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Steelers want LaMarr Woodley to work harder in the offseason

Kansas City Chiefs v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley was something of a disappointment last season, recording just four sacks while dealing with groin, ankle and hamstring injuries. Now Woodley’s coaches are hoping a renewed emphasis on staying in shape in the offseason will prevent him from struggling through more nagging injuries this season.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Steelers think Woodley needs to approach his offseason workouts with more diligence to avoid the kinds of injuries that have plagued him the past two seasons.

Woodley signed a six-year, $61.5 million deal just before the start of the 2011 season, and he’s already made $27 million on the first two years of that contract. At the time Woodley signed that contract, he was coming off his third consecutive double-digit sack season, and he had only missed one game in the last three years.

But in the last two years Woodley’s sack totals have declined to nine in 2011 and four in 2012, and he has missed nine games in the last two years.

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Dustin Hopkins adds to weekly honors with monthly special teams award

Washington Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins (3) boots a field goal during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) AP

Dustin Hopkins‘ last week was good enough, but being perfect for the season was enough for a bigger honor.

The Washington kicker was named NFC special teams player of the month, hitting 11-of-11 field goals in September.

He was player of the week after going 5-of-5 against the Giants last week, but was deserving over the two games before that as well.

His 11 field goals are the most in the league, and he’s second in the league with 15 touchbacks. He’s also hit all five of his extra points.

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First-round prospect Tim Williams arrested on gun charge

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 3: Tim Williams #56 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates against the USC Trojans in the first half during the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Alabama linebacker Tim Williams, a likely first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, has been arrested on a gun charge.

Williams was arrested at 2 a.m. today on a misdemeanor charge of carrying a pistol without a license.

Police say they found the gun after approaching a vehicle in a parking lot because they could smell marijuana smoke coming out of it. According to police, Williams admitted that the gun is his. Another person in the car, not a football player, claimed responsibility for the marijuana.

Williams had 10.5 sacks last season and emerged as one of the best pass rushers in the country. He decided to return to Alabama for his senior season this year even though he said he was told he would have been a late first or early second-round pick if he had entered the 2016 draft. So far this season he has 1.5 sacks.

After he was released on $300 bond, Williams posted on Twitter, “Thank god a mistake worth learning from.”

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Carson Wentz wins rookie of the month honors

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback  Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles is seen on the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field on September 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

One month ago, the Eagles expected to keep quarterback Carson Wentz on the bench at least for September, if not longer. Then, Teddy Bridgewater suffered a knee injury, the Vikings traded for Sam Bradford, and Wentz became the starter.

He has made more than the most out of his opportunities, leading the Eagles to a 3-0 record and winning the NFL’s offensive rookie of the month award for September.

Wentz has thrown 102 passes without an interception, and he’s averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. His best game by far came against the Steelers, with a 74.2 completion percentage, 301 yards passing, and a passer rating of 125.9.

The Eagles traded up to draft Wentz, the player they hope will become their next franchise quarterback. The Browns have faced plenty of criticism after trading the pick that became Wentz, and the Rams have faced plenty of questions about the decision to trade up and take not Wentz but Jared Goff.

It’s still too early to declare Wentz the next Donovan McNabb in Philly, but Wentz has passed every test he has faced, with the only knock being a propensity to get knocked around a little too much.

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Deion Jones named September’s top defensive rookie

Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Deion Jones (45) intercepts a pass from New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, not pictured, and returns it for a touchdown, in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) AP

Linebacker Deion Jones played his college ball at LSU before being drafted by the Falcons in the second round of this year’s draft and the New Orleans native made the most of his homecoming last Monday night.

Jones picked off a Drew Brees pass and returned it for 90 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The play came with the Falcons up 38-25 and the Saints driving for a score that would have made for a tight game headed into the stretch. The Falcons went on to win 45-32 to move to 2-1 on the season.

Jones has also made 25 tackles in his first three games, which ranks at the top of all rookies in the league this season. All of that was enough to make Jones the choice as the NFL’s top defensive rookie for September.

Jones’ current teammates Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are the only other Falcons to be named a rookie of the month. Ryan was also named the NFC’s offensive player of the month on Thursday.

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Justin Tucker takes AFC special teamer of the month

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 25: Justin Tucker #9 of the Baltimore Ravens looks up after kicking the winning field goal in the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars during an NFL game on September 25, 2016 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida. The Ravens defeated the Jaguars 19-17. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker got a four-year contract extension in July and he spent the first month of the 2016 season showing why the Ravens wanted to keep him around.

Tucker has been named the AFC special teams player of the month after making every kick he took in Baltimore’s three wins. Tucker was 9-of-9 on field goals and 4-of-4 on extra points.

One of those field goals was a 53-yarder with 1:07 to play against the Jaguars in Week Three that lifted the Ravens to a 19-17 win over Jacksonville. His two field goals also loomed large in a 13-7 win over the Bills to open the season and he hit three as the Ravens came back from 20-0 down to beat the Browns in Week Two.

It’s the third time in his career that Tucker has been honored as the conference’s top special teams player of the month. That suggests there’s a good chance he’ll win some more over the life of his new deal.

