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Antrel Rolle believes Giants can run the table

Giants Herzlich and Rolle go for a pass that bounced off of a Chiefs receiver during a NFL football game in Kansas City, Missouri Reuters

The Giants have lost their first four games by a combined 85 points, but one member of the team thinks that better days are right around the corner.

Safety Antrel Rolle has complained about the lack of energy among his teammates, but said Monday that he liked the fight he saw from the team in Sunday’s 31-7 loss to the Chiefs. And he also said that he believes the team is on the cusp of turning things around in a major way.

“I believe we can go 12-0 from this point on,” Rolle said, via Kieran Darcy of ESPNNewYork.com. “People can look at me like I’m crazy, but you know I could really give a damn at this point. This is what I truly believe. I know the talent of this team, I know the mindset of this team, we just have to go out there and put it all together.”

We won’t spend much time pointing out how unlikely it is that the Giants win all the games left on their schedule because you wouldn’t really expect a confident player to say anything different. The old adage of playing one game at a time does come to mind, though, especially because the Giants could find themselves a game out of first in the NFC East by beating the Eagles next week.

If the Cowboys lose to the Broncos, which seems like a reasonable outcome, they’ll be 2-3. The Redskins can’t be any better than 1-3 after next week’s bye, so the division hasn’t run away from the Giants while they’ve been steamrolled the last four weeks and it doesn’t look like any of these teams are going to be good enough to do it in the next few weeks either. If the Giants can find a pulse, they’re still alive in the big picture.

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Colts cut return man Griff Whalen, sign RB Zurlon Tipton

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Colts return man Griff Whalen’s latest mistake was his last in Indianapolis.

Whalen was part of the odd botched kickoff return that easily could have been a safety on Sunday against the Patriots. The Colts signed veteran return man Josh Cribbs this week and have now cut Whalen today.

With Whalen released, the Colts have used the roster space to add running back Zurlon Tipton from the practice squad.

Tipton signed as an undrafted free agent this year after a very good college career at Central Michigan. He’ll add some depth at running back behind Trent Richardson and Dan Herron after the Colts lost Ahmad Bradshaw for the season this week.

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Falcons to honor member of Tuskegee Airmen on Sunday

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The Falcons will honor a living member of the Tuskegee Airmen during Sunday’s game vs. Cleveland.

According to the club’s website, the Falcons will recognize 98-year-old Edward Johnson, a sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps during World War II.

Johnson served with the 332nd Fighter Group and 477th Bombardment Group, serving as an instrument-flying instructor, the Falcons said.

The Tuskegee Airmen were African-American members of the Air Corps and the U.S. Army Air Forces whose ranks included pilots who flew bombing missions in World War II.

According to the Falcons, Johnson is a long-time fan of the club who has never attended a game. He will be accompanied by one of his daughters.

The ceremony will occur sometime during the first half, the Falcons said.

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Free Jets-Bills tickets at Ford Field already all gone

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Free tickets to an NFL game don’t come along very often, and fans in Detroit have made the most of the opportunity.

The Lions announced at noon Eastern that all of the free tickets to Monday night’s Jets-Bills game at Ford Field have already been distributed online. The “very limited” number of tickets that weren’t part of the online distribution will be given out at the Ford Field box office on Sunday.

Originally scheduled for Sunday in Buffalo, the Jets-Bills game was moved to Monday in Detroit because of the snowstorm that hit Buffalo last week.

Buffalo has lost its home-field advantage for the game, as presumably most of the fans in attendance will simply be football fans, not Bills fans. But at least they won’t be playing in an empty stadium. When the tickets are free, any NFL game is worth seeing.

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Belichick on Suh: “He changes everything”

Ndamukong Suh, Tom Brady AP

Patriots coach Bill Belichick is telling his offensive linemen that they have a big responsibility on their hands against Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on Sunday.

“He changes everything,” Belichick said on NFL Network. “You can’t let him penetrate or he’ll foul the whole play up. You’ve got to secure him on the line of scrimmage and again, that’s a lot easier said than done because of his talent and also some of the different looks they give you. He’s very disruptive in both the running game and the passing game. He’s got great effort. He makes plays in pursuit and on the backside. So really there’s no weakness in his game.”

Sometimes an offense can avoid good defensive tackles by running to the outside, but Belichick says there’s no getting past Suh.

