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Hines Ward doesn’t believe football is ready for openly gay player

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At a time when many in the media and multiple straight players seem to be almost rooting for a gay NFL player to come out of the closet, former Steelers receiver and NBC analyst Hines Ward believes that the time may not be right for it to happen.

“I don’t think football is ready, there’s too many guys in the locker room and, you know, guys play around too much,” Ward told Erik Kuselias earlier today on NBC Sports Radio.

Ward remains optimistic that a player will decide otherwise.  “[H]opefully one guy comes out of the closet and [will] be comfortable with himself,” Ward said.  “I don’t have anything against a gay football player or a gay person period so if he does, he has support from me.  I want people to live their lives for who they are and don’t have to hide behind closed doors to do that.”

He’s right, but that will be hard to do if football truly isn’t ready.  Recent comments from Ward’s former teammate, Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace, suggest that football isn’t ready.

The crown jewel of the 2013 free-agency class tweeted his way into trouble on the same day the NFL unveiled a new set of guidelines regarding sexual orientation, and on the same day NBA player Jason Collins disclosed he is gay.  Wallace’s comments once again demonstrate the disconnect between the politically-correct responses that typically emerge when a player is responding to a direct question from someone other than a comedian and the unfiltered nonsense that periodically flows from the fingertips in 140-character fragments.

Regardless of the precise reasons — player intolerance, fan abuse, fear of being cut, the avoidance of a media distraction for the player and his team, or some combination of those — the decision of every gay NFL player both now and in the past to remain closeted during their playing careers tends to prove that Hines is correct.

Otherwise, a gay player would have come out by now.

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League is considering a developmental league

PHOENIX - JUNE 30:  Kicker Eric Houle #16 runs down field during a game against the Grand Rapids Rampage at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona on June 30, 2008.  (Photo by Gene Lower/Getty Images) Getty Images

With NFL Europe/Europa/Whateva long gone and the Arena Football League close to joining it in extinction, football players not yet ready for the NFL have limited options for developing their game. And so the NFL continues to discuss the possibility of launching a developmental league.

“We’ve talked about it,” Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters earlier this week. “Some of you may have heard we spent a fair amount of time at the [quarterly] meeting on what we call the 2020 plan, which is talking about how we plan for the future and the things we want to accomplish. One of them is obviously the game, and how do we improve the game? A developmental league could be something that we want to do to try to help develop players.

“We pick up on the rosters from the start of the season to the end of the season, probably three to four hundred players on average. Having those players ready to play as quickly as possible and developed so that their skill set’s furthered are all positive things about the long-term future of the game. I particularly have an interest in that and would like to make sure we’re evaluating that as something that can help improve the game and improve our players.”

A developmental league particularly is needed for the quarterback position, where not nearly enough players are good enough to play at the NFL level. But a developmental league also would be useful for all other positions, along with officiating, coaching, and scouting.

The question is whether the NFL could make money from a developmental league and, if not, the amount of losses the league would be willing to tolerate. NFL Europe wasn’t profitable, and the league eventually decided to stop the sangre.

Some owners may see no reason to give players not yet ready to earn a roster spot a chance to do so — and plenty of players with one of those roster spots may agree. Still, there’s a need for game-ready talent when injuries inevitably occur.

Given the ongoing decline in TV ratings, the NFL also should be wary of potentially diluting the product by adding more football in presumably markets not currently served by the NFL. Would the fans in those markets support a minor league team? If so, would they be less likely to support a nearby NFL team?

As every other professional league has learned in the past 40 years, Americans love football — but only so much of it. Between high school, college, and the NFL, the saturation point possibly has been reached. Before the NFL adds even more football in the interests of developing better football, the NFL should be sure that the effort won’t fail miserably.

