather sites?

“The answer is undoubtedly the game next year is going to have an impact on future decisions for open-air, cold-weather sites. We believe, though, in the New York/New Jersey market. We think it’s going to be a fantastic event. I have said many times before, and I believe that the membership has supported this through their vote of awarding the Super Bowl there, that not only is the community prepared for this – they have a great stadium with two teams. The plans that have been developed for the Super Bowl, I think, are extraordinary, and they’re just beginning to be released, and we will be prepared for the weather factors, and this community can do that, but the game of football is made to be played in the elements. Now, we hope they’re not extreme on one hand, but we’ll be prepared for that if that’s the case. Some of our most classic games in our history were played in extreme weather conditions. We know them all, the ‘Ice Bowl,’ some of the games that I look back as a fan and say, ‘That was fun.’ So I’m confident the people of New York and New Jersey, the two teams, the host committee are going to do an extraordinary job next year, and we’re looking forward to it.”

The largest attendance in the history of the league is in Mexico. The first game outside the U.S. was in Mexico. I wanted to ask you why hasn’t the NFL gone back since 2005. Why?

“I’m proud to say I was at that game, and it was a great event. And you could see the passion of the fans in Mexico for that game, and we would like to be back there. Our focus in the last couple of years has obviously been on trying to prove the model works in the UK. We have to make sure that whenever we do come back to Mexico, and I expect we will, that we do it successfully, with the right kind of television support, fan support and sponsor involvement. The stadium will be the kind of stage that we want for that game. So I would expect if we are successful in the UK, where we thankfully are continuing to grow, that we’ll have the opportunity to get back there. And the sooner, the better for me.”

Any time frame?


Yesterday the union talked about filing multiple grievances against the NFL, and it recently appealed its collusion loss in the Minnesota federal court to the eighth circuit. Are you disappointed the relationship with the union has remained so litigious?

“Well, Dan, let me start with, the point is I don’t really control that. What I think disappoints me is that we reached a very comprehensive agreement a couple of years ago for 10 years to take the game to another level, and unfortunately we’re spending most of our time focusing on issues that we had agreed to. As you point out, collusion charges, which were very clearly dealt with in the agreement. HGH was agreed to and we should have gotten to the point where we solved our differences and gotten that resolved. Commissioner discipline – I can go on. These are things that were resolved and are clear in the document and in our partnership. What we need to do is get back to focusing on how do we all work together to make the NFL better? I understand we’re going to have differences, I understand why there are grievances, I understand why there are lawyers, but we have to find solutions for the best interests of the game, and that’s my commitment and that’s what we have to work towards.”

Addressing the player safety issue, you said it’s a shared responsibility. Well, earlier this year Alex Smith sustained a concussion, was forthcoming about his condition and while he was out, he lost his starting job. My question for you is, how concerned are you that going forward players are going to be less honest about their condition after seeing a situation like that?

“I believe very strongly that there’s a difference between a medical decision and a football decision. I’m glad that he came forward and identified that he had an injury. That wouldn’t be in the best interest of Alex in the short term or the long term, so players need to do that. I also believe, and he’s been healthy for several weeks, that those are football decisions that the coach has now made. He’s healthy enough to return to play, but the coaches made a decision that they’re going in another direction, and that’s something that the coaches have to do. So while I understand somewhat the dilemma, the highest priority you can have is for players to make sure that they raise their hands when there’s an injury and so that they can get the proper treatment, because they’re not going to be effective as players if they have lingering problems, if they have lingering issues with a concussion. They need to be as healthy as possible to compete in this league, and we all want to see the players on the field, but we let the coaches make the football decisions and the medical personnel make the medical decisions.”

First of all, do you feel welcome here in New Orleans given the way people feel about you in light of the bounty scandal? We have establishments that have your picture that say, ‘Do not serve this man,’ or do you feel somewhat like you’re behind enemy lines? Secondly, Saints fans want to know why you won’t return that second-round draft choice in the next draft?

