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Ravens’ Bryan Hall looking forward to move to linebacker

Byron Leftwich AP

The Ravens’ inside linebacking corps took a hit this offseason with the departures of Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe.

Their attempt to replace them in the lineup won’t be limited to signing free agents or drafting rookies later this month. They’ll also be moving defensive lineman Bryan Hall to inside linebacker this offseason, a switch that isn’t exactly out of left field. Hall played one preseason game at linebacker before last season and played the position at Arkansas State, so he was a natural candidate to move back to his old spot with the Ravens thinner at the spot than they used to be.

“Coach Harbaugh told me, ‘We want to look at you at inside linebacker,’ and I said, ‘I’m down for it.’ I’m a football player, first and foremost, and I love football. I’m just looking for an opportunity to progress as a football player,” Hall said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “I think I’ve got the instincts. I’m a football player. Put me in any position, and I can play. I’m a student of the game. I work hard. Whatever’s in front of me, I can do. I’m excited.”

Hall, who played five games for the Ravens last year, has dropped about 15 pounds from his 2012 playing weight and has some more to cut before he’ll be back into a linebacker’s body. Albert McClellan and Jameel McClain are the most experienced inside linebackers on the roster, but things are pretty open behind them for Hall and anyone else to carve out a spot for themselves on the roster in the future.

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Stevie Johnson not frustrated by spot on 49ers depth chart

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When wide receiver Stevie Johnson was in Buffalo, he served as the team’s No. 1 receiver most of the time.

No one was surprised when that changed with the offseason trade that brought him to San Francisco because the 49ers already had Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree in house, but there wasn’t a wide expectation that Johnson would wind up as the fourth man in the pecking order at wideout. That’s how things have played out, however, and Johnson has been playing fewer snaps than Brandon Lloyd.

Johnson admits that he’d like to be doing more, but says he isn’t frustrated by his spot because of the players in front of him.

“No frustration at all. [The] only sense of frustration is being a competitor, you know, wanting to do more. But it ain’t like there’s a bunch of pansies in front of me,” Johnson said, via CSNBayArea.com. “It’s cool to a certain extent. When we get in those situations, in the heat of the moment, of course, I’m a warrior. I’m ready to go out there. We got great guys out there on the field. You can’t be frustrated. It’s not going to look right.”

Johnson has produced in the playing time he has received with 10 catches in the two weeks before San Francisco went on their bye and 30 catches overall this season, which likely joins with the chance to make it to the postseason for the first time to help with any feelings of frustration.

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Two Jets fans launch assault on John Idzik’s job

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It’s nearly November, which means it’s nearly time for website, billboards, and airplane banners calling for the ouster of NFL coaches and/or General Managers.

In New York, a pair of Jets season-ticket holders have launched FireJohnIdzik.com, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

Brothers Jason and Jared Koeppel hope to raise enough money to purchase a billboard outside MetLife Stadium calling for Idzik’s ouster.  The idea came from this week’s Idzik press conference, which began with an extended exercise in self-flagellation by the G.M.

“First of all, Sunday’s game was ridiculous,” Jason Koeppel told Mehta.  “We left the stadium beyond another level of angry.  Then Monday was the tipping point.  I’m listening going ‘are you kidding me?’  We had to do something.”

Although Idzik hasn’t even had the chance to hire his own head coach, the 2014 could end badly enough that Idzik doesn’t survive it.  At 1-7 through eight games, would owner Woody Johnson keep Idzik if the team finishes 2-14 or 3-13?

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Mike Wallace says he’s just being honest calling out Dolphins’ offense

Mike Wallace AP

Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace used an obscenity to describe the quality of Miami’s offense in Sunday’s win over the Jaguars. Asked to elaborate this week, Wallace said he was just trying to give a frank assessment.

“Y’all asked me a question and I told y’all my honest answer. That’s just what it is,” Wallace told reporters. “I don’t look at stuff in the media or whatever to get me fired up. I get fired up just ’cause that’s what we do. We love to play this game and you just want to go out and be the best player you can be. You should be fired up anyway — not because of nothing I say or my teammates or coaches say.”