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Buccaneers make receiver swap

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 31:  Wide receiver Freddie Martino #16 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hauls in a pass from quarterback Ryan Griffin for a first down while being pressured by running back Keith Marshall #39 of the Washington Redskins during the fourth quarter of an NFL preseason game on August 31, 2016 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers made a wide receiver swap Saturday, promoting Freddie Martino from the practice squad and waiving Donteea Dye.

Martino has previously spent time this season on both the active roster and the practice squad. He’s played in two games.

Dye could land back on the practice squad next week.

Earlier this week the Bucs placed veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson on injured reserve.

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LeSean McCoy travels with Bills to Miami

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 16:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills running back LeSean McCoy still may not play in Sunday’s game at Miami with a hamstring injury, but he still hasn’t been ruled out.

McCoy has made the trip to South Florida, PFT confirms. The news was first reported by Jeff Darlington of ESPN.

While it’s possible a ruse aimed at making the Dolphins think they’ll be facing McCoy, if his hamstring injury is bad enough to keep him from playing, it wouldn’t be a good idea to take him to Miami.

This doesn’t mean McCoy will definitely play. But it means that he still could.

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Jets place Henderson on non-football injury list

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: Keith Mumphery #12 of the Houston Texans fumbles the ball while being hit by Erin Henderson #58 of the New York Jets in the fourth quarter on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Texans won 24 to 17. (Photo by Thomas Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets placed veteran linebacker Erin Henderson on the non-football injury/illness list Saturday.

Henderson had started four games this season and led the team in tackles in each of the last two games.

His absence creates another hole in the defensive lineup with first-round linebacker Darron Lee out for at least Sunday’s game vs. the Ravens with an ankle injury.

The Jets promoted two linebackers from the practice squad Saturday, Julian Stanford and Victor Ochi. Stanford has already played in three games for the Jets this season. Ochi is an undrafted rookie outside linebacker who spent the offseason with the Ravens before landing on the practice squad with the Jets.

The Jets also placed tight end Braedon Bowman on injured reserve.

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With Carlos Hyde out, 49ers promote DuJuan Harris

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 03:  DuJuan Harris #32 of the San Francisco 49ers runs for 47-yards to the nine-yard line against the St. Louis Rams during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

49ers running back Carlos Hyde will miss Sunday’s game against the Bucs with a shoulder injury. That means more reps for Mike Davis and Shaun Draughn — and a roster spot for DuJuan Harris.

The 49ers have promoted Harris to the active roster. To create space for him, the team waived defensive tackle Taylor Hart.

In two games late last season, Harris generated 140 rushing yards and 97 receiving yards. He was inactive for the first two games of 2016, waived on October 1, and signed to the practice squad on October 3.

Davis, a fourth-round pick in 2015, had more snaps than Draughn a week ago. Davis has a career average of 1.7 yards per carry.

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Okung, Latimer await final clearance for Monday night

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 13:   Cody Latimer #14 of the Denver Broncos warms up before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Broncos prepare to return to prime time, 11 days after a Week Six loss to the Chargers, two of the team’s players await final clearance to return from concussions.

Tackle Russell Okung and receiver Cody Latimer are both listed as questionable for Monday night’s game against the Texans. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak told reporters on Saturday that the next step for each player is official and final medical clearance.

“They both practiced today and are doing well and obviously they have to be cleared,” Kubiak said. “That’s the key there.”

The clearance will come on Saturday, if at all.

Meanwhile, linebacker DeMarcus Ware continues to be out with a forearm injury. Kubiak said that a recent CT scan was encouraging, and that Ware is expected to return to practice this week.

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NFL’s TV ratings gains in the UK are overstated

Fans wait outside before a NFL Fan Rally at the NFL House in Victoria House, in London, Saturday Oct. 22, 2016. Los Angeles Rams are due to play the New York Giants at Twickenham stadium in London on Sunday in a regular season NFL game. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) AP

We previously passed along a report about a supposed 80 percent increase in TV viewership for NFL games in the United Kingdom this season. But it turns out that report was spinning the NFL’s UK ratings in a more positive light than is warranted.

