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Browns will interview Mike Munchak

Munchak AP

Mike Munchak is the latest candidate to become the next head coach in Cleveland.

The Browns will interview Munchak today, Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports.

Munchak was fired after three seasons and a 22-26 record as the head coach of the Titans. That record would seem to make Munchak a rather uninspiring choice in Cleveland.

The Browns fired Rob Chudzinski after one year as head coach and have been searching for a new coach since the end of the season. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was reportedly a favorite for the job, but he withdrew his name from consideration. Other coaches who are believed to be candidates in Cleveland include Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, Chargers coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.

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Eli Manning says Giants still have time to turn things around

Eli Manning AP

Giants quarterback Eli Manning says seven games into the season is far too early to get worried about the future, even after back-to-back losses to division rivals Philadelphia and Dallas.

Manning said that at 3-4, the Giants still have plenty of time to turn their season around and make a run for the playoffs.

“There is a ton of football,” Manning said, via Newsday. “If we handle our business and start winning games, we have a shot to be OK and in good shape.”

Teammates said Manning gave a similar pep talk in the locker room before players got some time off for their bye week. Manning has twice been part of a Giants team that struggled at times in the regular season but ended up winning the Super Bowl, and he says he knows this team is good enough to overcome its early season struggles.

“I think we have the talent, yes,” he said. “Some of it is developing just because we have some new guys playing at positions . . . There are still some young aspects to it, but there is definitely talent there. When you get through the growing pains of these young guys, they’re doing a lot of good things, there are just little mistakes that are keeping us from being very, very good. The more playing experience they get, the more practices, all of a sudden these young guys start making those plays and things start coming together. That’s when we’ll be at our best.”

With the Eagles and the Cowboys both playing very well, the Giants need to get to their best in a hurry, or else by the time they turn things around, they’ll already be out of contention.

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Brandon Marshall has no regrets about his Sunday outburst

Brandon Getty Images

There’s a recent trend for frustrated NFL players.  Blow up on Sunday, express no regrets about it during the week.

Last week, it was Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin.  This week, it’s Bears receiver Brandon Marshall.

Appearing on Inside The NFL, Marshall addresses his locker-room tirade, and he said that he’d do it again.

“Absolutely my voice was heard,” Marshall said, via quotes distributed by Showtime.  “The only thing I regret is that the door wasn’t closed.  I wouldn’t change any of my reactions, because they came from my heart and that’s how I felt and that’s how I still feel.  I think we have all the coaches we need.  I think we have all the players that we need to get the job done. And 3-4 is unacceptable, but we have everything that we need to turn this ship right now.

“The problem right now is that we are not performing to our ability.  We just need to gel, we need to continue to come together, but the time is now.  We are halfway through the season and if any locker room has the guys to get it done, we do. . . .  We can get this thing turned around.”

The snippets circulated from Showtime don’t address whether Marshall was calling out quarterback Jay Cutler specifically or everyone.  It’s been reported that it was Cutler; we’ve heard it was broader than that.

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Jason Verrett practices, Brandon Flowers doesn’t

Jason Verrett, Brice Butler AP

The Chargers would presumably like to have both Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett available when trying to slow down Peyton Manning on Thursday night, but they’ll probably be happy if they have one of them.

Verrett was a limited participant in practice on Tuesday after missing last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs with a shoulder injury. Taking part in practice is certainly better than the alternative, but Verrett was limited in all three practices last week so it’s not necessarily predictive of whether he’ll be in the lineup against Denver.

Flowers is out with a concussion and the quick turnaround doesn’t leave him much time to progress through the protocol before kickoff. Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Flowers watched practice from the field with a helmet and visor on.

Linebakcer Jerry Attaochu was a limited participant after the team said he would not have participated in a Monday practice because of a hamstring injury. Running backs Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown, linebacker Manti Te’o and center Rich Ohrnberger all remained out for the Chargers.

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49ers bring back Josh Johnson, again

Johnson Getty Images

Just like there was a fifth Beatle, there’s a 54th 49er.  And his name is Josh Johnson.

