With dreams of being like Mike and Kobe Bryant posters plastered on his walls, Justin Hunter realized early on that football, not basketball, is his future. After a devastating knee injury took away his sophomore year at Tennessee, Hunter has been working double time to make his NFL dream a reality.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Adversity can’t stop Justin Hunter
Kellen Davis will continue his NFL career in London. Technically.
As the Lions prepare to face the Falcons at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, Detroit has added the veteran tight end to the roster.
Davis spent five years with the Bears, joining the Seahawks for 2013. He was cut by the Giants before the start of the 2014 regular season.
When the Bills beat the Lions, they carried defensive coordinator and former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz off the field at the end of the game.
The Cowboys didn’t carry anyone off the field at the end of their victory over the Giants on Sunday, but they did recognize that the win meant a little bit extra to one member of the organization. Mike Pope joined the team as their tight ends coach in the offseason after his long tenure with the Giants came to an end with a pink slip.
Pope had been an assistant with Bill Parcells, Jim Fassel and Tom Coughlin, making him part of every Giants team that has ever gone to the Super Bowl, but that history wasn’t enough for him to survive the housecleaning that the Giants did after the offense stumbled badly last season. Pope got some payback when tight end Gavin Escobar caught two touchdowns on the way to a 31-21 win that he’ll get to remember by looking at the game ball the team gave him after the final whistle.
“He spent a lot of time in New York with that team, so to be over on this side and get that win surely means a lot to him. You try to say it’s never personal, but for him to come down here and have success — especially against the Giants — was big,” tight end Jason Witten said, via the New York Post. “We knew he wanted to win this one. This was his big game, and he really wanted it. You know he was loving this after it was over.”
Giants tight end Larry Donnell had a key fumble in the second half of the game, a development that Pope might not have been able to stop if he were still with Giants but one that probably didn’t make the win feel any less sweet for him either.
The Jaguars got their first win of the season yesterday, but they didn’t get to celebrate for long.
Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, veteran middle linebacker Paul Posluszny suffered a torn pectoral muscle yesterday and will be out for the year.
That’s a huge blow for a young team that was beginning to show signs of life after an 0-6 start, taking the leader out of the middle of the defense.
“It’s a big loss,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “That will be a difficult one.”
Posluszny will have surgery this week, and will be placed on injured reserve.
Bradley also said that defensive end Andre Branch suffered a groin injury, and would miss about six weeks.
The Lions have played without wide receiver Calvin Johnson for the last two weeks, but the door will remain open for his return in Week Eight even though the team will be playing a long way from home.
The team leaves for London on Monday night to begin their week of preparations for next Sunday’s game against the Falcons and coach Jim Caldwell told reporters, including Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, that Johnson will be making the trip with the team.
There have been suggestions that the team would hold the wide receiver out until after their Week Nine bye, but that clearly hasn’t been set in stone. Johnson worked out on the field before the team took on the Saints, but his high ankle sprain wasn’t well enough for him to return to action. If he can progress over the next few days and practice with the team later this week, the result may be a different one come Sunday.
While the Lions offense hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in the two games without Johnson or the two games he played at considerably less than 100 percent, they have found that there’s a way to move the ball without Johnson being the centerpiece of the offense. Keeping that mentality while getting the talented wideout back in the lineup should help the Lions as they move into the second half of the season.
Brian Orakpo’s second annual contract year has not ended well. The Washington linebacker, who had been struggling while playing under the $11.45 million franchise tag, suffered a torn pectoral muscle on Sunday against the Titans, per a league source.
Orakpo will be placed on injured reserve, ending his 2014 season.
A torn pec ended Orakpo’s 2012 season after only two games. Healthy for 15 games last year, 10 sacks from the 2009 first-round pick prompted Washington to use the franchise tag. A second application of the tag would cost $13.74 million.
Thus, Orakpo will undoubtedly hit the open market — and he’ll likely stay with Washington only if they offer him more than he could get elsewhere.
If it’s over for Orakpo in Washington, it ends with 71 games, 40 sacks, and a playoff appearance that was earned with Orakpo missing every game beyond Week Two.
The Panthers had to clear the decks to keep an offensive line on the field yesterday, and don’t know yet who will be available this week.
Considering an injury to left guard Amini Silatolu had backup Fernando Velasco on the field anyway, the Panthers line was a real hash by the end of the day. And it’s not as if they were the 1980s Washington Hogs to begin with.
Quarterback Cam Newton has played well for most of the season, but their lack of talent up front has impacted the way they run and pass, and appears that it will continue to be a problem.
Percy Harvin is at work with his new teammates on the Jets today, and the man who brought him to town thinks that’s a big deal.
“This could be a potential coup for the Jets,” General Manager John Idzik said at a press conference today.