A reader who tracks NFL viewership on UK television at contacted us to point out that the numbers being used to peddle a narrative of a significant ratings increase in the UK are misleading. Those ratings refer to the cumulative total number of viewers who watched all NFL programming in the UK this season as opposed to last season — but this season there’s more NFL programming available in the UK than there was last year, thanks to new highlight shows on BBC. So it’s no surprise that the cumulative total viewership is higher.

A better apples-to-apples comparison for TV viewership in the UK is how this year’s first London game, Colts-Jaguars, fared on BBC2 compared to last year’s Bills-Jaguars game in London. And on that score, the NFL isn’t growing in London: The Colts-Jaguars game drew 351,000 viewers on BBC2, a decrease compared to the 381,000 viewers for Bills-Jaguars last year on BBC2. This year’s Colts-Jaguars game did draw a larger audience than last year’s other early London game on BBC2, Jets-Dolphins, although that game’s ratings were lower because it aired at the same time as the Rugby World Cup.

Whether the NFL ever becomes appointment viewing for large numbers of UK fans remains to be seen. Right now, in a country of about 65 million people, less than 1 percent watch a typical NFL game.

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Texans place 2015 first-round pick Kevin Johnson on IR

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 16:  Kevin Johnson #30 of the Houston Texans congratulates Johnathan Joseph #24 of the Houston Texans after intercepting a pass during the third quarter of the game against the Houston Texans at Paul Brown Stadium on November 16, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson has been placed on injured reserve.

Johnson, the Texans’ first-round draft pick last season, suffered a broken foot on Sunday against the Colts.

Although it’s possible that Johnson could return in eight weeks, he is likely done for the season.

Johnson also suffered a foot injury as a rookie last year, although he was able to play through it and finish the season before having offseason surgery.

This year Johnson was beginning to emerge as one of the most important pieces in the Texans’ secondary, and he played every snap but one against the Colts despite the injury. Now the Texans will have to reconfigure their secondary without him.

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Jeff Fisher says Rams won’t bait Odell Beckham

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 21:  New York Giants receivers celebrate after a third quarter touchdown against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 21, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

Fans at a London rugby stadium could be treated to a different kind of scrum on Sunday, when the Rams and Giants play there.

With the often-chippy Odell Beckham Jr. squaring off against the usually-chippy L.A. defense, Nigel and his mates may learn a lot more about American football than they previously had known. After all, a game in December 2014 between the two teams featured a late hit on Beckham, a brawl that led to three ejections, and thousands in fines.

Beckham emerged from the melee with a $10,000 penalty for kicking at linebacker Alec Ogletree.

That happened a year before Beckham’s outburst against the Panthers resulted in a suspension. Now, only a few weeks after Beckham once again proved that he has skin thinner than a late-night-tweeting politician, the Rams get another chance to light his stubby fuse.

Surprisingly, coach Jeff Fisher says that won’t happen.

“We’re going to play between the snap and the whistle, and that’s it,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters, via “No, we’re not going there. Our guys are going to play hard and play fast, tackle, and have been instructed not to hurt the football team.”

It’s one thing to not do anything that would draw a flag. It’s quite another to constantly try to rattle and harass Beckham. The players are smart enough to know there’s a benefit to doing that — and Fisher is smart to stake out his “I ordered them not to touch Private William Santiago” territory before kickoff.

In other words, bollocks.

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NFL sees TV ratings increase in the UK

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 27:  Flags advertising the NFL in London are seen on Regent Street prior to a Pittsburgh Steelers press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on September 27, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL hasn’t seen much good news on the television ratings front this season, with far fewer people watching this year than last year. But there is one place where NFL TV ratings are up.

According to the New York Daily News, TV ratings on Sky Sports and BBC networks in the United Kingdom are up 80 percent from last year.

