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Cowboys haven’t ruled out using franchise tag

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and linebacker Anthony Spencer celebrate after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in their NFL football game in Arlington, Texas Reuters

In discussions about the chances of impending free agent Anthony Spencer remaining in Dallas, the focus is usually on a long-term deal for a player who would be moving to defensive end with the Cowboys next season.

After franchising Spencer last year, it would cost the Cowboys $10.6 million in salary and cap space to do it again this year and that’s a big number for a team that would need to pare about $30 million from their current cap number in order to fit Spencer in at that figure. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones says that the team isn’t ruling out the possibility of using the tag in the next couple of weeks, however.

“We have Plan A, B, C, D, E,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “Some of those plans include the franchise tag.”

Jones didn’t specifically mention Spencer, but there’s not much reason to suspect he means anyone else because there’s no other free agent on Dallas’ roster worthy of the franchise tag.

Any plan that includes a tag for Spencer would likely have to include an extension for Tony Romo and/or restructured contracts for DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten, in addition to the departure of some players whose salaries are bigger than their on-field contributions. If those things happen, the tag could come back into play and Spencer could make the transition to the 4-3 in Dallas.

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Charles Woodson hoping for first pick of Peyton Manning

Charles Woodson AP

Raiders safety Charles Woodson turns 39 on Wednesday and he knows exactly what he wants for his birthday.

During a Tuesday appearance on NFL Network, Woodson said that he would like to add Peyton Manning to the list of quarterbacks he’s intercepted during Sunday’s game against the Broncos. None of Woodson’s 62 career interceptions have come against Manning, who Woodson edged in voting for the 1997 Heisman Trophy.

“It would be great, man. He’s eluded me for 18 years,” Woodson said. “It would be great. It would be even better if we could come out with the victory. But it would be great to get my hands on one of Peyton’s balls.”

Given how well the Broncos defense is playing right now, the Raiders are going to need their defense to make plays if they’re going to hand Denver its first loss of the season. Given the way the Broncos offense has played, that seems like a realistic possibility even if it isn’t Woodson who winds up making them.

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Patriots kicker focusing on the positives in his profession

Stephen Gostkowski AP

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski doesn’t think we’re in the midst of a kicking crisis. If anything, he thinks we may be a little spoiled.

Gostkowski said that despite this weekend’s rash of misses, which led to a number of changes at the position, he doesn’t think the craft of kicking is suffering.

“I honestly don’t think of it that way,” he said, via Mike Reiss of “That’s just me personally. Obviously kicking is very mental and if you do struggle it is a little harder to go out there with confidence, but the good ones, if they miss they can bounce right back and make the next one. There are a lot of reasons why guys can miss — it isn’t always just black and white — but you just have to learn to move on from it. That’s just the approach I take. I’ve missed plenty of kicks before.

“I think the kickers have been so good the past couple years that it just looks different. There are still plenty of guys doing well, it’s just easier to point out the guys that miss.”

He specifically mentioned kickers such as Justin Tucker and Adam Vinatieri making crucial kicks late in games, and as he’s one of the better ones in the game, it’s reasonable to accept that he’s found a valid mental approach to his job.

He’s made 80-of-85 field goals since the start of 2013 season, and set the league record for consecutive points after with 425 earlier this season.

“I don’t over-think it any more,” he said. “I’ve been doing it too long to worry about what other people are doing. . . . I don’t concern myself with other guys, and try to compare or contrast or anything like that. I don’t root for guys to miss or anything like that. If I watch football, I just watch as a fan.”

And from his view, it’s not bad enough to panic about.

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Jim Schwartz opted not to join Dolphins

635617745753669656-DFP-0911-suh-schwart-1-1-41543TAH-L285156388 Getty Images

So why is Kevin Coyle still serving as the defensive coordinator of the Dolphins? Possibly because Jim Schwartz opted not to take the job.

During Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Jeff Darlington of NFL Media talked about the possibility of the former Lions coach and, more recently, Bills defensive coordinator joining the Dolphins in that capacity. Schwartz would have been an ideal choice, given that he coached defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh from 2010 through 2013.