“Let me take the first part of your question first. I couldn’t feel more welcome here. You know when you look back at it, my picture, as you point out, is in every restaurant. I had a float in the Mardi Gras parade. We got a voodoo doll. I’m serious, really, the people here have been incredible. The last couple of nights I’ve been out with a lot of the people that I worked very closely with following the Katrina tragedy, and we celebrated the work that we did then, but what we did is we all reflected on how great that was that we worked together, and they couldn’t be nicer. They couldn’t be more welcoming, and the same is true with fans. Now, I understand the fans’ loyalty is to the team. They had no part of this. They were completely innocent in this. So I appreciate the passion. I saw that for myself when we were down here for Katrina, and it’s clear that that’s what they’re all about. So I support the fact that they’re passionate in supporting their team. On the last point, the reason there won’t be any change in the second-round draft choice is what I said earlier. There are clear violations of the bounty rule for three consecutive years. That’s not going to be permitted in the NFL. That’s not just my judgment. Commissioner Tagliabue reviewed this, and had his own process and came to the same conclusion that there were violations. So, the reason why we’re not returning any of the draft choices or any of the discipline is because it occurred, and it should not have occurred.”

Kind of piggybacking off that question, yesterday I talked with NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth, and he said because of the bounty scandal and everything that’s happened, trust has been fractured from the players within the league. How do you fix that considering penalties were levied, and then they were vacated twice by parties other than you?

“Let’s make sure the record is clear that the first penalties were vacated only briefly to make sure that there was a distinction between what was a salary-cap violation and what was discipline on the field. That body, the panel that was established by the CBA, made it very clear that that’s the authority of the commissioner. The second issue is Commissioner Tagliabue and I agree on the facts. There was no difference in the findings of the facts with respect to the investigation done by the league overseen by Mary Jo White, verified by Commissioner Tagliabue’s process. The only difference was that he vacated the disciple from the players. We disagree with that. I disagree with that. I believe that we’re all responsible for what goes on in our locker rooms, on the field, as part of our game. That’s a collective responsibility. We’re not going to hide from that. That will be something that – and I said it to our clubs in December when we met – everyone here should understand the responsibility for our rules will be enforced as fairly and as clearly as possible. So I’m going to have to work harder to try to make sure that we can work together; we can trust one another. But we also need to make sure that we understand that we’re going to have differences from time to time, and that’s OK. But there needs to be a fair resolution and move forward in a positive way for the game of football.”

Could you tell us what the selling out of two games in London for 2013, what kind of message that says to your ownership with regard to potential UK franchises?

“I think the message is very clear. There are passionate fans that love the NFL in the UK and, I believe, globally, and that there is another step that we need to look forward to in London. We’re already beginning that process. What’s the next step, beyond the two games? Should we move to three? Should we consider other alternatives to continue to accelerate the growth of the game in the UK? But I think that’s a positive reaction from the fans and our ownership understands this is a market where we need to be more active, and that we need to continue to grow our game. Thank you.”

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Trent Robinson not fined for hits on defenseless players

Trenton+Robinson+uC6np5l57jcm Getty Images

During Sunday’s game against the Eagles, Washington lost 30 yards of field position on a pair of unnecessary roughness penalties called against defensive back Trent Robinson.

According to the NFL (and as Washington safety Dashon Goldson suggested during a recent appearance on PFT Live), Robinson was fined for neither hit.

The first foul, arising from a hit on Philadelphia receiver Jordan Matthews in the third quarter, appeared to be a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. The second foul, occurring on the first play of the fourth quarter, happened when Eagles tight end Zach Ertz caught a past and lowered his head into Robinson’s chest.

The lack of fines suggests that the flags were thrown in error, which is more evidence that these fouls should be subject to replay review. With 15 yards given to the offense whenever one of these penalties is called, the defense should have a way to obtain a more deliberate review of what often occurs on a bang-bang basis.

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Jarvis Landry fined for abusive language to official

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Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes wasn’t the only player from the AFC East who was fined for directing abusive language to an official. Per multiple reports, Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry was fined, too.

The standard fine for a first offense under the 2015 fine schedule is $23,152. For a second offense committed this season, the amount doubles.

Landry drew a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct late in Miami’s 27-14 loss to the Jets in London. The defeat sparked the termination of Dolphins coach Joe Philbin.

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Seahawks decided to give Marshawn Lynch more time to heal

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Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch will miss a second straight game with a hamstring strain. Coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Friday that Lynch possibly could have played.

“It’s just two weeks now,” Carroll said. “He’s just getting over it. We’ve seen some guys around the league try to come back. He could try to come back and play, but we think he’d be vulnerable. He needs another weekend to get through it. Then by next week, by Wednesday or something, we think we can get him going again. He’s just about over the hump. He’s worked very diligently, like I’ve said, to get it done. So we just have to wait a couple more days.”