There’s a feeling in some league circles that the NFL is already as popular as it’s ever going to get in the United States, and if the league is going to continue to grow it will have to do so overseas. London has been the focal point of the NFL’s international growth efforts, and those television numbers would suggest that the league is making inroads.

What remains to be seen is whether the league can become a consistently popular sport in London, and not just a passing fad. The NFL is committed to playing at least three games a year in London, which suggests that the league believes there are real opportunities for growth across the pond, at the same time as the NFL’s ratings tumble in the United States.

UPDATE 3:58 p.m. ET: It turns out that those TV ratings gains in the UK were overstated.

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Jim Irsay: Colts could be 6-0 if the ball bounced our way

Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay AP

Why is Colts owner Jim Irsay standing by G.M. Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano despite the team’s 2-4 record? Because he doesn’t think they’re as bad as 2-4 suggests.

According to Irsay, the Colts could easily have won every game this season if only they had caught a few breaks.

We could be 6-0 right now if the ball bounced our way,” Irsay told USA Today.

It’s true that the Colts have lost some close games: Three of their four losses were one-score games, and even their 34-20 loss to the Broncos was a one-score game until the final minute. Of course, the Colts’ two wins were one-score games as well. By Irsay’s logic, they’re only a couple good bounces from being 0-6.

The reality is that basically every bad team in the NFL can say it’s a few good bounces away from having a good season. The good teams are the ones that find a way to win even when the bounces don’t go their way.

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Saturday one-liners

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Eric Decker #87 of the New York Jets reacts after his first down reception against the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Cincinnati Bengals defeated the New York Jets 23-22.  (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) Getty Images

With hip and shoulder injuries on deck, Jets WR Eric Decker insists that he’ll be good to go for 2017.

If RB LeSean McCoy and WR Robert Woods can’t go at Miami, a couple of former Miami players will be called upon to fill the void.

The Dolphins will use a couple of little-known tight ends on Sunday.

Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount will return to Pittsburgh for the first time since snaking his way out of town.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco had “good zip” and “good velocity” on his throws at practice on Friday, after missing two days with a shoulder injury.

The Bengals may be 2-4, but QB Andy Dalton apparently is improving.

Undrafted rookie Tracy Howard, who moved from safety to corner at the suggestion of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, will make his first career start on Sunday.

The Steelers have a plan for covering Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett on Sunday — which hopefully will go better than last year’s periodic zero-man approach to Gronk.

Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has praised the leadership of LB Brian Cushing.

The Colts have been trying to build a dominant defense for five years — and failing.

Jaguars TE Julius Thomas is tied for 28th at his position with 13 receptions.

A collection of paintings and artifacts previously owned by deceased Titans founder Bud Adams will be displayed in Indianapolis on November 12.

Broncos RB C.J. Anderson isn’t worried about his job security.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid will work his 300th game on Sunday.

A blend of rookies and free agents is making it harder for the Raiders defense to excel.

The Chargers think/hope/pray RB Melvin Gordon’s 48-yard run from Week Six is a sign of things to come.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says it’s “absurd” to suggest trading WR Dez Bryant.

Giants DL Damon Harrison would have no interest in playing for a team permanently headquartered in London.

Eagles CB Leodis McKelvin has guaranteed a win over Minnesota, sort of; “We’re going to go out there this week, play as a team, win as a team,” he said.

Washington’s defense knows it will have its hands full against Detroit.

The Bears have nine more days to figure out whether QB Jay Cutler can return to action, for a Monday night date with the Vikings.

Lions QB Matthew Stafford will play his 100th career game on Sunday.

Four days after having a tough outing against Dallas, Packers CB Ladarius Gunter held Alshon Jeffery to 33 yards on three receptions.

33-year-old Vikings DE Brian Robison has been moving around a lot this year.

The Falcons offense is getting better and better under Kyle Shanahan.

Chancellor Lee Adams, the son that former Panthers WR Rae Carruth hoped would be killed along with his mother, will be waiting outside the prison the day Carruth is released.