After Suh signed with the Dolphins in March, Schwartz said there was no risk of a drop in play. “He certainly had the talent and the commitment to back up that contract,” Schwartz said at the time. “I don’t think there is a lot of risk for him having a decline in play.

But Schwartz declined to coach Suh again. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Dolphins “touched base” with Schwartz, and he “decided to stay where he is.” Schwartz currently is serving as a consultant for the league’s officiating department.

It’s unclear whether the current role diminishes his buyout from the Bills, who let him go after only one season of running the team’s defense. Taking the job in Miami definitely would have chewed directly into the money he’s getting through the end of his Buffalo contract, which means he would have been working for free in South Florida.

Schwartz and Dolphins executive V.P. of football operations Mike Tannenbaum worked together nearly for free in Cleveland in the ’90s, and they actually were roommates for a short time. That connection wasn’t strong enough to lure Schwartz to Miami, where he may have had an opportunity to demonstrate through on-the-job performance that he should be considered for the full-time position come 2016.

Schwartz saying “no thanks,” then, may have been good news for interim coach Dan Campbell, who surely hopes to do enough to shed the “interim” label. It definitely was good news for Coyle, who likely would have been shed from the organization if Schwartz had agreed to join the team.

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Report: Al Saunders joining Dolphins as consultant

Al Saunders AP

Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell didn’t pull the plug on defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle on Tuesday, but there are some changes coming to the Dolphins staff on the offensive side of the ball.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that onetime Chargers head coach and longtime NFL offensive assistant Al Saunders will be joining the team as a consultant. Saunders, who was most recently a senior offensive assistant with the Raiders, has a history with Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.

When Saunders was the offensive coordinator of the Redskins under Joe Gibbs in 2006 and 2007, Lazor was the team’s quarterbacks coach. The Dolphins hope that reuniting the two and tapping into Saunders’s vast experience can light a fire under an offense that ranks 30th in the league in points scored after the first four weeks of the season.

Breer also reports that the Dolphins will move assistant quarterbacks coach Ben Johnson to work with the tight ends, which was Campbell’s job before he got bumped up this week. They’ll also reportedly reassign wide receivers coach Ken O’Keefe as part of the first ripple effects to follow Joe Philbin’s ouster.

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Darren Sproles: Facing Saints “just another week”

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When the Saints beat the Eagles in the playoffs after the 2013 season, running back Darren Sproles and safety Malcolm Jenkins both made a strong impression on the Eagles.

By the time the 2014 season started, both players were members of the Eagles and they’ll face their former team for the first time this weekend. Although Sproles wasn’t happy with the way things came to an end in New Orleans, he said Tuesday that he’s approaching the game as “just another week.” Jenkins expressed a similar sentiment.

“I try not to make it personal,” Jenkins said, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I’m not the first player to get let go by a team. And I won’t be the last.”

Jenkins said he thought he might benefit from knowing some of New Orleans’s offensive tendencies, although he admitted that could be mitigated by the Saints’ knowledge of his own strengths and weaknesses. However the past relationships wind up impacting the game, the fact that both teams are 1-3 in a season that started with much higher expectations should provide all that’s needed in the motivation department.

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Caldwell tells Lions not to talk about bad call

Jim Caldwell AP

Lions coach Jim Caldwell says his team is done talking about the bad call that went against them on Monday night in Seattle.

“I’m going to tell them not to talk about it,” Caldwell said on Tuesday. “We can’t be hanging on something that happened a night ago that we can do nothing about.”

Caldwell said he saw the illegally batted ball as it happened, but once the officials failed to throw a flag he was done worrying about it.

“You can take that situation and drag it out through the week where your players are more focused in on that particular play than on the opposition that we have to face in just a few days,” Caldwell said. “You can act, ‘Woe is me, that’s a bad call, that went against us,’ and look at all those kinds of things. That’ll distract you and you’ll get your ears kicked in come Sunday afternoon.”

The 0-4 Lions are the only winless team in the NFL and have a tough test on Sunday against the Cardinals. Caldwell knows that worrying about the last game instead of focusing on the next game is a good way to fall to 0-5.

