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Mike Smith: Jacquizz Rodgers can play all three downs

Talk of running back Michael Turner’s imminent departure from the Falcons is in the air and coach Mike Smith isn’t doing anything to point in a different direction.

Smith was asked about Jacquizz Rodgers at the combine this week and his answers made it clear that Rodgers isn’t just seen as a complement to the older running back any longer. Rodgers may be at the extreme end of the shorter side of the spectrum at 5-foot-6, but Smith believes that he can do everything that the Falcons need in the backfield.

“We thought he was only going to be a change of pace back,” Smith said, via the team’s website. “We found out very quickly that even though he is short, he is not little. He can handle all three downs and he does a very good job for us returning kicks.”

Rodgers’ best work came on passing downs and that will likely continue to be the best role for him when the 2013 season gets underway. Whether the Falcons opt for a free agent (Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com reports Shonn Greene is expected to be on their list) or the draft, they’ll likely be looking to pick up a player who allows them to avoid shoveling too much more onto Rodgers’ plate in the year to come.

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Jordan Cameron, Bernard Pierce questionable for Sunday

Jordan Cameron AP

Both the Ravens and Browns have a key offensive contributor listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup in Cleveland.

Ravens tailback Bernard Pierce (thigh) is questionable after putting in a full practice on Friday, while Browns tight end Jordan Cameron (shoulder) received the same designation after a limited workout today. Cameron missed the Browns’ Week Two win vs. New Orleans with his injury.

Also questionable for Cleveland is outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who was limited with a shoulder ailment Friday.

In other Browns injury news, the club has officially ruled out tailback Ben Tate (knee) for a second straight game. Rookie Terrance West will start in his place.

For the Ravens, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (knee) is doubtful. However, quarterback Joe Flacco (illness) and cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (back) and Asa Jackson (concussion) are probable.

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Arian Foster questionable for Sunday’s game vs. Giants

Arian Foster AP

The status of the AFC’s leading rusher for Week Three is somewhat in flux, per the injury report.

Texans tailback Arian Foster (hamstring) is questionable for Sunday’s game at the Giants, according to multiple reporters, including Deepi Sidhu of Texans Radio.

According to Sidhu, Foster was limited Friday, as he was on Wednesday and Thursday.

Foster has racked up 241 yards on 55 carries for AFC South-leading Houston, which is off to a 2-0 start.

Alfred Blue, Jonathan Grimes and Ronnie Browns are the Texans’ other tailbacks.

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Roger Goodell insists he never considered quitting

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell News Conference Getty Images

There may be a lack of certainty coming from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell right now, but he’s absolutely clear on one thing.

He won’t be giving up his job.

Asked directly if he considered giving up his job, Goodell said no.

“I have not,” he replied. “I am focused on doing my job. We have work to do. That’s my focus.”

He again defended his willingness to admit wrongdoing, and promised bold action.

But the fact he has such support from owners made it a bit of a moot point, as there was very little indication anything would come from the numerous calls for him to step aside.

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Goodell: “Everything on the table” in terms of his role

Goodell AP

Among the most glaring errors of the NFL over the last two weeks has been the problem of unilateral power.

But during his press conference, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed willing to cede some ground.

“Everything is on the table,” Goodell replied when asked if he was willing to yield some of the decision-making power.

Announcing that he planned to remake the personal conduct policy in conjunction with the union (with a stated goal of having it done by the Super Bowl) is a solid first step.

But the idea that he has to include more voices in the process seems apparent.

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Goodell: I got it wrong, I’m sorry and now I will get it right

Roger Goodell AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged his own missteps and admitted that he needs assistance in overseeing the league’s personal conduct policy in a Friday press conference designed to stem the wave of criticism the NFL has faced over high-profile domestic violence cases involving players.

“I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter and I’m sorry for that. I got it wrong on a number of levels, from the process that I led to the decision that I reached. But now I will get it right and do whatever is necessary to accomplish that,” Goodell said.

Goodell said that everyone affiliated with the NFL — both at the team level and the league level — will go through training to help reduce domestic violence. And Goodell said he hopes the NFL will become a leader in fighting against domestic violence throughout American society.

“These incidents demonstrate that we can use the NFL to help make change, not only in our league but in our society with respect to domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell said.

Goodell also acknowledged that the league office itself dropped the ball in investigating the Rice case, and he said the NFL will cooperate fully with former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s investigation of the matter.

“We will get our house in order first,” Goodell said.

The NFL is now pledging to work with outside groups and to work with the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The league has pledged to provide the resources the Hotline needs — resources that have been strained in recent days as domestic violence has become a topic of conversation around the league.

The arbitrary nature of the NFL’s personal conduct policy has also been criticized in recent weeks, and Goodell vowed to get that right.

“We will make it happen,” Goodell said. “We will implement new conduct policies. They will have a set of clear and transparent rules for league and club personnel, owners and players. My goal is to complete this by the Super Bowl.”