Carroll makes a good point about the importance of resting a hamstring injury. The Bills rushed running back LeSean McCoy back too quickly, and now he’s out for another month or so.

“You’ve just got to wait it out,” Carroll said of Lynch. “He’s very close, but we can’t guarantee that he can make it through the game. That means we could get set back again, so we’re just going to wait it out and see if we can get him right next week.”

The Seahawks host the Panthers next Sunday. Seattle then has a Thursday night game against the 49ers in Santa Clara.

Without Lynch, it’ll be Thomas Rawls and perhaps Fred Jackson carrying the load; Jackson is questionable for Sunday’s game with an ankle injury.

Carroll also said that the Seahawks may add a running back before Sunday’s game at Cincinnati. Rod Smith, and undrafted free agent from Ohio State, is on the practice squad. Also, the Seahawks worked out running back Cyrus Gray on Friday, per a league source.

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Colts trumpet their ability to neutralize “Justin James” Watt

J.J. Watt AP

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt was frustrated after last night’s loss to the Colts. He may be feeling a different emotion after seeing what the Colts had to say about his performance.

The Colts trumpeted via “daily notes” distributed to the media their ability to “neutralize” Watt, holding him to no sacks and no solo tackles for only the second time in his NFL career. Also, tight end Dwayne Allen has opted to refer to Watt by only his first and middle names.

“Justin James is arguably the greatest defensive player in this league and for him to have a quiet night, attributed [sic] to a short week and great coaching,” Allen said. “He’s definitely a guy we have to game plan for as a game wrecker. We tried our best to keep him from affecting plays.”

“Justin James” will next get a chance to affect plays on December 20, when the Texans travel to Indianapolis in the hopes of beating the Colts there for the first time in franchise history.

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Week Five injury report roundup

Joe Haden, DeAndre Hopkins AP

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week Five of the 2015 season.

Redskins at Falcons

Four Redskins — cornerback Chris Culliver (knee), cornerback DeAngelo Hall (toe), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (hamstring), and tight end Jordan Reed (concussion, knee, ankle) — have been ruled out for this Sunday. Linebacker Perry Riley (calf) is questionable to return to the lineup. Running back Tevin Coleman (ribs) is probable to return for the Falcons, who ruled out linebacker Justin Durant (elbow). Wide receiver Julio Jones (toe, hamstring) is questionable, although there’s been nothing to suggest he’ll be anywhere but on the field come Sunday.

Browns at Ravens

Browns cornerback Joe Haden (ribs, finger) is questionable after unexpectedly missing last week’s game and safety Tashaun Gipson (ankle) has been ruled out. Linebacker Craig Robertson (ankle) is out as well and running back Shaun Draughn (back) is doubtful. It doesn’t look like Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (back, doubtful) will play, which would leave him on the sideline with defensive end Chris Canty (calf), tight end Crockett Gillmore (calf) and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee). Tackle Eugene Monroe (concussion) is probable to play for the first time since the opener.

Seahawks at Bengals

It will be another week without running back Marshawn Lynch (hamstring) for the Seahawks, who also ruled out cornerbacks Tharold Simon (toe) and Marcus Burley (hand). Running back Fred Jackson (ankle) is questionable and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday that he’s hopeful the veteran can play. The Bengals are healthy with three probables to go with the questionable defensive end Wallace Gilberry (calf) and safety George Iloka (ankle).

Rams at Packers

Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree (ankle) is going to be out for multiple weeks and safety Maurice Alexander (groin) is doubtful. The Packers look like they’ll have tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) in the lineup, although they listed him as questionable along with wide receiver Davante Adams (ankle), safety Morgan Burnett (calf) and cornerback Demetri Goodson (hamstring). Safety Sean Richardson (neck) is out and reportedly will miss the rest of the season.

Bears at Chiefs

The Bears will have plenty of decisions to make on Sunday. They listed 13 players as questionable, including quarterback Jay Cutler (hamstring), wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and linebacker Pernell McPhee (shoulder). They were a bit more definitive about safety Antrel Rolle (ankle, doubtful) and were willing to rule out tackle Jermon Bushrod (concussion). Tight end Travis Kelce (groin, thumb) is probable for the Chiefs, who won’t have linebacker Josh Mauga (groin, Achilles).

