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NFL morning after: This is the Reggie Bush we’ve been waiting for

Reggie Bush, Major Wright AP

It’s been eight years now, so you can be forgiven if you’ve forgotten, but there was a time when Reggie Bush wasn’t just expected to be a good NFL player, wasn’t even expected to be a great NFL player, but was expected to be a transcendent NFL player. When Bush was running wild at USC in 2005, people talked about him like he was going to be some combination of Barry Sanders and Gale Sayers in the NFL, a player who had the talent to be the NFL’s best running back, the NFL’s best slot receiver and the NFL’s best kick returner, all in one package.

It didn’t happen, for a variety of reasons ranging from the fact that the team that drafted Bush, the Saints, really didn’t need him to be an every-down running back, to the fact that it was basically impossible for anyone to live up to the kinds of expectations that were on Bush coming out of college.

But what has happened in this, Bush’s eighth NFL season and first with the Lions, is that we’re finally getting the Reggie Bush we’ve been waiting for. The Lions have the right offense to take advantage of Bush’s skills, both as a runner and as a receiver, to get him the ball in space and to let him cut and spin and start and stop and hurdle and sprint to the end zone.

Bush did all of that and more on Sunday against the Bears, a game that might have been the best of his NFL career. Bush had 18 carries for 139 yards and added four catches for 34 yards, but those numbers don’t do justice to how electrifying he was. Bush’s 37-yard touchdown, on which he took a handoff up the middle, ran past defensive end Cornelius Washington before bouncing to the outside, hurdled safety Major Wright and then outraced cornerbacks Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman to the end zone was one of the most beautiful plays of this NFL season.

The Lions have made Bush their featured back in the running game and are giving him plenty of opportunities to carry the ball, and they’re also throwing him a lot of passes, not just out of the backfield but lined up as a slot receiver. Opposing defenses give so much respect to Lions receiver Calvin Johnson that Bush isn’t going to see many eight-man fronts, and he’s going to have a lot of room to make plays all season. Bush has only played two and a half games so far because he missed half of Week Two and all of Week Three with a knee injury, and durability will have to be a concern for Bush in Detroit, just as durability is a concern for any running back who gets the kind of workload the Lions are giving Bush. But if he can stay healthy the rest of the way, he has the potential to lead the league in yards from scrimmage, and lead the Lions to the playoffs.

Bush was my favorite player in any game on Sunday. Here are my other thoughts from Sunday’s games:

The Jets need to do more pushups. With all the Jets’ penalties last week, Rex Ryan implemented a new policy that whenever anyone committed a penalty in practice, everyone had to do pushups. It didn’t work. The Jets committed 10 more penalties on Sunday. Through four games this season, the Jets have committed 44 penalties, putting them on pace to commit 176 this year. The all-time NFL record is 163 penalties in a season, set by the Raiders two years ago.

Chip Kelly needs to be Chip Kelly. The reason I was so excited about Kelly leaving Oregon to coach the Eagles was that we had never seen a coach like Kelly in the NFL before. But while the Eagles’ fast-paced offense is fun to watch, for the most part I see Kelly coaching in Philadelphia like he did in college. At Oregon, Kelly wasn’t afraid to go for it on fourth down from anywhere on the field. But on Sunday in Denver, when the Eagles had a fourth-and-6 at Denver’s 37-yard line while trailing 21-13, Kelly took a delay of game penalty and then punted. Why not go for it? You’re playing the best team in the NFL on the road. You’re going to need to take some chances to pull the upset. I didn’t see the Eagles taking many chances on Sunday, when they punted four times, attempted three field goals and never went for it on fourth down despite trailing all game. Although the Eagles went for it on fourth-and-1 and got the first down on their first drive of the season, in the opening Monday night at Washington, Kelly has gone for it on fourth down just once since that very first drive. It’s disappointing to see Kelly turn into a conventional, risk-averse NFL coach.

Sean Lee is that rarest of creatures, an underrated Cowboy. Usually players on America’s Team are overhyped, but if anything Lee, a linebacker in his fourth year in Dallas, doesn’t get enough hype. Lee’s 2012 season was cut short by a toe injury after six games, but this year Lee is looking healthy and faster than ever, as he displayed on his 52-yard interception return for a touchdown. Lee did get beaten in coverage on a touchdown by Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, but that play aside he’s having a strong season, and if he stays healthy he’ll make his first Pro Bowl.

