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Irsay drops another hint

Jim-Irsay-APstoryJuly-4 AP

Every once in a while, Colts owner Jim Irsay launches the Twitter equivalent of an Easter egg hunt.  Currently, Colts fans are making guesses like crazy, and wondering if they’re getting warm.

On Saturday night, Irsay said that his team, which has been very active so far in free agency, is “working on a deal, one we’ve been working on for five days,” and that “we’re very, very close to making it work.”

Later, Irsay narrowed the range of potential guesses to one position:  “Wide receiver!!

But there aren’t many free-agent receivers with names justifying the use of two exclamation points.  Darrius Heyward-Bey was cut on Tuesday, and Randy Moss still has some caché, baby.

That leaves restricted free agents, where Giants receiver Victor Cruz and Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders are the top targets.  But with Irsay saying that the Colts have been working on the deal for five days and given that Cruz’s agent change delayed prevent CAA from talking contract during the five-day waiting period, it’s probably not Cruz.

Unless, of course, the Colts were spending the first part of the past five days coming up with an offer-sheet strategy with a 2013 cap number that would prevent the Giants from matching.

Either way, we’ll be keeping an eye on Irsay’s page for further updates.

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Joe Haden questionable this time around

Joe Haden, Harry Douglas AP

The Browns listed cornerback Joe Haden as probable to play against the Chargers last week with a finger injury, but Haden wound up missing the game after Sunday came and he felt that he’d be hurting the team if he tried to play through the injury.

The late change in status elicited an inquiry from the league and led to some dancing by coach Mike Pettine at press conferences as he first said that Haden didn’t want to play before being a little more specific about the decision-making process. It’s not clear whether Haden will play against the Ravens Sunday, but there won’t be as much drama attached to the final call.

Haden has been listed as questionable for this week’s game and coach Mike Pettine said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal, that he would talk to Haden on Saturday to get a better idea of how the cornerback is feeling in regard to Sunday’s game.

Linebacker Karlos Dansby, running back Robert Turbin, wide receiver Brian Hartline and linebacker Scott Solomon join Haden on the list of questionable players for Sunday. Safety Tashaun Gipson has been ruled out with a foot injury.

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Jadeveon Clowney in a walking boot after Texans loss

Jadeveon Clowney AP

Any time a No. 1 overall pick appears anything other than 100 percent, there’s going to be concern.

But for Texans pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney, his history is going to cause people to notice even the slightest limp.

According to Tania Ganguli of, Clowney was wearing a walking boot on his right foot Friday.

He left Thursday’s game against the Colts briefly, but returned to finish the game, playing more than half the snaps.

Of course, Clowney missed most of his rookie year with knee problems, and is coming back from microfracture surgery anyway.

The boot might not be a sign of serious injury, but with Clowney, it’s worth keeping an eye on.

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Reed, Culliver among four Redskins who will miss Falcons game

Jordan Reed, J.J. Wilcox AP

As expected, Redskins tight end Jordan Reed will miss Sunday’s game at Atlanta due to a concussion and cornerback Chris Culliver will miss the game due to a knee injury.

The team announced Friday, too, that wide receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerback DeAngelo Hall aren’t yet ready to return and will also miss the game. Jackson has been out due to a Week 1 hamstring injury, while Hall suffered a toe injury in the season’s third game.

Jackson has been testing the hamstring in practice over the last two weeks, but his absence of at least one more game is not a surprise.

An MRI showed no structural damage in Culliver’s knee, but he wasn’t able to practice this week. Bashaud Breeland and Will Blackmon are second on the team’s depth chart at cornerback behind Hall and Culliver.

Derek Carrier, acquired in August trade when an initial wave of tight end injuries hit the Redskins’ roster, is the likely starter at tight end with Reed out.

The Redskins also plan to list middle linebacker Perry Riley Jr. as questionable.

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Sammy Watkins questionable for Bills

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Getty Images

The Bills are going to be down two running backs against the Titans on Sunday, but we won’t know until shortly before kickoff whether they will also be missing wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Watkins has been listed as questionable for the game because of the calf injury that sidelined him against the Giants last weekend. Watkins didn’t participate in practice on Wednesday or Thursday, but stretched with the team on Friday and coach Rex Ryan said that the wideout has made progress toward a return to game action.

“I feel really good about how Sammy has progressed,” Ryan said. “He’s excited. So hopefully we’ll get him back.”