Once again, Johnson has been re-signed to the San Francisco roster the Tuesday after a game, giving the team a third quarterback for practice.  Each of the last two weeks, the 49ers have cut Johnson in advance of a game, signing another player to the 53-man roster who is more likely to contribute when it’s time to play.

This is the last time the 49ers will be able to make Johnson the unofficial 54th man on the roster.  San Fran’s next game comes after the trading deadline.  If Johnson is cut at that point, he’ll be exposed to waivers, and any team can claim his contract.

If Johnson clears waivers, he can re-sign with the 49ers the following Tuesday, giving the 49ers a third quarterback — and as a practical matter a 54th player — for yet another week.

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Phil Emery defends Jay Cutler as a “winning quarterback”

Jay Cutler AP

There’s a lot of negative feelings about Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in Chicago right now and some of the aggrieved parties got a chance to air their grievances directly to management on Tuesday.

Bears General Manager Phil Emery took part in an online chat on the team’s website and predictably faced many questions about his quarterback, who has turned the ball over 10 times this season. Among the questions Emery fielded was one asking for his take on Cutler’s performance in light of the “enormous contract” the quarterback signed in the offseason.

“Jay Cutler is a winning quarterback in this league and no matter how you analyze the history of quarterbacks in the NFL, if you have a winning record you are an elite player at that position,” Emery wrote. “I’ll say it again: Jay has enormous skills and he continues to improve in all areas as a football player. I know he has some throws he would like to have back, but all of our players have had plays that they would like to have back.”

Giving quarterbacks won-loss records ignores too much of what goes into winning and losing games, but Emery is using it as criteria so it bears mentioning that the Bears are 8-10 with Cutler at the helm over the last two years. It also seems a stretch to think that Cutler is going to morph into a dramatically different quarterback nine years into a career that has been marked by the same kinds of swings between good play and crushing mistakes.

That’s not the worst thing in the world. Cutler is completing more passes than ever and actually has a lower interception percentage than the last two seasons, but that still comes with downsides that have gotten in the way of the winning quarterback leading a team with a winning record.

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Report: Titans trading Akeem Ayers to Patriots

Akeem Ayers AP

The Titans are reportedly set to deal one of their recent second-round picks.

Tennessee has agreed to send outside linebacker Akeem Ayers to New England, Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean reported Tuesday.

The trade is pending a physical, Wyatt reported. Terms of the deal are not known.

For the 25-year-old Ayers, the trade is an opportunity to start fresh. A starter in his first three seasons with the Titans, Ayers has been a backup this season in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme, appearing in just two games. He is in the final year of his contract. Ayers (6-3, 255) had surgery on both knees in the offseason.

A UCLA product, Ayers was the No. 39 overall pick in 2011. He’s recorded 232 tackles, nine sacks and two interceptions in 50 games (43 starts).

In New England, Ayers could get a look as a strong-side linebacker in 4-3 fronts and an outside linebacker in “30” fronts. The Patriots are a base 4-3 defense, a scheme in which he has experience.

UPDATE 4:47 p.m. ET: According to Jason La Canfora of CBS, the teams are swapping draft picks in the deal. The Titans will get a sixth-round selection, while the Patriots will get a seventh-rounder and Ayers, per CBS.

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Washington puts Brian Orakpo on IR, brings back Everette Brown

Cleveland Browns v Washington Redskins 8-18-2014 Getty Images

Washington knew it was going to need another pass-rusher on short notice, so a familiar face made sense.

After putting Brian Orakpo on season-ending injured reserve, they signed Everette Brown.

Orakpo was lost to a torn pectoral muscle last week.

Brown, a former second-round pick, was in camp with them this summer, but didn’t make it through final cuts.

He’s also spent time with the Panthers, Chargers, Lions, Eagles and Cowboys. He has some ability as a 3-4 rusher.

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Plans for Favre’s Lambeau return in November on hold due to Bart Starr’s health

FAVRE AP

The Packers will be retiring Brett Favre’s No. 4 and putting him in the team’s Hall of Fame next year, but Favre was planning an earlier return to Lambeau Field that now looks unlikely to happen.