Saints at Eagles

The Saints ruled out tackle Terron Armstead (knee) and punter Thomas Morstead (quadricep), but hope to have guard Jahri Evans (knee) back in the lineup after listing him as questionable. Eagles tackle Jason Peters (quadricep) is questionable, but said he expects to play. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) is out after getting hurt last week.

Jaguars at Buccaneers

Wide receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring), linebacker John Lotulelei (concussion) and running back Denard Robinson (knee) are all out for Jacksonville and tight end Julius Thomas (hand) is expected to join them after being listed as questionable. Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks (knee) and linebacker Paul Posluszny (ankle) are also questionable. The Bucs don’t expect to have cornerback Johnthan Banks (knee), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder), wide receiver Russell Shepard (hamstring) or center Evan Smith (ankle) after listing them as doubtful. Guard Logan Mankins (groin), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (shoulder) and tight end Luke Stocker (hip) are all questionable.

Bills at Titans

Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) is questionable after missing last week’s game. Tight end MarQueis Gray (forearm), running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring), safety Bacarri Rambo (quadricep) and running back Karlos Williams (concussion) are all going to miss the game and safety Aaron Williams (neck) is probable to return to the lineup. Cornerback Jason McCourty (groin) should play for the first time this season, but the Titans will likely be without defensive tackle Sammie Hill (knee). Guard Chance Warmack (knee) is questionable.

Cardinals at Lions

Running back Andre Ellington (knee) is one of seven probable Cardinals, tight end Darren Fells (hip) and wide receiver J.J. Nelson (shoulder) are questionable and coach Bruce Arians said Friday he anticipates everyone being healthy enough to play. The Lions ruled out running back Joique Bell (ankle), tight end Eric Ebron (knee) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (calf) for this Sunday. Safety James Ihedigbo (quadricep) and guard Larry Warford (ankle) are questionable.

Patriots at Cowboys

The Patriots return from their bye in good shape. Cornerback Bradley Fletcher (hamstring) and defensive end Trey Flowers (knee, shoulder) are questionable and the rest of the injury report is made up of probable players. Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee (concussion) is probable to return, but wide receiver Dez Bryant (foot), wide receiver Brice Butler (hamstring) and defensive end Randy Gregory (ankle) are all out of the lineup.

Broncos at Raiders

Broncos tackle Ty Sambrailo (shoulder) will miss a second straight game and guard Evan Mathis (hamstring) is questionable to play. Wide receiver Cory Latimer (groin) has also been ruled out. The Raiders will play without defensive tackle Denico Autry (concussion), cornerback T.J. Carrie (chest), defensive tackle Justin Ellis (ankle) and running back Taiwan Jones (foot).

49ers at Giants

Word on Friday was that linebacker Ahmad Brooks will miss Sunday’s game following the death of his sister, but the 49ers listed him as doubtful. Tight end Vernon Davis (knee) definitely won’t play and tackle Joe Staley (knee) is questionable. The Giants ruled out defensive end Robert Ayers (hamstring), wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf), linebacker Devon Kennard (hamstring) and defensive end George Selvie (calf). Linebacker Jonathan Casillas (calf), cornerback Jayron Hosley (concussion) and cornerback Trumaine McBride (groin) are all questionable.

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Eric Ebron out for Lions on Sunday

Eric Ebron AP

As the Lions try to get their first win of the season, they’ll have to do it without a key piece of their passing game. Tight end Eric Ebron is out for the game with a knee injury.

Ebron reportedly suffered no structural damage to his knee as a result of a Monday night injury in Seattle. Ebron did not practice at all this week.

Regarded as a disappointment during his rookie season, which included only 25 receptions for 248 yards and one touchdown, Ebron already has generated 15 catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns in four games this year.

The good news for the Lions is that tight end Brandon Pettigrew is on track to return to action. He injured a hamstring in Week One, and he hasn’t played since then. Pettigrew is listed as probable for Sunday’s game against the 3-1 Cardinals.

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Prop rule comes from desire to “prevent things from escalating”

Josh Norman AP

The Week Four games contained a pair of touchdown celebrations that included the use of the ball as a prop. One of them (Panthers cornerback Josh Norman pretending to ride a horse with the ball apparently serving as the horse) drew a flag. One of them (Rams receiver Stedman Bailey taking a nap with the ball as a pillow) didn’t.

