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Raiders clear D.J. Hayden for contact

D.J. Hayden AP

It’s been more than a year since Raiders cornerback D.J. Hayden has taken part in a full-contact football practice, but that will change on Sunday.

The Raiders first-round pick has been cleared for contact, giving him the chance to shed the red jersey he’s been wearing as a result of the May surgery to remove scar tissue in his abdomen related to last year’s emergency surgery to repair the torn inferior vena cava in his heart. Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Hayden was “anxious and excited” to get back to a full workload, something he thinks is a good thing even if no one’s certain how things will play out for Hayden.

“Nobody knows how he’s going to respond when that happens,” Allen said, via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com. “We’ve had to hold him back at practice, because he wants to do everything. From that standpoint, I think he has a great mindset going into this thing. I think it’ll be great for him to get that first team appearance under his belt.”

If all goes well, Hayden will make his preseason debut against the Bears on Friday and the Raiders will start to get a clearer idea of where their first-round pick is at this point and how much he’ll be able to help them as a rookie.

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Mark Barron wasn’t a fan of Lovie Smith’s defense

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When the Buccaneers traded former seventh overall pick Mark Barron to the Rams for a pair of draft picks this week, it was easy to say that Barron being a poor fit for the defense run by head coach Lovie Smith was the chief reason for the move.

Barron did nothing to defuse that notion on Wednesday when discussing the deal with the media for the first time. While Barron said he enjoyed his time in Tampa, he also said that he felt Smith’s defense didn’t let him take full advantage of his aggressiveness.

“Yeah, it is passive,” Barron said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “That’s kind of the only thing I didn’t like about it a lot of times. I had to sit back and I couldn’t really be as aggressive as I wanted to in that system. So yeah, I would most definitely say that.”

Barron had his issues in Greg Schiano’s system as well, so he’s yet to find a perfect fit at the NFL. It may be a while before we find out if things will be better for him in St. Louis. The team had an abbreviated practice Wednesday because coach Jeff Fisher wanted to rest the many players on the team battling injuries and the coach said he wasn’t yet sure exactly how or when he’ll use Barron.

“We’ll find a way to fit him into our system at some point. I don’t know whether that’s a week or six weeks or next year. But we need depth at the position and we’re banged up a little bit,” Fisher said. “I spoke with him [Tuesday] night after we put the deal together. Obviously he was surprised and shocked but excited about a new start. He’s got a lot of catching up to do. I think he’s going to be, in time, a very good player for us.”

The Rams play the 49ers this weekend and it’s not known whether Barron will be in uniform.

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Torrey Smith sees some good in Vontaze Burfict

Burfict AP

After a pair of WWE-style toe holds against the Panthers earlier this month, Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict instantly became known as the dirtiest player in pro football.  Ravens receiver Torrey Smith agrees with that sentiment, with a caveat.

During the third quarter of Sunday’s game at Cincinnati, Smith ran a slant route from the “X” position on the left side of the field. But receiver Marlon Brown had come in motion, filling the slot between Smith and the left tackle. Bengals cornerback Leon Hall had followed Brown; when Smith made his move to the inside he ran into Hall.  Their helmets collided.

Smith was stunned, and he bent over and put his hands on his legs. Meanwhile, the ball had been thrown. The guy covering Smith, Bengals receiver Adam Jones, intercepted it.

After the interception, Smith was still standing there while Bengals players joined the convoy, looking for Ravens to block. Burfict saw Smith, shoving him half-heartedly before approaching Smith in a way that suggested concern for him.

It could have been a lot worse watching the video,” Smith told Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun. “That’s the one time. As a dirty of a player as I think he is — he’s a heck of a player — he’s a dirty one, too.  He definitely held up. He has some good to him.”

Smith also explained that he wasn’t going to try to avoid the concussion protocol after taking a blow to the head.

“It was a flash for me,” Smith said. “Some people were like, ‘Well, if there was a flash, it was bright, you had a concussion.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not playing around with a concussion. I passed my physical test. They had that little iPad thing that you do. I was fine. They kind of left it up for me, and I felt fine. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have went back out there for those few plays. I don’t want to be 50 years old and not know what’s going on with my kids and my grandkids.”