Favre was planning to join Bart Starr on the field for the team’s November 9 game against the Bears, but told Ed Werder of ESPN that Starr’s recent health troubles make it unlikely to happen. Starr recently had a heart attack and two strokes and Favre said that he’s averse to taking part if Starr is unable to participate.

“I’m sure they could, but it was my idea to do it, and now that Bart can’t, I just don’t think I will,” Favre said.

Had the appearance taken place, all three Packer quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl would have been at Lambeau. Aaron Rodgers said Tuesday that Starr’s health should be the focus rather than any delay in Favre’s return.

“I think the key here is Bart and his health. That’s the most important thing,” Rodgers said, via Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

There were no concrete plans for what the appearance would entail, although Werder reports there were discussions about the two quarterback serving as honorary captains and participating in the pre-game coin toss.

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Rice appeal hearing set for November 5-6

Rice

Last week, the Ray Rice appeal hearing tentatively was set for early November.  The tentative has now become more definite.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the hearing will occur on November 5 and 6.

Like every other legal proceeding that’s ever been scheduled, the dates could be changed.  And the days could be expanded, with a third day or more eventually set aside for testimony and argument.

Appeal officer Barbara S. Jones previously worked as a federal judge, which means she possibly selected the dates based on information from the lawyers regarding the number of witnesses to be called and the estimated duration of the testimony.

Far bigger than the “when” is the “who”; Judge Jones is expected to rule this week on the question of whether Commissioner Roger Goodell will be required to testify.  The NFL Players Association believes his testimony is critical to the process.  The NFL is resisting the effort to force him to answer questions under oath.

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Amobi Okoye expected to practice on Thursday

Chicago Bears v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Over the summer, we learned the details of the illness that caused defensive lineman Amobi Okoye to miss all of last season.

Okoye was diagnosed with anti-NMDA encephalitis, a condition that led doctors to put him in a medically-induced coma. Okoye lost 78 pounds while recovering and signed with Dallas in May. He was able to get cleared for contact by the Cowboys at the end of the summer, but remained on the non-football illness list so he could continue his rehab.

Players on NFI are eligible to return to practice and Okoye’s attorney told Adam Caplan of ESPN that Okoye is expected to do just that on Thursday. If he does, it will open up a three-week window for the team to decide whether to put Okoye on the 53-man roster or place him on injured reserve for the rest of the season. Okoye said recently that he’s eager to find out what he’s able to do.

“I’m just letting it freewheel,” Okoye said. “I’m excited. I’m anxious. At the same time I’m curious.”

The Cowboys defensive line has already welcomed defensive end Anthony Spencer back from a long absence and plan to get rookie DeMarcus Lawrence back in Week Nine when he’s eligible to return from injured reserve. If Okoye is able to join them, it would only help a good Dallas defense weather the long season. The fact that it’s a possibility is remarkable by itself, though.

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Buccaneers DE Da’Quan Bowers suspended for PED violation

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Buccaneers have a number of problems this year, and now they have another one.

The league announced that defensive end Da’Quan Bowers had been suspended two games for violating the league’s performance enhancing substance policy.

Bowers, a former second-round pick, has been a disappointment in the NFL. Knee injuries kept him from showing the kind of pass-rush skills he had at Clemson, and he was no lock to make the Bucs roster this year during camp.

He has 6.5 career sacks, one of them this year.

He’ll be eligible to return on Monday, November 3 following the team’s game against the Cleveland Browns.

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Cowboys release Michael Sam from practice squad

Sam AP

A lot has happened since the Rams cut defensive end Michael Sam, he languished for a few days, and then he landed on the Cowboys’ practice squad.  Out of sight and largely out of mind, Sam is once again out of an NFL job.

Per multiple reports, the Cowboys have released Sam from the practice squad.  The first openly gay player in NFL history is now free to sign with any other team’s practice squad.

Throughout the past seven weeks, he also has been available to sign with any team’s 53-man roster.  But there has been no chatter or interest in anyone doing that.

The NFL reportedly had made a couple of phone calls aimed at persuading someone to give Sam a spot on the practice squad, before the Cowboys did.  With domestic violence lingering on the NFL’s front burner, however, the league may no longer be concerned about avoiding the perception that Sam was rejected based on his sexual orientation.

