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Colts beat Jaguars easily, head to playoffs on a high note

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It’s been an up-and-down season in Indianapolis, but the Colts ended the year on an upswing.

Today’s dominating 30-10 win over the Jaguars sends the Colts into the playoffs on a three-game winning streak, with all three of those wins being one-sided affairs. Indianapolis has to feel good about its chances as it heads to the playoffs.

It was never close against the Jaguars. Donald Brown scored a one-yard touchdown at the end of the Colts’ first drive, Trent Richardson scored a two-yard touchdown at the end of the Colts’ second drive, and Adam Vinatieri kicked a 23-yard field goal at the end of the Colts’ third drive. It was 17-0 before the first quarter was over, and the Colts coasted the rest of the way.

In the fourth quarter, they pulled Andrew Luck and gave veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck some work, and the later portions of the game were noteworthy mostly because kicker Adam Vinatieri became the seventh player in NFL history with 2,000 career points.

The Colts’ defense played well, particularly Robert Mathis, who took the league lead in sacks and jumped ahead of St. Louis defensive end Robert Quinn, who will now try to take the lead back from Mathis in the Rams’ game against the Seahawks. Mathis is a strong candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

And the Colts are a strong team heading into the postseason. They’re not the favorites to come out of the AFC, but they’re going to be a tough team to beat.

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Broncos optimistic Wes Welker will be cleared this week

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Out of the last 10 times Wes Welker has suited up for a game, he has had to leave the game early because of a concussion three times. The most recent concussion came in the Broncos’ third preseason game, leading to fears that his career may be in jeopardy.

But the Broncos don’t share those fears.

In fact, ESPN reported that there is optimism in Denver about Welker’s status, while the Denver Post reports that Welker is expected to practice on a limited basis today.

The Broncos are also optimistic that Welker could be cleared for a full practice later this week, and to play on Sunday night against the Colts, 15 days after he suffered the concussion.

Is 15 days enough time off for a player who has suffered his third concussion in less than a year? That’s for the Broncos’ medical staff to decide. The decision of the medical staff will be watched closely around the NFL.

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Salty Tom Coughlin said Odell Beckham might miss three weeks

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Giants coach Tom Coughlin was already frustrated about Odell Beckham’s persistent hamstring problems.

So you can imagine his mood when he’s still talking about the lack of his first-rounder in the regular season.

According to multiple reports, Coughlin grew agitated with the persistent questions about Beckham’s condition this morning, and said he might be as much as three weeks away.

Beckham has been battling the injury for most of the offseason, and did precious little in camp.

That’s no help for an offense that needs help, and will only serve to keep Coughlin at his get-off-my-lawn best for weeks to come.

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Report: Chargers waiving sixth-round pick Marion Grice

Desmond Bishop, Marion Grice AP

The Chargers have reduced their running back count from five to four.

The club has waived rookie tailback Marion Grice, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Monday.

A sixth-round pick from Arizona State, the 22-year-old Grice led the Chargers with 167 rushing yards in the preseason (4.1 yards per attempt).

Grice’s departure leaves Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Donald Brown and Branden Oliver as the Chargers’ four tailbacks. An undrafted free agent from the University at Buffalo, Oliver racked up 161 yards on 35 carries (4.6 yards per attempt) in exhibition play.

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We can breathe now, the Bears have a long snapper

Jaguars_Jeremy_Cain_2013 AP

Sometimes the flurry of post-cutdown day moves can leave a team short at certain spots. But now, the Bears can actually fill an entire depth chart.

The team announced they signed long snapper Jeremy Cain Monday, giving them one at every position.

Cain spent two games with the team in 2013, and gets the first chance to be Patrick Mannelly’s replacement, after the long-time Bears’ retirement.

The Bears also signed 10 players to their practice squad, adding wide receiver Josh Bellamy, center Taylor Boggs, defensive tackle Brandon Dunn, cornerback Isaiah Frey, guard Ryan Groy, linebacker DeDe Lattimore, cornerback Al Louis-Jean, cornerback Terrance Mitchell, defensive tackle Roy Philon and wide receiver Rashad Ross.

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Jaguars add Mickey Shuler to active roster, seven to practice squad

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The Jaguars dropped from the top waiver position in the league last season to No. 3 this year, but they were still able to add a player they think can help the team in 2014.

Tight end Mickey Shuler has joined the team after being waived by the Falcons. Jacksonville is the latest stop in Shuler’s extensive travels around the league. He was a seventh-round pick by the Vikings in 2010, moved on to Miami (where he saw his only regular season action) and then returned to the Vikings before moving on for short stints with the Raiders, Cardinals and Bills.

Tight end Marcel Jensen was waived to make room for Shuler on the 53-man roster.