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Fletcher Cox named NFC defensive player of the month

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: Fletcher Cox #91 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on prior to the game against the Cleveland Browns at Lincoln Financial Field on September 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

Von Miller isn’t the only player to cash in this offseason, then continue to pay dividends for his team.

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was named NFC defensive player of the month, for being one of the non-Carson Wentz reasons his team has gotten off to a 3-0 start.

Cox has three sacks and a forced fumble, but his contributions go beyond the simple counting stats.

He’s the centerpiece of new coordinator Jim Schwartz’s defense, and by being back in a 4-3 defense, has the ability to collapse pockets and make the jobs of other players easier. The Eagles lead the league in scoring defense, having given up just 27 points in three games.

The Eagles gave him a seven-year, $110.79 million contract this offseason, on the heels of a 9.5-sack season in 2015.

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Dez Bryant could be out three weeks

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn’t rule out receiver Dez Bryant for Sunday’s game at San Francisco. Then again, Garrett didn’t initially rule out quarterback Tony Romo for Week One, even though he had a broken back.

But Bryant, like Romo, likely will be out for the Week Four game against the 49ers. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Bryant could miss up to three weeks with a hairline fracture in his knee.

With Romo and likely Bryant out for Sunday, that’s bad news for the Cowboys. As noted by Gil Brandt of NFL.com, the Cowboys are 0-6 since 2014 when they don’t have Romo or Bryant.

In other words, it’s a great opportunity for quarterback Dak Prescott to show that he deserves to be the team’s starter, regardless of whether Romo is healthy.

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Von Miller named AFC defensive player of the month

FILE- In this Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, file photo, Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller celebrates after a win over the Indianapolis Colts in an NFL football game in Denver.  The Broncos' star pass rusher has four sacks already, including the game-sealing strip of Andrew Luck that was reminiscent of his mammoth hits in the Super Bowl when he snatched the football and the Lombardi Trophy from Cam Newton's grasp. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney, File) AP

It might not be a Super Bowl MVP or a giant contract, but Von Miller keeps stacking up the honors.

The Broncos outside linebacker was named AFC defensive player of the month, after another strong start to the season.

Miller has a league-high five sacks in the Broncos’ first three games.

But four of those sacks have come in fourth quarters, adding to his reputation as a game-changer.

Of course, that was pretty well established already, and the reason the Broncos gave him a six-year, $114.5 million contract this offseason.

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Matt Ryan named NFC offensive player of the month

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 23: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons runs out on the field prior to the game against the Cleveland Browns at Georgia Dome on November 23, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are still questions about whether the Falcons have enough defense to contend in the NFC South.

But their offense is back on track, thanks to quarterback Matt Ryan.

Ryan was named NFC offensive player of the month for September, a strong bounce-back month for a team that collapsed after a 5-0 start in 2015.

Ryan completed 73-of-103 passes in September, for 970 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception. His 119.0 rating is highest among all NFC quarterbacks.

Things will get tougher for them as they host the Panthers this weekend, but Ryan has been on a bit of a roll leading the Falcons to back-to-back wins over the Raiders and Saints.

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Myles Jack is a bench warmer, but Jaguars say that will change

FILE - In this June 14, 2016, file photo, Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack (44) looks around during a drill at NFL football minicamp practice, in Jacksonville, Fla. Jack is among several first-round picks, not including quarterbacks, that are intriguing potential impact players for their new teams.  (AP Photo/Gary McCullough, File) AP

One of the many disappointments of the first three games of this season in Jacksonville is rookie linebacker Myles Jack.

Jack, a star at UCLA who was selected in the second round of this year’s draft, has barely played: He has been on the field for only 16 plays on defense, all late in the Jaguars’ blowout loss to the Chargers. He has also played on special teams, but he hasn’t contributed the way he was expected to contribute.

Still, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley says the team is not disappointed and expects Jack to make an impact this season.

He’s getting better and we’re putting a lot on his plate,” Bradley said, via the Florida Times-Union. “I would say the last two weeks he has really grown. He’s really grown as far as being in shape and handling all the duties that we are asking of him.”

Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said the Jaguars had been working Jack at middle and weakside linebacker but could put him at strongside linebacker just to get him on the field.

“He understands that those guys in front of him are playing well, but we’ve got to find a way to get him on the grass,” Wash said. “I don’t think anything’s top secret. I just think there are other positions he can play on our defense.”

Jack will surely contribute to the Jaguars’ defense at some point, but it has to be disappointing that he hasn’t been able to yet.

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LeGarrette Blount named AFC offensive player of the month

New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount rushes for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) AP

In August, there was some reason to wonder if LeGarrette Blount was even going to make the Patriots’ roster.

Today, it’s hard to imagine where they’d be without him.

The veteran running back was named AFC offensive player of the month for September, a reward for the league’s leading rusher.

Blount has topped 100 yards the last two games, helping to fill in the cracks for a team playing without its starting quarterback (Tom Brady) and with an injured backup (Jimmy Garoppolo). His work’s a lot of the reason they can play a rookie (Jacoby Brissett) on a short week’s preparation and still be 3-0.