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Roethlisberger in “quite a bit of pain,” taking it a week at a time

Ben Roethlisberger, John Harbaugh AP

There’s no date set for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to make his return from a sprained MCL and bone bruise in his knee yet.

A report from Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports had Roethlisberger “on target” to return to action on October 25 against the Chiefs, which would be four weeks from when he suffered the injury in a game against the Rams. On Tuesday, however, Roethlisberger said that target date didn’t come from him and that there’s been no timetable set for a return beyond the decision that he’s not playing this week.

“What we’re trying not to do is put a time on it and just go week-by-week,” Roethlisberger said on 93.7 The Fan. “Basically say, ‘I’m out this week, we’ll reevaluate it next week and see if and what I can do.’ To me, that’s the better way and maybe the more optimistic way to look at it. Rather than put a number on it, lets just take it one week at a time.”

Roethlisberger said his doctor was pleased with the progress he’s made since getting hurt, although there’s still healing to do before he’s going to have any thoughts of getting back on the field.

“There’s still quite a bit of pain from the bone bruise,” Roethlisberger said. “The MCL isn’t super painful. I feel it when I walk at times, but the problem is if I walk without a brace … when you kick your leg forward as if you’re just walking, it feels like your leg is just kind of flopping.”

The Steelers are in San Diego on Monday night and Michael Vick will again get the start at quarterback.

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Jaguars owner Shad Khan hints at “Plan C” for Los Angeles

Shad Khan AP

Whatever the NFL decides to do about the two-decades-and-counting Los Angeles situation, it’s clear they want to do it soon.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have time for a last-minute wrinkle.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, one owner suggested there’s still time for some outside-the-box thinking, at a time when most are only considering how to chop Los Angeles and three existing markets up among the Chargers and/or Raiders and/or Rams.

“The best solution might be something that’s not even presented,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said. “There might be Plan C.”

Khan did say he thought the league could still end up with a team in Los Angeles in 2016. But with negotiations ongoing, and talk of international games at an all-time high, it’s clear that if there’s leverage to be played, now’s the time to play it.

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Greg Hardy’s ready to come out “guns blazin'” after suspension

Greg Hardy AP

Greg Hardy hasn’t played a game in more than a year, and hasn’t played two games in a row since the end of 2013. But he’s not going to get a chance to ease into it, with a game against the Patriots Sunday and the Cowboys needing the free agent defensive end to play well immediately.

“I hope not,” Hardy said of needing time to adapt, via Todd Archer of “I hope I come out guns blazin’. I’m full of excitement and full of juice. I’m ready to go. I have what they call fresh legs. I’m really excited to get out there on that grass or turf and see what they can do.”

Ah, “guns blazin.'” A charming choice of words for a guy who had to surrender nine assault-type rifles and shotguns to police following the domestic violence arrest which included charges of threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend and throwing her into a futon full of said guns. That led him to spend all but one game of last season on the commissioner’s exempt list, followed by a 10-game suspension this year which was reduced to four. The criminal charges were thrown out when the accuser didn’t show for court, following a civil settlement.

But Hardy was nonetheless stained by the ordeal, and said he was glad the Cowboys offered him a chance.

“It’s been the most awesome period of my life, man. I’m a Dallas Cowboy,” Hardy said. “Dream come true. Big star on my helmet. Jerry Jones up there, checking me out every week. I’m ecstatic, happy and elated.”

There was very little sign of contrition from Hardy, who only apologized for not being eligible to play.

“In the last few seasons, man, honestly, it’s been a blur just getting ready to come back,” Hardy said. “And now that I’m back, I don’t reminisce. I don’t look back, other than to know that I need to get forward, I need to get to progress and I need to get to sacks, and I need to get to the place where I need to be to help this team. That’s where we’re at right now.. . .

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be here for my teammates. The worst feeling in the world is not being there for somebody you care about or somebody that needs you. That’s what we need, a full team, and everybody pulling their load. And that’s what I’m going to do when I come back.”

When he’s been eligible, he’s been an incredible pass-rusher, with 15.0 sacks in 2013. But he’s also been a guy beset by bad judgment in the past, from a pre-training camp motorcycle wreck in Carolina, to turning his Bentley into a submarine shortly upon his arrival in Dallas.

