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Chris Long ejected, but Rams climbing back into it

Zac Stacy, Thomas Davis AP

The Panthers and Rams are playing something more closely resembling a good roller derby at the moment.

Tempers are flaring on both sides, as the Panthers lead 20-12 in the third quarter.

Rams defensive end Chris Long was ejected after a major scrum that began with Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross and Rans defensive end Robert Quinn. Long appeared to throw a punch during the scrum in the middle of the field, after some jawing with with receiver Steve Smith (who was pulling people out of the pile at one point).

On the next possession, the Panthers had to settle for a field goal, when fullback Mike Tolbert was called for a personal foul after being stopped on a third-and-goal at the 1.

When the Rams got the ball back, they didn’t wait to punch back, with a 73-yard completion to Brian Quick setting up Zac Stacy’s 4-yard touchdown catch.

For two teams very much trying to establish identities, the fourth quarter is going to be an interesting one.

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Goodell advises teams of domestic violence initiatives

NDVH

While absent from public view for 10 days, Commissioner Roger Goodell and his administration have been working on specific efforts to address the problems of domestic violence and sexual assault beyond the boundaries of the NFL.

In a memo sent Thursday night to all teams, a copy of which PFT has obtained, Goodell outlined the league’s plans to support organizations aimed at preventing domestic violence and sexual assault and helping those impacted by it.

“In my letter of August 28, I said we would ensure that everyone in the NFL has knowledge of and access to resources — both through and independent of the clubs — relating to issues of domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell wrote.  “I also said that we recognize that these issues affect our entire society, and that we would work to make a genuine and positive difference in a broader context.  Today, I write to update you on some significant steps we are taking as part of our long-term commitment to help people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.

“It was brought to our attention that recent events caused The National Domestic Violence Hotline to receive 84 percent more calls during the week of September 8-15. According to the organization, more than 50 percent of those calls went unanswered due to lack of staff. That must not continue.

“To help address this and other critical and immediate needs, we are entering into long-term partnerships to provide financial, operational and promotional support to two of the leading domestic violence and sexual assault resources: The National Domestic Violence Hotline (The Hotline) and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). These commitments will enable both The Hotline and NSVRC to help more people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.”

As a result of the NFL’s support, The Hotline will add 25 full-time advocates in the coming weeks, which will allow for an additional 750 calls per day to be answered.  The league’s support of the NSVRC will bolster state and local sexual assault hotlines.

“The NFL’s support also will enable Loveisrespect to service 24-hour-a-day text chats with young adults affected by dating abuse,” Goodell wrote.  “Loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, is a resource to engage, educate and empower youth and young adults to prevent and end abusive relationships.”

Goodell also explained that, within the next 30 days, all league and team personnel will participate in educational sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault.

“These initial sessions will begin to provide the men and women of the NFL with information and tools to understand and recognize domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell wrote.  “We will work with the NFL Players Association to develop and present this training in the most effective way.”

The league also will dedicate “significant resources” to raising awareness on the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“These are by no means final steps,” Goodell wrote.  “We will continue to work with experts to expand and develop long-term programs that raise awareness, educate, and prevent domestic violence and sexual assault both within the NFL and in our society in general.”

It’s a good start, and it goes a long way toward Goodell’s plan to convert recent events into positive change, for the NFL and beyond.

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Son of Broncos boss John Elway gets probation for domestic violence

John Elway, Jack Elway AP

Domestic violence is not a football problem, it is a societal problem.

And while the high-profile cases involving players such as Ray Rice and Greg Hardy grab the headlines, the problem runs through every community.

Via Jordan Steffen of the Denver Post, the son of Broncos boss John Elway pleaded guilty to the domestic violence case against him and was sentenced to a year’s probation.

Jack Elway, the 24-year-old son of the Hall of Fame quarterback and now-General Manager of the Broncos, was arrested in May for disturbing the peace and assault after what police called a violent fight with his girlfriend.

According to a statement given to police then, the younger Elway pulled out parts of her hair while dragging her out of his car and pushing her to the ground.

As part of the plea agreement, the assault charge was dropped and Elway pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace. His year of probation is part of a deferred judgment, and if he gets through the year without incident, the case will be dismissed.

He also had to pay fines and court costs and attend domestic violence counseling, and can’t have any contact with the victim.

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Starting quarterback looking like game-time decision for Rams

Austin Davis AP

The Rams look like they’ll be going down to the wire with their decision about a starting quarterback again this week.