“He’s got to be blocked on every play, no matter what the play is,” Belichick said.

That’s the top priority for the Patriots’ offensive line.

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Blount praises Belichick as “100 percent honest”

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As he starts his second stint with the Patriots, running back LeGarrette Blount says he’s glad to be back with a coach he trusts.

Blount, who had well-publicized problems getting along with coaches in prior stops during his career, said after getting cut by the Steelers and then signed by the Patriots this week that he’s thrilled Belichick thinks enough of him to bring him back to New England.

“It means a lot,” Blount said, via the Boston Herald. “Bill is a straightforward shooter. He’s a 100 percent honest person. I truly believe that if I do what I have to do, I’ll make myself a role on this team. Whatever I have to do, I’m going to do it to be productive. I’m going to stay ready, and whenever they call me to carry the ball, I’m going to go out there and do whatever I can to do to make them comfortable with the decision to bring me back.”

Blount seemed humbled by the events of the past week, in which he was passed over on waivers by every team before the Patriots came calling.

“I’m just happy and excited to be back now,” Blount said. “As you all can see, I’m kind of flustered and at a loss of words, but I’m excited to be back now. It’s going to be fun.”

Belichick doesn’t exactly have a reputation as a fun guy outside New England, but it’s clear that Blount thinks he’s in the right place, with the right coach.

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Harbaugh compares Vernon Davis to an olive jar

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Iconoclastic 49ers tight end Vernon Davis has been called many things.  He can now add olive jar to the list.

That one comes courtesy of coach Jim Harbaugh.

“I just feel like he’s ready to break out,” Harbaugh told reporters on Friday regarding Davis.  “I really do.  You use the old olive jar analogy.  The olives are packed in there real tight and you open up the lid and you can’t get any to come out.  You can even dump it upside down and it doesn’t come out.  But if you get that one to come out, then they just want to all come out and plop out.

“So, I think that’s the case and I think it’s going to happen soon.  Hopefully this weekend.  Get that one big one and then they start coming out.”

(We’re still talking about olives, right?)

Davis generated a mere 44 yards in Week One against the Cowboys.  But that still represents his regular-season high.  Over the last three games, Davis has 34 yards.  In all three games.  Combined.

That’s not the way to earn the contract he held out of offseason workouts to get.  Maybe the lesson going forward is that guys who want new contracts should show up for offseason workouts.

Especially when they also decide to become human corporations with a stock price that hinges on their performance.  From a high of $12.50 in April, shares in Vernon Davis, Inc. have plunged to $7.10.

It’s enough to trigger an aggressive order to sell! sell!

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Chiefs add Jason Avant, put A.J. Jenkins on injured reserve

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The Chiefs have made a change at wide receiver.

Jason Avant, the veteran receiver who was cut by the Panthers this week after complaining about the offensive play calling, has signed with the Chiefs. Avant previously played for Chiefs coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia, so he’ll arrive with an understanding of the offense and should be able to contribute immediately.

The 31-year-old Avant had 21 catches for 201 yards before the Panthers cut him. The last time he played for Reid, in 2012, he averaged four catches a game, and the Chiefs would love to see Avant settle into that kind of role in their stagnant passing game.

Kansas City has also announced that receiver A.J. Jenkins is done for the season with a shoulder injury. Jenkins, the former 49ers first-round pick, had nine catches for 93 yards this year.

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Pete Carroll says everyone in Seattle loves Marshawn Lynch

Pete Carroll, Marshawn Lynch AP

Amid talk that Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch’s surly demeanor is wearing thin in Seattle, coach Pete Carroll says he loves coaching Lynch.

Carroll said any talk that Lynch won’t be back in Seattle in 2015 must be coming from outside the organization.

“Somebody just started talking about that — he’s under contract next year, we’d love to have him back,” Carroll told USA Today. “There’s no hesitation in us saying that and there never has been. Somebody else said that. That’s never come from here. No one thinks that at all.”

Lynch is on pace for his second career 1,300-yard rushing season, and he’s having his best year ever as a receiver: He’s on pace to gain a career-high 395 receiving yards and already has a career-high three receiving touchdowns.

“Marshawn’s playing the best he’s played since he’s been here,” Carroll said. “His feet are on fire. He’s tough as hell. He’s doing everything. He’s catching the ball. He’s our guy. And he has been all this time.”

