PFT Live: Birk ready for life after football
Cushing was listed as limited with back and ankle injuries, although it sounds like the back issue is the more significant of the two problems. Cushing shared the extent of the injury on Wednesday while discussing “the physicality of the sport.”
“There’s two fractures in my back, but those are things you have to push through,” Cushing said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Obviously, it’s painful, and I’m not able to get as many reps as I want in practice right now, but I’ll be out there Sunday with my team. I want the guys to know they can count on me, and that means the world to me. I’ve missed a number of games with season-ending injuries, and I don’t want to miss any more time, so as long as I can walk, I’ll be out there.”
The Texans have lost defensive end J.J. Watt and cornerback Kevin Johnson for the season and had defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and cornerback Johnathan Joseph out of practice on Wednesday with injuries that could sideline them for Sunday’s game against the Colts. That doesn’t make them unique in the NFL, but it does sap the strongest part of the team and makes the presence of Cushing and the rest of their front-line defenders significant as they try to take the AFC South crown.
Wednesday marked the 75th anniversary of the day that continues to live in infamy: The surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Japan.
Speaking there at an event to commemorate the occasion, Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, made a reference to the ongoing national anthem protest from 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“You can bet that the men and women we honor today — and those who died that fateful morning 75 years ago — never took a knee and never failed to stand whenever they heard our national anthem being played,” Harris said, via the Associated Press.
According to the account of the remarks and the reaction to them, the words “generated a lengthy standing ovation from the crowd, with people whistling and hooting.”
Although Kaepernick was never mentioned by name, the issue has received sufficient national attention (including an image of Kaepernick kneeling on the cover of Time magazine) to make it clear that the reference was to him.
The moment underscores the challenges Kaepernick will face in his search for a new team, if the 49ers don’t re-sign him before he becomes a free agent. Multiple owners surely will be concerned about the reaction that fans will have if/when Kaepernick joins their team, which necessarily will limit Kaepernick’s options — especially with plenty of other options likely available to teams in 2017.
Whitlock’s New Jersey home was broken into Tuesday night, and the burglars left behind some frightening reminders — including a graffiti swastika, the letters KKK and the message “Go back to Africa.”
“It just re-establishes that no matter where you are, no matter who you are, this can happen to you,” Whitlock told WCBS. “It’s about to be 2017. Oppression, violence, racism, hatred, violence, there’s no need for that.”
Whitlock said some jewelry and video game systems were stolen, but the messages left behind were as frightening as the loss of security that comes with knowing someone has invaded your home. It’s the second time they’ve been broken into, and they were already planning to move before the first incident, which happened over Thanksgiving weekend.
Whitlock’s a fullback by trade, but the Giants have also used him as a special teamer and interior pass-rusher on defense, at least before his injury and suspension.
For the last two trade deadlines and last offseason, many have wondered if the Browns were finally going to mercy-trade left tackle Joe Thomas to a contender.
But Browns coach Hue Jackson wants to stop that talk before it starts this offseason, promising that he’d protect Thomas as long as he was the coach there.
“That’s not happening or I’m going with him, okay?” Jackson said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I guarantee you that. I’m going with him. No, Joe Thomas means too much to this organization and to this football team. As I said to everybody, I want us to do right by him. Right by that is let’s go get this man some wins. He deserves that.
“He deserves to be on a winning football team and have a chance to chase playoffs and championships. That’s why you’re here. . . . We have to get this thing right for those guys because it’s truly what it is about — our fans, our organization — but those players, they give a lot and we have to give it back to them.”
That’s the kind if impassioned plea that makes players love Jackson, but it also doesn’t make sense if you boil it down to the facts. Thomas is one of the best players in the league at his position on a team that’s years from contending. He’s borderline expensive ($8.8 million the next two years) and getting older (32), and the Browns cleared out guys with smaller numbers on both those scales this offseason.
When asked about Jackson’s vow to leave if he did, Thomas joked: “Oh, that’s nice of him. Where we going, the Bahamas? I’m in.”
But he also said he wants the same thing Jackson wants, in the same place.
“From the moment that Hue got here, him and I have had a close relationship and it’s built on trust and honesty and we both like how the other person operates and how they do their business,” Thomas said. “I’ve been an admirer of Hue since his days in Oakland even and then when we’d play them twice a year with Cincinnati, I always really respected him as a coach and I enjoyed talking with him after games.
“Since he’s been here I have really even had another level of respect for the way he has handled this difficult season and kind of the difficult cards that he’s been dealt. I don’t think there’s many coaches in the NFL — in all of NFL history — that would have been able to handle this situation as well as he has. . . . He means so much to this team and to these players right now and I think we all feel very fortunate that he’s our head coach.”
Of course, when you’re 0-12, it’s hard to imagine how many are truly safe, and whether Jackson and Thomas get to fulfill their wish in Cleveland depends on getting more players, and quickly.
Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount is on pace to finish this season with a career-high 1,267 yards, and he has already scored a career-high 13 touchdowns. Not bad for guy who just turned 30.
