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NFL morning after: Week One is so much fun

Anquan Boldin of the San Francisco 49ers falls as he is being tackled by Jerron McMillian of the Green Bay Packers during their NFL season home opener football in San Francisco Reuters

Football is back. Can you believe it?

Can you believe the day’s two biggest favorites, the Patriots and Colts, had to come from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the Bills and Raiders?

Can you believe the Giants turned the ball over three times in the first six minutes on Sunday night?

Can you believe that Adrian Peterson ran for a 78-yard touchdown the first time he touched the ball — and then gained just 15 yards on 17 carries the rest of the way?

Can you believe that Tyrann Mathieu needed only one quarter as an NFL player to make exactly the kind of ball-hawking play he was famous for at LSU, stripping Jared Cook to save a touchdown?

Can you believe that the beleaguered Jets actually won their opener, in the most ridiculous manner possible, with a Buccaneers penalty setting up the game-winning field goal?

Can you believe that three different games started with safeties and had scores of 2-0 in the first quarter?

Can you believe Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor, with 112 rushing yards, is currently the NFL’s leading rusher?

This is why Week One of the NFL season is so much fun: We go from no football at all for seven months to 10 games at once, and about a hundred things you never expected all happening simultaneously. About two hours after kickoff of the early games on Sunday, I was so exhausted just trying to follow it all that I wasn’t sure if I’d make it for the nine hours or so of football that were still ahead of us.

But I made it, just like you did, just like millions of Americans who have been desperate for the return of the NFL, who spent all day Sunday on their couches obsessing about football and wondering how we survived these long months without it.

Here’s what went through my mind as I watched it all unfold:

Is it too much to ask that the officials know the rules? Referee Bill Leavy admitted after the 49ers beat the Packers that he and his crew had wrongly given the 49ers a free play, calling it third down after offsetting penalties when it should have been fourth down. The 49ers used that extra down to score a touchdown, and the Packers have every right to be furious about it. It’s one thing for an official to miss a call because he didn’t have a good angle to see it. It’s much worse for the officials to get a ruling like that wrong, even after they had time to review and discuss it.

Ndamukong Suh needs to get a grip. The season just started, but Suh was in midseason form when it came to costly penalties for illegal hits: Suh drilled Vikings center John Sullivan in the knee after DeAndre Levy intercepted a pass, drawing a penalty that cost the Lions a touchdown on Levy’s return. There was absolutely no reason for Suh to hit Sullivan (Levy was already well past him), and it was yet another example of Suh hurting his team while trying to hurt an opponent. Suh had a good game for most of the day: He pressured Christian Ponder into an interception, and he was a big part of a stout defensive effort that saw the Lions bottle up Adrian Peterson for most of the game. But a good game most of the day isn’t good enough. Suh needs to cool it, and if he can’t, Lions coach Jim Schwartz needs to bench him.

The Jaguars may be worse than last year. And last year they were 2-14. Jacksonville simply couldn’t do anything against the Chiefs, who looked like a much better team than a year ago with new coach Andy Reid running the show. I don’t even know what to say about the Jaguars, but I will note that they were the first team in NFL history to lose a game by the score of 28-2. So, there’s that.

Anquan Boldin was the best player in the NFL on Sunday. Boldin is a perfect fit in the 49ers’ offense, and they desperately needed him to step up when No. 1 receiver Michael Crabtree went down. Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome has a great track record of making the right personnel calls, but after a Week One in which Boldin caught 13 passes for 208 yards and the Ravens got whipped by the Broncos, I wonder if Newsome is thinking he should have found a way to make room for Boldin under the Ravens’ salary cap, instead of trading him to San Francisco.

Calvin Johnson had a touchdown overturned on the Calvin Johnson rule. Johnson made a leaping catch at the 1-yard line, stuck the ball across the goal line, then fell to the ground and had the ball wobble when he hit the ground. The official on the field ruled it a touchdown. The referee looked at the replay and changed the call to incomplete pass. Johnson has been here in Week One before, having an apparently game-winning touchdown catch overturned in the opener against the Bears three years ago. He’s probably getting sick of the rule that bears his name.

