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Michael Turner classy as he leaves Atlanta, says he’s not finished

Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner runs the ball against Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker K.J. Wright during the second quarter in their NFL NFC Divisional playoff football game in Atlanta Reuters

Falcons running back Michael Turner was cut by the Falcons today, but he took his release in stride.

Turner praised the Falcons on his way out, saying he was proud of his five years in Atlanta and grateful to the team and its fans.

“I want to thank the Atlanta Falcons for the opportunity to be a part of something great,” Turner wrote on Facebook. “We accomplished a lot during my time here and I will always cherish the memories and relationships I made. I want to thank Mr.Blank for all he’s done for me and my career. He’s a great owner and an even better philanthropist. This is a tough business but I understand its nature and respect the process.”

Turner is 31 years old and coming off a season in which he averaged just 3.6 yards a carry, by far the lowest of his career. But Turner said he believes he still has plenty he can offer to some NFL team.

“I’m excited to begin a new chapter of my career and truly believe I have a lot left in the tank,” Turner wrote. “I also want to take a moment and thank the Atlanta Falcons fans. You guys made it easy for me to come to work every day and give you everything I had. Even though it’s a tough day I’m excited for what the future holds. Thank you, again, to the Falcons organization. I wish you guys nothing but the best.”

Falcons fans will surely wish Turner nothing but the best as well. Even as they realize that cutting an expensive running back on the wrong side of 30 was the right move.

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Jarvis Landry is the AFC special teams player of the month

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Wide receiver Jarvis Landry couldn’t do enough to beat out Sammy Watkins as the NFL’s offensive rookie of the month for October, but his performance for the month still earned him some honors from the league.

Landry has been named the AFC special teams player of the month. Landry averaged 35.6 yards per kickoff return for the month, which was good for second-best in the league in October, and also had four punt returns for 16 yards.

Landry is averaging 31.3 yards per return for the season, which is the best in the league among regular returners and would be the best in Dolphins franchise history if Landry is able to keep it up for the entire season.

The Dolphins made Landry the 63rd pick in the draft in May and he’s settled into a role on offense in addition to his kick return duties. Landry has 25 catches for 255 yards and a touchdown, which is short of Watkins territory while still being a second way that he’s making the Dolphins’ decision to add him to the roster look like a smart one.

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Dennis Pitta a few months away from knowing if he can play again

Dennis Pitta AP

Tight end Dennis Pitta is out for the rest of the season after fracturing and dislocating his hip for the second time is any many seasons, but he joined the Ravens at a team Hallowwen function on Wednesday night.

Pitta was appropriate costumed in a hospital gown and wheelchair with his wife dressed as a nurse and his young son in a doctor’s coat. Pitta’s real doctors performed surgery on his hip the day after his Week Three injury and he has some more healing to do before he can start rehab and find out whether or not he will be able to continue his playing career.

“In a few months, we’ll see how I’m feeling and how things are going, and we’ll be able to make some determinations then,” Pitta said, via the Baltimore Sun. “It’s still too early to kind of tell, and I’ll continue on like I did last year and get myself ready to get back on the field.”

Pitta said there was doubt that he could return after his first injury, but he was on the field before the 2013 season came to a close. That’s obviously not a possibility this time around and even Pitta’s confidence that he’ll “get through again” may not be enough after lightning struck for a second time.

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Perfect month nets Shayne Graham NFC special teams honors

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

A lot of people have expressed concern about various parts of the Saints roster this season as they’ve opened up with a 3-4 record over the first two months of the season.

Kicker Shayne Graham hasn’t been one of the players to elicit worry from observers, though, and his performance in October was good enough to make him the league’s choice as the NFC special teams player of the month.

Graham made all nine field goals and all nine extra points he tried in the month and had 14 points in last Sunday night’s victory over the Packers. Graham made three field goals in each of the team’s three games in October — they had a bye in Week Six — and was the only kicker in the league to hit that many field goals in each of his team’s outings.

While the NFL has closed the deliberations on the top players of the month, Graham will get a chance to add to his October totals on Thursday night when the Saints face the Panthers in the final contest before the calendar turns to November.

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Rashad Jennings won’t play on Monday night

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Earlier this week, Giants running back Rashad Jennings said that his sprained MCL had not healed enough for him to return to action.

Nothing has changed over the last few days. As a result, Giants coach Tom Coughlin announced Thursday that Jennings will miss a third straight game when the Giants host the Colts on Monday night.

The Giants were hopeful that Jennings would be able to return this week after injuring his knee against the Falcons in Week Five, but things are taking a bit longer to get right for a player who had given a major boost to the Giants running game before getting hurt. They’ll hope to have him back when they continue a rough stretch of the schedule that features a Week 10 trip to Seattle and home games against the 49ers and Cowboys.

Rookie Andre Williams and Peyton Hillis will be the Jersey outfit’s top two backs against the Colts, who will be trying to rebound defensively after getting torn apart by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in last Sunday’s loss.