That’s the right attitude for players to have regarding concussions. Hopefully, more will behave that way moving forward.

Hopefully, the good that Smith saw in Burfict will be something other than an aberration.

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Johnny Manziel has been freelancing with the scout team

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Many figured that Johnny Manziel would be on the field for the Browns by now.

Apparently, that number included Manziel, who is getting a little antsy on the bench behind utterly sufficient Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer.

Safety Donte Whitner said he could see Manziel getting frustrated, but not in a destructive way.

“We talk back and forth and joke back and forth, and still, he wants to get out there and play,” Whitner said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “He’s one of the biggest competitors on this football team. He wants to get out there and run around and make plays for this team and have something to feel good about when he leaves the stadium.

“He should already, being a backup quarterback and helping Brian as much as he can. [But] he still wants to get out there and make the plays.”

Toward that end, sometimes Manziel will improvise in practice, rather than running the tightly scripted scout team offense.

“Yeah, he does that sometimes where they’ll draw it on the card where they want him to throw it and he’ll see a corner sitting right there waiting on the interception — or a safety — because the coaches have talked to us and taught us in the meeting what to take away,” Whitner said. “And then he won’t throw it in there and he’ll run around and throw it down the field sometimes and make us frustrated as defensive backs and make them frustrated. But that’s what a mobile quarterback can do to you.

“They make you frustrated and that’s why he had the success he had at A&M and that’s why I believe that if he gets out there in the National Football League, he’ll be able to run around and make some plays.”

Manziel hasn’t seen the field since the illegal reception from Hoyer against Baltimore in week three, and coach Mike Pettine has seen the frustration as well. But with Hoyer playing acceptably and Browns having a winning record, now’s probably not the time to make the switch or do too much to accommodate him.

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Ronnie Hillman limited after hurting shoulder in practice

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Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman has made the most of the opportunity provided by Montee Ball’s injury over the past few weeks and there’s been talk that he’s earned a bigger piece of the pie in the backfield even after Ball returns to action.

That makes it a very bad time for Hillman to get injured, which is what appeared to happen when he popped up on the Wednesday injury report as limited in practice because of a shoulder injury. Hillman didn’t have any injury concerns heading into the session and said after the practice that he “landed on it funny” while adding that he wasn’t expecting there to be an issue moving forward.

“No, I’m not, I’ll be at practice [Thursday]. So, I mean, I plan on being at practice [Thursday],” Hillman said, via ESPN.com. “I don’t know what they’re talking about. But I’ll be fine. It’s nothing that I can’t deal with.”

Hillman has run for 283 yards on 58 carries over the last three weeks, which is much more productive than what Ball was doing before he got hurt. Losing the offensive balance he’s provided heading into New England would not be a good thing for the Broncos, but it doesn’t look like anything they’ll need to worry about this week.

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Belichick, Welker say they’ve moved on

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick was furious with his former receiver, Wes Welker, after last year’s AFC Championship Game. Welker knocked then-Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib out of the game with a block that Belichick called “one of the worst plays I’ve seen.” But as they prepare to face each other on Sunday, Belichick and Welker both say they’ve moved on.

Belichick said Wednesday that he thinks highly of Welker and has no personal issues with him.

“Way past that,” Belichick said, via the Associated Press. “I have a lot of respect for Wes and what he did for us and what he’s done for the Broncos and what he’s done throughout his career.”

Welker responded that he moved past it immediately, because he was turning his attention to getting ready to play in the Super Bowl.

“I moved on to getting ready for the Super Bowl,” Welker said. “So, it’s the same for me. It’s in the past and I’m just really kind of looking forward to this game.”

Talib never seemed particularly bothered by the incident, saying when he signed with the Broncos this offseason that he considers Welker a friend and doesn’t think Welker was trying to hurt him. So that incident is apparently not serving as motivation this week for anyone involved.

