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Tom Lewand wants more production from Lions draft picks

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The Lions and defensive end Cliff Avril could be headed for a parting of the ways next month, an indication of how hard it can be to keep all your veteran starters on a team in our current football age.

Surviving those departures and continuing to be a successful team requires a constant influx of young, cheap talent via the draft. The Lions have had a few hits in the last three years, but their recent drafts have been studded with far too many choices that have failed to meet expectations. Lions president Tom Lewand said that has to be different for this year’s draft class and that some of the holdovers from previous years need to take on larger roles as well.

“When you talk about building a team through the draft, those draft choices have to continue to develop as players,” Lewand said, via the team’s website. “We’ve seen some of that … and we certainly need to see more and more as we move forward both with last year’s class, the 2011 class and this year’s class. Rookies come in and contribute right away in this league and this year will be no exception.”

The reasons for disappointment have ranged from injuries (Jahvid Best, Bill Bentley, Ryan Broyles, Mikel Leshoure) and bad behavior (Nick Fairly, Titus Young, Leshoure) to on-field struggles (Amari Spievey, Leshoure). Even Ndamukong Suh’s first three years have been a bit less than the Lions probably hoped for when they selected him with the second overall pick in 2010. That doesn’t look great for General Manager Martin Mayhew’s ability to select talent or coach Jim Schwartz’s ability to manage and develop it.

Drafting players like Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew and Avril helped the Lions go from 0-16 to 10-6 over three years. They’ll need similar success to right the ship after a 4-12 season in 2012 or someone else is going to be doing the picking in Detroit.

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Ahtyba Rubin may need ankle surgery

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The Browns have had a hard time stopping the run all season, including last Sunday when former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson went over 100 yards while helping the Jaguars to their first win of the season.

It hasn’t helped that they’ve been missing nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin for the last couple of weeks and their chances of getting him back for this week’s game aren’t looking great. Rubin is headed for another opinion on his injured ankle and coach Mike Pettine suggested that Rubin might need surgery before he can return to the lineup.

“We did get another opinion,” Pettine said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “We’re just awaiting word back on it. I haven’t heard [surgery] brought up yet, but I’m assuming that could be the case.”

The Browns are also playing without defensive end Phil Taylor, who is recovering from knee surgery and is expected to miss a third straight game this week. The Browns are down two starters with Rubin and Taylor out of the lineup, although Oakland’s past performances this season suggest that they might not be able to take full advantage of the missing pieces.

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Reggie Bush says he’s good to go this week

Rafael Bush, Reggie Bush AP

The Lions have had two key offensive players dealing with ankle injuries recently and they got little help from either of them as they came back to beat the Saints in the second half last Sunday.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson never suited up for the game and running back Reggie Bush was mostly relegated to the sideline after returning to the lineup from a week off against the Vikings. Bush played in the first half, but Joique Bell got most of the work down the stretch because Bush’s ankle was bothering him. Bush is adamant that he’ll be back in the lineup for Sunday’s matchup with the Falcons in London.

“I’m fine,” Bush said, via MLive.com. “I mean, I’m not 100 percent. But I haven’t been 100 percent since high school. Got rolled up on a few times and injured in the game. But I felt fine after the game, though. Didn’t have any setbacks, and that’s the most important thing. Looking to just continue to progress every week. I’ll be on the field Sunday.”

Bush had nine touches totaling 32 yards against the Saints and it has been several weeks since he’s given much of a boost to the Lions’ offensive attack. If the Falcons put up the kind of effort we’ve seen from them the last few weeks, Detroit might not need much from Bush to get a win and go on a bye that will give him and Johnson some extra time to get right before the second half of the season.

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Titans to promote running back Antonio Andrews

Titans AP

The Titans had an extra roster spot, created when tight end Brett Brackett on Monday.

So they’ve apparently decided to fill it by promoting one of their own.
According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean, the Titans plan to sign running back Antonio Andrews off their practice squad.
Another team had shown interest in signing him, but he sent out word on Twitter this morning that he was “activated.”
The Titans are carrying five running backs at the moment, but Shonn Greene has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.
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ESPN confirms that Aldon Smith could be back early

Smith AP

More than a few eyebrows were raised on Sunday night when PFT reported that 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith could be back one or two games early on his nine-game suspension.

G.M. Trent Baalke quickly said he didn’t know anything about it.  On Monday, coach Jim Harbaugh said the same thing.  (Hey, at least Baalke and Harbaugh agree on something.)

On Monday night, Chris Mortensen of ESPN confirmed the PFT report.