In addition to Shuler’s addition, the Jaguars also announced the first seven members of their practice squad. They are tackle Cody Booth, defensive tackle DeAndre Coleman, safety Craig Loston, quarterback Stephen Morris, wide receiver Kerry Taylor, linebacker Marcus Whitfield and wide receiver Tony Washington. Washington was cut by the Colts last week, but all the others spent camp with the Jags.

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Report: Titans reach deal with Quentin Groves

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Quentin Groves is set for a third tour with a Ray Horton-led defense.

The Titans have reached a deal with Groves, a veteran outside linebacker, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported on Monday.

The 30-year-old Groves played for Horton, now the Titans’ defensive coordinator, in Arizona (2012) and Cleveland (2013). Groves spent the 2014 preseason with the Texans, who released him on Saturday.

A seventh-year pro from Auburn, Groves has recorded 157 tackles and 8.5 sacks in his NFL career. The majority of the sacks have come in Horton-run defenses the last two seasons.

Groves is likely to provide depth behind starters Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley for Tennessee, which employs a 3-4 scheme.

UPDATE 10:51 a.m. ET: With Groves arriving, the Titans are releasing another outside linebacker. The club is parting ways with Patrick Bailey, Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean reported.

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Steve Keim: Jonathan Cooper has to understand how to manage playing in pain

Jonathan Cooper AP

The Cardinals drafted guard Jonathan Cooper seventh overall last season, but haven’t seen much return on that investment.

Cooper missed all of last season with a broken leg and eventually worked his way back onto the field this summer only to see a case of turf toe slow his progress. Now Cooper is running with the second team while Ted Larsen prepares to start at left guard, a situation that’s left Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim hoping that Cooper can figure out a way to play when he’s less than 100 percent physically.

“The guy had a tremendous career at North Carolina, and to my knowledge was never hurt or ever had a significant injury. So now this offseason, he’s had to deal not only with a significant lower-leg injury, now he has a significant turf-toe injury. Turf toes can be major issues,” Keim said, via the Arizona Republic. “I think it’s going to come down to the fact that he’s going to have to feel comfortable getting back on the field and, on top of that, a guy who has never been hurt is going to have to understand how to play and manage playing in pain. That’s going to be awkward for him, but the most time he is out here … he’s just going to have to get used to it. He understands that. It’s sad because we all have such high expectations. I’m disappointed in the injuries; I’m not disappointed in the player.”

It’s hard enough for young players to transition to the NFL when they’re totally healthy, which makes Cooper’s situation a doubly difficult one. He needs playing time to improve, but the injuries make it hard to give him that time and leave him right back at square one.

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NFL doesn’t seem inclined to press Jerry Jones tampering charges

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It’s clear that there was an unfortunate conversation between Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

But it doesn’t appear the league is inclined to do anything about it.

Peter King of The MMQB writes this morning that there’s no sense the league is going to press for tampering charges, since the general impression is the General Manager was too “tipsy and waving his arms” for it to have been an actual football conversation.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have happened.

But on the scale of NFL justice, it doesn’t seem like this one is going to get anything more than a call to remind him to be careful what he does with his cell phone.

Kind of like Brett Favre.

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Ryan Lindley lands on Chargers practice squad

Ryan Lindley AP

Quarterback Ryan Lindley got his first shot in the NFL when Ken Whisenhunt was the head coach of the Cardinals in 2012.

Lindley’s second shot will come with the team Whisenhunt worked for last season. The Chargers have signed Lindley and eight others to their practice squad.

Lindley will see a familiar face at San Diego’s practices in offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who was an assistant under Whisenhunt during Lindley’s rookie season. He also brings a summer’s worth of insight into the Arizona offense, something that could come in handy for the Chargers as they prepare to open their season against Lindley’s old team.

Wide receiver Javontee Herndon, outside linebacker Cordarro Law, guard/tackle Jeremiah Sirles, wide receiver Torrence Allen, guard Craig Watts, defensive end Chas Alecxih, cornerback Greg Ducre and safety Adrian Phillips were also added to the practice squad. All eight were with the Chargers during training camp.

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Buccaneers claim Garrett Gilkey, sign Jeff Demps to practice squad

Garrett Gilkey AP

The Buccaneers swung a trade for former Patriots guard Logan Mankins, but that isn’t the only new addition to their offensive line.

The team announced that they have claimed Garrett Gilkey off of waivers from the Browns. Gilkey was a seventh-round choice in Cleveland last season and has experience playing guard and tackle. With Mankins set at left guard, he’ll likely go into the mix of options to play at right guard in Tampa at some point this season.

The Bucs also started filling out their practice squad. Running back Jeff Demps is back in the organization after being waived and will try to use his spot on the auxiliary roster to show that he brings more than world class speed to the table.

Also returning to the team after being cut over the weekend are tight end Cameron Brate, quarterback Mike Kafka, linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo and kick returner Solomon Patton. Tampa still has four open spots on the practice squad.