Kellen Winslow lives! Kellen Winslow caught exactly one pass all year in 2012. You could be forgiven if you thought Winslow was done. But he’s not done, not by a long shot. Winslow had seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown and was the Jets’ best offensive playmaker in their win over the Buccaneers. Winslow’s bad knee will never allow him to be the kind of player he looked like he’d be coming out of college, but he still has something left, and he’ll be a great security blanked for rookie quarterback Geno Smith.

Danny Amendola did what Danny Amendola does. The Patriots’ new go-to receiver did both of the things people thought he’d do: He caught a bunch of passes (10 for 104 yards) and he got hurt (missing some time with a strained groin). If Amendola can stay healthy, he’s going to be a great fit for Tom Brady and Co. But given Amendola’s history, that’s a big “if.”

The Saints are in first place in the NFC South. Last year, the Saints’ defense was a debacle. Through one game this year, the Saints are 1-0 and the rest of the NFC South is 0-1, and the New Orleans defense looked good in the opener against Atlanta. Sean Payton is back, and the Saints are back.

Have you ever heard of Cid Edwards? Edwards was a good-but-not-great running back for the Cardinals, Chargers and Bears in the 1960s and 1970s. He never had 1,000 yards in a season, never made a Pro Bowl, never was an important player on a playoff team. So why am I bringing up Cid Edwards today? Because in 1972, in his first game with the Chargers, Edwards had 100 receiving yards and 97 rushing yards. No other NFL player had ever reached 100 receiving yards and 90 rushing yards in his first game with a new team until Sunday, when Reggie Bush had 101 receiving yards and 90 rushing yards in his first game with the Lions. Bush is a perfect fit in the Lions’ offense, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the league in yards from scrimmage this season.

All Larry Fitzgerald needs is a competent quarterback. Fitzgerald doesn’t need a good quarterback — which is a good thing, because I’m not sure that Carson Palmer, at age 33, still qualifies as a good quarterback. But Palmer is at least a competent quarterback, and you couldn’t even say that for any of the other quarterbacks the Cardinals have had since Kurt Warner retired (Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Brian Hoyer, Derek Anderson and Max Hall). Now that Fitzgerald has someone competent throwing him the ball, expect him to resume putting up big numbers. Fitzgerald scored two touchdowns on Sunday after scoring only four touchdowns all season last year.

We have 16 more of these Sundays. Yesterday was a lot of fun. We have a lot more fun ahead of us.

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Maurice Jones-Drew back at Raiders practice

Maurice Jones-Drew, A.J. Hawk AP

Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew wasn’t expected to miss much time after having surgery on his right hand on September 8 and it looks like he may wind up just missing one game.

Jones-Drew was back at practice for the Raiders on Thursday, 10 days after having the operation and far enough ahead of Sunday’s game against the Patriots that he should be able to get enough practice time to return to the lineup as well. Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com reports that Jones-Drew took part in most drills during the portion of practice that was open to the media while wearing extra protection near the surgery site.

Jones-Drew only ran for 11 yards on nine carries in the season-opening loss to the Jets, but the Raiders could use all the healthy bodies they can find as they try to avoid an 0-3 start to the season.

Defensive end Justin Tuck and cornerback Carlos Rogers were also back at practice after missing Wednesday’s session. Linebacker Sio Moore and wide receiver Rod Streater did not participate, but Streater said he expects to play against New England.

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Bengals avoid local television blackout

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The early week scare tactics worked again.

According to Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals have reached the 85 percent threshold for tickets sold, avoiding the first blackout of the season.

The Bengals were trying to hustle up some business earlier this week, saying it appeared unlikely they could get enough people to pony up.

But enough people got the message and bought tickets, allowing the 2-0 Bengals’ game against the Titans to be seen on local TV.

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Mike Priefer: I think I’m a better man after sensitivity training

Minnesota Vikings Media Access Getty Images

Mike Priefer returned to his job as the Vikings’ special teams coach this week after serving a two-week suspension for making an disparaging remark about homosexuals during a team meeting in 2012.

One of the conditions that Priefer had to meet in order to return after two weeks instead of three was to undergo sensitivity training. Priefer said that it was hard to watch the team play games on television, but that he found the training to be a worthwhile experience that will have a lasting impact on him.