Shaun Hill did more work at practice on Thursday, including some reps during 7-on-7 drills, but Austin Davis continued to get most of the reps with the first team after starting and leading the Rams to a win in Week Two. That didn’t change coach Jeff Fisher’s opinion that Hill will be the starter as long as he’s healthy, however, and he says the team isn’t prepared to name a starter against the Cowboys yet.

“Shaun was limited today,” Fisher said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He did more, but we’re still day-to-day. It’ll most likely be a pregame decision like it was last week.”

Davis played well against Tampa, something that seems to be in vogue in the NFL right now, and the best bet is that he’ll be in the lineup again on Sunday. Another solid outing in a win might lead to more calls for the Rams to see what Davis can do over a longer period rather than go back to the veteran Hill as soon as his thigh has stopped bothering him.

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Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t concerned with stopping the Texans offense

Jason Pierre-Paul AP

The Giants may be 0-2, but defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t lacking for confidence.

Pierre-Paul and the rest of the team’s defense has spent the week preparing to face the Texans and Pierre-Paul made it clear that he hasn’t been impressed by much on tape when he was asked what concerns him about the Houston offense.

“Uh, nothing,” Pierre-Paul said, via NJ.com. “Yeah, I think we should be able to handle that offense. Nothing concerns me.”

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell didn’t quite share Pierre-Paul’s take, indicating that he’s concerned with stopping Arian Foster and the Texans running game. Doing so would put pressure on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to carry a heavy load on offense, something that the Giants would surely prefer.

Pierre-Paul promised that the Giants will stop the run, although it’s worth noting that the Giants faced a similar challenge against the Cardinals last week and gave up 124 rushing yards that allowed Arizona to keep the game from being decided by Drew Stanton’s arm. If Pierre-Paul’s confidence is misplaced this week, the only concern around the Giants will be whether they match last year’s 0-6 start or if this year will play out even uglier.

 

 

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Anheuser-Busch contract has a termination provision for league-wide scandal

Bud Getty Images

Earlier this week, the folks at Anheuser-Busch huffed and puffed about their relationship with NFL, but could they have blown the NFL’s official beer sponsorship down?

Apparently, yes.

According to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com, the hops masters could have jumped, based on the language of the company’s contract with the league.  Per the report, Anheuser-Busch has the ability to walk away if a “league-wide” incident “brings the entire NFL, not just particular member clubs, players, coaches or employees, into national disrepute, scandal or ridicule.”

So Anheuser-Busch could have pulled the plug.  The real question is would it?  And the smart answer is, “No way in hell.”

For starters, another beer company would have rushed to the front of the line for the privilege attaching The Shield to its product, because even if the board-room billionaires feel compelled to wag a finger at the league, Joe S. Pack and his beer-buying peers aren’t turning their backs on the NFL or anyone who does business with it.  If being the official beer of the NFL didn’t carry with it hundreds of millions in value, hundreds of millions wouldn’t be changing hands.

But then there’s the access for the individuals who move the millions.  Super Bowl trips every year, rubbing elbows in luxury suites with celebrities and entertainers, and surely plenty of swag.  For the people who divvy up the advertising dollars, that’s a huge part of the game — and only the NFL can deliver the opportunity to attend pro football games in far more exciting and creative ways that sitting in a plastic chair, out in the elements.

While recent events justify serious questions about the current direction and leadership of the sport, Anheuser-Busch knows that dumping the NFL would be the equivalent of yanking the Clydesdale away from the pond into which it has currently buried its head.

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Pep Hamilton: Criticism is “the nature of the beast”

Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Getty Images

The Colts are 0-2 and starting the season that way always leads to criticism of players and coaches.

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has been one of the leading targets of that criticism with his game plan on Monday night getting dinged for relying heavily on the run right up until the fourth quarter when he called a third down pass to T.Y. Hilton with the Colts in range for a field goal that would give them a 10-point lead. The pass was intercepted, the Eagles tied the game and the Colts went three and out to hand the ball back to Philly for the game-winning drive.

On Thursday, Hamilton said the emphasis on the run was designed to play the game at a pace that suited the Colts and admitted that there were some calls he’d like to have back. He also said that he understands criticism comes with his position.

“That is the nature of the beast,” Hamilton said, via the Indianapolis Star. “I understand that and embrace that challenge of making sure that, on a weekly basis, we put our players in the best position to be successful. We played a really physical football game up front. Trent [Richardson] ran the ball well and Ahmad [Bradshaw] ran the ball well. We made some plays in the passing game. But at the end of the day in this league, you guys know it always comes down to one or two or three plays that makes the difference in the game.”