There’s no doubt that Harvin has the talent to significantly upgrade the Jets’ offense, as well as their special teams. But Harvin had the talent to upgrade the Vikings and the Seahawks, too, and both teams ultimately decided that he wasn’t worth the headaches. So why will it be different in New York?
Idzik said the Jets have high standards, and that “acting like a Jet” will be a requirement of Harvin and everyone else, but the Jets believe Harvin has what it takes to improve their team. Idzik stressed that the Jets are still committed to developing their offense around quarterback Geno Smith, and bringing Harvin in gives Smith a big weapon.
The Jets are 1-6 and an extreme long shot to make the playoffs, which makes them an odd destination for a star player in a mid-season trade. But Idzik said the Jets don’t think it’s too late for them to go on a run and get to the postseason.
If that happens, Idzik will look brilliant for making this move. But if the Jets keep losing, and if Harvin turns out to be a locker room cancer, this could be a coup in which Idzik and Rex Ryan are overthrown.
Fred Jackson was one of two Bills running backs to leave Sunday’s 17-16 win over the Vikings with an injury, but the outlook for his injured groin is better than the one C.J. Spiller got for a broken collarbone.
Spiller is expected to miss the remainder of the season, but Jackson is going to try to make it back faster than the four-week timetable he’s been given by doctors.
“It’s not as bad as it could have been,” Jackson said on WGR 550, via ESPN.com. “It’s typically a four-week injury. But we’ll try to do some things to get it sped up. I like to think of myself as somebody who can come back before typical. It’s just gonna be on me to get in there and rehab and see the team doctors and do what it is they want me to do.”
The Bills will use Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown as their primary ball carriers until Jackson is ready to return to the lineup. Brown has yet to play a regular season game for the Bills in his first season with the team and Dixon ran for 51 yards after the injuries pressed him into an expanded role against Minnesota.
On Monday’s edition of PFT Live, we’ll talk about that contest with Tim Graham of the Buffalo News. Graham and Mike Florio will discuss Orton’s play since taking over the starting job, the injuries to running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and any changes that might be on the horizon now that the team has been sold to Terry Pegula.
The Jaguars also won on Sunday and it’s notable even though it didn’t come down to the very end of the game. Mike Dempsey of 1010XL in Jacksonville will be on the show to talk to Florio about rookie quarterback Blake Bortles‘ progress, how the plan put in place last year is coming together and what to look for in the coming weeks from the Jags.
It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.
The Jaguars won their first game on Sunday, but Bortles is the first to admit he played badly: Bortles completed 17 of 31 passes for 159 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions. He now has an NFL-high 10 interceptions, an average of two a game since he took over for the benched Chad Henne.
“Bad, not good,” Bortles said of his performance. “The defense and offensive line and running game won this game, no doubt about it. Anybody can see that. Obviously, I’m not happy with the way I played, but I’m extremely happy with the outcome of the game.”
Bortles really isn’t ready to be an NFL starter, and the Jaguars have known that for months. That’s why Henne started the season, and the coaches initially said Bortles would sit out his rookie year. Unfortunately, Henne was so bad that the coaching staff felt it had no choice but to bench him, and Bortles is going through growing pains.
For now, the primary focus of the coaches is to make sure Bortles doesn’t lose confidence. Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said that when Bortles came off the field hanging his head after an interception, Fisch gave him a pep talk.
“I told him, ‘That’s not going to be the last pick you ever throw so move on,’” Fisch said. “We weren’t going to sit there and just go through each pick. We can talk about that [Monday].”
If Bortles keeps throwing interceptions at this rate for the rest of the season, he’ll finish 2014 with 28 picks. That’s terrible. But it’s also the same number of interceptions that Peyton Manning threw as a rookie. Sometimes a young quarterback just has to go through growing pains, and that’s what Bortles did on Sunday.
The Browns have released one of their offensive starters.
The club announced Monday it had waived rookie Ray Agnew, who started Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville, playing 18 snaps on offense and catching one pass for three yards. An undrafted free agent from Southern Illinois, the 23-year-old Agnew had started all six games for Cleveland, rushing twice for two yards and catching two passes for 15 yards.
To replace Agnew, the Browns called up rookie fullback Kiero Small, who was a seventh-round pick of Seattle in May. The Browns added Small (5-8, 244) to their practice squad before the start of the season. The 23-year-old Small played collegiately at Arkansas.
Two weeks ago, we sparked a flurry of reports and quotes and boasts and ultimately concerns regarding the return of the NFL to Los Angeles, reporting that the league believes one or two teams will move there within the next 12-24 months.
Of the three teams viewed as the most likely to move — the Rams, Raiders, and Chargers — the team viewed by the NFL as most likely to make the move is the Rams.
If it’s the Rams, the most likely location for a new stadium becomes the land owner Stan Kroenke purchased last year at Hollywood Park. AEG’s proposed downtown stadium is believed to hinge on owner Philip Anschutz purchasing a significant piece of the anchor tenant.