And if he has any remorse for his actions, it only pertains to not being able to play as much football or make as much money as he could have.

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Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle not fired, yet

Kevin Coyle

During his opening press conference as Dolphins interim head coach, Dan Campbell said he wasn’t ready to talk about possible staff changes. Then came a report that he was expected to make his decision on embattled defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle yesterday.

Well, yesterday passed, and Coyle still has a job, though it might be tenuous.

According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, Campbell told Coyle “that he isn’t making staff changes right now.”

Breer described the situation as “fluid,” but the reality is, the logistics of the week make it hard to fire him yet. The Dolphins have a bye week following their London trip, but players are back at the facility today for practice.

So Campbell either isn’t going to fire Coyle, or hasn’t lined up a suitable replacement at the moment and is stuck with him, or just wants to keep him. But after his impassioned introductory presser, it’s clear he wants to see changes, so perhaps he’s going to evaluate today’s practice to see what he needs to do next.

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Lucas Oil Stadium blames decision to bar female reporters from locker room on security guard

Carroll O'Connor (1924-2001), US actor, wearing a brown hat with a dark blue band and a beige jacket, and holding a cigar, in a studio portrait, against a red background, issued as publicity for the US television series, 'All in the Family', USA, circa 1975. The sitcom starred O'Connor as 'Archie Bunker'. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s been a rough year for Lucas Oil Stadium. Sure, the rafters got a new banner. But customers were injured at Lucas Oil Stadium by falling debris in the preseason, and now Lucas Oil Stadium has found itself in the middle of a controversy better suited to the days of Archie Bunker.

On Monday, MDS pointed out that three female reporters had been temporarily prevented from entering a locker room at Lucas Oil Stadium after the game between the Jaguars and the Colts. PFT requested comment from the NFL and from the Colts, but no response ever was received.

Late Monday afternoon, a comment was issued to the Indianapolis Star — not from the NFL, the Colts, or the Jaguars, but from Lucas Oil Stadium.

“Regarding the incident last night outside the Jaguars locker room, the security guard acted mistakenly on his own accord and not at the direction of Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts, or the Jaguars,” Lucas Oil Stadium Director Michael A. Fox said. “We have taken steps to assure such a misunderstanding will not happen again and apologize for the inconvenience to the reporters involved.”

So what was the mistake by the security officer? He mistakenly thought that only men could enter? He mistakenly thought that the women hadn’t been issued credentials? He mistakenly believed it was 1963? (Maybe at Lucas Oil it still is 1963, based on the controversy that emerged one year to the day prior to Sunday’s incident.)

An apology from Lucas Oil Stadium seems hollow and insufficient. Likewise, the situation didn’t receive nearly the attention it deserved, lost in the reaction to a Sunday of games and then the aftermath of the NFL’s latest officiating blunder. The Colts, the Jaguars, and the NFL should each issue statements denouncing the actions of Lucas Oil Stadium personnel. Don’t count on that happening; the league surely realizes that generating press releases at this point would only make the incident into a much bigger story.

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National Car Rental signs naming rights deal for proposed St. Louis stadium

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The city of St. Louis is pushing hard to keep the Rams in town despite owner Stan Kroenke’s desire to move them to Southern California.

Ahead of a possibly pivotal league meeting on the subject on Wednesday, the city of St. Louis has added a new wrinkle in their push to keep the Rams playing under the shadow of the Gateway Arch.

According to Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal, National Car Rental has agreed to a naming rights deal for the proposed stadium that would replace the Edward Jones Dome as home of the Rams.

The deal is worth $158 million over 20 years.

The agreement was reached with the St. Louis Regional Sports Authority, the entity that would own the stadium. Unsurprisingly, the Rams were not involved as Kroenke wants the team Inglewood, Calif. instead.

The St. Louis stadium task force helped broker the deal.

St. Louis certainly seems to have the best plan in place for a new stadium of any of the three cities with teams chasing Los Angeles. It would seem to reason that having a realistic stadium plan in place could help convince the league to deny a move of the Rams out of St. Louis. Having a naming sponsor already lined up certainly can’t hurt in that endeavor.