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PFT Live: Emmitt Smith, Week Nine picks

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The Cowboys have the league’s most productive running back in DeMarco Murray and find themselves in first place in the NFC East at the halfway point in the season.

Having the league’s top back and being one of the league’s top teams went hand in hand when Emmitt Smith was toting the rock in Dallas, which makes it a good time to check in with the Hall of Famer to see what he thinks about his old team. Smith will join Mike Florio on Thursday’s edition of PFT Live to share his thoughts about Murray, the Cowboys and this weekend’s matchup with the Cardinals, who happen to be another former employer of Smith’s.

That Cowboys-Cardinals game is the biggest in the NFC this weekend, although it probably can’t knock Broncos-Patriots from the top spot among all games. Florio and MDS will share their picks for those two games and all the rest of the action from Week Nine during Thursday’s show.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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C.J. Mosley named defensive rookie of the month

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Ravens were looking for a new inside linebacker to anchor their defense when they selected C.J. Mosley in the first round of this year’s draft and the early returns have been good.

Mosley has started all eight games of his brief NFL career and has helped the Ravens allow the second fewest points of any team in the league. The NFL found his play in October to be impressive enough to name him the league’s defensive rookie of the month.

Mosley had 42 tackles in four games in October, good for third best in the entire league, and led the Ravens in tackles in three of their four games. He also had two interceptions, which leaves him in an unexpected tie with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata for the team lead in interceptions through the first two months of the regular season.

Should Mosley keep it up in the second half of the season, the defense should remain one of the stingiest in the league and he’ll have a good chance of reaching the playoffs in his first year as a professional player

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Sammy Watkins is the NFL’s offensive rookie of the month

Watkins Getty Images

Fully aware that new owners may choose to go in a new direction, current Bills management went all in on draft day, trading a first-round pick and a fifth-round pick in 2015 for the ability to move up five spots in the draft and select receiver Sammy Watkins.

In the same month that Terry and Kim Pegula became the new owners of the franchise, Watkins secured the NFL’s offensive rookie of the month award.

The first Bills player ever to be named offensive rookie of the month, Watkins made the game-winning touchdown catch against the Vikings in Week Seven.  He also had two 100-yard receiving games in October, and his 20-yard catch with 21 seconds remaining against the Lions helped set up the game-winning field goal.  Watkins’ effort to catch a ball that had been thrown behind him also may have prevented an interception that would have caused the Bills to lose.

Against the Jets on Sunday, Watkins generated 157 on only three catches, including a 61-yard touchdown and an 84-yard catch and run that ended with a premature touchdown celebration.

Far more importantly than any individual prizes, the Bills are 5-3 at the bye week.  Which puts them in good position to celebrate the 15th anniversary of their most recent playoff berth by getting back to the postseason.

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DeMarco Murray is NFC offensive player of the month, again

DeMarco Murray AP

Two months into the season, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray has won two NFC offensive player of the month awards.

The NFL announced today that Murray is the player of the month for October. He was also the player of the month for September. Murray has been nothing if not consistent: He had 520 rushing yards in October and 534 rushing yards in September and has gained between 100 and 167 rushing yards in every game this year.

With 1,054 yards this season, Murray is leading the league by nearly 300 yards and is on pace to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105 rushing yards.

Murray is in good company by winning his second straight player of the month award: The only two other running backs to win back-to-back NFC offensive player of the month awards were Barry Sanders in 1997 and Emmitt Smith in 1992.

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Everson Griffen wins NFC defensive player of month award

Griffen Getty Images

October was a pretty good month for the Vikings’ front office.  Twenty-five years after the failed Herschel Walker trade, the Vikings have seen first-round picks Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater begin to blossom.  Likewise, Seattle’s decision to give receiver Percy Harvin to the Jets for a bowl of room-temperature gazpacho validates Minnesota’s no-intent deal that brought in a first-round pick, a third-round pick, and a seventh-round pick for a guy who no longer wanted to be there and they no longer wanted.

Now, the player on whom they took the biggest gamble in 2014 free agency has been named the NFC defensive player of the month.

Defensive end Everson Griffen, whose $42.5 million contract was based largely on potential and not production, racked up six sacks in four October games.  He has 8.0 sacks in eight games, putting him third in the league and first among all defensive ends.

He’s the first Viking to win the award since the guy he replaced, Jared Allen, did it in 2011.

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Tom Brady named AFC offensive player of the month

Tom Brady AP

A month ago, there were people wondering if Tom Brady was too old.

Those people are getting hard to find at the moment.

The Patriots quarterback was named AFC offensive player of the month after four straight standout games.

Brady had a 129.1 passer rating, with 1,268 yards and 14 touchdowns, leading the Patriots to four wins.

Of course, the next game will be a showdown at several levels, as he’s facing off against old foe Peyton Manning, but also the AFC’s defensive player of the month in Broncos linebacker Von Miller.

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Von Miller’s sack streak leads to AFC defensive player of the month

Philip Rivers, Von Miller AP

The weather is starting to cool, and Von Miller is just heating up.

The Broncos linebacker was named AFC defensive player of the month for October after a dominating string of performances.