As expected, the Bills ruled out running back LeSean McCoy for the second straight week due to a hamstring injury. Karlos Williams is also out with a concussion, leaving Boobie Dixon and Boom Herron as a colorfully named running back duo for the game against the Titans.

Ryan said he expects John Miller back at right guard after missing time with a groin injury, but safety Bacarri Rambo has also been ruled out for this weekend.

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Jerry Jones invokes Elizabeth Taylor in defense of Greg Hardy

jerryjones AP

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was quick to scold defensive end Greg Hardy for a regrettable first interview with his local media, after Hardy made a number of at least unfortunately phrased if not completely tone-deaf remarks.

But such that Hardy was going to listen to his coach and stop saying silly things, he might not worry about it now, since owner Jerry Jones came out hard against the media that made such a big deal about it.

“Let’s look at it,” Jones said during his weekly appearance on 105.3 The Fan, via the Dallas Morning News. Does anybody really think what he was really alluding to in saying my guns are going to be blazing? I don’t know that this is the case, but when you see players and interview players, more often than not, they’re saying what their coach has just been saying to them all week. It’s a theme. This week we’re going to circle the wagons, this week we’re going to do this, this week we’re going to do that.

“I want everybody to understand that I do understand the sensitivity that’s going on, but did anybody think this wasn’t going to be the case when he came back for the first ballgame, that this wasn’t going to be a featured point by the country? So the hand-writing was on the wall.”

It might not have been if Hardy had been a bit low-key, or shown something resembling remorse for the domestic violence arrest that cost him more than a year of football and millions in free agency, in addition to the civil settlement that preceded the criminal case in Charlotte being thrown out. But going back to his days with the Panthers, Hardy’s default stance is to be flip and dismissive, never copping to anything stronger than being a “distraction” and then only grudgingly so. Even when he was in court, he had a strange exchange with a prosecutor over whether champagne was alcohol.

He’s never taken this situation seriously.

“Here’s the deal, unless he looks like he’s contrite, unless he looks like he is just absolutely whipped, and really obviously sorry for what his situation, he’s going to get criticized,” Jones said. “We all know that. But he was in a football setting. Those questions that were being asked of him, the people who were asking those questions, those were not work place. We know some things are out of order if an attorney is talking to you or a sales person is talking to you and they’re the opposite sex. We know some things in today’s society that is behavior that we don’t have today. We know that.”

Jones then went into a rambling defense of the remarks about Tom Brady’s wife, invoking Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. Which makes sense, since he made his own vaguely creepy remarks about Gisele Bundchen.

“When you talked about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, you talked about how pretty she was,” Jones said. “Nobody thought that you were being disrespectful of women or the workplace.”

Jones would go on to admit that his decision to bring Hardy in was football-driven. But when he was signing the Pro Bowl pass-rusher, he sent his daughter out to make sure he struck the appropriate note of concern about signing a guy accused of threatening to kill his girlfriend and throwing her into a futon full of guns.

So basically, Jones wants it both ways. He wants to appear sensitive to the subject of domestic violence, while insulating himself and the player he signed behind the safe walls of sports. It’ll work exactly as long as Hardy produces on the field and the Cowboys win, and fans allow it to.

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Bryan Bulaga on track to play Sunday

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 08:   Aaron Rodgers #12 and  Bryan Bulaga #75 of the Green Bay Packers reacts against the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field on December 8, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers got right tackle Bryan Bulaga back at practice this week, which was earlier than initial reports indicated he’d be able to resume on-field work after tearing the meniscus in his left knee during a practice after the first game of the regular season.

Bulaga was expected to miss closer to six weeks, but felt well enough to practice this week and coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that Bulaga “did everything we had planned for him.” It looks like that plan will include a return to the lineup on Sunday against the Rams. McCarthy said “so far, so good” on that front.

“There’s trust there, and Bryan knows what he needs to get ready,” McCarthy said, via “It’s a big challenge with their defensive line, especially the matchup with particularly [Rams defensive end Chris] Long. That’s why you take the full week and make sure he’s ready.”

Bulaga’s return should provide an upgrade over the pass blocking provided by right tackle Don Barclay, although Barclay’s struggles in that area didn’t stop the Pack from winning all three games that Bulaga missed while his knee healed.