Lynch may not always be the easiest person to deal with, but there’s no question that he produces on the field. Carroll wants to win, and that’s why he wants players like Lynch.

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Federal judge strikes down latest New Jersey attempt at sports betting

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The powers-that-be in New Jersey continue to swing and miss when it comes to circumventing federal law that prevents the legalization of gambling there.

According to the Associated Press, Judge Michael Shipp has ruled that the latest effort by New Jersey to legalize sports betting at race tracks and casinos cannot proceed.

“We are going to continue pursuing every legal option available,” New Jersey Senate president Steve Sweeney told the AP.  “The economic impact that sports wagering can have on New Jersey is far too important to simply shrug our shoulders and move on.”

For now, the immediate legal option will be pursuing an appeal of the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which already has blocked efforts by New Jersey and Delaware to avoid the clear terms of a 1992 law that prevents the expansion of sports wagering.

The NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA filed suit to block New Jersey’s latest attempt.  Maybe New Jersey should simply legalize gambling on whether its efforts to legalize gambling will ever succeed.

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Gruden says the “clock’s ticking” on Griffin

Gruden AP

Two years ago, Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III took the NFL by storm with a combination of running and passing that kept defenses off balance and guessing all year long.  Until he was injured while running.

Since then, an effort has been made to make Griffin more of a passer and less of a runner.  And it hasn’t worked.

Now?  Coach Jay Gruden sounds willing to consider having Griffin run some more as a last-ditch effort to make him more productive.

“It’s a production-based business,” Gruden told Albert Breer of NFL Media.  “We haven’t won many games lately with him.  We gotta figure out a way to get in the end zone.  We just have to score.  I don’t care how we do it.  If it’s running the zone-read, I don’t care.  Quarterback sneaks, I don’t give a damn.  We gotta find a way to utilize him where we can get productive drives and stay away from negative plays and have some consistency.”

Consistency and the absence of negative plays could help Griffin rebuild his shattered confidence.  Which Gruden may have further shattered while discussing Griffin’s shattered confidence on the record.

“His biggest thing, he’s been coddled for so long,” Gruden said of Griffin.  “It’s not a negative, he’s just been so good, he just hasn’t had a lot of negative publicity.  Everybody’s loved him.  Some adversity is striking hard at him now, and how he reacts to that off the field, his mental state of mind, how it affects his confidence, hopefully it’s not in a negative way.  I read Drew Brees said after a couple interceptions, ‘I’m never gonna lose confidence, I’m gonna come out firing all the time.’”

And then Gruden may have stomped the shattered pieces of confidence into powder.

“He’s auditioned long enough,” Gruden said of Griffin.  “Clock’s ticking.  He’s gotta play.  We’ll see. . . .  We want Robert to excel, we really do.  But the last two games, it hasn’t been very good, anywhere.  We gotta play better around him.  And the biggest thing for us as playcallers, and for him, we just have to come together and jell with plays he’s comfortable with.  That takes time.  But we don’t have a lot of time.”

Griffin’s time could run out because of the backup who won two games before Griffin returned from injury.

“We have a guy behind him that played pretty well, and people are looking, ‘OK, he’s 2-0,’” Gruden said regarding Colt McCoy.  “There’s always pressure on the quarterback to perform.  And if you don’t perform, like any other position, somebody’s behind you pushing you.”

The way Gruden has been talking lately, maybe McCoy will end up pushing Griffin to the bench.  Or maybe right out of town.

Unless Griffin pushes another head coach out of town first.

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Refs missed a Cutler fumble, but replay couldn’t fix it

cutler AP

One of the limitations of instant replay was demonstrated on Sunday in Chicago, where Jay Cutler fumbled, only to have the officials wrongly rule it an incomplete pass — and to have the referee unable to do anything about it on a replay rule.

As explained by NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino in a video distributed by the league, players on the field stopped when they heard an official blow a whistle for what he thought was an incomplete pass by Cutler. Replays clearly showed that Cutler had fumbled, not thrown a pass, but that didn’t matter because if the players stopped playing when they heard an official blow a play dead, there’s nothing instant replay reviews can do about it.

“The problem is, everybody has stopped,” Blandino said. “The rule is, if the ruling on the field is an incomplete pass or down by contact but it’s really a fumble, in order to give the ball to the recovering team, that recovery has to happen in the immediate continuing action. So players can’t stop as a result of the dead ball ruling, as a result of the whistle.”