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Alex Smith practices in full, says shoulder feels fine

Alex Smith AP

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Monday that quarterback Alex Smith sprained his right shoulder while beating the Rams last Sunday, which meant Wednesday’s practice would be one to watch for a gauge of how Smith is feeling as the team heads toward a meeting with the Jets.

There wound up being nothing much to worry about when the Chiefs took the field. Smith has had some shoulder issues in the past, none particularly recent, but he was a full participant in practice after this one and Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star threw “effortlessly” during the portion of practice open to the media.

For his part, Smith said he was fine and that throwing just one pass over 10 yards against St. Louis last weekend was about the Rams Defense and not any ache in his shoulder.

“It had nothing to do with it,” Smith said. “For me, I’m going where the defense tells me to. We didn’t pre-determine anything … I felt they had a couple of young cornerbacks playing off [the receivers], and they were trying to protect them.”

The Jets have cornerback issues of their own and it doesn’t look like Smith’s shoulder will get in the way of attacking them.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Kyle Van Noy, Rod Streater AP

Bills LB Nigel Bradham is making a name for himself.

You can find stats to prove anything, including that the Dolphins are the second-best team in football.

The emergence of Patriots WR Brandon LaFell follows a familiar script.

This is fun: The New York Daily News came up with a list of teams worse than the Jets.

The Ravens secondary is banged up at the wrong time, facing Ben Roethlisberger on a hot streak.

The Bengals hope to have LB Vontaze Burfict back by their Nov. 16 game against the Saints.

Browns RB Ben Tate thinks problems in the run game can “be fixed

The Steelers have more no-shows than normal for prime time games.

Texans DE J.J. Watt will see plenty of familiar faces when he plays the Eagles.

The Colts are still waiting for that Hakeem Nicks breakout game.

Jaguars TE Marcedes Lewis returned to practice.

Poor drafting has plagued the Titans in recent years.

Broncos WR Wes Welker is getting used to being the third option.

The Chiefs got LB Joe Mays back on the field for the first time in two months.

Raiders QB Derek Carr isn’t afraid to go after anyone.

The Chargers were missing eight players from yesterday’s practice.

The Cowboys have concerns beyond the health of QB Tony Romo.

The Giants are adjusting on the fly to a new-look defense.

It’s hard to gauge why Eagles RB LeSean McCoy is struggling this year.

Washington picked the right kicker, when they had a choice.

The annual discussion of whether the Bears need to replace their sorry grass.

Lions rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy is expected to make a quick impact when he returns.

A visit to Ghana was a turning point for Packers LB Sam Barrington.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer downplays meeting with old co-worker Jay Gruden.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan is still taking care of the ball, relatively speaking.

The Panthers were fired up about the return of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets name.

The Saints saw the makings of their current run game during their last trip to Carolina.

Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon isn’t getting much help, or protection.

Based on current standings, the Cardinals and Lions would be the top two seeds in the NFC playoffs, of course.

A look at the role trade acquisition Mark Barron could play for the Rams.

The 49ers got a load of players back to practice, including LB Patrick Willis.

Seahawks LB Brock Coyle will start in the middle this week.

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Eric Decker steps into a Twitter minefield of bitter Jets fans

Denver Broncos vs New York Jets, NFL Getty Images

One of these days, earnest people looking for feedback from the public are going to realize that asking Twitter for it is not always the best idea.

New Jets wide receiver Eric Decker was just being nice, offering signed gear to the best response he got to an innocuous question, when Twitter and Jets schadenfreude collided in a glorious mess of sarcasm and bitterness.

As Seth Walder of the New York Daily News points out, his timing probably wasn’t perfect, coming after they changed quarterbacks while falling to 1-7 then had one of the more bizarre General Manager press conferences ever.

“#jetsnation, tell me why you love the @nyjets using #jetsdiehardfan and I’ll send a signed prize to my favorite,” Decker tweeted.

And then came the comedians.

“I love the Jets because they are consistent. They let me down week after week,” said @conor_heraty.

“I’m a #jetsdiehardfan because they let Parcells, Belichick and Carroll walk out the door. Thanks from the rest of the country!” @14TeamMocker wrote.