Goodell spoke forcefully and expressed confidence that the league can move forward.

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Josh McCown getting MRI, but will still start when he’s healthy

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Josh McCown hasn’t played very well, and now he’s hurt.

But when he’s well, he’s still the Buccaneers starter.

That’s what Bucs coach Lovie Smith said today, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

McCown is getting an MRI on his injured thumb, which he injured in last night’s drubbing at the hands of the Falcons.

But Smith declared “Josh is our quarterback,” ending any mystery about the starting job.

McCown was 5-for-12 for 58 yards and an interception before the injury. Mike Glennon was 17-of-24 for 121 yards and a touchdown, in relief, but the game was so far out of hand at that point it’s hard to gauge what it meant.

McCown’s packing a 65.2 passer rating, with two touchdowns and four picks for the winless Bucs. But they have so many other problems at the moment, making it his fault would be overly simplistic.

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Jamaal Charles practices Friday, decision to come on his status

Chiefs Training Camp AP

For the second straight day, Chiefs tailback Jamaal Charles took part in practice as the club started to wind down its preparation for Sunday’s game at Miami.

Charles suffered a high-ankle injury in the Chiefs’ Week Two loss at Denver, raising fears he could miss some time, as such ailments are often multi-week injuries. But four days after the injury, Charles was back on the field, and he followed that with another day of work Friday.

Coach Andy Reid said Charles’ status would be determined after the club observed how he came out of today’s workout.

“He did OK,” Reid said. “He looked a little sore, but he did OK.”

One of the game’s top all-around backs, Charles has been limited to just 23 yards on nine carries in two games this season. He received just 11 touches in a 26-10 loss to Tennessee in Week One, then suffered the injury early in the 24-17 setback at Denver last week.

The Chiefs face Miami (1-1) at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday. Inactives will be released 90 minutes before the game. Second-year pro Knile Davis is the top backup to Charles.

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Cecil Shorts says he’s ready to play “the whole game”

Cecil Shorts, Sherrod Martin AP

Somebody call Roddy White and let him know for his fantasy team — Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts is back.

I plan on playing the whole game,” Shorts said, via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. “Let’s go.

“The last few days went really well. It’s exciting to go back out there with my teammates and play again. It’s been a long wait with an up-and-down off-season.”

Shorts has missed the first two games with a hamstring strain, and is listed as probable for this week against the Colts. But since that’s the same as a virtual certainty he’ll play, there’s no real mystery.

He missed time in OTAs with a calf strain and three weeks of training camp with a hamstring problem, before pulling the other hamstring most recently.
The Jaguars obviously need any offensive boost they can find, but unless he can play offensive line (Chad Henne has been sacked 13 times), it’s hard to imagine he’s a one-man fix.
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Falcons knew Devin Hester still had “gas in the tank”

Hester Getty Images

When free agency began in March, receiver Devin Hester wasn’t near the top of anyone’s list.  Anyone except the Falcons.

“We’d been talking for a number of years about what we’re going to do with our return specialist situation and what we’re going to do with our receiver group,” G.M. Thomas Dimitroff told PFT Live on Friday.  “We thought if we could land a legitimate return guy, both punt and kickoff return, and then mix him into that group of three or four [receivers], that was going to help our production on the offensive side of the ball as well.  Our feeling was that with Devin, he is an electric type of player as we all know, and that we truly felt that he still had gas in the tank, he still had the explosiveness, and we saw last night, when he gets in the open space how he creates is something that is unparalleled quite honestly, and it’s fun to watch him.”

So how did the Falcons evaluate a guy’s potential on offense when he hasn’t played much offense lately?  Last year with the Bears, Hester didn’t participate in a single snap from scrimmage.

“I’m a big believer in assessing the athleticism, the movement, the ability to start, stop, the body control,” Dimitroff said.  “That’s something that there’s no question he has.  The fact that he can catch the ball naturally is another big point.  And you have an assistant head coach in Terry Robiskie here and [offensive coordinator] Dirk Koetter, who are creative minds.  It’s putting him in the right spot to be successful.  We all know how important that is and some of the best coaches in this league are able to do that.  Know the talent, know their strengths, and accentuate their strengths. . . .

“We’re getting out of him what we wanted and more, no question about it.”

There’s also no question that the 2014 Falcons look to be much better than their 2013 counterparts.  For more from Dimitroff, click the box below.

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Dee Milliner has quad tightness in addition to ankle sprain

Dee Milliner AP

The Jets got cornerback Dee Milliner back in the lineup against the Packers last week after Milliner missed a good chunk of time with a high ankle sprain, but Milliner didn’t finish the game after he felt the ankle tighten up in the second half.

That’s created some uncertainty about his ability to play against the Bears on Monday night and that uncertainty will only grow now that quad tightness has been added to the ankle injury as the reason why Milliner missed practice on Friday.