In the league’s weekly officiating video, NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino explained the purpose for the rule.

‘This is a rule that was put in place to prevent things from escalating,” Blandino said. “We had situations where players were using the ball as a prop. It was getting elaborate, it was getting extensive. And we were creating this animosity with the team that scored and then the team that got scored upon, and we were ending up with altercations, and this got out of control.”

Norman’s use of the ball as a prop definitely triggered animosity from the crowd in Tampa; at 8:16 of the video, a hand showing a middle finger to Norman appears in the foreground of the video.

Blandino acknowledged that Bailey’s conduct, like Norman’s, should have been penalized.

“We have continue to work to be consistent, in not just this area but every area, so we want both of these to be called,” Blandino said. “We certainly don’t want to take the fun out of the game. Players can celebrate, they can high five, they can fist bump, whatever it is. But they cannot use the football as a prop, they can’t do anything that would be considered in poor taste, something that would be mimicking a violent gesture, whether that’s a throat slash, whether that’s . . . a six shooter. Using the ball as a prop is a foul, and officials are being directed to call it when they recognize it.”

It’s unclear why the officials didn’t recognize Bailey using the ball as a prop. Then again, it’s still unclear why the back judge in the Lions-Seahawks game didn’t recognize the illegal bat that occurred right in front of him.

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NFL fines Xavier Rhodes $17,363 for a horse collar tackle

Mike Evans, Xavier Rhodes AP

Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes is lighter in the wallet after committing a horse collar tackle on Sunday.

Rhodes was fined $17,363 for the foul, the NFL has confirmed.

On the NFL fine schedule, horse collar tackles are considered in the second-tier of seriousness, along with roughing the passer and leg whips, all of which result in a $17,363 fine for a first offense. Less serious infractions like facemasking and chop blocks result in fines of $8,681, while more serious offenses like spearing, hitting a defenseless player and blindside blocks result in a fine of $23,152. Fines typically double for a second offense.

Rhodes also cost the Vikings 15 yards for the penalty, which he committed while tackling Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

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Report: Sean Richardson out for season with neck injury

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 18:  Sean Richardson #28 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after the Packers intercept a pass in the second quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during the 2015 NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field on January 18, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers safety Sean Richardson missed a lot of time after having fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck during the 2012 season and he reportedly suffered the same injury.

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Richardson will not play again this season and that his career may be at risk. Richardson missed the first 10 weeks of the 2013 season while recovering from the first neck surgery, but played down the stretch that year and saw action in all 16 games last season.

Richardson practiced on Wednesday and was listed as a limited participant in Thursday’s session. Per Silverstein, he began experiencing pain on Thursday and went for an MRI.

The Packers have a lot of recent history with neck injuries bringing careers to a premature end. Tight end Jermichael Finley, safety Nick Collins and running back Johnathan Franklin all saw their playing days end after similar injuries.

Green Bay has only ruled Richardson out for this week at this point. They’re also expected to be without safety Morgan Burnett, who is listed as questionable with a calf injury, when they face the Rams.

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Saints left tackle Terron Armstead out, Andrus Peat to start

Terron Armstead, Brett Ingalls AP

If the Saints are going to double their win total for the season, they’re going to have to do it with a rookie at left tackle.

Terron Armstead is listed as out for Sunday’s game against the Eagles with a knee injury picked up last week.

That leaves Drew Brees‘ blind side and recently sore shoulder in the hands of first-rounder Andrus Peat, who failed to win a starting job from either Armstead or Zach Strife in the preseason.

Guard Jahri Evans is listed as questionable, but worked on a limited basis Friday.

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Vernon Davis will miss another game

San Francisco 49ers v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The 49ers announced Friday that tight end Vernon Davis will miss a second straight game Sunday due to a knee injury.

Davis had been able to participate in practice on a limited basis earlier in the week, but he’s been ruled out for Sunday night’s game at the Giants. Garrett Celek was the primary tight end target with Davis out last week.

The team listed linebacker Ahmad Brooks as doubtful. His absence from practice this week has been listed as family leave following the death of his sister.

Aaron Lynch and Corey Lemonier will start at outside linebacker.