Mortensen points out that the move wouldn’t be unprecedented, citing the reduction in Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s six-game suspension to four games in 2010.  But there’s a big difference in Smith’s case.  Roethlisberger — and the rest of the world — knew that his suspension could be reduced.  When Smith was suspended, the NFL said nothing publicly about a possible reduction.

With the 49ers currently on a bye, the NFL doesn’t need to say anything immediately.  Next Monday or Tuesday, the league could say that Smith will be back for the November 2 game against the Rams.  Or the following Monday or Tuesday, the league could say that Smith will be back for the November 9 game against the Saints.

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Reggie Wayne expected to miss a game or two with elbow

Reggie Wayne, Jayson DiManche AP

Apparently, the “adult beverage” wasn’t enough to take the edge off Reggie Wayne’s elbow.

According to Mike Chappell of RTV6 in Indianapolis, the Colts wide receiver is expected to miss a game or two because of an elbow injury suffered early in Sunday’s win over the Bengals.

He fell after a play, bracing himself with his left arm as he fell. He had an MRI yesterday, but no results were announced.

Wayne suggested he wasn’t that concerned after the game.

“I’m good now,” he said. “I just kind of fell on it, fell on my arm. Go home, have an adult beverage and see how it feels in the morning.”

The veteran receiver’s numbers have been down in recent weeks (eight catches for 50 yards the last two games), but he was playing well prior to that (14 for 196 against the Titans and Ravens), an impressive comeback for a 35-year-old who tore his ACL last year.

But if he’s not back for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh, Hakeem Nicks will have to take on a bigger role.

 

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Broncos elevate Kapri Bibbs from practice squad

Kapri Bibbs, Caesar Rayford AP

The Broncos won’t have running back Montee Ball back for Thursday’s game against the Chargers and their backfield will have a different look than it has in the past two games without Ball.

Denver signed running back Kapri Bibbs off of their practice squad and he’ll join Ronnie Hillman, Juwan Thompson and C.J. Anderson at the position. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett was waived to make room for Bibbs on the active roster.

Bibbs signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in the offseason and ran for 84 yards and three touchdowns on 19 preseason carries. Bibbs played his college ball at nearby Colorado State, where he ran for 30 touchdowns in 2013. Ball and Barry Sanders are the only other players to pull off that feat at the highest level of NCAA football.

That scoring touch may have caught the eye of other teams and led the Broncos to promote Bibbs before someone could sign him away. Mike Klis of the Denver Post reports that other teams had expressed interest in doing just that.

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Kyle Long says he shouldn’t blame fans, blames media instead

Matt Forte, Kyle Long AP

Given some time to stretch, Bears guard Kyle Long was able to reach all the way up to take the foot out of his mouth.

After blaming Bears fans (Yep, it was their fault) in the aftermath of Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, Long came back Monday and told WXRT-FM that “it was wrong for me to point fingers at the fans.”

“I just think [reporters] had asked everybody in the locker room how they felt about [fans booing], and a lot of the guys didn’t take the bait,” Long said, via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “Obviously emotions are running high after a game. Obviously if we were giving them something to cheer about there would be a lot more cheers coming off the field at halftime. Hopefully the score would be a little bit closer as well.

That falls on our shoulders. It’s unfair to put it on the fans. There was a lot of frustration after the game. You work hard all week. You’re trying to string some wins together. You’re at home. You feel like you’re riding some momentum, and to be down 14-0 going into the half, it’s tough. It’s tough on everybody.”

So it’s not solely the fans’ fault. The media is partly to blame too. They must get tired, what with making concussion symptoms linger and now this.

At least Long realized that antagonizing the paying customers wasn’t the right call for a 3-4 team that’s slipping out of contention for the NFC North title.

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Bucs expected to sign Trindon Holliday

Trindon Holliday AP

The Buccaneers worked out kick returner Trindon Holliday on Monday and things appear to have gone well.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the team plans to sign the veteran returner to their 53-man roster. Holliday signed with the Giants in the offseason, but he came down with a hamstring injury in the summer and landed on injured reserve. The Giants released Holliday from injured reserve earlier this month, leaving him free to sign anywhere.

Holliday scored four times for the Broncos over the last two seasons — twice on kickoff returns and twice on punt returns — but also fumbled 10 times, which makes him pretty much the definition of a boom or bust return option. The Bucs will naturally be hoping for more boom, especially with Holliday offering nothing but return work to his team.

There’s no word on a corresponding move, but it’s probably not great news for current Bucs returner Solomon Patton that the team is looking for a new player at his position.