The Dolphins’ offense was not particularly good on Sunday, but they won 27-13 thanks to two interception returns for touchdowns by the Dolphins’ defense. Wallace did catch a 50-yard pass, which was nice, but other than that big play he had just one catch for nine yards. There’s been talk in Miami that Wallace isn’t happy with the inability of the offense to make use of his big-play talents, and talk that the Dolphins aren’t happy with Wallace’s level of production. But Wallace says there are no issues.

“There was no disconnect between me and the coaches,” Wallace said. “We’re all on the same page. We all want what’s best for the team. We all want to win, we all want to get our offense where we want to go and that’s the top. If we’re not No. 1, we’re behind.”

The Dolphins’ passing game has a long way to go before it’s No. 1. Making those 50-yard catches a common occurrence would be a good step toward getting to No. 1.

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Report: Criminal charges unlikely for Ray McDonald

McDonald Getty Images

49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald has yet to be charged with assaulting his pregnant fiancée, and he apparently won’t be.

According to Tracey Kaplan of the San Jose Mercury News, prosecutors in Santa Clara County are leaning against officially charging McDonald.  Kaplan writes that the prosecutor is “likely to announce the decision soon,” which will be accompanied by a report that explains the reasons for not proceeding.

Evidence that the alleged victim may have been the aggressor undermines the case, and the involvement of San Jose police officer Sean Pritchard further complicates the situation.  Pritchard, who had worked on the side for the 49ers, already was present at McDonald’s house when the officers responding to the 911 call arrived.

The San Jose police department has directed its officers to stop providing security services to the 49ers while not on duty, given that this separate relationship creates an obvious conflict of interest when it comes to the enforcement of the laws in a way that could make key 49ers players not available for games.

McDonald has continued to play, creating confusion among NFL fans and the perception of competitive imbalance, given the decision to essentially suspend Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy with pay until their own legal cases have been resolved.

For McDonald, there ultimately may be nothing to resolve.

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Reshad Jones: I’m playing like the best safety in the league

Reshad Jones AP

The Dolphins Defense will be tasked with slowing down Philip Rivers and the Chargers passing attack this weekend, something that would have probably been more troubling to them before safety Reshad Jones returned from his suspension.

In the three games that Jones has played for the Dolphins this year, he has recorded 24 tackles and an interception while quarterbacks are completing under half of their passes to his area of the field. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle believes Jones is playing his best football in the three years that Coyle’s been with the team and Jones had some high praise of his own for his work in 2014.

“I’m playing like the best safety in the league, actually,” Jones said, via the Miami Herald. “Numbers don’t lie. If you compare my numbers to the other safeties in the league, with what I’ve done, it stacks up with the best of them.”

It’s a good time for Jones to be playing at a high level. The game with the Chargers kicks off a four-game stretch against teams with winning records, including a visit from the Bills that will weigh heavily on the playoff chances for both teams.

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Browns trying to bring out the dog in their defense

Oakland Raiders v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Some football players are easier to motivate than others.

And the Browns are using props to help keep their defensive players on edge, playing on the team’s Dawg Pound heritage.

According to Dan Labbe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil came up with a system to reward his guys for making plays.

“What we came up with that was unique to the Dawg Pound was to give each player a dog collar,” O’Neil said. “And those guys would be rewarded for plays on the field with a bone for every time they did something that we considered a ‘Play Like A Brown’ play.”

Now, players are competing to see who ends up with the most bones, though the coaches are withholding the standings for now

“It’s keeping guys competitive,” linebacker Jabaal Sheard said. “Not only against the other team, but against one another.”

“I don’t know how many bones you get for sacks,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “Because Paul Kruger, he should be outweighing me by a lot right now. I don’t know how many you get for a sack, but he’s got a lot.”

The Browns Defense is playing well, and has them above .500 after Halloween, which not many expected.

So if they want to dress up, more power to them.

 

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Brandon Weeden not sure if he’s getting called out of the pen

Brandon Weeden AP

Here’s a sentence that should strike more fear in the hearts of Cowboys fans than a carload of teenagers bearing eggs tonight.