There were similar criticisms of Hamilton’s reliance on the run last year as some believe the Colts aren’t putting enough of their offense on the shoulders of quarterback Andrew Luck. The approach wound up being good enough to get the Colts a division title, but anything less this year will lead to even more detractors and perhaps a hot seat under Hamilton.

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Torrey Smith not frustrated by usage in first two weeks

Torrey Smith AP

The first two weeks of the season weren’t particularly busy ones for wide receiver Torrey Smith.

Smith has been targeted 10 times by quarterback Joe Flacco through the first two weeks of the season, a drop of more than three targets from last year’s per game average and a total that leaves him behind Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta. The wideout has served as a decoy downfield much of the rest of the time, but he says he’s not disturbed because he’s confident things will balance out over the course of the season.

“I’m playing my part, and I know the ball is going to come more than it has been,” Smith said, via the Baltimore Sun. “So, I’m not frustrated at all.”

While Smith likely will have weeks where he’s seeing more balls in his direction, the shift in targets illustrates what the arrival of Steve Smith and a healthy Pitta has meant to an offense that didn’t have a reliable No. 2 receiver for most of last season. Flacco has more places to go with the ball and it is only natural to see that impact the guy who saw an outsize number of looks last season.

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Cowboys trying to find a routine that helps Tony Romo’s back

Tony Romo, Jurrell Casey AP

The Cowboys are trying to figure out a routine to help Tony Romo’s problematic back not be a problem on Sundays.

So after taking Wednesday off, he practiced fully on Thursday and felt much better.

Romo said he felt tightness in his surgically repaired back, but the rest helped.

It was just to try something new,” passing game coordinator Scott Linehan said, via Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com. “I don’t think we felt as good as we wanted to feel last Thursday. So, that’s why we’re trying something different. I think it was a little bit of tightness or something like that. But he looked really good today.”

Prior to Wednesday, Romo hadn’t skipped any regular season practices, though he didn’t go more than two days in a row in camp.

“People aren’t going to feel great every week, being able to take every snap,” Linehan said. “It’s a long season that way. It’s just a matter of being smart and managing it and moving forward. I thought we made good progress from Week 1 to Week 2 and our goal is to continue to be able to do that.”

Statistically, he’s off, with just two touchdowns against three interceptions this year. And anecdotally, he doesn’t look like the game guy. But part of that might have to do with being sacked seven times and hit nine more.

Either way, they’re still trying to get him back to health, and he’s clearly not there yet.

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Julio Jones “a special talent”

julio AP

Just about everyone on the Falcons had a big night in Thursday’s 56-14 destruction of the Buccaneers, but Atlanta receiver Julio Jones may have been the best player on the field.

Jones had nine catches for 161 yards and two touchdowns, and Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was in awe of Jones’s 40-yard catch on a deep ball into the end zone.

“It was just a heck of a catch,” Ryan said. “He’s a special talent. We talk about it all the time. When we get him in that situation we feel like we can just put the ball up and he’s going to come down with it. He kind of inside released on the corner on his route. Then we talk about trying to stack and get back outside and he did a great job of that. The ball slightly went over his head and his ability to track that is as good as anybody’s. It was a great catch and a huge explosive play for us.”

Through three games this season, Jones has 23 catches for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Jones played only five games last year, but he had 41 catches for 580 yards and two touchdowns before he broke his foot. Throw in the 11 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns that Jones had in the Falcons’ playoff loss after the 2012 season and in Jones’s last nine games he has 75 catches for 1,127 yards and seven touchdowns in his last nine games. That’s 125 yards a game, or a 2,000-yard season pace, something that’s never been done before in the NFL.

Julio Jones is, indeed, a special talent.

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Friday morning one-liners

DeMarco Murray, Michael Griffin AP

The Bills will be trying to stop a Chargers offense coordinated by one of their playoff heroes.

The Dolphins are looking for more from their special teams.

WR Danny Amendola hasn’t seen too many passes in the first two Patriots games.

Coach Rex Ryan says the Jets won’t wilt on national television.

Ravens QB Joe Flacco will try to solve a Mike Pettine defense after failing to do so last year.

The Bengals offensive linemen have kept QB Andy Dalton well protected through two weeks.

Browns T Joe Thomas isn’t sure HGH testing will work as hoped.

LB Lawrence Timmons wants to lead a turnaround for the Steelers defense.

Texans LB Brian Cushing doesn’t expect to catch Giants QB Eli Manning off guard.

RB Trent Richardson reflects on the trade that brought him to the Colts.

Facing the Jaguars usually goes well for opposing tight ends.