Kiko Alonso leads the league in interceptions. Alonso, the Bills’ second-round draft pick out of Oregon this year, came into Sunday’s game with two interceptions on the season and added two more of Joe Flacco in Sunday’s win over the Ravens. He now has four, tied with Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib and Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner for the most of any player in the NFL through four weeks. In addition to his interceptions, Alonso has been a tackling machine. The Bills look like they got a keeper. Alonso’s college coach Chip Kelly should have drafted Alonso in Philadelphia — the Eagles need all the help on defense they can get.

As usual, the Super Bowl hosts stink. The Super Bowl will be played in New Jersey at the end of this season, and we won’t be having any talk about a team playing a Super Bowl on its home field, as the Giants are 0-4 and the Jets are an ugly 2-2. This is probably more a coincidence than anything else, but the Super Bowl host team almost always has a lousy season. No Super Bowl host team has even made the playoffs since Tampa Bay in 2000, and not only has no team ever played in the Super Bowl on its own home field, but no team has ever even reached the conference championship in a postseason when the Super Bowl was on that team’s home field. The Cardinals host next season’s Super Bowl, the 49ers the year after that and the Texans the year after that. Sorry to fans in Arizona, San Francisco and Houston, but you can probably pencil in a disappointing season for your teams when the Super Bowl is coming to town.

Adrian Peterson breaks long runs like no one else, ever. Peterson’s 60-yard touchdown on Sunday was his 12th touchdown of 60 yards or more. No one else in NFL history has had even 10 touchdown runs of 60 or more yards. Jim Brown, who had nine 60-yard touchdown runs, is second in NFL history.

Peyton Manning is amazing. I know I said earlier that Bush was my favorite player in the NFL on Sunday, but I should probably add that I could say that about Manning every Sunday. Manning completed 28 of 34 passes for 327 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Eagles, and he didn’t even play in the fourth quarter. His 16 touchdown passes are the most ever for any quarterback four weeks into the season. The Broncos have scored 179 points through four games, putting them on pace for 716 points this season, which would obliterate the 2007 Patriots’ NFL record of 589. This may be Manning’s best year yet — an amazing thing to say about a guy who has four league MVP awards.

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DeSean Jackson “very limited” in practice, questionable for Sunday

DeSean Jackson AP

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson may play when the Redskins roll into Philadelphia on Sunday, but he isn’t going to be 100 percent.

Jackson was listed as questionable on Washington’s final injury report of the week. Jackson, who injured his shoulder against the Jaguars last Sunday, was able to practice for the first time this week on Friday, although coach Chip Kelly said he was “very limited” during the workout.

“He did good today, but we’ll see,” Gruden said, via CSNWashington.com. “He was very limited, as you well know. But I think it was a step in a positive direction. We’ll get another look at him tomorrow with the trainers, then we’ll gauge him on Sunday morning and see where he’s at.”

Jackson has vowed to play in the game, which is his first opportunity to play against the Eagles since they released him in the offseason.

Tight end Jordan Reed remains sidelined with a hamstring injury for Washington, who will also be without quarterback Robert Griffin III, linebacker Akeem Jordan and cornerback Tracy Porter. Neither Jordan nor Porter has played in a regular season game this year.

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Eagles rule out Mychal Kendricks

Mychal Kendricks, Trent Richardson AP

The Eagles may give first-round pick Marcus Smith some playing time this weekend.

Smith has been working at inside linebacker at practice this week, which was seen as a sign that the team was pessimistic about Mychal Kendricks’s chances of playing against the Redskins on Sunday.

That pessimism was justified. Kendricks was ruled out by the Eagles on Friday after missing the entire week of practice because of a calf injury suffered in Monday night’s victory over the Colts.

Casey Matthews and Emmanuel Acho have been seeing time in Kendricks’s place at practice this week, although Smith has been the Eagles’ choice for the nickel package since both Matthews and Acho struggle in pass coverage. Smith was drafted in May to help bolster the team’s pass rush, but didn’t get on the field the first week and was inactive on Monday night as he’s not ready to help the team in that area yet.