But while running backs typically decline at age 30, Blount doesn’t think there’s any reason to be concerned about his health or durability.
“Nothing’s changed. I turned 30. No big deal. It still feels the same. It’s not like I’ve aged 10 years. I’m not fragile yet,” Blount said, via the Boston Herald. “It’s not too much of a difference to me. Right now, I’m feeling really good.”
In past years Patriots coach Bill Belichick has liked to split the workload running the ball, but this year it’s all Blount: The Patriots’ No. 2 rusher this season, James White, is primarily a receiver and has just 31 carries for 129 yards. Blount is the bell cow for the Patriots, and turning 30 doesn’t change that.
For the first time in Pete Carroll’s tenure as head coach, the Seahawks will have to play a significant stretch of games without Earl Thomas at free safety.
Steven Terrell will be the replacement for Thomas in the back-end of Seattle’s defense. The fourth-year safety – undrafted out of Texas A&M in 2013 – has been the primary backup to Thomas over the last two seasons. His first start in place of Thomas came two weeks ago in Tampa Bay as Thomas was sidelined with a hamstring strain. Now the job is his with Thomas out for the season with a broken leg.
“It was pretty tough hearing the news but for me, it was like, I need to step up, come in and do my job, do my part in this team and do the best I can to fill in for him,” Terrell said.
Terrell expects to be tested early and often as he takes over for Thomas.
“I’m prepared for that, you always think teams are going to take shots deep,” Terrell said Wednesday. “Teams are going to do what they do. Especially the Packers, Aaron Rodgers takes shots down the field and he’s done that against us in years past with Earl back there. You always have to expect that.
“You got to prepare for that. I would assume they would. This defense, it’s kind of hard to single one person out and try to attack them. We have so many weapons and the way our style of play is, but I assume they will come after me. I don’t really know.”
He’s played in 26 games for Seattle over the last three seasons. After a rookie season spent bouncing between Jacksonville and Houston, Terrell signed with the Seahawks early in training camp in 2014. He’d established a role as a key special teams contributor for Seattle and had played sparingly in relief roles at both safety and nickel cornerback.
Thursday night. 10-2 Raiders at 9-3 Chiefs. The winner, by virtue of Kansas City’s win in Oakland earlier this year, takes control of the division with three games to play.
So Thursday’s PFT Live question of the day is a simple one: Who wins?
Answer the question, comment on it, and then tune in at 6:00 a.m. ET at NBC Sports Radio and/or 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN for the three-hour show, which features visits from Hall of Famer (and former Raider and Chief) Marcus Allen, Hall of Famer (and former Chiefs assistant) Tony Dungy, and Vikings defensive end Brian Robison.
Green Bay Packers guard T.J.Lang returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since breaking his foot in a game against the Tennessee Titans last month.
According to Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Lang was limited in his first practice on Wednesday. He’s missed the last three games for Green Bay due to the injury.
“I think we’re still kind of in the process of feeling things out, testing it,” Lang said. “Did some running last week, did a little bit more Monday, was able to get on the practice field today and run a little bit, although it was in a limited fashion. Everything I’m doing right now is just kind of feeling my way through and just kind of testing the water a little bit to see where the progress is.”
The injury was initially referred to as a sprain before Lang said it was actually a broken foot.
Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey did not practice Wednesday, but Titans coach Mike Mularkey told reporters he’s hopeful that Casey will be in the starting lineup Sunday vs. the Broncos.
Casey is dealing with a sprained foot, and Mularkey called giving him an extra day of rest “a smart decision” as the Titans prepare for Sunday and the stretch run. At 6-6, they’re in a three-way tie atop the AFC South with the Colts and Texans.
“I know Jurrell pretty well. I know he’s going to play if he can play,” Mularkey said. “We’ve got lots of time before [Sunday]. I think we’re handling it the right way the way we’re treating it and holding him out of some of the stuff. Again, it’s early in the week.”
Casey was named to his first Pro Bowl last season. He’s missed only one game in his six-year career.
The Titans are as healthy as they could hope to be coming off a Week 13 bye. Casey was the only player listed on their Wednesday injury and participation report. Running back DeMarco Murray has been getting maintenance days off over the last several weeks but was a full practice participant.
Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, in the immediate aftermath of a season-ending broken leg, has been musing about retirement. At least one of his defensive teammates doesn’t buy it.
“I expect him to come back,” cornerback Richard Sherman told reporters on Wednesday.
Without Thomas, the defense will be different. Sherman explained the impact of the safety’s absence.
“Just his energy,” Sherman said. “He’s a constant energy, it’s always infectious, he plays hard every snap. Just a guy that always where you need him.”
The defense itself, however, won’t change without Thomas.
“[W]e’re running the same stuff we’ve been running,” Sherman said.
The Thomas-free defense will get an immediate test on Sunday, against the Packers in Green Bay. Led by a quarterback who knows how to make the most of the rules.