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Report: Ryan Succop could sign with Titans Monday

Ryan Succop AP

The Titans spent the summer pitting Travis Coons and Maikon Bonani against each other in a competition for the kicking job and Coons came out on top when Bonani was released over the weekend.

His prize may be short-lived, however. Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that the team has a strong interest in former Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop and that they could sign him on Monday.

The Titans worked out several veteran kickers last week before Succop was available, so it is hardly a surprise to see that they are thinking about replacing Coons. Succop was 22-of-28 on field goals last season and had 47 touchbacks in 91 kickoffs. He lost out to rookie Cairo Santos in Kansas City, a decision that may have been influenced by Succop’s scheduled salary of $1.95 million against that of an undrafted rookie.

Coons, an undrafted free agent from Washington, hit 2-of-3 field goals during the preseason.

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Orton deal leaves some scratching their heads

Kyle Orton AP

Kyle Orton quit on the Cowboys, forcing the team to eventually cut him and walking away with a full $5 million signing bonus despite putting in only two of five years of work.  Orton then one-upped Brett Favre, waiting until training camp and the preseason ended before going back to work, signing a contract with the Bills.

Some look at the deal that reportedly will pay Orton $5 million this year and scratch their heads.  He has created a perception that he doesn’t really want to play, and that he simply wants to cash large checks.

Despite a league-wide lack of talented quarterbacks, only the Bills took the bait, allowing Orton to breeze in a week before the season opener and giving him high-end backup money that could become low-end starter money, if EJ Manuel gets injured or doesn’t perform.

Looking at the bigger picture in Western New York, it’s not surprising that the Bills would roll the dice.  With a new owner coming and said new owner unlikely to keep the current football operation in place unless the team is playing so well that the fans wouldn’t accept a changing of the guard, the Bills need a break-glass-in-the-event-of-emergency option, in the event EJ doesn’t quickly take it to the proverbial next level.

The players may be skeptical that EJ will be the guy, what with the whole not-a-captain thing.  Which opens the door for the locker room to clamor for Orton, if Manuel regresses.

If/when Orton takes over, look for no one to display consternation or resentment over the fact that Orton swooped in at the last possible minute to get paid, without regard to whether he’s prepared to actually play.  But if he doesn’t play well, it’s fair to question whether Orton’s lack of desire to work from March through August has affected his ability to thrive from September to December.

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Bills name team captains, none of whom are E.J. Manuel

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Votes for team captains can be telling, as they’re a barometer of who leads in the locker room (if you trust the veracity of the count).

But sometimes, they can also be signs of pending change.

The Bills just announced their six captains for the coming season, none of whom are starting quarterback E.J. Manuel.

Cornerback Corey Graham, running back Fred Jackson, linebacker Brandon Spikes, defensive tackle Kyle Williams, defensive end Mario Williams and center Eric Wood received that honor.

Granted, Wood and Jackson have been around Buffalo much longer than Manuel, and have the kind of qualities you want in a leader.

But last year in Tampa Bay, quarterback Josh Freeman lost his C, and very quickly his starting job then his roster spot. There’s no indication that Manuel’s in that kind of jeopardy, but it might speak to how he’s viewed by his peers.

Assuming the voting is legitimate, of course.

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Mike Tice: Falcons’ O-line “won’t be punked over by anybody”

miketice AP

The toughness of the Falcons’ offensive line has been questioned often in the last year, most notably by owner Arthur Blank, who said he was bothered when none of the Falcons’ offensive linemen reacted to a hit on quarterback Matt Ryan. This year, Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice says his unit’s toughness won’t be in question.

Tice approved of the way his linemen went after defensive players who hit Ryan during the preseason, and he said opposing defenses had better know there will be no free shots at the Falcons’ quarterback this year.

“The one thing they won’t be, they won’t be punked over by anybody,” Tice said of his line, via ESPN. “That’s encouraging.”

The Falcons’ offensive line may be tougher, but it remains to be seen whether the Falcons’ offensive line will be better. The loss of left tackle Sam Baker will force Atlanta to start rookie Jake Matthews at left tackle this season, which means an unproven player is protecting Ryan’s blind side. The Falcons’ offensive line may not “be punked over,” but they still may struggle against good pass rushers.

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Ryan Shazier set to join exclusive club for Steelers

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No pressure, kid.

It’s not very often a defensive rookie starts the opener for the Steelers, but linebacker Ryan Shazier is about to do just that.

According to Ron Musselman of the Beaver County Times, Shazier will be the first since Kendrell Bell 13 years ago, and he went onto win defensive rookie of the year honors.

Prior to that, the last one was Jack Lambert in 1974, so Shazier realizes the expectations.

It’s been a dream of mine my whole life, to play in the NFL, and then the first game of my career is going to be a start,” Shazier said. “Words will not even be able to describe it. It puts me in nice company.”

Yes it does.

While their defense has been traditionally good, they’ve needed a shot of youth over there for some time. Shazier’s shown the athleticism and instincts needed, and should help immediately.

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