“because apparently I’m a masochist,” said @JP_NYJ.

Someone going by @peachy931 said simply: “butt fumble.”

I’m sure he’ll find someone genuine to give his gift to. But it took a lot of sifting through the smart alecks to find one, I’m sure.

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Arrest video shows Joseph Randle making more bad decisions

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

As if weren’t bad enough that Cowboys running back Joseph Randle stole underwear and a tester bottle of cologne from a Dillard’s at a local mall, he showed an utter lack of self-awareness while being booked by police.

Video from the Frisco City Jail, obtained by CBSDFW 11, showed Randle cracking jokes, making unauthorized cell phone calls, and worrying about whether his arrest would end up in the media.

Perhaps the dumbest part (though stealing underwear and a tester bottle of cologne with the word “Guilty in its name is plenty dumb) was an exchange with a female officer.

“If I give you $100 can you give me a massage?” Randle asked.

He called his agent in an effort to bond out in time to make practice as well, and asked cops: “Hey, is this going to be on the news? You think?”

You think, indeed.

The night he was busted, he told cops that if he knew he’d be arrested, he’d have simply kept walking when approached by a mall security guard.

Coupled with his actions at the jailhouse, it’s clear the guy has no respect for other people’s property, the law or common sense.

But he’s since apologized for what he called the “biggest mistake I’ve ever made,” so I guess everything’s OK.

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Buccaneers re-sign Mike Kafka to practice squad

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Two days after waiving him from the 53-player roster, the Buccaneers re-signed quarterback Mike Kafka to their practice squad on Wednesday, per the NFL’s transactions.

The 27-year-old Kafka has been under contract to Tampa Bay, whether on the roster or practice squad, for all but a handful of days since February 10. With his knowledge of the Buccaneers’ offense, he is a logical fit behind Josh McCown and Mike Glennon, the only quarterbacks on Tampa Bay’s roster. If the Buccaneers need Kafka — one of 15 quarterbacks on practice squads around the league — he is ready to be promoted at a moment’s notice.

Overall, 25 clubs, including the Buccaneers, have some combination of three readily available quarterbacks, whether it’s three on the roster or two on the roster and one on the practice squad. Fourteen clubs are carrying at least one practice squad passer.

At the moment, five teams — the Patriots, Bengals, Colts, Giants and Rams — have only two available quarterbacks. All five clubs do not carry a practice squad passer, though it’s possible the Rams could re-sign the recently waived Case Keenum. The Bengals (A.J. McCarron) and Rams (Sam Bradford) each have a quarterback on a reserve list. Bradford is on injured reserve with an ACL tear, while McCarron (shoulder) is on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Just two clubs — the Dolphins and Eagles — have four available quarterbacks. The Eagles have three on the roster and one on the practice squad, while the Dolphins have two on the roster and two on the practice squad. The Panthers, Vikings and Chiefs all have four quarterbacks under contract, but all have one passer on season-ending injured reserve.

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Raiders bring back Larry Asante

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2011 Headshots Getty Images

With three defensive backs missing practice on Wednesday, the Oakland Raiders made a move to bolster their secondary depth.

Oakland re-signed safety Larry Asante to replenish the ranks after Tyvon Branch and Usama Young both landed on injured reserve.

To make room on the roster, the Raiders released linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu, who re-signed to the team’s practice squad.

Asante was waived by the Raiders with an injury designation at the conclusion of training camp in August.

Asante has appeared in 17 games over the last four seasons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts. He played in 10 games with Tampa Bay in 2011 with 12 tackles and a forced fumble.

Cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), Keith McGill (groin) and Carlos Rogers (knee) all did not participate in practice for the Raiders on Wednesday.

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Richard Sherman could return punts again on Sunday

Sherman AP

The season began with one member of the Legion of Boom serving as the punt returner.  The experiment with safety Earl Thomas went poorly, and the plug was pulled quickly.

Quietly, another member of the team’s secondary assumed the duties last week, with receiver Bryan Walters injured.