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Ravens short on receivers for Sunday’s game vs. Browns

Kamar Aiken

Joe Flacco is 13-1 in his career against the Browns, but Sunday’s game presents a new kind of challenge for Flacco.

He’s not sure who’s going to catch his passes. One of the guys expected to be in the Ravens’ wide receiver rotation wasn’t even on the team a week ago.

The Ravens are expected to be without top receiver Steve Smith Sr. due to a back injury. Breshad Perriman, drafted in the first round last spring to complement Smith and become a deep threat, still hasn’t played due to a knee injury and is out indefinitely.

Starting tight end Crockett Gillmore didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday with a calf injury that also kept him out last week. If Gillmore is out again, that would make rookie Maxx Williams the primary tight end.

There’s more. The Ravens got slot receiver Michael Campanaro involved early in last week’s win over the Steelers, but he suffered a back injury and was placed on injured reserve. That prompted the team to trade with the Rams to acquire Chris Givens last weekend.

The good news? The Ravens finally got the run game going with Justin Forsett last week, and that overtime win in Pittsburgh was played on Thursday night. The 1-3 Ravens have had extra preparation this week to get Givens caught up and to get Flacco reps with likely starting receivers Kamar Aiken and Marlon Brown.

Smith has 29 receptions, and Forsett is second on the team with 12. Aiken and Brown have combined for 19. Flacco targeted Smith 47 times in the first four games; only Julio Jones has been targeted more.

It’s going to be a little bit challenging for us on offense, but it’s just the way it is,” Flacco said. “We wouldn’t want it any other way. These are the guys that are going to go out there and make plays for us, start making a name for themselves and help us win, so I’m excited about it.”

The Browns have given up more than 900 yards passing in the last three weeks, so maybe Flacco’s excitement is legitimate. There’s certainly an opportunity for the likes of Aiken and Brown to make a name for themselves, and both have big-game experience. But neither has had an opportunity like Sunday brings.

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Shannon Sharpe: I didn’t tarnish Antonio Gates, he did that

Antonio Gates AP

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates took some time out from preparing for his return to the lineup after a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy to respond to comments that Shannon Sharpe made when he was initially suspended.

Sharpe took issue with Gates’s use of the well-worn excuse that he “never knowingly ingested” banned substances and said that Gates’s suspension “calls into question” all that Gates has accomplished during his NFL career. Gates said this week that Sharpe is trying to tarnish his career because Sharpe is competitive with Gates about who had the better NFL career.

On his Sirius XM NFL Radio show on Friday, Sharpe responded to Gates by saying he “feels bad” for Gates if he thinks that Sharpe cares about Gates breaking his records. He again mocked Gates’s excuse for the violation and said that Gates shouldn’t “blame me for your misdeeds.”

“Antonio Gates, your anger, your frustration is pointed in the wrong direction,” Sharpe said. “When you walk by the mirror, take a peek to your right or your left. That’s the guy you should be upset with, not me. We played the same position. We played it at a very high level. But you tried to take a shortcut somewhere along the way and I never did. And that’s not my fault, that’s yours.”

Whatever your opinion of Sharpe as a player or broadcaser, it’s pretty hard to argue that any tarnish associated with Gates’s suspension is the fault of anyone but Gates. Whether he knowingly took a banned substance or failed to do the necessary legwork to make sure what he was taking was legal, it falls on Gates to do those things and he has to deal with whatever consequences are associated with it.

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DeAndre Levy to make 2015 debut Sunday against Cardinals

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions Getty Images

As the Lions try to get their first win Sunday, it won’t hurt that they’ll get their best defensive player back on the field.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions coach Jim Caldwell named linebacker DeAndre Levy a game captain, and confirmed he was ready to play after missing seven weeks with a strained hip muscle.

“I would assume you could probably make that assumption [that he plays],” Caldwell said.

Levy was injured in practice on Aug. 24, and only began practicing last week, and they’re hoping for an immediate impact.

“Obviously, any time you have a guy that has that kind of experience that he’s had and the fine play that he’s had through the years, that certainly makes a huge difference,” Caldwell said. “Every year’s different, but he adds a boost to us. He’s a guy that, in the run and pass, can be a factor in the game.”

Levy led the team in tackles last year, and they rewarded him with a four-year extension in August, shortly before the injury.

Levy led the Lions with 151 tackles last year and tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions in 2013.