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NFL begins to take temperature of L.A. market

LA AP

Amid plenty of reports and rumors and speculation about the looming relocation of the Rams, Raiders, or Chargers to Los Angeles, the NFL has begun actively exploring what folks in L.A. want from a new stadium.

According to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, the NFL will launch a formal assessment of the market.  Specifically, questionnaires will be sent via email to roughly 2,000 potential customers.  The goal will be to gauge the overall demand for an NFL team, along with the expectations regarding stadium, seating, and stadium amenities.

While the potential return of the NFL has been discussed ever since the Raiders and Rams left 20 years ago, Farmer reports that this is the first time since the 1990s that the NFL has comprehensively surveyed citizens in the L.A. market.

Farmer explains that the survey targets folks likely to buy luxury suites, club seats, and season tickets.  One of the best arguments in favor of a return to L.A. comes from the size of the market.  The more people there are, the more likely it is that enough people will buy all of the tickets and club seats and suites on a regular basis.

It makes sense to do some work to confirm that, since it would be embarrassing, to say the least, if the NFL’s return is met with fans disguised as plastic chairs sans butts in them.

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Jason Pierre-Paul: Don’t count us out yet

Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants have lost their last two games in fairly convincing fashion, but that’s not shaking defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s confidence in what the team can achieve this season.

Pierre-Paul has looked at the Giants’ schedule — they host the Colts, travel to Seattle and then return home for the 49ers and Cowboys — when they return from this week’s bye and thinks the team can handle whatever those teams and the others still to come will throw their way.

“Let’s win all nine games. I think we can do it,” Pierre-Paul said, via the New York Daily News. “We just have to believe. There’s a lot of football to be played. Don’t count us out yet.”

A nine-game winning streak probably isn’t in the cards, even with Pierre-Paul playing at a level similar to his 2011 breakout season, but it is hard to know just what the Giants will do over the second half. They were abysmal to open the year, but then looked like they were rounding into form during a three-game winning streak before taking backward steps the last two weeks. If they can iron some things out during the bye week and get back to the way they were playing during the winning streak, being in contention down the stretch doesn’t feel like a major stretch.

Those next four games are tough, though, and it’s not any more of a stretch to think they’ll remain a work in progress until it’s too late to find a path into the playoffs.

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A.J. Green says his status is still “up in the air”

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Last week, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis described the status of A.J. Green as “up in the air.”  While Lewis expressed more optimism on Monday, Green has repeated the same assessment provided previously by Lewis.

“It’s still up in the air,” Green told NFL Network on Tuesday morning, “but it definitely feels better.  We’ll see about this week.”

One thing we won’t see is a fully healthy A.J. Green until 2015, at the earliest.

“It’s probably not gonna be 100 percent, but I hope it’s just manageable,” Green said.  “I can get through the season and play at a high level.”

So what about this weekend, against the Ravens?

“I hope so, man.  It’s still up in the air, and we’ll see,” Green said.

The Bengals need him.  After starting 3-0, the Bengals are 0-2-1.

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Sean Payton: Drew Brees is the least of our worries

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Saints quarterback Drew Brees said that he felt like he let the team down last Sunday when he threw a late interception that wound up setting the Lions up for their game-winning score.

It was part of a rough fourth quarter overall for Brees, who completed only three of the 14 passes he tried in the final 15 minutes of a game that the Saints led by 13 points before losing 24-23. When it comes to preparing for future opponents, though, coach Sean Payton’s concerns will be about other spots on the roster.

“I just finished talking with him, obviously he would want to have the one interception back,” Payton said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “But I felt like his decision making, rhythm — I felt like his week of preparation and how he played all during practice week was outstanding. He is going to be just fine. He is the least of our worries.”

Brees has thrown seven interceptions this year which amounts to 2.7 percent of his passes. That’s up from last year, but it is in line with career norms and not surprising given the need to throw a lot in order to keep up with the points being given up by the defense.

The Saints are scoring 25.8 points per game, which is essentially the same as what they scored while making the playoffs last season. They allowed 19 points per game in 2013, a number that has skyrocketed to 27.5 points per game this year. If you’re listing worries about the Saints, defensive ones are going to take up most of the top spots on the list.

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NFL may have two different personal conduct policies

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As the dust settles on Week Seven, the NFL still would like us to pardon its dust regarding the remodeling of the personal conduct policy.

Peter King of TheMMQB.com explained on Monday that, in the end, the NFL may have two different personal conduct policies:  One for players and one for everyone else.  King cites the reality that it make take longer to finalize the policy that applies to players.  That’s because the players, unlike everyone else in the league (except for game officials), are represented by a union.  Through the union, the players have collective bargaining rights, which the players are attempting to utilize as the conduct policy is revised.