The details, we’re going to keep those confidential,” Priefer said. “But I will tell you this: It was real positive. It was very professionally done. And like anything else in life, if you put a lot into it, you’re going to get a lot out of it. I tell my kids that, I tell my players that. So I went into it with a great attitude and I got a lot out of it, quite honestly,” Priefer said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I don’t know if I’ve changed, but I think I have more awareness of my surroundings and other people around me. I think I’m a better man because of it.”

The Vikings players were happy to have him back. Fullback Jerome Felton told reporters that the team gave Priefer a standing ovation at Monday’s team meeting, something Priefer said he’ll look back on as “one of the great things that’s ever happened to me as a football coach.”

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Woods, Watkins banged up for Bills

Watkins Getty Images

As the Bills hope to improve on their 2-0 start, their two starting receivers are dealing with injuries.

For Sammy Watkins, the ribs he injured in the preseason continue to be an issue.  For Robert Woods, an ankle injury could knock him out of Sunday’s game against the Chargers.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Watkins said.  “Just day-by-day it gets better. I’ve just have to keep working and keep getting treatment. . . .  I’ve just got to keep continuing to gain confidence on the field and fight through the pains I have to fight through and just keep playing hard.”

Watkins said he doesn’t know how long he’ll keep dealing with the rib pain.

“It’s a nagging injury,” he said.  “It’s something you can play with.  Hopefully it stops.  Whenever it stops, I’ll be fine.  Right now I just have to play through it.”

Woods, who started each of the team’s first two games, may not be able to play.  Coach Doug Marrone said Thursday that, as of right now, Woods wouldn’t be able to go.

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Under new substance-abuse policy, six strikes results in a one-year banishment

Frame grabs from Naked Gun DVDCREDIT: Paramount Pictures Getty Images

With the new PED policy introduced on Wednesday, the new substance-abuse policy still isn’t official.  Once it is, a new penalty formula will apply.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, six violations of the policy will result in a one-year suspension.In general, the steps work this this:  For a first violation, the player lands in the substance-abuse program.  The second violation results in a two-game fine.  The third violation triggers a four-game fine.

At the fourth violation, suspensions commence.  Initially, it’s a four-game suspension.  For the fifth violation, the player is suspended 10 games.  At the sixth violation, the player is banished for a year.

Other penalties likely will apply based on specific circumstances, such as proof of an effort to cheat the process.  For ordinary violations, the new formula makes it a little harder for a player to be kicked out of the league for a full year.

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Jamaal Charles returns to practice for Chiefs

Jamaal Charles AP

Earlier this week, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said that running back Jamaal Charles’s high ankle sprain wasn’t a particularly severe one and Thursday’s developments lent some support to that claim.

Charles returned to practice and Herbie Teope of the Associated Press reports that he went through drills with the rest of the backs during the portion of practice open to the media. The team hasn’t offered its practice report for the day yet, so Charles may wind up being listed as limited.

Even that would represent a quick return from a high ankle sprain, however, and any time on the practice field increases the likelihood that he’ll be able to play against the Dolphins on Sunday.

The news was less positive for safety Eric Berry, who is also battling an ankle injury. Berry didn’t practice on Wednesday either, so Friday will be his last chance to show that his wheel is sound enough for duty against Miami.

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Cardinals place Jonathan Dwyer on non-football illness list, cut Chris Rainey

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals have taken a different route than the Vikings and Panthers when it comes to removing a player facing criminal charges from their 53-man roster.

The team announced that they have placed running back Jonathan Dwyer on the reserve/non-football illness list rather than the exempt/commissioner’s permission list that Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy were placed on earlier this week. Both of those players will be paid while they are on the exempt list, but using NFL gives the Cardinals the option to not pay Dwyer. However, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports that the team will continue paying Dwyer.

Dwyer is accused of assaulting his wife in July during an incident that allegedly saw him head-butt her and break her nose. He also reportedly made references to killing himself, which Somers of the reports led to mental health concerns and the illness designation.

Arizona also released running back Chris Rainey from the practice squad. Rainey was a fifth-round pick of the Steelers in 2012, but he was cut by the team after his rookie season when he was accused of slapping his girlfriend.

The team signed running back Jalen Parmele to the 53-man roster and added running back Kerwynn Williams to the practice squad.