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Goodell press conference will be televised on NBCSN

NBCUniversal Logos

At roughly 11:00 a.m. ET on Friday, the NFL announced that Commissioner Roger Goodell will conduct a press conference at 3:00 p.m. ET.  While that didn’t leave me with enough time to make it from West Virginia to Midtown Manhattan, NBC keeps some of its cameras a lot closer.  And those cameras will be connected via satellite to the NBC Sports Group headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.

The pictures and words sent via satellite will be broadcast on NBCSN, in a special edition of Pro Football Talk.  Paul Burmeister and yours truly will react to and analyze the opening comments from Goodell, the questions he receives, and the answers he provides.

Look for Goodell to answer any and all questions, and to accommodate every media member who shows up for the event.  After the events of the last two weeks, Goodell can’t let one of the league’s P.R. representatives cut off the conference before all questions have been answered.  Which explains the fairly short notice; he plans to answer all questions, and by announcing the event only four hours before it happened, the universe of questions will be smaller.

Whatever the questions and answers, you’ll see and hear them all on NBCSN at 3:00 p.m. ET.  And then you’ll see and hear us talk about what it all means.

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Colts defensive starters Jerrell Freeman, Arthur Jones out Sunday

arthurjones AP

The Colts will be down two defensive starters on Sunday against the Jaguars.

Jerrell Freeman and Arthur Jones have both been ruled out, coach Chuck Pagano confirmed today.

Freeman has been nursing a hamstring injury that also forced him to miss Monday night’s game against the Eagles. Jones suffered an ankle injury in that game and has been out of practice this week.

The good news for the Colts is that the Jaguars’ offense has been inept this season: Jacksonville quarterback Chad Henne has been sacked a league-high 13 times, while running back Toby Gerhart has gained just 50 yards on 25 carries. Even shorthanded, the Colts should be able to handle the Jaguars.

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John Abraham placed on injured reserve

John Abraham, Kellen Clemens, Calais Campbell AP

John Abraham’s season has reached a close.

The Cardinals placed the veteran outside linebacker on injured reserve Friday, the team’s website said. The 36-year-old Abraham suffered a concussion in the Cardinals’ Sept. 8 win vs. San Diego.

A 15th-year pro from West Virginia, Abraham has recorded 133.5 career sacks. He is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. Given his age and his health, it’s reasonable to wonder if he will return to NFL play in 2015.

To replace Abraham on the roster, the Cardinals re-signed punter Drew Butler, who has kicked in each of the first two games. The re-signing of Butler suggests Dave Zastudil’s status for Sunday’s game vs. San Francisco could be in doubt because of the groin injury that’s ailed him.

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Bill Belichick’s come a long way from the ice pick days

Bill Belichick AP

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick got his start in coaching, he learned a system of coding plays which involved index cards, hole punches and ice picks.

So naturally, the idea he can look to a tablet computer on the sidelines on have immediate access to so much information kind of blows his mind.

The latest in Belichick’s semi-regular series of expansive Friday press conferences touched on the rapid pace of technology and how it impacts his job.

I’m overwhelmed,” Belichick said, via Phil Perry of CSNNE.com. “I’m totally overwhelmed by it. There’s no way I could, without somebody holding my hand and helping me through it, there’s no way I’d get a fraction of what I would get. When we were with the Colts, . . .What I did with the Colts, I wrote every play on a card. I drew the card, drew the play, and then every category that the play fit into, I checked off on the outside edge of the card. So if it was first-and-10, plus-territory, gain of over four yards, screen pass, half back was the receiver, the defense ran a blitz, whatever categories that those fit into, then I would check those off. I’d take the hole puncher. There was like 200 holes around the edge of the card and I would punch out the holes that I’d checked off. Then you’d have a whole stack of cards here, slide the ice pick in there for third down and boom, all the third down cards drop out. Then you take all those cards, look at them and then you put them all back and put the whole deck of cards back together, stick the ice pick in there and all the screens fall out. Here’s 15 screens. You look at them, how many were strong, how many were weak, how many were to the half back, how many were play action, how many were third down, how many were second down? Figure all that out. OK stuck ‘em back in there again. I would do like, you know, 200 of those. Screens, third down, red area, goal line, short yardage, what they ran against blitzes, what they ran from slot, what they ran from motion. All of that.

“That’s, I mean, about as archaic as you can get: the ice-pick method. But it worked.”