Miller had 7.0 sacks during the month, which led all NFL players. He’s working on a streak of six consecutive games with a sack.

More importantly, he’s helped the Broncos to a 4-0 record over the last month, as the defense has done its part to help quarterback Peyton Manning and an offense that is just assumed to be handling its business.

The Broncos have allowed 258.8 yards per game over the last four, the best mark in the league over that stretch.

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Chris Johnson is “frustrated” with diminished Jets role

New York Jets v New England Patriots AP

Jets running back Chris Johnson has something in common with Jets fans.

He’s “frustrated” with the way things are going.

The artist formerly known as CJ2K is on pace for about half a K this season, with just 268 yards on 67 carries with one touchdown.

Of course I’m frustrated,” Johnson told Brian Costello of the New York Post on Wednesday. “On top of having a limited role, not playing as much as I want to play and then on top of that we’re 1-7. It’s frustrating.”

Chris Ivory has emerged as the Jets’ lead back, and Johnson has played in just 34 percent of their offensive snaps this season. That number’s getting smaller, as he played just 16 of 84 (19 percent) in the blowout loss to the Bills.

To his credit, he hasn’t really complained (until now).

“I don’t want to be a distraction in the locker room,” Johnson said. “This situation, I’m pretty sure just like I see it, everybody else sees it. I don’t want to be labeled as one of those guys who start controversy or start problems. I just continue to pray about the situation and continue to take advantage when I get opportunities and see what comes of it.”

At this stage, he could throw a fit or go on a hunger strike, and he’d be so far down the list of distractions the Jets might not even notice.

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Taylor Lewan pleads guilty to two misdemeanors

taylorlwan AP

Since he was accused of hitting an Ohio State fan after his final home game at Michigan 11 months ago, Taylor Lewan has insisted he was innocent. Now he has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors in connection with the incident.

Lewan, who was the Titans’ first-round draft pick this year and is a starting offensive tackle, entered guilty pleas today to charges of disturbing the peace and being drunk and disorderly. He is scheduled for sentencing on December 15 and is expected to get probation.

The guilty plea is part of a deal with prosecutors. Lewan originally faced charges on one count of aggravated assault, and two counts of assault and battery.

Lewan is not expected to face NFL discipline, as the league generally does not impose discipline for crimes committed by players before they got to the NFL.

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Nate Washington: Mettenberger has better understanding of NFL than Roethlisberger did

Houston Texans v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

Wide receiver Nate Washington entered the NFL with the Steelers in 2005, where he became teammates with second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Washington is now in Tennessee and playing with rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who made his first start against Houston last week. Washington liked what he saw from Mettenberger and compared him favorably to Roethlisberger in terms of NFL readiness on Wednesday while also getting in a little dig at the Titans running game.

“I will comment and say that I don’t think Ben coming in is the same as Zach Mettenberger. At this stage he’s at now, I think Zach understands the NFL a little more than maybe Ben did at that time, but the thing that Ben had at that time that was maybe a little more beneficial was he had an outstanding running game,” Washington said, via Terry McCormick of “He had that run game and everything that he had to do was built off our run game, whether it was play action, or whatever else it was, it gave Ben an opportunity to go out and be adjustable to whatever the game was, whereas Zach we’re kind of throwing him out there and saying, ‘We know you’re capable of showing your arm and your ability.’ That’s the leeway I think they’re kind of giving him.”

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt was also in Pittsburgh early in Roethlisberger’s career and said only that every quarterback has different strengths that coaches need to take advantage of in their game plans.

Roethlisberger obviously developed well beyond the player that Washington describes and Mettenberger has a long way to go before any serious comparisons between the two players can be made. Should the understanding that Washington’s seen translate onto the field, that will change and the Titans will likely have their quarterback for many years to come.

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Panthers forced to resort to Canadian rookie at left tackle

Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Panthers were hoping they might be able to stash David Foucault on the practice squad this year.

Instead, he’s starting at left tackle for the Panthers tonight against the Saints.

This is hardly the situation they envisioned, when mainstay Jordan Gross announced his retirement this offseason. The plan was to shift Byron Bell over to Gross’s spot, and he’s been up and down this year. Now he’s hurt. The originally planned swing tackle Garry Williams is also on IR again.

This is the situation we’re in,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “It’s not like we said, ‘Hey, you know what? When we get to Week Nine, why don’t we put the kid out there at left tackle?’”

This will be Foucault’s first start since last year’s Coupe Dunsmore, when his Université de Montréal Carabins lost to Quebec’s Collège Laval last November. He was the fifth overall pick in the CFL Draft, but turned it down for a camp invite south of the border.

The 6-foot-8, 305-pound Foucault (pronounced FOO-koh) has impressed coaches with his frame and work ethic, but he’s obviously raw. Naturally, he was a hockey player growing up, who didn’t take up football until he was a teenager.

Also, he will be starting next to a more conventional undrafted rookie, Andrew Norwell of Ohio State, which could make any remake of The Blind Side a horror movie for Cam Newton.

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