Richard Sherman filled in against the Panthers, returning one punt seven yards (a holding penalty wiped it out) and making a fair catch.  He could be doing it again this week, against the Raiders.

“It depends,” Carroll told reporters on Wednesday. “It depends on who’s available. Really, we were going to go with Doug [Baldwin] last week and Doug needed a break at the time and [Sherman] jumped in to relieve to help us out. He’s not, in our minds, the guy that’s going back to return punts all the time but he is a guy that does a great job of all the situations and knows what’s happening. He’s as well schooled as any of the guys that haven’t been catching punts and he pulled it off last week.”

Using Sherman raises the same concerns that using Thomas did. Sherman could get injured, and he could end up making a mistake — like the three Thomas made in the first half of the season opener against the Packers.

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Marcus Lattimore practices Wednesday

Marcus Lattimore AP

49ers second-year tailback Marcus Lattimore took part in the club’s Wednesday practice, according to the NFL’s transactions.

Lattimore, who turned 23 on Wednesday, has yet to play in an NFL game in his two-year pro career. He suffered serious right knee injuries as a collegian on October 27, 2012.

Lattimore remains on the reserve/non-football injury list. The 49ers now have until Wednesday, November 19 to decide whether to add Lattimore to the 53-player roster or to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season. Lattimore practiced with the 49ers last season but was not activated from the reserve list.

Lattimore was one of three players on reserve lists to return to practice on Wednesday, with Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis and Chiefs linebacker Joe Mays also taking part in workouts. Lewis and Mays are on injured reserve/designated for return.

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Undrafted rookie Brock Coyle to start at middle linebacker for Seahawks

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With Malcolm Smith ailing with a groin injury and Bobby Wagner still out with turf toe, the Seahawks have once again had to reshuffle their linebacker group.

Undrafted rookie Brock Coyle is set to make his first NFL start Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. The move to put Coyle in the lineup bumps K.J. Wright back out to his weak-side linebacker position. Wright had started the last two games at middle linebacker for Seattle after Wagner went down turf toe against Dallas.

“It’s his position to lose. He can mess it up by a bad week and change our mind,” linebacker coach Ken Norton said of Coyle.

“We were pleasantly surprised with Brock and his performance this summer throughout the camp and preseason. He stepped in when Bobby was out then and he’s going to do the same thing now. We know exactly what we’re getting and we’re very pleased with what we have. That’s why he’s here.”

Coyle ran with the first-team defense for the majority of the preseason while Wagner was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Coyle started the first two preseason games for Seattle before Wagner returned to the lineup. Ultimately, Coyle has significantly more reps than fellow rookie Kevin Pierre-Louis, who played well in relief duty last week in Carolina.

The Seahawks could use Coyle at middle linebacker in their base defense and then bring in Pierre-Louis for nickel situations with Wright alternating between the two spots.

Coyle has four tackles so far this season.

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Rams sign WR Damian Williams, promote OG Brandon Washington

Damian Williams AP

The Rams added some pass catching and offensive line depth Wednesday, signing wide receiver Damian Williams and offensive guard Brandon Washington.

To open the roster spots, the Rams placed wide receiver Brian Quick on injured reserve and waived rookie defensive back Jemea Thomas.

The moves were announced in the NFL’s transactions.

The 26-year-old Williams has a connection to Rams head coach Jeff Fisher; the Titans took Williams in Round Three in 2010, Fisher’s final year with Tennessee. Williams (6-1, 200) has caught 107 passes for 1,327 yards and five touchdowns in five NFL seasons.

A USC and Arkansas product, Williams was waived by Miami on Saturday. His addition keeps the Rams at five wide receivers after Quick’s season-ending shoulder injury.

Washington (6-2, 320) has spent parts of the last three seasons on the Rams’ practice squad, and he appeared in the club’s 2013 season finale. The 26-year-old Washington was a sixth-round pick of Philadelphia in 2012 out of Miami (Fla.).

Washington’s promotion comes with former starting left guard Greg Robinson moving to left tackle to replace Jake Long, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear on Sunday.

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