As someone known for his ability to process information, Belichick can only benefit from more efficient methods of delivery. And he was quick to praise Patriots IT specialist Dan Famosi for helping him learn how all the fancy gadgets work.

As Belichick explained, the key to coaching is teaching, and the key to teaching is realizing that every student learns differently.

So being able to show the visual learners replays on a tablet computer helps as much as running them through plays on the chalk board on practice field.

The whole conversation is fascinating, and the kind of insight Belichick doesn’t always share.

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DeAngelo Williams practicing Friday

DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert AP

Panthers tailback DeAngelo Williams appears to be practicing for the first time in more than a week.

Williams (thigh) was spotted participating in Friday’s workout, as was fullback Mike Tolbert (chest), according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer.

Williams was inactive for Sunday’s win vs. Detroit because of his injury. Tolbert caught three passes in the victory over the Lions, but he sat out the first practice of this week, and he was limited on Thursday.

The presence of Williams and Tolbert could be a good sign for Carolina as it readies for Sunday night’s game vs. Pittsburgh. The Steelers have surrendered 348 combined rushing yards in the first two weeks of the season. Williams, Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart are the Panthers’ top three options in the backfield.

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Vikings won’t be doing an Adrian Peterson jersey exchange “at this time”

Peterson AP

Given that the Ravens have offered to exchange Ray Rice jerseys for those bearing the names and numbers of other players, some Vikings fans want to do the same thing with their Adrian Peterson jerseys.

One fan forwarded to PFT earlier today his request to exchange five Adrian Peterson jerseys that he purchased for himself, and for his wife and three children.  The fan was informed that the Peterson jerseys will not be exchanged.

“First, we want to be clear that we have a strong stance on the protection and welfare of children, which is why we needed to get this decision right,” VikingsLockerRoom.com customer service supervisor Lane Lewis told the fan.  “We understand and appreciate the range of emotions our fans have expressed throughout the process, and we hope they can respect our decision.  At this time we do not have a jersey exchange program in place.  Adrian remains a member of the Vikings organization, and we will continue to support him through this legal and personal process.”

The Vikings confirmed the validity of the email, and separately provided this statement to PFT:  “No, we are not contemplating a jersey exchange program.  Adrian remains a member of this organization and we will support him through the legal and personal process.”

Eventually, that could change.  If Peterson eventually is convicted of or pleads guilty to child abuse, the Vikings could opt to accept the thousands of jerseys that have been sold with his name and number on them.

Either way, some fans want to unload their Peterson jerseys now.  That group could grow.  And if the voices are loud enough, the Vikings could end up deciding to include a jersey exchange within their ad nauseum effort to “get this right.”

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Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict not seen at practice on Friday

Vontaze Burfict AP

One of the Bengals’ key defensive players could be missing his third straight practice.

Starting weak-side linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion) wasn’t present at the beginning on Friday’s workout, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com.

Considering Burfict has been in the league’s concussion protocol in each of the last two weeks, his status for Sunday’s game vs. Tennessee could be in doubt.

The 23-year-old Burfict has started 32 straight regular season games for Cincinnati since joining the club in 2012. He has never missed a game. Burfict made the Pro Bowl in 2013 after a 171-tackle, three-sack season for the AFC North-winning Bengals.

The Bengals will release their final injury report later today.

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PFT Live: Thomas Dimitroff, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Devin Hester AP

Thursday night was a good one for the Falcons as they scored eight touchdowns in the first three quarters of their game with the Buccaneers on the way to a 56-14 pasting of their division rivals.

The man who put the team together will be on Friday’s PFT Live to share his thoughts about that game. General Manager Thomas Dimitroff will join Mike Florio for a discussion that will cover plenty of other things as well, including the first two weeks of the season and the fast start for Devin Hester as both a returner and an offensive contributor.

We’ll also be taking questions from PFT Planet during the show, so send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 during the show to let us know what’s on your mind.

It all gets going at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Roger Goodell holding press conference on Friday afternoon

Roger Goodell AP

There have been calls from all corners of the football world for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to come out from behind the curtain and address the myriad issues that have been plaguing the NFL over the last two weeks and Goodell will finally do it on Friday afternoon.

Goodell will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. ET in New York City, which will mark the first time that he’s spoken to any media member since doing a pair of one-on-one interviews last week.