Starting tackle Joe Staley (knee) and backup wide receiver Quinton Patton (concussion) are listed as questionable.

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Marshawn Lynch to miss second straight game

Marshawn Lynch AP

Marshawn Lynch returned to practice for the Seahawks on Thursday, but his hamstring isn’t ready for him to return to game action when they face the Bengals on Sunday.

The Seahawks have ruled Lynch out for the second straight week, the first time that’s ever happened during his time in Seattle. Thomas Rawls ran 17 times for 48 yards against the Lions last Monday and may be in for an even heavier workload this weekend.

Fred Jackson is listed as questionable with an ankle injury that has kept him out of practice for the last two days. The Seahawks had not completed Friday’s practice before releasing their injury report, so there’s no word on whether Jackson was able to do something during the final session of the week. Rawls is the only other running back on the 53-man roster with Rod Smith available from the practice squad if the Seahawks make a roster move.

Cornerbacks Tharold Simon and Marcus Burley are also out for Seattle while cornerback Tye Smith, defensive end Demarcus Dobbs and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis are all doubtful.

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Julio Jones questionable, but expected to play against Washington

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The Falcons might list Julio Jones as questionable, but there’s no indication the Falcons are going to have to put their 4-0 record on the line without him.

According to Vaughn McClure of, Jones went through drills Friday and gave no indication he wouldn’t be able to go against Washington.

He’s been limited this week with toe and hamstring issues, though they don’t think it’s serious or related to previous issues.

The Falcons are also getting rookie running back Tevin Coleman back after a rib injury in Week Two, though it’s unclear how often he’ll get the ball behind Devonta Freeman, who leads the NFL with seven touchdowns.

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Josh Norman fined $8,681 for TD celebration

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 27:  Josh Norman #24 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after defeating the New Orleans Saints 27-22 at Bank of America Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers cornerback Josh Norman didn’t expect to draw a penalty flag for riding the football like a horse after returning an interception for a touchdown last Sunday, but he should have been expecting a fine from the league once he did.

Norman got that fine, which Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports is for $8,681. Norman said that he spoke to Hall of Fame linebacker and NFL/NFLPA fine appeal officer Derrick Brooks about the celebration before kickoff and that Brooks said Norman “was fine.”

That may help him if he tries to appeal, unless a Three’s Company-style misunderstanding resulted from Brooks telling Norman that he would be fined. It was still a good week for Norman, who followed up his NFC defensive player of the month honors for September by being named the conference’s top defender of the week.

Person reports that defensive end Ryan Delaire was fined $8,681 as well for a late hit on Buccaneers running back Doug Martin during the Panthers victory.

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Expensive week for Jerry Hughes

Jerry Hughes AP

Not much went right for the Bills last Sunday vs. the Giants.

The expensive aftermath for Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes includes fines totaling more than $30,000.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Hughes was fined $8,681 for unnecessary roughness and $23,152 for using abusive language towards an official. Fines stemming from the previous Sunday are generally delivered to players at the end of the week.

Hughes is a second-time offender on the abusive language front. He was fined $22,050 last November for a similar offense.

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Brian Hoyer back in the saddle for Texans

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 08:  Brian Hoyer #7 of the Houston Texans reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to end the second quarter of play against the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium on October 8, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

It didn’t happen in a room closed to all but Hard Knocks cameras this time, but Texans coach Bill O’Brien has again named Brian Hoyer the starting quarterback in Houston.

Hoyer relieved Ryan Mallett on Thursday night after Mallett came out of the game following a hit to the chest and piloted the Texans the rest of the way in the 27-20 loss to the Colts. Hoyer was 24-of-31 for 312 yards, two touchdowns to rookie Jaelen Strong and an ugly interception on the team’s final offensive play, which was enough for O’Brien to put him back in the starting lineup against Jacksonville.

“We are moving on to Jacksonville. Brian Hoyer will start the game and we will go from there,” O’Brien said.

The Texans have played both of their quarterbacks in three of their first five games this season, which suggests that this may not be the last change we see in 2015. Hoyer’s play on Thursday night was the best work either has turned in during any of those appearances, which probably made for an easy short-term decision for O’Brien.

All of the shuffling means the long-term problem remains for Houston and an answer isn’t likely to come until the offseason.