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L.A. deal between Rams, Chargers could be brokered

Dean Spanos, Mark Davis AP

With Chargers owner Dean Spanos definitely having the nine votes needed to keep Rams owner Stan Kroenke out of L.A. and Kroenke likely having the nine votes needed to keep Spanos out of L.A., the future of the NFL in Los Angeles could hinge on the ability of Spanos and Kroenke to work something out.

Via Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego from the quarterly league meetings in New York, some owners believe a deal can be struck between Kroenke and Spanos regarding which team(s) will move to L.A.

Some owners actively oppose Kroenke’s desire to move the Rams, believing that Spanos has tried long enough to get a new stadium in San Diego, and that St. Louis is on the verge of crafting a viable stadium proposal to keep the Rams. But if at least nine owners feel strongly enough about Kroenke getting the L.A. market to vote against the Chargers, the situation will remain at impasse, with both teams in limbo.

A brokered deal would hinge, as many such arrangements do, on money and/or other considerations. With each owner able to block the other from moving, one owner needs to persuade the other owner to drop his opposition. In addition, then, to the relocation fee that would be paid to the league generally, the owner who moves to L.A. may have to make a large, separate payment to the one who doesn’t.

Likewise, the arrangement could include other terms. For example, if Spanos accepts that the Chargers will stay in San Diego and the Rams will move to L.A., the league could agree that only one team would be in L.A. Likewise, the league could agree to devote extra resources to the construction of a stadium in St. Louis to persuade Kroenke to stay there.

It’s becoming more and more clear that something will happen, sooner than later. While a one-year delay is possible (and some think Kroenke is pushing that angle because he believes it raises his chances of prevailing), Acee reports that Steelers owner Art Rooney II said Tuesday, “I think we have a chance of getting something voted on by January.”

Lost in the shuffle are the Raiders. Officially partnered with the Chargers for a proposed stadium project in Carson, the Raiders have become an afterthought in the Rams-Chargers impasse. Some assume that, if Kroenke prevails, it means the Raiders and Chargers will move to L.A. and share a venue. Others believe that the Chargers could be the only team in the Carson facility.

There’s also a chance that the Rams and Chargers will agree to resolve their differences with by sharing a stadium at Kroenke’s Hollywood Park location. That would leave the Raiders in Oakland, or elsewhere.

Whatever happens, Raiders owner Mark Davis (pictured, with Spanos) seems satisfied — or at least oblivious.

“I’m a happy camper,” Davis said, via Acee. “Everything is going to work out.”

Yes, it will. And there’s a good chance that, however it works out, Davis will be left out of Los Angeles.

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Stedman Bailey fined for post-touchdown nap

St. Louis Rams v Arizona Cardinals AP

Anyone who saw the highlight knew this was coming.

Rams receiver Stedman Bailey caught a touchdown pass during Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, and he promptly hit the ground and pretended to be asleep, using the football as a pillow. Inevitably, Bailey has been fined.

“Ahhhhhh Fines suck!!!!! I meant no harm by what I did,” Bailey said on Twitter.

Whether he meant any harm doesn’t matter. Going to the ground (except in prayer) or using the football as a prop triggers a violation. In this case, Bailey did both.

Bailey should be happy that his conduct triggered only a fine. A flag should have been thrown, and the Rams should have been kicking off from their own 20 instead of from the 35. Which could have had a significant impact in what was at the time a 17-9 Rams lead.

But Bailey already knows that. Because he already has heard about it from his head coach.

“We’ll address it,” Jeff Fisher told reporters on Monday. “Probably should’ve been penalized, which would’ve hurt us. I say we will address it, but I’ve already addressed it. . . . He used the ball as a prop. It’s a foul. It’s a 15-yard penalty and you’re kicking off from the [20] yard line and that’s not part of what we do.”

It’s what Bailey did, but it didn’t hurt the Rams this time. Despite the somewhat defiant tweet, it’s safe to say Bailey won’t be doing it again.