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Chip Kelly to USC speculation has already begun

Chip Kelly AP

Eagles coach Chip Kelly is having a rough season. USC coach Steve Sarkisian is having a rough season. It’s not a stretch to connect those dots.

And so it’s no surprise that people are already talking about the possibility of Sarkisian getting fired at the end of this season, and Kelly leaving the Eagles to take his place. An report today says that talk within USC of finding a new coach will certainly include Kelly, and that USC had strong interest in Kelly when it hired Sarkisian.

USC lost its second game of the season last night to unranked Washington, and for a team that some saw as a national championship contender, that’s not acceptable. If Sarkisian doesn’t turn things around in a hurry, he may be done. (It doesn’t help that Sarkisian has also had off-field issues, including appearing to be drunk when he addressed boosters at an event in August.) USC would look for a big-name coach to replace him.

Although Kelly is struggling this year in Philadelphia, he’s still a very big-name coach in college football. At Oregon, Kelly was widely regarded as one of the best coaches in college football, and if he decides he wants to go back to college football, he’ll have plenty of suitors.

For now, Kelly is focused on turning the Eagles around. He is, after all, only four games into his third season. But if things turn south this year and the Eagles finish in last place in the NFC East, don’t be surprised if Kelly and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie mutually decide that it’s best for everyone to move along. If that happens, USC could be Kelly’s landing spot.

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PFT Live: Lions talk with Dave Birkett, Patriots talk with Tom Curran

Matthew Stafford AP

There is only one winless team left in the NFL as we head toward Sunday of Week Five and we’ll be talking about how the Lions have arrived at that point during Friday’s PFT Live.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press will join Mike Florio to discuss all that’s gone wrong for the Lions through the first four weeks of the season. They’ll talk about quarterback Matthew Stafford’s struggles and Sunday’s game against the Cardinals among other things during Birkett’s visit.

The Patriots are on the opposite side of the spectrum as they return from their bye week. Tom Curran of CSN New England will drop by to preview this weekend’s matchup with the Cowboys.

As always, we also want to hear what PFT Planet thinks. Email questions at any time or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen to all three hours live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. You can also watch a simulcast of the first hour through the links at PFT.

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Will the Colts apply the “100 percent” rule to Andrew Luck?

Matt Hasselbeck, Andrew Luck AP

The Colts will never bench Andrew Luck for Matthew Hasselbeck. It’s ludicrous to even suggest it, notwithstanding Monday’s curious comments from tight end Dwayne Allen.

But coach Chuck Pagano doesn’t have to bench Luck to continue to play Hasselbeck. Pagano merely needs to declare that Luck won’t play until he’s “100 percent.”

“Got the best backup in the league right now,” Pagano said after Thursday night’s game regarding Luck. “He’s getting better every single day. He’s really, really close. We’ve got to make decisions based on what’s best for the player, first and foremost, and then what’s best for the team.”

So what’s best for the team, with the Patriots looming? Let’s consider Luck’s performances against the Patriots, when healthy.

As a rookie, Luck lost to the Patriots, 59-20. He completed 27 of 50 passes for 334 yards, with two touchdowns, three interceptions, and a lost fumble. In 2013, Luck lost to the Patriots in the postseason, 43-22. It was another four-turnover night for Luck.

Last year, Luck started a 42-20 loss during the regular season and a 45-7 blowout in the playoffs. In the AFC title game, Luck completed 12 of 33 passes for 126 yards, two interceptions, and no touchdowns. His passer rating? 23.0.

That’s an average of 17.25 points in four career games against the Patriots, with 11 total turnovers. When healthy. If Luck will be anything less than 100 percent, will Luck be any better against Bill Belichick and company?

Hasselbeck last started a game against the Patriots in 2004, a 30-20 loss in New England. More recently, Hasselbeck has become Jimmy Connors at the 1991 U.S. Open blended with Willis Reed in the 1970 NBA Finals. Ageless, heroic, and (most importantly) effective. Far more effective in two 2015 games as the starter than Luck’s three 2015 games as the starter.

Again, there’s no way Luck ever would be benched for Hasselbeck. But Luck can be kept off the field, technically for his own good, until he’s 100 percent. And it’s up to the doctors to determine when he’s 100 percent.

So the doctors, reading the tea leaves and/or following the wink-nod (or more direct) instructions from the coaching staff, simply would have to continue to say that Luck isn’t 100 percent until the hot dice in Matthew Hasselbeck’s right hand cool off.