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Chuck Pagano becomes a master of hyperbole

Chuck Pagano AP

Hyperbole is a fact of life in football, and one coach has become the all-time greatest master of it in the history of the universe, known and unknown. (Sorry, when in Rome.)

Here’s what Colts coach Chuck Pagano had to say about quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck after Thursday night’s win over the Texans: “He was literally on his deathbed Monday and Tuesday and mustered up enough to come in on Wednesday and practice.”

Yes, it’s a figure of speech. And, no, literally apparently no longer literally means literally. Still, it seems a bit much to suggest that Hasselbeck pulled a Lazarus and not only rejoined the realm of the living but also quarterbacked an NFL team to a prime-time win.

It’s not the first time that Pagano has gone a little far with his choice of words, apart from the whole “supremely confident” and “absolutely confident” fiasco of a week ago. Asked last Friday whether injured quarterback Andrew Luck is even in the state of Indiana, Pagano said, “That might be the craziest question that I’ve gotten in the history of football.”

It wasn’t all that crazy, given that Luck wasn’t spotted at practice on Friday after being seen there on Wednesday and Thursday. The Colts had been sending out mixed signals about Luck’s condition all week, and it was reasonable to wonder whether he was getting some sort of exotic treatment in New York or Mexico or wherever when he wasn’t present on Friday.

Regardless, the pressure of coaching for his job seems to be getting to Pagano, literally and figuratively and in any other way possible.

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Sean Lee cleared to return after last week’s concussion

Minnesota Vikings v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

As rapidly as they’ve lost offensive pieces, the Cowboys are getting defenders back this week.

According to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee has been cleared by the independent neurologist after last week’s concussion, and will play Sunday against the Patriots.

He left last week’s loss to the Saints in the first quarter, and was just the latest in a long line of injuries for Lee, who was coming back from last year’s torn ACL.

“It’s brutal,” Lee said. “It’s something that I’ve done too much. I need to be on the field more. I’ve found my way off the field too consistently and it’s something that eats at you. At the same point, you have to move on from it and that’s in the past.

“You can’t allow that to affect weeks coming forward and especially this week. So, it’s frustrating at the time, but you have to move on. And I’m healthy to go and excited to play.”

You can’t lump a brain injury in with knees and feet and other body parts, so this shouldn’t further the perception that Lee’s injury prone.

The Cowboys are also getting defensive end Greg Hardy and linebacker Rolando McClain back from suspensions, so they’re getting closer to full strength at a time they’ll need to be.

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Haloti Ngata will miss game with Cardinals

Haloti Ngata, Teddy Bridgewater AP

Tyrunn Walker and Haloti Ngata were the starting defensive tackles for the Lions against the Seahawks last Monday night.

Neither of them will be on the field when the Cardinals visit Ford Field on Sunday. Walker is out for the season with a broken leg and Ngata will be out this week as well. Ngata hurt his calf in the loss to Seattle and missed practice this week.

The Lions prepared for this possibility by signing Andre Fluellen and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen this week. Ngata is confident the newcomers, Caraun Reid, Gabe Walker and Jermelle Cudjo can hold the Cardinals in check.

“Man, those guys are going to do great,” Ngata said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “Those young guys. Caraun, Gabe, we brought in Flu. Cudjo. They’ve been practicing real hard this week and they’re going to do a lot of good things. I think they’re going to surprise some people.”

Ngata declined to speculate on his chances of returning in Week Six, calling himself “day-to-day” as he looks toward Week Six.

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Ravens list Gillmore out, Smith as doubtful

Crockett Gillmore AP

The Ravens will play without starting tight end Crockett Gillmore for the second consecutive week Sunday.

The team’s final injury report of the week listed Gillmore (calf), defensive end Chris Canty (calf) and wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee) as out. Top wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. has not practiced this week due to broken bones in his back and is listed as doubtful.

The team called Smith “week to week” earlier in the week. The doubtful designation is interesting because Smith figures to press trainers and coaches to be allowed to play all the way up until the Sunday morning active roster deadline.

Exactly who will be catching Joe Flacco’s passes Sunday is the Ravens’ No. 1 question this week. Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown figure as the starting receivers and rookie Maxx Williams should again start at tight end. Williams, who’s just 21, was a second-round pick last spring.

Ravens starting left tackle Eugene Monroe is listed as probable. He’s missed the last three games due to a concussion.

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