Titans QB Jake Locker has a chicken coop in his back yard.

Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio wants to see less bending from his unit.

The Chiefs need QB Alex Smith to be more than a game manager.

The Raiders could be getting more from FB Marcel Reece.

How much will injuries impact the Chargers this week?

Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray has done well against the Rams in the past.

The Giants are holding out hope for LB Jon Beason.

Marcus Smith is working at inside linebacker for the Eagles.

S Ryan Grant is looking for more opportunities after a good outing for the Redskins last week.

Moving to nickel corner is “second nature” for Bears CB Isaiah Frey.

The Lions are pleased with DT Nick Fairley’s response to being benched.

Packers CB Davon House made the most of his Week Two playing time.

Vikings QB Matt Cassel hasn’t had any success throwing the ball down the field.

A foot injury for WR Harry Douglas was about the only thing that went wrong for the Falcons on Thursday night.

Panthers fans are looking forward to the Sunday night spotlight.

RB Khiry Robinson is ready to take on a bigger role in the Saints offense.

Said Buccaneers C Evan Dietrich-Smith, “You can’t win when you do the things we did tonight.”

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington will see his cousin Bruce when the 49ers visit this weekend.

The Rams need more from their running game.

49ers DL Justin Smith looks like he’s turned back the clock.

RB Robert Turbin is enjoying his expanded role for the Seahawks.

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Cam Newton says Greg Hardy case not a distraction

Cam Newton AP

The Panthers are off to a 2-0 start, and have a chance to improve on it in prime time against the Steelers Sunday night.

And they hope, by then, we’re talking about the guys on the field.

With the Greg Hardy situation settled for now with his double-secret-probation with pay placement on the commissioner’s exempt list, the Panthers can get about the business of playing without their franchise-tagged defensive end.

“Distraction? I wouldn’t say it’s much of a distraction,” quarterback Cam Newton said, via David Newton of ESPN.com. “You kind of, you [hurt] for a person [like] Greg who has done, in my opinion, every single thing that was asked of him to do.

“There’s a lot of guys that feel for Greg, including myself. But we still have a job to do, and that’s to put the best performance that we have had this whole season for Sunday night.”

Hardy will be allowed back at the facility to work out, but won’t practice or play until his legal matter is resolved.

Whether that’s at a Nov. 17 court date or whether he tries to strike a plea deal to get back on the field sooner (which would result in a six-game suspension without pay), no one knows at the moment.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he’d welcome Hardy back, but gave him a few days to let the dust settle, after his status had clouded the start of the Panthers season.

“All the controversy, we’re not going to let that affect us on the field,” Newton said. “And it’s kind of hard to do that, especially in this type of situation. But, in the end, it’s not about Greg Hardy. It’s about the Carolina Panthers trying to put the best product that they can [on the field].”

And for now, that’s without the guy who’s taking up around 10 percent of their salary cap to go away.

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Brandon Marshall responds to shakedown attempt

Brandon Marshall AP

When celebrity attorney Gloria Allred called a press conference this week to blast the NFL for its handling of domestic violence issues, Brandon Marshall was dragged back into the fray.

And he responded in a big way, with a 40-minute press conference in which he said some were exploiting his past issues for personal economic gain, and he defended the league’s new tougher penalties for domestic violence.

“It’s not the NFL’s job to raise men,” Marshall said, via the Associated Press. “We’re kidding ourselves if we think it’s the NFL’s job to take boys from college and raise them to men. It is a problem in our marriages, a problem in our communities, a problem in the way we coach children and parenting – that’s where it starts. It doesn’t start with the NFL, it doesn’t start with the government, it starts at home.”

Marshall provided reporters with testimony which said the woman in question, Rasheedah Watley, was not attacked by him, as well as letters asking him for payments between $100,000 and $1 million.

“There is a letter from the Watleys, from Ms. Rasheedah Watley to the commissioner in 2008, where she states, I was pressured to do this for money,” Marshall said. “My family pressured me, this stuff didn’t happen. Which isn’t all true because it was a very volatile relationship. We argued every single day. We treated each other bad. We had no business being in a relationship.”

Marshall was suspended for three games in 2008, but that was reduced to one. He was never convicted of anything regarding that case.

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So there’s one: Michael Vick says Roger Goodell “doing a great job”

goodell_vick AP

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has come under fire for the last two weeks, from his initial bungling of the Ray Rice case to his disappearing act at a time when the league needs leadership.

But he’s now got more than a few influential owners in his corner.