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Kelly bristles at questions about Maclin’s size

Chip AP

On Wednesday, Eagles coach Chip Kelly said he cut receiver DeSean Jackson because Kelly wanted to get bigger at the receiver position.  On Thursday, Kelly was pressed on that point.  And he didn’t seem to like that very much.

“I’m just wondering why you brought receiver Jeremy Maclin back. He’s smaller than 70 percent of the starting outside wide receivers in the league?” a reporter asked Kelly on Thursday.

“Jeremy Maclin’s bigger than DeSean is, isn’t he?” Kelly replied. “So he’s bigger than one percent of the guy you’re talking about. I’m confused with the question.”

“I’m saying he’s smaller than 70 percent of the wide receivers,” the reporter continued.

“You can’t get everybody to be 6‑5,” Kelly said. “Everybody ideally would like a Megatron‑type guy, but you can’t get all of those guys. You have to make a decision on the direction you’re going and that’s the decision we made. . . . The weight part is the biggest thing for a lot of us in terms of what we are looking at too.”

So it’s height and it’s weight. And it’s probably salary. And there’s likely a healthy dose of “DeSean didn’t buy in” floating around.

Regardless, Jackson’s departure shows that Kelly is going to build the kind of team he wants. As long as he keeps winning, he’ll be able to do that — regardless of who he lets go.

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Police: Jonathan Dwyer head-butted wife and broke her nose

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We learned that Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on Wednesday on assault charges stemming from an incident with his wife and more details about the arrest came to light on Thursday.

According to police records, via the Arizona Republic, Dwyer and his wife got into an argument on July 21 that segued into Dwyer trying to kiss his wife and remove her clothing. She bit his lip after requests for him to stop were ignored and Dwyer allegedly head-butted her and broke her nose. Neighbors called police, but Dwyer’s wife told officers that only she and the couple’s son was at home. She reportedly left with the child later that night, but returned when Dwyer “sent a text saying he did not want to live anymore along with a picture of a knife.”

The next day, Dwyer allegedly punched his wife during another argument and threw a shoe that hit the child in the stomach. Dwyer’s wife left Arizona that night and, according to police, reported the incidents when she safely arrived in another state.

Dwyer has been deactivated by the Cardinals and the nature of the allegations, to say nothing of the enhanced spotlight on domestic violence issues, make it hard to see that changing anytime soon.

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Rolando McClain misses second straight practice

Delanie Walker, J J Wilcox, Rolando McClain AP

The Cowboys got a couple of defensive players back at practice this week with defensive end Anthony Spencer returning from injury and cornerback Orlando Scandrick getting his suspension wiped out, but it wouldn’t be the 2014 Cowboys defense if there weren’t also some bad news in the mix.

Linebacker Rolando McClain missed a second straight day of practice on Thursday because of a groin injury, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for him to show he’s able to suit up against the Rams. According to coach Jason Garrett, McClain will have to practice on Friday if he’s going to see action on Sunday.

“We certainly have confidence in his ability to play, but we believe in practice,” Garrett said, via ESPNDallas.com. “He has to practice this week in some way, shape or form for us to believe that he can play in the game, so hopefully as the week goes on, he’s able to do get out there and get some snaps.”

The first two games of this season were the first that McClain’s played since 2012, so there’s probably reason for added precaution when it comes to his return after a muscular injury.

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San Jose police not saying much about McDonald case

McDonald AP

With Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy clumsily placed on an exempt list that wasn’t really intended to provide teams with a way to, as a practical matter, suspend players with pay, the 49ers continue to refuse to take action of any kind with defensive end Ray McDonald.

They’ve been hiding behind the shield of “due process,” a concept that matters only when the question is whether a player will go to jail.  While the truth may be that they have investigated the situation and believe that McDonald did nothing wrong, the broader truth in this context is that teams have a clear bias to believe the things said by players who are regarded as important to the broader cause of winning football games.

Meanwhile, the NFL apparently has not launched an investigation of its own regarding the McDonald case.  The San Jose police have, but they’re saying nothing about what they’ve learned.

“As a professional law enforcement organization we try not to offer a personal opinion on incidents we are responsible for investigating,” officer Albert Morales told Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.  “To that end, our investigators continue to diligently conduct follow up investigations on this case.  At this time we are not at liberty to share any information that is directly related to this investigation.”