King also says reports the non-player conduct policy would allow the league to place employees on paid administrative leave, in the event of “serious crimes.”  Of course, that’s what the league ultimately did with Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, and it’s surely what the league would like to be able to automatically do with all players accused of “serious crimes” going forward.

For players, however, the game is more than simply getting paid.  Peterson’s pursuit of the all-time rushing record, for example, has been derailed.  As to Hardy, who’ll surely be a free agent in March, he’s had his ability to showcase his talents in advance of March 2015 short-circuited.

Perhaps more importantly, keeping players away from work pending the resolution of criminal charges gives prosecutors more leverage, generally.  The Peterson case demonstrates the value of delay; while Peterson still has his freedom, he lacks the freedom to play football.  And that’s still a form of real punishment, regardless of whether the game checks are still being deposited in a bank account large enough to barely notice them.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen AP

The Bills will get a chance to see if their trade for RB Bryce Brown paid off.

The Dolphins have sowed optimism and distrust with their performances thus far.

DT Vince Wilfork continues to play a crucial role in the team’s defense.

LB Quinton Coples is expected to start for the Jets this week after his playing time dropped in Week Seven.

Ravens CB Lardarius Webb played every snap in last Sunday’s win.

Ten things that led to the Bengals losing 27-0 to the Colts.

C Alex Mack’s injury created a new challenge for the Browns offense.

Rookie WR Martavis Bryant sparked the Steelers’ deep passing game.

Said Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick of the team blowing a lead on Monday night, “It was miserable and just a terrible, terrible display of offensive football by us.”

Colts TE Dwayne Allen has continued to show improvement this season.

The Jaguars are losing a lot with LB Paul Posluszny out for the rest of the season.

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt was happy with S Michael Griffin’s ability to bounce back from mistakes against the Redskins.

Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have sparked the Broncos defense.

The Chiefs offense showed progress late in the win over the Chargers.

The Raiders are now using QB Matt Schaub as their holder.

Chargers LB Dwight Freeney will get his chance to sack Peyton Manning this week.

An efficient performance last Sunday has led to praise for Cowboys QB Tony Romo.

The talent on hand might not be enough to fix the Giants’ problems at the point of attack.

The Eagles are hopeful that LB Mychal Kendricks can return this week.

QB Colt McCoy got in a little hunting practice at Redskins headquarters.

Has the league figured out the Bears offense?

Lions coach Jim Caldwell likes his team’s fighting spirit.

The Packers broke a lot of tackles for the Panthers.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer lamented not calling a timeout before the Bills converted a 4th-and-20 on the way to their winning touchdown.

The Falcons haven’t found a way to consistently protect QB Matt Ryan.

The Panthers defense isn’t doing too much swarming these days.

Wednesday’s injury report should be a long one for the Saints.

The Buccaneers are feeling refreshed after their bye.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says his team is mostly healthy heading into Week Eight.

Last Sunday’s trickery fit right into Rams coach Jeff Fisher’s history.

Marcus Martin is the next man up at center for the 49ers.

It looks like the Seahawks will get CB Byron Maxwell back in the secondary.

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Jerry Jones loves coach Jason Garrett, but doesn’t want to talk contract yet

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Of all the potential free agents who bet on themselves going into a free agent year without a new deal, perhaps none have done better for themselves than Jason Garrett.

In the final year of his contract, the Cowboys head coach has his team off to a 6-1 start, which has everyone excited.

I don’t know that anybody has had a better, brighter vision of Jason’s future than I do,” owner Jerry Jones said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’ve always thought he had the potential to be a serious, consistent, winning coach in the NFL and still think that. … I’m just glad to see him have this kind of success.

“His players hang on every word, and they’re seeing what he’s preaching works. That’s an ideal set of circumstances for a coach that is looking for a big future in the NFL.”

Of course, Jones had less to say when asked about the specifics of a new deal for Garrett, noting the bulk of free agent deals coming upi including Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and more.

“I’m just not going to talk about it,” Jones said of a new deal for Garrett. “We’ve got so many contracts that we’re supposed to be needing to be talking about, now that things are going good. I’m not even going to begin to start anywhere. I’m just going to squat.

“I’ve got a lifetime of when it’s too much, just sit down and think about it.”

Garrett didn’t have much to add on the topic either.

“If you just keep trying to do things the right way, the results on the scoreboard will hopefully take care of itself,” he said. “And that’s just the way I think. That’s the way we try to help this team.”

“That was the last answer I’m going to have about my contract.”

At some point, it’s going to have to come up, unless they manage to go 8-8 again, in which case it might not.

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