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Lane Johnson says he’ll play: “We ain’t got nobody else”

Lane Johnson AP

Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson aggravated the sprained MCL in his right knee during last Sunday’s loss to the Redskins, but he plans to play this weekend vs. the Saints.

“We’re 1-3,” Johnson told reporters Tuesday. “We ain’t got nobody else.”

The Eagles are struggling to get the run game going, and Johnson isn’t the only offensive lineman dealing with injury issues. Matt Tobin replaced the injured Andrew Gardner at right guard but had to move to left tackle when Jason Peters was injured last Sunday. Gardner is out for the season, and the rest will be sorted out as the week progresses.

Johnson initially injured his knee in the preseason and is also playing on a sore ankle but said he can’t afford to rest until the team’s bye week with the Eagles looking to salvage their season.

“They’ve got pain killers for that,” he said of his pain tolerance.

Johnson has been a good player and a good quote — and he’s right when he says the Eagles need him.

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Another step? Gurley practices without knee brace

Todd Gurley, Deone Bucannon AP

Todd Gurley had his breakout game. Now, the Rams rookie back is looking to take the next step towards a full comeback from ACL surgery last November that ended his college career and delayed his NFL debut.

Two days after Gurley rushed for 146 yards in his second NFL game, Gurley practiced without the brace he’s been wearing on his left knee.

He told reporters he wants to test it this week in practice. The Rams held Gurley out of the preseason and the season’s first two games to bring the No. 10 pick in last year’s draft along cautiously; Gurley had surgery on his left knee last Nov. 25.

Last Sunday, he not only “exploded” but played the part of closer, running for more than 100 yards in the fourth quarter as the Rams finished an upset of the Cardinals. That there are still steps he needs to take is a scary thought for the rest of the NFC West.

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Belichick delivers a lecture when asked about NFL’s rules

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One of the biggest misconceptions about Patriots coach Bill Belichick is that he just grumbles one-word answers at his press conference. In reality, Belichick is one of the most articulate and insightful NFL coaches — at least when he’s asked about a topic he wants to discuss.

Today’s media session in New England was a good example of that. Belichick was asked about the missed call at the end of Monday night’s Lions’ Seahawks game, and although some might assume Belichick would answer with something along the lines of, “I’m focused on our own game on Sunday,” Belichick actually answered with a detailed, thoughtful response that lasted more than eight minutes.

“I think it’s a really good question, but it would entail probably a pretty lengthy answer,” Belichick began. “There are so many different levels that that question encompasses. Let’s start with rookies coming into the league. The first thing we do is teach them the rules in the National Football League and in particular make them aware of the changes between the college rules and the pro rules, which there are a significant number. And we don’t really assume because we have no way of knowing how educated or uneducated they are on the rules, if they even are the same between the two – between college and professional football. So, it starts there.”

Belichick then detailed how his players and his coaches learn the intricacies of the rules through offseason meetings with officials, question-and-answer sessions with representatives from the league office, and sessions with each position coach explaining the intricacies of the rules relevant to the players at each position.

“Obviously, the offensive guard doesn’t have to know everything about pass interference and vice versa, but it’s important for them to know the things in their position and how the game is being officiated. And then those things are also pointed out in various other team or individual settings as they become pertinent over the course of the year, whether it be a particular play or particular opponent or that type of thing. And then I talk to the team on a regular basis on situational plays, which involve officiating, timing, utilization of timeouts and so forth and so on, so that’s probably on a regular basis from training camp all the way through the end of the season – call it once a week or something like that – somewhere in that vicinity. Sometimes it’s more than that, but always trying to keep our team aware of situations, and a lot of times we change the situation a little bit just to extend the conversation about a play. So this is what happened, but if something else or if they hadn’t had timeouts or if the ball was here, or the ball was there, just try to understand and comprehend totally what we’re doing from a team standpoint or an individual situation. The whole sideline, ball security, whistle, all those kind of ball possession plays, those are very important for everybody to understand and we stress those a lot. Any time the ball is loose, like it was in last night’s game, try to make sure everybody understands what they can do, what they can’t do. And of course once you get into the kicking game, you can multiply everything that happens on offense and defense exponentially because you not only have the possession plays, but then you have all the plays that happen when the ball is kicked, and those rules sometimes are, well they are different than plays of possession like a runner or a receiver or a returner who’s carrying the ball. There is the whole handling of the ball and the kick and did it cross the line of scrimmage and so forth and so on. It’s a lot for the officials to understand, it’s a lot for the coaches to understand, and it’s a lot for the players to understand. But in the end we try to look at the rule book as a useful tool, something that can benefit us if we know what we have to work with, how to make the best of a situation based on the way the rules are written and try to maximize our opportunities there. But that being said, there is still a lot happening in a short amount of time. It’s challenging for all of us – players, coaches and officials. I don’t know if that really answers your question. We could probably talk about that one for weeks.”