Per Maiocco, McDonald met with investigators for two hours on September 4 at the team’s facility.  At some point, more will be known about the case.  At some point, the 49ers may have to revisit their position.

Until the NFL takes these decisions out of the hands of the teams, inconsistencies and ambiguities will exist.  And fans, the media, and sponsors will be confused about precisely what the rules are in this new post-Rice video reality.

The rules very well may be that there are no rules, and that the NFL and its teams are making it up as they go.  The longer that perception lasts, the harder it will be for the league to being the process of restoring its credibility.

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Report: Doug Martin, Gerald McCoy unlikely to play Thursday night

Doug Martin AP

The Buccaneers listed defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and running back Doug Martin as questionable for Thursday night’s game against the Falcons, but it doesn’t look like either one of them will be on the field.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that McCoy and Martin are both unlikely to be active for the NFC South matchup.

McCoy broke his hand in last Sunday’s loss to the Rams and he had a cast put on earlier this week. McCoy will likely suit up while his hand is in a cast, but he hinted that the quick turnaround to Thursday might make him a spectator against Atlanta.

That absence would likely hurt the Bucs more than Martin’s. Martin was out against St. Louis because of a knee injury, but Bobby Rainey had 174 total yards of offense in his place. If the offensive line can handle things up front, the running game should be just fine.

Replacing McCoy’s production is more difficult. Da’Quan Bowers and Akeem Spence will see more playing time if Tampa has to fill a McCoy-sized hole on their defensive line.

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Shad Khan fires another Fulham manager

Shad Khan AP

The Jaguars are willing to play it slow with the development of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, for many reasons.

But Jaguars owner Shad Khan is proving far less patient with his other team.

According to The Guardian, Khan has fired Fulham manager Felix Magath, setting the stage for his fourth manager in the 14 months he’s been in control of the English soccer team. Khan had previously sacked Martin Jol and Rene Meulensteen since buying the team last July.

It’s been a turbulent time for Fulham, which was relegated from the Premier League after finishing 19th of 20 teams last year. (The bottom three teams in the league get sent down to the minors every year, and the top three in the minors get promoted to the show).

But things have gotten worse, as Fulham are 24th in the 24-team Championship (think AAA) this season, having just blown a lead to lose 5-3 to Nottingham Forest. Magath won just four games in his 20 in charge, which kind of makes him the Mike Mularkey of England.

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Jerome Simpson in more legal trouble

Jerome Simpson AP

Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson will serve the final game of his three-game suspension this week, but his return to eligibility may be a short one.

Ben Goessling of ESPN.com reports that Simpson, suspended after being arrested for DUI last year, has a court date on November 3 in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Simpson was cited, but not arrested, on misdemeanor charges of violating a limited license, marijuana possession and open bottle after being pulled over in a traffic stop on July 7.

Simpson’s current suspension is his second handed down by the league. He was previously suspended for three games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy in 2012 after being arrested on drug charges while he was a member of the Bengals in 2011.

A third suspension would likely be longer than three games given Simpson’s history and it could bring an end to his time in Minnesota, unless the Vikings don’t decide to just move on once Simpson’s suspension ends when Week Three comes to a close.

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Jaguars will be without Marqise Lee this week

Marqise Lee, Chad Henne AP

The Jaguars didn’t have a wealth of talent at wide receiver to begin with.

Now they have even less.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, rookie wideout Marqise Lee said he won’t play Sunday against the Colts because of a hamstring issue.

My main focus is on getting it right,” Lee said. “The hamstring can linger and if you continue to come back, come back, come back and you’re feeling 85-90 percent, you’re still going to have issues.”

The Jaguars have been without Cecil Shorts (hamstring) the first two games, and he was limited in practice Wednesday. First half of the opener sensation Allen Hurns (ankle) was also held out.

That could push fellow second-rounder Allen Robinson into the starting lineup, and might force them to play Tavarres King, who was just signed off the receiver-rich (not really) Panthers practice squad.

So while their insistence on sticking with Chad Henne might be preventing them from some things, their inability to surround their quarterback with helpful parts might be much of the reason they’re sitting rookie Blake Bortles.

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