The Jets have an extra day to prepare for Chicago, but they’ll need to think long and hard about the risks involved with Milliner playing given the frequency that he’s been banged up in his short NFL career. Having him on Monday to help defend Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery would be ideal, but not if he’s too compromised to play at a high level and the move could come back to haunt them if Milliner aggravates an injury during the game.

As evidence of the potential for a setback, the Jets need only look to wide receiver Eric Decker. Decker missed practice again with the hamstring injury that he aggravated last Sunday, which isn’t a great sign for his chances of playing even though coach Rex Ryan said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, that the wideout didn’t have to practice in order to play.

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DeSean Jackson “very limited” in practice, questionable for Sunday

DeSean Jackson AP

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson may play when the Redskins roll into Philadelphia on Sunday, but he isn’t going to be 100 percent.

Jackson was listed as questionable on Washington’s final injury report of the week. Jackson, who injured his shoulder against the Jaguars last Sunday, was able to practice for the first time this week on Friday, although coach Jay Gruden said he was “very limited” during the workout.

“He did good today, but we’ll see,” Gruden said, via CSNWashington.com. “He was very limited, as you well know. But I think it was a step in a positive direction. We’ll get another look at him tomorrow with the trainers, then we’ll gauge him on Sunday morning and see where he’s at.”

Jackson has vowed to play in the game, which is his first opportunity to play against the Eagles since they released him in the offseason.

Tight end Jordan Reed remains sidelined with a hamstring injury for Washington, who will also be without quarterback Robert Griffin III, linebacker Akeem Jordan and cornerback Tracy Porter. Neither Jordan nor Porter has played in a regular season game this year.

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Eagles rule out Mychal Kendricks

Mychal Kendricks, Trent Richardson AP

The Eagles may give first-round pick Marcus Smith some playing time this weekend.

Smith has been working at inside linebacker at practice this week, which was seen as a sign that the team was pessimistic about Mychal Kendricks’s chances of playing against the Redskins on Sunday.

That pessimism was justified. Kendricks was ruled out by the Eagles on Friday after missing the entire week of practice because of a calf injury suffered in Monday night’s victory over the Colts.

Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho have been seeing time in Kendricks’s place at practice this week, although Smith has been the Eagles’ choice for the nickel package since both Matthews and Acho struggle in pass coverage. Smith was drafted in May to help bolster the team’s pass rush, but didn’t get on the field the first week and was inactive on Monday night as he’s not ready to help the team in that area yet.

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Goodell press conference will be televised on NBCSN

NBCUniversal Logos

At roughly 11:00 a.m. ET on Friday, the NFL announced that Commissioner Roger Goodell will conduct a press conference at 3:00 p.m. ET.  While that didn’t leave me with enough time to make it from West Virginia to Midtown Manhattan, NBC keeps some of its cameras a lot closer.  And those cameras will be connected via satellite to the NBC Sports Group headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.

The pictures and words sent via satellite will be broadcast on NBCSN, in a special edition of Pro Football Talk.  Paul Burmeister and yours truly will react to and analyze the opening comments from Goodell, the questions he receives, and the answers he provides.

Look for Goodell to answer any and all questions, and to accommodate every media member who shows up for the event.  After the events of the last two weeks, Goodell can’t let one of the league’s P.R. representatives cut off the conference before all questions have been answered.  Which explains the fairly short notice; he plans to answer all questions, and by announcing the event only four hours before it happened, the universe of questions will be smaller.

Whatever the questions and answers, you’ll see and hear them all on NBCSN at 3:00 p.m. ET.  And then you’ll see and hear us talk about what it all means.

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Colts defensive starters Jerrell Freeman, Arthur Jones out Sunday

arthurjones AP

The Colts will be down two defensive starters on Sunday against the Jaguars.

Jerrell Freeman and Arthur Jones have both been ruled out, coach Chuck Pagano confirmed today.

Freeman has been nursing a hamstring injury that also forced him to miss Monday night’s game against the Eagles. Jones suffered an ankle injury in that game and has been out of practice this week.

The good news for the Colts is that the Jaguars’ offense has been inept this season: Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne has been sacked a league-high 13 times, while running back Toby Gerhart has gained just 50 yards on 25 carries. Even shorthanded, the Colts should be able to handle the Jaguars.

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John Abraham placed on injured reserve

John Abraham, Kellen Clemens, Calais Campbell AP

John Abraham’s season has reached a close.

The Cardinals placed the veteran outside linebacker on injured reserve Friday, the team’s website said. The 36-year-old Abraham suffered a concussion in the Cardinals’ Sept. 8 win vs. San Diego.

A 15th-year pro from West Virginia, Abraham has recorded 133.5 career sacks. He is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Given his age and his health, it’s reasonable to wonder if he will return to NFL play in 2015.

To replace Abraham on the roster, the Cardinals re-signed punter Drew Butler, who has kicked in each of the first two games. The re-signing of Butler suggests Dave Zastudil’s status for Sunday’s game vs. San Francisco could be in doubt because of the groin injury that’s ailed him.

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