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Seahawks didn’t contact Patriots about Harvin trade

Percy AP

Nearly four days removed from the trade that sent receiver Percy Harvin from Seattle to the Jets, several confusing issues remain.

For example, if the Seahawks had become sufficiently fed up with Harvin that they would have cut him if they couldn’t have traded him, why didn’t they try to maximize their otherwise minimal return on the investment?  The easy answer is that they wanted to steer Harvin to a non-contender, a team that the Seahawks would be unlikely to face down the road, especially in the postseason.  And with the Jets at 1-6, there’s little risk that the Seahawks would encounter Harvin on February 1 in Arizona.  (Especially since Seattle will now have a hard time getting there.)

But the Seahawks reportedly called the Broncos about a deal that would have sent Harvin to Denver for tight end Julius Thomas.  So contending teams weren’t out of the question.

As AFC contenders go, the Patriots would have been the most intriguing choice.  Given Bill Belichick’s friendship with former Florida coach Urban Meyer, Belichick’s history of taking chances on receivers like Chad Ochocinco and Randy Moss, and the team’s clear need for playmakers on offense, the Patriots could have been drawn into a bidding war with the Jets for the kind of versatile weapon Belichick would love to have.  Which could have gotten the Jets more than a sixth-round pick that only becomes a fourth-round pick if Harvin remains on the Jets’ roster in 2015.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Seahawks didn’t talk to the Patriots about a possible Harvin trade.  It’s not known what the Patriots would have said, or whether they at a minimum would have feigned interest to get the Jets to give up more.  Regardless, it looks like the Seahawks were so intent to get rid of Harvin before the possibility of trading him leaked that they ended up doing a deal that wasn’t as good as it maybe could have been.

That’s not a knock on the Seahawks.  It merely demonstrates that, once they knew they were moving on, they moved quickly and decisively, possibly to avoid the distractions that would come from a week of two of rumors and reports regarding the possibility that Harvin would be traded.  It also shows that, for whatever reason, they decided not to do business with the Patriots.

Maybe the best explanation is that coach Pete Carroll, the last coach fired by owner Bob Kraft before Bill Belichick was hired, didn’t want to do anything to help the Patriots get better.

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Panthers release defensive back Charles Godfrey

Carolina Panthers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Panthers tried to make Charles Godfrey something he wasn’t.

So now, they made him unemployed.

Godfrey’s agent just tweeted out word that the Panthers were releasing the veteran defensive back today.

Godfrey, a former third-round pick, was moved from safety to nickel cornerback this year, after the Panthers cut his pay and signed NFC South cast-offs Thomas DeCoud and Roman Harper.

It’s debatable that either was better than Godfrey, even as he was coming back from a torn Achilles last year.

Godfrey did struggle, particularly against the Packers last week.

He also represents another move by General Manager Dave Gettleman to cull the herd of players who were given contract extensions by former G.M. Marty Hurney immediately after the lockout.

They filled his roster spot by signing offensive lineman Chris Scott, who was started for them last year but was cut after training camp this season.

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Cullen Jenkins expected to miss some time with calf injury

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The center of the Giants defense is hurting at the moment.

Linebacker Jon Beason is headed for a meeting with foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson after leaving last Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys with a problem in the same foot that he originally injured in the offseason and then re-injured earlier this season. That sounds like a scenario that could cause Beason to miss some time and it would come with defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins out of the lineup as well.

Jenkins injured his calf in Dallas and is expected to be out once the Giants return from their bye. Mike Patterson will start in his place and defensive line coach Robert Nunn said that Damontre Moore will also see more time as the Giants try to replace Jenkins as a pass rusher.

“With the absence of Cullen inside, [Moore's] going to be more and more involved and get more at-bats,” Nunn said, via NJ.com. “He has to produce when he’s out there. And his production will determine how much playing time he gets.”

Moore has two sacks this season while playing in a limited role. With a tough schedule awaiting them after the bye, adding to that total would be a big boost to the team.

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