Brandon Weeden is preparing to start for the Cowboys Sunday against the Cardinals.

Sure, they hope Tony Romo’s “pain tolerance” allows him to play, and he thinks it will, but the Cowboys still have to get ready as if their quarterback with a back injury might not.

Weeden compared the not knowing whether he’d be needed to his last year playing baseball, and his uneasiness with being in the bullpen.

“My last year playing baseball I was dealing with some shoulder issues, so I was a reliever and in the bullpen, and I used to get so ticked off because my manager never told me if I was hot that night or not,” Weeden said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “It’s really hard. It’s just a different mindset. It’s the uncertainty of you may play or you may not play for six, seven, eight weeks, whatever. You just don’t know.

“So you’ve just got to approach it like you’re going to play at some point. That way, if your number is called, you’re not caught off guard.”

The 31-year-old Weeden played well in relief Sunday night, throwing a touchdown and completing 4-of-6 passes before Romo returned to the game. He led them on two scoring drives, and the game was tied when he left.

“He performed well,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “He took us down on a couple of scoring drives. I think the thing that was most important was his demeanor. He looked very veteranlike. You could tell he’d played. He’s an older player. Young in the league, but the guy’s got a lot of maturity to him. It’s not too big for him to go out there and step in in a relief mode and play. Nor is it too big for him to be prepared as a starter, because he’s done it in this league. We’re very confident in him.”

The fact he’s gotten all the work in the preseason and on Wednesdays all season helps him familiarize, and he’ll need to be ready for long relief work, in case Romo can’t tolerate the pain which obviously has coaches worried.

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Friday morning one-liners

Mike Evans, C.J. Mosley AP

The Bills are working to get their running game on track.

It looks like Dallas Thomas will replace Daryn Colledge at left guard for the Dolphins this week.

LB Jonathan Casillas is doing all he can to learn the Patriots scheme on the fly.

Jets coach Rex Ryan remains high on T D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s play.

Ravens NT Brandon Williams is starting to play up to his size.

The Bengals are relying on their backup linebackers right now.

Browns CB Justin Gilbert feels he’s turned the corner in his rookie season.

Now that he’s healthy, Steelers WR Martavis Bryant is moving up the depth chart.

The Texans have gotten good play from cornerbacks Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson this season.

Colts S LaRon Landry’s status for Monday night remains up in the air.

The Jaguars will be heading to London on Sunday night.

The Titans haven’t gotten much return on their free agent investments.

Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is preparing for another matchup with the Patriots.

Assistant coaches with the Chiefs liked what they saw from the Royals during the team’s run to the World Series.

The Raiders Offense needs more points to go with a spike in yards.

Chargers WR Keenan Allen looks to TE Antonio Gates as a mentor.

A plug from Barry Switzer helped RB DeMarco Murray land with the Cowboys.

Giants T Justin Pugh wants to prove he’s better than he’s looked in recent weeks.

The Eagles may need S Earl Wolff to step up this weekend.

Will the Redskins pass rush remain potent this week?

The Bears Defense hit the bye week with a lot of room for improvement.

WR Ryan Broyles may not be playing much for the Lions in the coming weeks.

A look back at some key in-season acquisitions from the past by the Packers.

Vikings QB Matt Cassel is doing what he can to help out while sidelined by injury.

The Falcons have allowed 11 plays of more than 40 yards totaling 607 yards of total offense for their opponents.

Thursday night was another quiet one for Panthers TE Greg Olsen.

The Saints got a strong outing from RB Mark Ingram on Thursday night.

Buccaneers rookie WR Mike Evans is getting more comfortable in the team’s offense.

RB Marion Grice could be on the spot for the Cardinals this weekend.

The Rams have learned this season that re-injuring ACLs is fairly common.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle compiles a list of 10 things the 49ers need to do in the second half of the season.

During his baseball days, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was once roommates with World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner.

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It’s our 13th anniversary (almost)

Marino Getty Images

OK, so PFT technically doesn’t become a teenager until midnight tonight, when Halloween yields to All Saints Day.  But since most of you will be:  (1) lethargic from all the candy you’ll be eating; (2) hungover from all the booze you’ll be drinking; or (3) both, we decided to give you a chance now to:  (1) congratulate us; (2) denigrate us; or (3) both.