The Rams currently have a year-to-year arrangement at the Edward Jones Dome. They can leave without financial consequence after the coming season, and every season thereafter.
The powers-that-be in St. Louis reportedly are working on a proposal of a new open-air stadium in St. Louis. It could be a legitimate effort to keep the team. Or it could be an effort to diffuse criticism that the local politicians didn’t try hard enough to keep him.
But what about San Diego’s threat to oppose the relocation of any team to the L.A. market? Per a league source, those concerns likely would be resolved, possibly with the Chargers getting a larger slice of the relocation fee than other teams receive.
For most of the Saints’ visit to the Lions, it looked like the team would buck their recent history of struggling away from the Superdome.
They led by 13 points in the fourth quarter, their defense was keeping the Lions in check and it looked like it would just be a matter of running out the clock for their third win of the season. That’s when things fell apart.
A Golden Tate 73-yard touchdown brought the Lions within a score and Drew Brees threw an interception on the next possession to set the Lions up for their game-winning score. Some wondered if the team should have been running the ball instead of throwing it at that point in the game and several members of the team said that there was plenty of blame to go around, but Brees wanted most of it for himself.
“The worst feeling in professional sports is when you feel like you let your team down. And that’s the way I feel right now,” Brees said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “You’ve gotta know when to take a chance, when to try to fit a ball in there, or when to throw it away, take a sack, scramble, whatever it might be, and make sure the ball stays in your hands. And unfortunately that’s a critical time of the game where a turnover cannot happen, and I’m responsible for that. That one’s on me.”
One thing or another has gone wrong just about every time the Saints have played on the road in the last few years, which has left them with 10 losses in their last 12 road trips. That has to change if the 2-4 Saints are going to turn their season around and the improvement is going to have to come from everyone, not just Brees.
On a weekend dominated by record-breaking quarterbacks, the Titans are still wondering when they’ll get their broken one back.
After watching backup Charlie Whitehurst lead the Titans to another come-from-ahead loss, they’re hoping to get starter Jake Locker back from his thumb sprain in time to play next week against the Texans.
Locker practiced early last week, but was then limited, and he didn’t play yesterday.
“I would expect him being able to go next week,” Whisenhunt said, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean. “But until we get out there and practice, I don’t know that for sure.”
“Obviously you worry about him turning the ball over and putting one on the ground if you miss a snap or do something with ball handling,” Whisenhunt said of the decision to park him. “That’s ultimately what made the decision.”
Clipboard Jesus actually hasn’t been terrible in relief. He threw an interception (which was his first since 2011), and had a 91.8 passer rating. But just like the disastrous collapse against the Browns, the Titans offense flat-lined late, allowing a comeback for the opponents.
Looking at the list of career leaders for passing touchdowns, there’s really only one person on the list who has a shot of passing Manning in the next decade, and that’s Drew Brees. Manning is currently 136 touchdown passes ahead of Brees (510 to 374), and Manning is three years older than Brees. Brees has a shot.
But it’s not a good shot. To equal Manning’s total, Brees would have to keep pace with Manning until Manning retires, and then play four more years after Manning retires while averaging 34 touchdown passes a season. That’s a very tall order.
And if Brees doesn’t break the passing touchdown record, it’s going to be a very long time before anyone gets close. After Brees on the list of all-time touchdown passers is Tom Brady, who is closer in age to Manning than he is to Brees. It’s unlikely that Brady will finish ahead of either Brees or Manning, let alone both of them.
Next on the list of active leaders is Eli Manning, who isn’t even halfway to his big brother’s total: Eli has 243 touchdown passes at age 33, meaning at his current pace he’d need to keep playing into his mid-40s just to reach Peyton’s current touchdown record, and of course by the time Peyton retires he’ll have put the record far beyond his current total.
Aaron Rodgers, with 206 career touchdown passes, probably got too late a start to catch Manning. The 30-year-old Rodgers spent his first three seasons as Brett Favre’s backup, meaning he was already in his mid-20s before he started throwing touchdown passes. He’ll probably have to play into his mid-40s to have any chance at the record.
If there’s a young active quarterback who would have a chance at catching Manning it would probably be Matthew Stafford, who became the Lions’ starter at age 21 and now has 118 touchdown passes at age 26. Could Stafford play something like 14 more years and average 35 touchdowns a year? It’s unlikely, but he’s by far the youngest of the active quarterbacks who have reached 100 career touchdowns, so if any one of the young crop of quarterbacks is going to break the record, it’s probably Stafford. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are only a year younger than Stafford, and they’re both more than 50 touchdowns behind Stafford.
It’s impossible to guess how the rules of the NFL or football strategies might change to make the passing touchdown record easier or harder to break in the future, but assuming 60-touchdown seasons don’t become commonplace, Manning is likely to own this record for a very long time. If any quarterback is ever going to break it, he probably isn’t in the NFL yet.