“It’s awesome,” kicker Adam Vinatieri told reporters after Thursday night’s game. “It’s fun to see him. I know how he was around this last week sick and under the weather, to watch him go out there and put that behind him. I remember [Michael] Jordan in the playoffs doing that same kind of stuff. That was some pretty special stuff.”

Said receiver Andre Johnson: “That’s big of him to put the pads on and go out there and play through it. I know what kind of guy Matt is, he comes to work every day, works very hard and it shows when he goes out there and plays.”

Added running back Frank Gore: “We aren’t surprised, we are comfortable with Matt. He’s been with us for a long time. He’s been successful in the league. We know what he can do in this league. As long as you love the game and still want to play this game, you can do whatever you want. He’s been showing it.”

(Coincidentally, Vinatieri, Johnson, and Luck were the only guys to score points last night for the Colts.)

With that kind of positive vibe in the locker room and in light of Luck’s dismal track record (when healthy) against the Patriots, how can the Colts not at least seriously consider giving Luck another week to completely heal — and giving Hasselbeck nine days to prepare for what would be, if the Colts can pull it off, one of the best stories the NFL has seen in recent years?

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Hue Jackson: Getting booed at All-Star Game “turning point” for Dalton

Andy Dalton AP

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton’s hot start to the 2015 season has been a big reason why Cincinnati is 4-0 and offensive coordinator Hue Jackson thinks some of the team’s fans deserve some credit for Dalton’s play.

When Dalton made an appearance at this summer’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Cincinnati for a celebrity softball game, there were boos heard from the local fans in attendance. Dalton shrugged them off, but offensive coordinator Hue Jackson told Peter King of that he thinks the night was a “turning point” for Dalton.

“I’m not going to tell you it didn’t bother him,” Jackson said. “It did. When you have the success he has had — four seasons in the league, four times in the playoffs — getting booed in your own city, that has to hurt a bit. But he was able to hit one over the fence for a home run. And he flipped the bat. His message was sort of, ‘You might not like me now, but you’re going to love me later.'”

Jackson has been an unwavering supporter of Dalton’s and says he “couldn’t be happier how he has responded” after losing to the Colts in the playoffs last season. Whatever motivation came from the booing, it’s certainly helped that the Bengals have a full complement of healthy receivers for Dalton to throw the ball to and an offensive line that has helped keep him from being pressured regularly. The Seahawks will provide a stiff test for just how far the Bengals offense has come this weekend.

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Frustrated J.J. Watt on Andre Johnson’s night: “I don’t cover him”

Andre Johnson AP

Last year, the Texans finished 9-7, creating expectations that they would take the next step in 2015. So far, they’ve wandered into quicksand.

Now at 1-4, high-priced and highly-talented defensive end J.J. Watt is getting frustrated. We know this because he said so after the loss to the Colts.

“Yeah, I’d say there’s frustration,” Watt told reporters.

Asked whether he was surprised by the performance of receiver Andre Johnson, the long-time face of the franchise who got the boot after last year ended, Watt’s frustration snuck through in a very tangible, fingerpointingish way.

“He’s a good football player,” Watt said. “He made some plays. I’m not sure, I don’t cover him. So I couldn’t tell you what happened.”

Here’s what apparently happened: The Texans didn’t anticipate that the Colts would feed the ball to Andre Johnson. Sure, there were problems in execution, like when cornerback Johnathan Joseph failed to tackle Johnson and a seven-yard out route became a 23-yard catch and run. But Johnson’s first touchdown showed how the Texans overlooked him.

With the Colts facing second and goal from the four and Johnson split to the left, two defenders locked onto T.Y. Hilton on the other side of the formation. The safety on Johnson’s side bit on play-action to Frank Gore, and Johnson ran past cornerback Kareem Jackson (who also seemed to be caught flat-footed by the fake handoff to Frank Gore) and had the easy touchdown catch.

On Indy’s opening drive of the second half, quarterback Matthew Hasselbeck dropped a 24-yard rainbow into Johnson’s hands, despite decent coverage from Jackson. So that wasn’t really anyone’s fault; it was a great throw and a very good catch.