ProFootballTalk.com went live on November 1, 2001.  The story of how it all came to be isn’t short enough to retell in this context or interesting enough to retell in any context.  But that was the day the servers went live, complete with a cumbersome system for posting stories that would become far more cumbersome before it would ever begin to streamline.

In September 2002, I decided to pull the plug on a venture that I was convinced at the time would never amount to anything.  (I changed my mind about 36 hours later.)  The quest to turn the thing into actual revenue began, and the dam broke in early 2006, when Sprint became our first significant sponsor.

Three years later, NBC came calling.  I resisted and refused and rebelled until the servers exploded on the first day of free agency and NBC provided the temporary canvas for our busiest news weekend of the year.  Roughly four months later, the partnership with NBC launched.

The five-plus years since then have been too hectic to allow for much reflection.  But plenty has happened as this thing has continued to grow.  PFT’s team of contributors currently stands at six — with MDS, Josh Alper, Darin Gantt, Mike Wilkening, and Curtis Crabtree filling out a roster that keeps the news flowing every day of the year.

Thanks to each of them and thanks to all of you for allowing us to keep doing this by regularly visiting these pages to see what we’ve been doing.  Hopefully, we’ll keep doing whatever it is that we do for a lot longer than 13 more years.

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Eric Decker’s wife makes Twitter war worse, then retreats

Fall 2014 Men's Designer Party Getty Images

We noted yesterday that new Jets wide receiver invited the wrath of Jets fans on Twitter when he made the mistake of asking for some honest feedback.

Now, his wife has gone and made it worse.

Via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, country music singer Jessie James Decker took a poke at the Jets fans who mocked Decker, probably not helping things.

“You think he really cares what y’all think haters? He’s laughing his ass alllll the way home…. Life is pretty good here. Can’t complain,” she wrote on Twitter.

Of course, her bio claimed “I pee in the shower,” so delicate public relations skill isn’t her forte either. She’s since deleted her Twitter account.

To his credit, the Jets wideout said “you’ve got to expect that,” regarding the blowback to his initial attempt, and tried to play nice.

“I don’t think it’s against the law to try to unite or reach out to fans,” he said. “People obviously enjoy winning a lot more than losing, I get that. For me, that’s the biggest thing, making fans feel like they are important, because they are.

“Obviously I wish things could be different. I didn’t expect everything to be all happy and gung-ho; I knew I was going to get some sarcastic remarks.”

So at least he handled them better than his wife did.

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49ers getting away from printed tickets

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Ticket stubs will soon be going the way of the dodo bird.

According to Don Muret of SportsBusiness Daily, the 49ers will stop printing tickets to games in 2015.

The decision flows from heavy adoption of the team’s mobile ticketing device.  The 49ers expect 30,000 fans to use mobile ticketing for Sunday’s game against the Rams.

“Our goal when we launched this system was to drive adoption and the numbers have been mind-boggling,” COO Al Guido told Muret. “We want to rip the Band-Aid in year two, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Customers will still be able to print tickets at home, but gone are the days of the collectible piece of tangible proof of attendance at a game.  And the 49ers will save a lot of money by doing it.

“We’ll be using those dollars for other gifts,” Guido said.

Of course, in 18 years (or a lot sooner) those duffel bags, ear phones, and wireless chargers will be long gone.  Unlike, for example, the ticket stub from the 1995 AFC title game in Pittsburgh, where it cost a mere $65 to see Bill Cowher’s Steelers narrowly beat 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and the Colts.  (It’s not for sale, but if it were, it would cost more than $65.)

At a time when the NFL wants to make the in-stadium experience better than the at-home experience, giving the fans something that will make going to the game even more memorable doesn’t hurt.  Here’s hoping other teams won’t follow the 49ers’ lead on this one.

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Nick Foles: I have to do a better job

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

People with realistic expectations for the 2014 season knew that Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was going to throw more interceptions this season.