He has 75 carries for 295 yards and four touchdowns so far this season.

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Osweiler: J.J. Watt absence changes nothing for offense

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 11: Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans calls an audible against the Chicago Bears in the second half at NRG Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Texans won 23 to 14. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

With Texans defensive end J.J. Watt on injured reserve and gone for at least eight weeks, the obvious reaction has become that the team’s offense needs to do more. The new leader of the Houston offense doesn’t necessarily agree with that.

“I don’t think anything changes offensively now that the news of J.J. going on IR has come out,” Brock Osweiler told reporters on Wednesday. “Bottom line, we need to score points. We need to score a lot of them. We knew that whether he was put on IR or not. There’s been a great focus on that. I think Monday in practice we came out, we had a really good day. I think today was a little bit better and I hope that the rest of the week keeps getting better and better because we know we need to do our part offensively. I think the defense has done a tremendous job this year through the first three games. Now it’s time for the offense to step up as a unit, finish drives, score points, protect the football and do our part of the deal.”

He’s right; the offense needs to keep doing what it’s been doing. If it tries to do even more, it just won’t work, in the same way it didn’t work last Thursday.

That shutout loss to the Patriots was only Osweiler’s 10th career start. Osweiler addressed the question of whether his big-picture lack of experience should be a factor in the assessment of his performance.

“I don’t think — in fact, I know for a fact — I don’t use my lack of starts as an excuse for anything,” Osweiler said. “I expect myself to play at an extremely high level. I have great confidence in my abilities and what I can do and I have great confidence in the teammates around me to help me do my job. I’m never going to use my lack of starts for an excuse or say ‘I’ll figure it out eventually’ or anything like that. Bottom line, I expect to play at an extremely high level and an extremely high level right now.”

The Texans will need it. An impaired defense puts more pressure on an offense, giving the offense less desirable field position and fewer turnovers.

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Vontaze Burfict raring to go on Thursday night

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 09:  Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals reacts in the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said after last Sunday’s loss to the Broncos that part of the reason that the team is not panicking about a 1-2 start is that tight end Tyler Eifert and linebacker Vontaze Burfict are returning to the lineup.

It looks like the wait for Eifert will extend at least another week after he was listed as doubtful to play against the Dolphins on Thursday night, but the wait for Burfict is coming to an end.

On Sirius XM NFL Radio Thursday morning, coach Marvin Lewis said that Burfict is “raring to go” after serving a three-game suspension and will be in the lineup against Miami. Lewis said he wasn’t sure how much Burfict will play after three weeks off and a short week leading into this game, but that he “raises the level” of everyone on the team so they’ll probably be looking for as many spots to get him in as they can.

When Burfict is in the game, people will be paying close attention to how he conducts himself after serving a suspension for a series of hits that the league felt violated the rules governing player safety. Should Burfict not be able to avoid those hits, a longer suspension and the Bengals will have to think about looking elsewhere for a player who can raise their level without crossing the line.

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After argument with mechanic, Mike Tolbert pays tab in change

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 03:  Mike Tolbert #35 of the Carolina Panthers is introduced during their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert felt like he was being shortchanged by a local auto shop.

So when he paid them, he did it in change.

According to David Newton of ESPN.com, Tolbert resolved a squabble with a mechanic by paying his $3,900 bill in coins.

“They was upset,” Tolbert said. “If you had to count basically four grand in coins you’d be upset too, but they got what they asked for.”

The situation began with a dispute over some work Tolbert wanted done on a classic car. He and Motion Lab Tuning went back and forth at each other on social media, with Tolbert claiming he was quoted a 10-day repair and a certain price, only to be billed a higher amount two months later when the work wasn’t completed. He referred to them as “crooks” on his Instagram account.

That caused the shop to reply on Facebook, saying Tolbert wanted them to do the work for free, calling him “a real scumbag that doesn’t want to pay his bills.”

Tolbert said he initially tried to write a check, but the owner wouldn’t accept it.

“So what kind of respectable establishment won’t take a check?” Tolbert said. “They said they won’t take my check, it wasn’t going to clear the bank. I was like, ‘Whew! You’re throwing shots. So I’ve got one for you.’

“So I went to the bank and got $3,900 in coins. It was pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters … everything. I didn’t care one bit. I took a truck load of it and put it right there where he wanted it, and got my truck towed back to my buddy’s shop.”

The moral of the story is: Don’t nickel-and-dime Mike Tolbert, unless you want the same kind of treatment in return.

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Chargers left tackle King Dunlap has migraine, not concussion

kingdunlap AP

Chargers coach Mike McCoy knew what it sounded like, so he acted quickly to head off any speculation.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Chargers left tackle King Dunlap’s absence from practice was described as his “being treated for migraines.”

This is not linked to concussions,” McCoy said. “It’s migraines.”

The question was reasonable, as Dunlap has some history of head injuries (at least four documented since 2012).

He was a late scratch last week against the Colts with what the team termed “an illness,” after being on and off the practice field, which raised questions about his status. The Chargers termed him day-to-day last week.

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