Johnson’s second touchdown came on a perfectly-designed and implemented pick play, with Johnson behind Hilton and Hilton taking out both defenders, allowing Johnson to sneak behind him and make a sliding catch that took him across the goal line. The failure of either defender to get through the screen/pick/whatever suggests a failure in scouting, coaching, and/or execution — as evidenced by the way the Patriots dealt with a similar formation and strategy in the Super Bowl.

The bottom line is that the Texans underestimated Johnson’s remaining skills and the Colts’ willingness to get him the ball during his first game back in Houston. It was brilliant by the Colts to feature Johnson, and it was foolish by the Texans to not account for him. Regardless of his struggles over the first month of the season with a new team, Johnson’s best was going to shine through last night.

The Texans mistakenly believed his best wasn’t enough for them to worry about.

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Rick Spielman: Cordarrelle Patterson continues to make strides

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 29:  Cordarrelle Patterson #84 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball 50 yards for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions on December 29, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last week, there was some talk that the Vikings would turn to Cordarrelle Patterson on offense more often with Charles Johnson out of the lineup.

As has happened often since his rookie season, that talk didn’t amount to anything on the field. Patterson caught one pass and saw the fourth-most snaps of any receiver. Rookie Stefon Diggs also showed chemistry with Teddy Bridgewater that made it hard to think that Patterson will be getting too many looks once the Vikings are whole at receiver.

Despite Patterson’s minuscule playing time and production on offense, General Manager Rick Spielman insists the team hasn’t given up on him and is coming up with more ways to get Patterson involved.

“He’s made so many strides since a year ago and he continues to make strides,” Spielman said, via “As these coaches evaluated our personnel, the one thing Zim always preaches is team comes first before any stats. As our guys are learning these players, they have a pretty good feel but they’re still, you know, ‘What are we?’ Because now you have an Adrian Peterson in your backfield. With Cordarrelle, you can’t ask for a kid that’s working as hard as he can. And there are specific packages that he may be involved with. These guys are trying to put personnel together with specific packages.”

It’s not surprising that the guy who traded up to get Patterson in the first round would resist saying that the team has lost hope that the wideout will make an impact for them. He doesn’t really need to because every week that passes without Patterson in a prominent role makes it plain enough to see.

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Matt Jones is willing to risk a sore neck for his haircut

Shawn Lauvao, Matt Jones, James Laurinaitis AP

Washington running back Matt Jones woke up with a sore neck, but at least he’s not patchy.

The rookie has quickly learned a lesson about the NFL, that if you’re going with long hair, your opponents are going to use it against you.

Jones was dragged down from behind last week when Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox grabbed him by his braids.

He just grabbed a handful of my hair,” Jones said, via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post. “I just felt the whole momentum of it, of him pulling my hair, but it didn’t hurt or nothing. It happened to me one time in college; I didn’t feel that one either. I don’t know, I don’t guess [Cox] pulled it hard enough or something. I just didn’t feel it. My neck was a little sore after the game, though. Probably because of that, I think.”

You think?

Defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois also has long hair, though not nearly as long as Jones. And he said he cautioned the youngster to do something with them to keep from giving opponents a bigger target.

“When the hairstyle becomes a part of the uniform, man, you’ve got to start tucking it, braiding it, do something,” Jean-Francois said. “Hopefully this week he ties ’em up. If he don’t, hey, I hope he don’t have no patches in his hair.”

Jones said he’s not ready to get a haircut for the sake of the game just yet, and his teammates said he’s welcome to take that risk.

“I mean, if it didn’t hurt enough for him to change it, I ain’t gonna tell him to change it,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “He’s a man, he can do his hair how he want to do it.”

And if would-be tacklers want to latch onto it, they have that right as well.

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Colts getting better results from Hasselbeck than Luck

Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck AP

Heading into the season, most people would have said the Colts were one of the teams that could least afford to lose its starting quarterback. Andrew Luck was viewed as the NFL’s next superstar quarterback, sure to sign the biggest contract in NFL history soon, while backup Matt Hasselbeck was an old man who some thought was done.

It hasn’t turned out that way.

In fact, through five games this season, the Colts are getting better results since Hasselbeck replaced the injured Luck.

Luck started three games, and the Colts went 1-2. Luck completed 56.0 percent of his passes, threw five touchdowns and seven interceptions, lost a fumble and has a passer rating of 65.1.

Hasselbeck has started two games, and the Colts went 2-0. Hasselbeck completed 63.2 percent of his passes, threw three touchdowns and no interceptions, hasn’t lost a fumble and has a passer rating of 95.0.