Former Tulane DE Royce LaFrance hopes to make the most of his latest chance with the Saints’ practice squad.

The Buccaneers will be leaning heavily on RB Jacquizz Rodgers, again.

Cardinals QB Carson Palmer was healthy enough to participate in the weekly bucket challenge, which likely means he’ll be healthy enough to play.

The Rams have been let down by the offense and the defense in successive weeks.

Seahawks LS Nolan Frese knows that the less he’s known, the better he’s doing.

ESPN ranks all American pro sports teams, and the 49ers landed at No. 122.

Out of 122.

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Ravens activate Taliaferro

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 20:  Lorenzo Taliaferro #34 of the Baltimore Ravens in action against the Oakland Raiders at Coliseum on September 20, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens activated running back Lorenzo Taliaferro from the physically unable to perform list Saturday.

Taliaferro missed all of the offseason and the start of the season while recovering from a foot injury he suffered last October. A third-year player, Taliaferro has five career rushing touchdowns. Terrance West has emerged as the Ravens’ No. 1 running back, but Taliaferro should get some opportunities.

The Ravens also announced some other moves. Cornerback Robertson Daniel was promoted from the practice squad, while tight end Daniel Brown was waived and safety Kendrick Lewis was placed on injured reserve.

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Josh Norman might tap keg on the field, literally

183948012_xs Getty Images

Washington cornerback Josh Norman has been fined for miming the shooting of a bow and arrow during a game. He has now joked about a more literal celebration that would highlight the perceived (or actual) double standard regarding the NFL’s position on celebrations.

“I’ll say this,” Norman said this week, via USA Today. “Since they sell beer on TV while kids are watching it, I’m thinking I might open a keg on the field, and I’m going to drink it on the field. And I don’t see that being on the rule book.”

While Norman is right about the absence of any “thou shalt nots” regarding the use of a beer keg in celebrations, there is a general ban regarding the use of props. If, as his teammate Vernon Davis has learned, the ball can be regarded as a prop when simulating a basketball shot through the goalpost, a beer keg would be regarded as a prop, too.

And even if Norman were to opt for cracking a keg on the sidelines in the same way Norman’s nemesis does whatever it is he’s doing with the kicking net, that surely would draw the ire of the NFL. But it also would underscore the inherent hypocrisy regarding the NFL’s insistence that players limit their celebrations because, as Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday, “[o]ur players are role models and others look at that at the youth level, so that’s important for us to hold that standard up, and it’s part of being professional.”

If that’s the case, why does the NFL even have an “official beer“? The $1.4 billion in money-for-nothing that the league will generate through 2022 is the obvious reason. And that money will go a long way toward allowing the powers-that-be to overlook the uncomfortable reality that a full embrace of a brand of beer may cause some at the youth level to think they’re not properly following the sport without their Bose headphones plugged in to a Microsoft Surface while gobbling up Papa John’s pizza and washing it down with a Bud Light.

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Lions great Gail Cogdill dies at 79

Football: Detroit Lions Gail Cogdill (89) in action, making catch vs Green Bay Packers Herb Adderley (26) at Tiger Stadium.
Detroit, MI 11/22/1962
CREDIT: John G. Zimmerman (Photo by John G. Zimmerman /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)
(Set Number: X8872 ) Getty Images

Gail Cogdill, a Detroit Lion who retired as the team’s all-time leading receiver, has died at the age of 79.

As the Lions’ sixth-round draft pick out of Washington State in 1960, Cogdill made an instant impact, being chosen to the Pro Bowl and winning the Rookie of the Year award. That was the first of three Pro Bowl seasons for Cogdill.

“Gail was simply a great football player, an outstanding receiver and teammate,” Hall of Fame teammate and coach Joe Schmidt told the Detroit Free Press. “Frankly, we didn’t take advantage of his ability.”

Cogdill, who also played briefly for the Colts and Falcons, finished his career with 356 catches for 5,696 yards and 34 touchdowns.

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