I think he’s doing a great job,” Jets quarterback Michael Vick said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. “I think some situations are more complicated than others. You’re not going to get it right all the time the first time. These situations that [have arisen] are situations that we never dealt with before. I feel from a PR standpoint, just from a situational standpoint, it’s kind of new to everybody.”

That opinion puts Vick at odds with many, who think the commissioner has screwed things up at every turn lately.

But Vick’s view is colored by his personal experience, as Goodell was helpful to his comeback from federal dogfighting charges.

“Nobody’s perfect,” Vick said. “Nobody can make the correct decisions right then and there on the spot when faced with all forms of adversity. So, you got to give the man a chance. You got to give him a chance. You got to give everybody a chance to get it right. And you see that the other teams that are dealing with it now are making the right decisions based on what’s happened in weeks prior. So you got to give people a chance, man. You’re not going to get it right on the first time.”

That much is evident. And Goodell can only hope he handles his next chance as well as Vick has his.

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Devin Hester says he wasn’t happy the last few years in Chicago

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Devin Hester took sole possession of the NFL record for most return touchdowns in a career when he took back a Michael Koenen punt for a 62-yard touchdown in the second quarter of the Atlanta Falcons 56-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Hester made the majority of the progress toward that record while a member of the Chicago Bears over the previous eight seasons.

However, Hester said after the game Thursday night in a postgame interview on the NFL Network that he hadn’t been happy with the last few years he spent with the Bears. He even seemingly took a veiled shot at his former quarterback, Jay Cutler.

I’m happy man,” Hester said, via Adam Hoge of WGN Radio. “You know what, I’m going to say it, man. I wasn’t happy the last 3-4 years in Chicago because things wasn’t going the way I expect. I would always have a great camp, have all the receivers saying and coaches saying I had the best camp of all the receivers. And once the season start off, I’m not there.

“You know, and I got a quarterback now that man, he loves even the walk-ons, man. And the coaches know how to get the ball to me, you know, make plays for me. And I’m excited for this season, man. This is only the beginning for our team.”

The experiment of using Hester’s ability as a receiver in Chicago never seemed to fully take off. After posting a strong campaign in 2009 with 57 catches for 757 yards and three touchdowns, he never approached those numbers again. His catch total dripped to 40, 26 and then 23 over the next three seasons before being taken out of the role under Marc Trestman last year.

In three games for Atlanta, Hester already has seven catches for 126 yards and appears to be revitalized in all facets of the game.

Every team in the league had a chance to sign Hester when he was a free agent this summer. With Hester happy with his surroundings, the Falcons may have found a potential difference maker off the scrap heap.

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Earl Thomas says his “championship spirit” is back after loss to Chargers

Seahawks Chargers Football AP

Earl Thomas can’t quite put his finger on why he felt a little off during Sunday’s 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers. However, Thomas believes the loss has helped reinvigorate him ahead of this week’s Super Bowl rematch with the Denver Broncos.

“I think I definitely got my championship spirit back after that loss; my crave, my hunger, and my desire to be unstoppable back,” Thomas said. “I don’t think I lost it but after that game I was like, ‘dang, something just hit me,’ and I just been focused ever since and it feel so good just to be feeling like this.”

Seattle’s defense was on the field for over 42 minutes with temperatures on the field nearing 120 degrees. Thomas even had to leave the game in the second half to get an IV to replenish fluids after suffering from cramps. The Chargers put up 377 yards of offense and converted 10 of 19 third opportunities to keep Seattle’s defense on the field. Thomas and the rest of the Seahawks defense just couldn’t get the stops they are typically able to get.

While San Diego didn’t hit any massively big play against the Seahawks – their longest play being a 21-yard touchdown from Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates – Seattle just couldn’t find ways to get off the field consistently.

Thomas just didn’t feel like he was playing like himself last week in San Diego. It’s an experience he says he hasn’t encountered before.

“It never happened like that,” Thomas said. “That game was so weird. It was different. It just felt funny out there. Even in my body language when I watch myself on film. I have no regrets from the game but one thing I can say, just that my technique and just as my posture wasn’t as aggressive and I think that’s a part of my mindset that I need to turn on.”

Thomas is itching for the opportunity to get back on track this week against the Broncos.

“We’re ready to play right now,” Thomas said. “I love when we have something to prove and a lot of times when we’re on top like this, we’ve got to protect what we have. This is not a one person game, this is a team sport and we have to capture every moment. We have a lot of young players that are trying to understand their role in this defense, but we had a lot of great coachable moments from that film and I got onto some guys and I took criticism myself and we move on.”

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