Friday’s press conference comes after Goodell sent a memo to the 32 NFL teams outlining some of the initiatives that the league will undertake to help organizations devoted to assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Those initiatives fit with Goodell’s promise to have the league act to make positive change in the future and the future is sure to be a major talking point on Friday.

It’s a safe bet, though, that there will be plenty of questions about the way Goodell and the league behaved in the past when it comes to these issues as well as questions about the concrete ways the league will deal with those that commit these kinds of criminal acts in the future after two weeks of constantly shifting reactions as public opinion came down strongly against the way the NFL handled the cases of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and others.

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NFL loses a corporate partner for its breast cancer initiative

pink Getty Images

The NFL doesn’t seem to be losing any money over the ongoing domestic violence mess, but it is losing plenty of good will.

The latest example of that comes from the folks at Procter & Gamble, who have decided they don’t want their brand to be affiliated with the NFL during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Procter & Gamble had been planning to sponsor an initiative where one player on each team would use a pink mouth guard in October, with the players raising awareness about breast cancer and Procter & Gamble donating money. Now, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS, Procter & Gamble has decided to go ahead with the monetary donation but scrap the plans for the pink mouth guards, because Procter & Gamble isn’t comfortable with playing a part in the NFL’s efforts to appeal to women at a time when the NFL is facing criticism for players abusing women.

There was a time when it would have been unthinkable that any corporate entity wouldn’t want to be associated with a brand as popular as the NFL and a feel-good cause like breast cancer awareness, but that time was before the Ray Rice elevator video became public.

With October just around the corner, the NFL is sure to face withering scrutiny about the fact that it dons pink clothing when it wants to appeal to female fans, but doesn’t act quickly when players commit acts of violence against women.

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A.J. Green says he’s on track to play

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green’s status for Sunday has been closely monitored throughout the week and things are looking up as it comes to a close.

Green’s toe injury kept him out of practice on Wednesday and left him unsure if he’d be able to get on the field against the Titans after getting through just six plays in last week’s victory. While Green said he wanted to play as long as he wasn’t too compromised by the injury, the Bengals’ Week Four bye added to that uncertainty since he could get an extended rest by sitting out this weekend.

Friday morning brought a bit more certainty and optimism, though. Geoff Hobson of the Bengals website reports that Green said that he’s feeling no soreness from the injury and, as a result, feels ready to go for Sunday.

The Bengals were able to win last week despite the cameo appearance from their top receiver, but their best chance for winning consistently is going to come with Green on the field. It looks like that will be the case this weekend.

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“Thousands” line up to exchange Ray Rice jerseys

Rice AP

The two-day Ray Rice jersey exchange started today.  And so far it’s a success.

Or, from the perspective of the organization taking back Rice jerseys and giving out new ones at no charge, a catastrophe.

According to the Baltimore Sun, “thousands” of fans lined up outside M&T Bank Stadium to trade a Ray Rice jersey for an “available jersey” of another Ravens player.  If the team runs out, vouchers will be provided.

The program runs from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Last year, the Patriots offered a jersey exchange after tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder.

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John Harbaugh: Just looking at Suggs’ sacks? You don’t know football

Baltimore Ravens Training Camp Getty Images

Sacking the quarterback is what Terrell Suggs is best known for, and that’s something Suggs hasn’t done much of lately: Suggs doesn’t have any sacks this season, and he only had one over the last eight games of last season.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, however, says people who are only looking at Suggs’ sack totals aren’t looking at a complete picture of his impact on Baltimore’s defense.

“Anybody who knows anything about football who watches the tape will tell you he’s playing really, really well,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN. “He was very disruptive in his pass rush. Not just that, he’s playing great in the run game. I’d say all around his game is an A-plus.”

Harbaugh is right. We only have one commonly used statistic for pass rushers, and that statistic is sacks, and so people tend to focus only on how many sacks a defensive end or outside linebacker records, without bothering to look at how many times he pressures the passer, how he plays the run, and so on. In reality, Suggs has made plenty of plays that aren’t reflected in his sack total, including a hit on Ben Roethlisberger in Week Two and a tackle on Andy Dalton after a short scramble in Week One. Opposing quarterbacks have felt Suggs’ presence, even if he hasn’t sacked anyone. Yet.

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