Blandino acknowledged that video of the play clearly showed Cutler had fumbled, and a Vikings player was the first to pick it up — but only after everyone had stopped playing because of the whistle.

“It is a fumble, you can see that,” Blandino said. “The referee ruled incomplete pass. It should’ve been a fumble.”

Bears fans saw a similar play last year, when an Aaron Rodgers fumble that most of the players on the field thought was an incomplete pass was picked up by the Packers and run in for a touchdown. The difference in that play was that the players stopped because they thought it was an incomplete pass, not because an official blew a whistle. On that play, the officials on the field correctly ruled that Rodgers had fumbled, and they correctly allowed the play to keep going even though most of the players on the field thought it was an incomplete pass.

“What we teach is do not blow the whistle,” Blandino said.

Unfortunately, the ref in Sunday’s game didn’t follow that teaching.

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Week 12 injury report roundup

Larry Fitzgerald, Mohammed Seisay AP

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week 12 of the 2014 season.

Browns at Falcons

Browns tight end Jordan Cameon (concussion) and wide receiver Marlon Moore (hamstring) are out, with linebacker Karlos Dansby (knee, doubtful) likely to join them on the sideline. Safety Johnson Bademosi (concussion) and linebacker Jabaal Sheard (foot) are both questionable. The Falcons have ruled out cornerback Robert Alford (wrist) and tackle Jonathan Scott (hamstring), but the rest of the 53-man roster is healthy enough to play.

Buccaneers at Bears

It’s a four-man injury report for Tampa and all four — linebacker Lavonte David (hamstring), running back Doug Martin (ankle), running back Charles Sims (ankle) and cornerback Alterraun Verner (hamstring) — are questionable. The Bears ruled out defensive end Trevor Scott (knee), linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring) and wide receiver Chris Williams (hamstring) while listing tackle Eben Britton (illness), cornerback Demontre Hurst (knee) and tackle Jordan Mills (ribs) as questionable.

Bengals at Texans

Bengals running back Giovani Bernard (hip,collarbone) is set to return after being listed as probable, but linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee) is out again this week. Defensive end Margus Hunt (ankle) is also out. The Texans will wait to make a call on running back Arian Foster (groin, questionable) for a second straight week and they’ll continue to be without cornerback Kareem Jackson (knee).

Jaguars at Colts

The Jaguars ruled out defensive end Andre Branch (groin) and linebacker Jeremiah George (ankle), but the rest of the roster is healthy heading into Sunday. The Colts ruled out tight end Dwayne Allen (ankle), tackle Gosder Cherilus (shoulder) and cornerback Greg Toler (concussion). Defensive tackle Arthur Jones (ankle, probable) is set to return.

Packers at Vikings

It will be a week without tight end Brandon Bostick (hip) for the Packers. Cornerback Jarrett Bush (groin), linebacker Jay Elliott (hamstring), defensive end Datone Jones (ankle) and linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder) are all questionable. The Vikings added running back Ben Tate this week because Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon were banged up. Asiata (concussion) won’t play, but McKinnon (back) is probable. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee), wide receiver Greg Jennings (rib), tackle Matt Kalil (knee) and wide receiver Jarius Wright (hamstring) are questionable.

Lions at Patriots

The Lions will wait to make a final determination on running back Reggie Bush (ankle) and they’ve ruled out defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee) and guard Larry Warford (knee) for another week. New England listed tackle Marcus Cannon (hip), defensive end Dominique Easley (knee) and safety Nate Ebner (finger) as questionable. Quarterback Tom Brady (ankle) is probable, though.

Titans at Eagles

Cornerback Marqueston Huff (hamstring) is unlikely to play for the Titans, who will wait to make final calls on wide receiver Justin Hunter (knee), linebacker Derrick Morgan (knee), safety Daimion Stafford (shoulder) and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (back) after listing them as questionable. Quarterback Nick Foles (collarbone) remains out, but the rest of the Eagles on the injury report, including offensive lineman Matt Tobin (concussion), are probable.

Rams at Chargers

The Rams will try to win against another AFC West team without defensive tackle Alex Carrington (knee), cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (groin), cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) and wide receiver Damian Williams (hamstring). They hold out hope for tight end Jared Cook (back), tight end Cory Harkey (quadricep) and long snapper Jake McQuaide (back) after listing them as questionable. Chargers safety Jahleel Addae (concussion) and center Rich Ohrnberger (ankle, back) are both questionable and quarterback Philip Rivers (chest) is probable.