“They’ll do the double count thing and since people don’t know the rules about double count, jumping off sides and things like that and free plays,” Sherman said. “Aaron Rodgers makes a living off of free plays. He’s one of the most adept at it probably in league history. Drawing people offsides and getting deep penalties on people, pass interference. I think they got the longest pass interference of the season this year, like 70 yards or something like that. That’s one of those rules that needs to change and needed to change long time ago. Until they do, people will keep taking advantage of it.”
The challenge for the Seahawks without Thomas will be to not let the Packers take advantage of those two rules. The bigger challenge will be to find a way to cool off a Green Bay team that has won two games in a row and that knows it needs to keep winning.
Former Lions linebacker Chris Spielman, who currently analyzes NFL action for FOX, paid a visit to Wednesday’s PFT Live. And Spielman likes what he sees from his former team.
He specifically likes what Detroit’s quarterback is doing, and Spielman made the case for Matthew Stafford getting MVP consideration.
On all topics, Spielman was great. Unconstrained by the 10-15 seconds he has to talk between plays during a game broadcast, he shared fascinating assessments of the clues culled from film study, keys during games, and other technical aspects of football that will make you feel like you’re on the field.
Come from me accidentally calling him “Rick,” and stay for some quality analysis and football conversation.
Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff was sent home Wednesday due to an illness and did not practice.
Rams Coach Jeff Fisher told reporters that Goff was part of the team’s usual meetings and participated in a pre-practice walkthrough before leaving the team facility. As long as Goff gets healthy, he’ll make his fourth start Sunday against the Falcons.
The Rams are still trying to get Goff his first win. He had his worst game last week in a blowout loss at New England, completing 14-of-32 passes for 161 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Patriots sacked Goff four times.
Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin, who missed last week’s game with a chest injury, was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. Defensive end Robert Quinn, who missed last week’s game with a concussion, was a limited participant.
Per the Detroit Free Press, the team will officially release Pettigrew soon.
“We made a decision on him,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “I think it’s been reported and that’s about all we can say on the matter. It was best for us.”
So, Pettigrew’s tenure ends with the Lions without much explanation.
The Lions drafted Pettigrew in the first round in 2009, and for five seasons he was a major contributor when healthy. He caught 71 passes in 2010 and 83 in 2011, and he’s caught 17 career touchdown passes.
Pettigrew suffered a torn ACL last December and was placed on the physically unable to perform list last summer. He had returned to practice Nov. 22, opening a three-week window for the team to evaluate his status before making a roster decision.
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor is feeling the frustration of a season that is inching closer and closer to implosion.
Via Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News, Taylor abruptly ended his midweek press conference by declaring to no one in particular “I’m done talking” and walking away.
Taylor has drawn plenty of criticism in recent weeks, and a contract that requires the team to decide by early March whether to cut him or guarantee more than $30 million over the next two seasons hovers over the final four games of 2016.
“I’ve taken everything that y’all have stood up here and asked me right on the chest,” Taylor said at one point. “It doesn’t affect me emotionally or physically. I take it every week, so whatever y’all want to blame, I’ll take that. Like I said, my job is to get the team into a position where we can win on Sundays. Can I be better, yes. But it doesn’t just take me, it’s a collective effort out there on the field each and every Sunday.”
He’s right, but Taylor has been the focal point for the criticism. Despite his apparent irritation, he claims he doesn’t see or hear it.
“I don’t have Instagram on my phone,” Taylor said. “Twitter. Don’t watch TV, so don’t see it, don’t hear it. Continue to keep pounding away. We’re still in it, last time I checked.”
Yes, they’re still in it. But the window went from wide open to nearly closed after a 24-9 lead over the Raiders quickly became a 38-24 deficit. In that same game, Taylor plunged from completing eight of nine passes for 102 yards in the first quarter to completing 10 of 26 for 89 yards in quarters two, three, and four.
The real question is whether Taylor will have a third season in Buffalo. Whether he will hinges on whether the team keeps its current power structure in place — which may hinge on whether Taylor can get the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Andre Johnson stopped drawing an NFL paycheck when he retired in October, but he’s not done using his money to do good.
Today at a toy store in Houston, Johnson did what he has done for the last nine years: He asked Houston Child Protective Services to bring together a group of children who have had a rough year and deserve a special Christmas, and he footed the bill for whatever toys they could grab while running through the store for 80 seconds. (Johnson wore No. 80 during his NFL career.) This year the bill for 12 kids came to $19,144.58, and after Johnson finished paying he posed with the receipts, which were as tall as he is.
Johnson said he sees a lot of himself in the kids who come to his annual toy drive.
“When you grow up in certain situations you kind of understand so, there were times when I was not able to get what I wanted for Christmas. So I know that a lot kids don’t get what they want for Christmas. This idea was brought to me and I just kind of took it and ran with it,” Johnson told ABC 13 in Houston.
After Johnson retired, there were discussions of whether he’s had a Hall of Fame career. There’s no doubt that he’s a Hall of Fame person.