A big part of the difference, of course, is that Luck has played against better teams: Luck’s starts were against the Bills, Jets and Titans, while Hasselbeck’s starts were against the Jaguars and Texans. If Luck still can’t go next week, when the Colts play the Patriots, it’s a pretty good bet that Hasselbeck’s numbers will decline.

But there’s no escaping the fact that Luck got off to a very disappointing start this season, and Hasselbeck has been a surprisingly effective backup. There’s no quarterback controversy in Indianapolis, but there’s at least a quarterback oddity: The budding star has been out-played by the washed-up backup.

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Pagano is “supremely confident” about playing New England

borat Getty Images

Last week, Colts coach Chuck Pagano was “supremely confident” that quarterback Andrew Luck would be able to play against the Jaguars. And Luck didn’t play.

Last night, Pagano was asked after a win over the Texans about his confidence when it comes to facing the team’s next opponent, the Patriots. And, yes, Pagano went there again.

“Supremely confident,” Pagano told reporters.

Perhaps that phrase doesn’t mean what Pagano thinks it means. Or maybe it’s just the coach-speak way of dealing with the challenge of getting a football team ready to play an excellent team that has extra motivation, thanks to #DeflateGate, to drop another 45 points and 200-plus rushing yards against the Colts on the field situated beneath that brand-new “AFC Finalist” banner.

Regardless, Pagano’s supreme confidence recently has translated into anything but. And if the Patriots roll the Colts again in nine days on NBC, it probably makes sense to treat that phrase like one of George Carlin’s seven words not to say on TV. Or, for Pagano, anywhere else.

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Steelers “more confident and comfortable” with Vick this week

Michael Vick, Daryl Smith AP

The final offensive play for the Steelers last Thursday night saw quarterback Michael Vick sail a pass over the head of wide receiver Antonio Brown on fourth down in overtime.

It was a short pass made more difficult by the fact that Vick was throwing to the right side of the field and the absence of the comfort level that Brown and Ben Roethlisberger have built up over the years. Given how little time the Steelers had to prepare for that game after Roethlisberger hurt his knee in Week Three, it’s not surprising that things were choppy.

The Steelers and Vick are expecting smoother sailing this week. Guard Ramon Foster says that Vick is more fluid when it comes to calling plays and Vick says he feels “so much better” after having more time to practice as the starter. Brown, who couldn’t hold onto a touchdown pass last week, said that the comfort level is higher this time around.

“Last week, it just wasn’t [Vick’s] fault,” Brown said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “There is a lot of blame on me. I left a lot of plays out there. All of us are getting more comfortable, not just him. I am more confident and comfortable this week with him.”

At 2-2, the Steelers can’t afford too much of an adjustment period if they want to have a winning record when Roethlisberger returns to the lineup. That makes the next couple of days of practice important before they hit the field in San Diego on Monday night.

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Jason Garrett had a chat with Greg Hardy about dumb comments

Jason Garrett, Greg Hardy AP

As it turns out, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett doesn’t think Greg Hardy’s “jokes” are funny either.

Garrett said he had a quick conversation with his defensive end, after his first press conference as a member of the Cowboys included unfortunate gun references, and tasteless cracks about the attractiveness of the wives and girlfriends of quarterbacks.

That’s not how we want to operate as an organization, players and coaches in our organization understand that,” Garrett said, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We want to distinguish ourselves with our play, not with what we say. We define ourselves by what we do, not by what we say. Greg understands that now and that’s how we’re going forward.”

And to be honest, Garrett’s words are probably worth mentioning to his boss, who had some equally unrefined commentary when asked about Hardy’s comments about Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen.

“When I saw him marry [Bundchen], Tom went up in my eyes 100 percent,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “She’s very very attractive and it shows what an outstanding individual Tom is.”

Yes, because acquiring the company of attractive women is clearly a sign of character, at least among those who view women as objects.

But as it pertains to Hardy, Garrett said he thought his message was received.

“Yeah, he’s very receptive, very respectful, appreciated my comments,” Garrett said. “Hopefully he’ll handle it the right way going forward.”

Based on past actions, Hardy probably understands that as well as teammate Joseph Randle understood directions to not leap across goal lines with the ball exposed, and Garrett’s likely to have to repeat this conversation as well.

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