Cardinals at Seahawks

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee, questionable) will be a game-time decision after missing practice all week. Defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) is out. The Seahawks expect to have linebacker Bobby Wagner (toe, probable) back in the lineup, but cornerback Marcus Burley (hamstring), linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) and center Max Unger (knee, ankle) have all been ruled out. Guard James Carpenter (ankle) is questionable.

Dolphins at Broncos

The Dolphins ruled out linebacker Jonathan Freeny (hamstring) and have little hope that cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle, doubtful) or tight end Charles Clay (knee, doubtful) will play. Running back Lamar Miller (shoulder, knee) and guard Daryn Colledge (back) are both questionable. The Broncos ruled out running backs Ronnie Hillman (foot) and Montee Ball (groin), but wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (concussion) was listed as probable after practicing on Friday. Tight end Julius Thomas (ankle) didn’t practice and is listed as questionable.

Redskins at 49ers

Defensive end Chris Baker (chest) and tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring) are out for the Redskins, who listed two offensive linemen — guard Shawn Lauvao (concussion) and left tackle Trent Williams (knee, ankle) — as questionable. Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey (biceps) won’t make his return this week and right tackle Anthony Davis (concussion) is out as well. Cornerback Tramaine Brock (hamstring), wide receiver Bruce Ellington (ankle), tight end Vance McDonald (hip) and linebacker Dan Skuta (ankle) are all questionable for the home team.

Cowboys at Giants

Cornerback Tyler Patmon (knee, ankle) is out, but the Cowboys are otherwise free of injury concerns as they return from the bye week. The Giants ruled out defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf), right tackle Justin Pugh (quadricep) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion) with Geoff Schwartz (toe, probable) expected to take Pugh’s spot in the lineup.

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Roman Harper fined $8,268 for unnecessary roughness

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Panthers safety Roman Harper has drawn a $8,268 fine from the NFL for an unnecessary roughness penalty in Sunday’s loss to Atlanta, the league confirmed to PFT on Friday.

Harper was flagged for unnecessary roughness after tackling Falcons wide receiver Roddy White around the helmet in the third quarter. As White was falling, both of Harper’s hands contacted White’s helmet, and Harper punctuated the tackle with a little push to the head with his left hand. This started a brief confrontation between Harper, White (who struck the safety in the facemask) and Falcons tailback Antone Smith (who shoved Harper). Ultimately, Harper drew the 15-yard penalty.

A ninth-year pro, the 31-year-old Harper has started all 11 games for Carolina this season, recording 41 tackles and three interceptions.

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Report: Chiefs to sign Jason Avant

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The Chiefs went an 11th game without a touchdown catch by a wide receiver in Oakland on Thursday night and Friday has brought a reported change to the receiving corps.

It’s a familiar face to head coach Andy Reid.

Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Chiefs are signing Jason Avant, who worked out for the team on Friday. The Chiefs haven’t made an announcement, but Avant’s agent Doug Hendrickson congratulated his client on finding a new team.

Avant was released by the Panthers earlier this week after catching 21 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown in 11 games for the team. Avant was critical of the team’s offensive approach at the end of last week’s loss to the Falcons, though the Panthers explained the move as one designed to get more playing time for younger receivers.

It was Avant’s first year with the Panthers after spending the first eight years of his career with the Eagles. The first seven of those years came when Reid was in charge of the team and Avant had 259 catches for 3,199 yards and 10 touchdowns as a regular in the team’s offense.

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Tickets to be free for Jets-Bills in Detroit

Ford Field AP

Tickets for Monday night’s Jets-Bills game at Detroit’s Ford Field will be free, general-admission seats, the Lions announced Friday.

Bills season-ticket holders are being offered free tickets beginning today, as are Lions season-ticket owners. All other ticket giveaways will begin Saturday, according to the Lions.

Monday night’s game will start at 7 p.m. Eastern. The NFL moved the game to Detroit on Thursday because of heavy snow in the Buffalo metropolitan area.

The Lions also announced they would hold an in-game raffle to benefit the American Red Cross of Western and Central New York Disaster Relief Fund.

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