Belichick certainly could.

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Russell Wilson, Alex Smith competing for chance at sack record

Russell Wilson AP

On Monday, MDS pointed out that Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been sacked 18 times this season. On Monday night, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson caught him, with six against the Lions.

Wilson has now been sacked 18 times through four games, putting him on pace for 72 — and putting both guys in position to challenge the all-time record of 76.

The bigger concern is a matter of basic physics. The more a quarterback is hit, the more likely he’s eventually going to be hurt. For Wilson, who does a great job of avoiding contact and properly absorbing it when running, getting banged around by guys he doesn’t see coming behind the line of scrimmage eventually could do harm that no amount of nanobubbles will quickly heal.

So if the offensive line isn’t going to do a better job of blocking, Wilson needs to get rid of the ball faster and/or to get out of the pocket quicker. Or he may not be on the field long enough to be sacked 76 times.

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ESPN producer on illegal bat: “We all missed it live”

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One of the odd aspects of the Seahawks winning Monday night’s game on a bad call is that ESPN made no mention of it on the air during the game. ESPN’s Monday Night Football producer says it was simply a matter of the ESPN crew not realizing it was a penalty in all the action surrounding the game-changing play.

Producer Jay Rothman said in a statement to PFT that they would have offered up extended replay angles and commentary if they had realized the Seahawks committed a penalty, but they didn’t realize it until after the game.

“Our immediate responsibility in the frenzy of the play was to provide definitive looks of the turnover,” Rothman said. “Due to the immediate and decisive call of a touchback by the Back Judge and Referee Tony Corrente, and no disputing of the call by the Lions, we had no signs of the illegal tip. We all missed it live. Clearly, had we caught it, we would have extended the looks of all angles. And had we done so, the booth would have clearly seen the illegal tip. Having said all of that, it would not have determined the outcome of the game, as currently an illegal tip is not reviewable.”

It’s a little surprising that Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and any producers in their ears didn’t catch the bad call because Tirico and Gruden are good at what they do, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football production is usually first-rate. You’d think one of them would have noticed the illegal bat. But people miss things. It happens.

What’s harder to understand is how Gerry Austin, the former NFL referee who sits in the booth with Tirico and Gruden, didn’t notice it. Austin’s entire job is to analyze officiating. This was one of the biggest calls of the NFL season, and Austin whiffed. Perhaps Austin is hesitant to point out blown calls because he knows how hard the job of being an NFL official is. But if that’s the case, he’s not cut out for the job he has. And make no mistake, the job he has is a hard one. Although Mike Pereira does a good job of explaining NFL rules in his role as an analyst on FOX, Mike Carey struggles in a similar role on CBS, and Austin has struggled in his smaller on-air role on ESPN.

Another issue is that the NFL’s rules are incredibly complicated. Players, coaches, fans and the media often have a hard time understanding the rules. Monday night’s game showed that sometimes even the officials miss calls right in front of their faces. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a professional rules analyst misses some calls, too.

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PFT on NBCN looks at which bad offense will be not bad


The Eagles and Dolphins have stunk on offense this season. Is one of them likely to turn it around?

It’s not a rhetorical question. It’s today’s poll question for NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk.

Tune in at 6:00 p.m. ET to see the results, and also to hear more about the bizarre outcome of Monday night’s game between the Lions and the Seahawks.

Rodney Harrison, Paul Burmeister, and yours truly will get you up to date on all big issues in the NFL.

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