He threw picks on a minuscule 0.6 percent of his throws last season, a number that wasn’t going to be sustainable for another season. Even those who knew Foles would be throwing more interceptions may not have expected him to throw quite as many as he’s been throwing.

As it’s turned out, Foles has thrown interceptions in all but one game this season and he’s thrown seven in the last four games. That’s led to criticism of his footwork and decision making, some of it from Eagles coach Chip Kelly, and work in the film room on identifying the problems. Foles knows that more is expected of him and that continuing to talk about the issues won’t do anything to make them better.

“I’m the decision-maker on offense,” Foles said, via ESPN.com. “I have the ball every single play. Yes, I have to do a better job. Words can’t describe it. I have to go out here and keep working. It doesn’t feel good at times. You have to keep working on fundamentals and on decision-making. I’m going to keep working, and I’m going to fix it. My words don’t mean anything. I have to go out here, and I have to prove it.”

Foles will try to stop the flood of interceptions against J.J. Watt and the Texans in Houston this weekend.

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Difference in schedules gives Panthers somewhat of a chance

New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Saints took control of the NFC South race Thursday night.

Such that a 4-4 team can be in control of anything.

They’re now clear of the 3-5-1 Panthers after last night’s 28-10 win in Charlotte, but nothing is as it appears in the dirty south (The NSFW South?).

The Saints have the edge now, but play a tougher schedule down the stretch, significantly tougher than the Panthers.

In fact, after playing the Eagles on the road next Monday night, the only team the Panthers play the rest of the season which has a winning record now is the Browns (and no that’s not a typo).

The combined record of the rest of the Panthers’ opponents is 21-32. Of course, those teams are looking at the Panthers as examples of the relative strength of their own schedules as well.

The Saints, meanwhile, have to play some actual teams. Their next three opponents, all at home, are a combined 13-8-1 (San Francisco, Cincinnati and Baltimore).

Then come road trips to Pittsburgh and Chicago, and they haven’t been a particularly good cold weather team outdoors. Their opponents’ record the rest of the way is 27-33-2. That’s not good, but it’s Bataan-like compared to the Panthers’ schedule.

Heck, at that rate, even the 2-6 Falcons aren’t really out of it.

(Tried to type this with straight face. Couldn’t. Sorry.)

But as clean as the Saints have looked the last two games, and as hapless as the Panthers have looked the last seven (1-5-1), this division and the home playoff game that comes with it isn’t settled by a long shot.

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Junior Galette: We didn’t listen to the white noise of criticism

New Orleans at Carolina Getty Images

Linebacker Junior Galette made one of the biggest plays of Thursday night’s Saints win when he hit Panthers quarterback Cam Newton from behind in the second quarter to force a fumble that New Orleans recovered on the doorstep of the end zone.

They cashed in with the first points of the game a few plays later and the Saints were off and running to their first road win of the season. The win improved their record for the season to 4-4 and continued a trend of improved defense that has led to 12 sacks over the teams last 13 quarters of action and a 3-1 record. That unit drew a lot of criticism early this season, but Galette said the team never let it get to them.

“We didn’t listen to the white noise,” Galette said, via ESPN.com. “And here we are, first place in the division, and we can’t get complacent. We still won’t listen to the white noise and the good things people will say about us. Because we know how bad it feels when you’re down. So we’re just gonna keep our foot on the gas and not look back.”

As Galette noted, the win moved the Saints into the lead in the NFC South. The play of the defense, which shut Carolina out in the first half despite two turnovers by their offense, over the last month is a good development for their chances of remaining there the rest of the way.

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DeAngelo Hall tears Achilles tendon, again

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall has torn his Achilles tendon.  Yes, he did it last month.  He also has now done it again.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Hall re-tore the tendon this week.  He’ll need to have a second surgery to repair it.

The good news, if there is any, is that the second injury has happened early enough that Hall should be able to get ready for the 2015 season.  But his rehab could be a little more tentative this time around, given that the thing has torn again.

Washington has adjusted well to the absence of the team’s best cover corner, especially since Bashaud Breeland has continued to develop well in his rookie season.

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