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Ken Whisenhunt will be the head coach of the Titans

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If Ken Whisenhunt convinced any Chargers assistants to accompany him in his 2014 head coaching gig, they may want to beef up their knowledge of George Jones’ catalog rather than dip back into the history of Motown.

Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN and Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reported that Whisenhunt will be the next head coach of the Titans on Monday and PFT has confirmed that Whisenhunt has been hired. The news comes on the same day as reports that the Lions were set to bring Whisenhunt to Detroit and lands Whisenhunt back in the NFL a year after he was fired by the Cardinals.

His work with the Chargers this year likely helped his cause, especially with Philip Rivers rebounding in a resounding fashion, but Whisenhunt had success in Arizona early in his head coaching tenure. It’s not a coincidence that that’s when he had Kurt Warner playing quarterback and his biggest task in Tennessee will be getting a quarterback — Jake Locker or otherwise — playing a similarly high level.

Schefter and Mortensen report that the Lions have moved on to Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell and spent the day in talks with him for their vacancy with Whisenhunt’s predecessor in Tennessee Mike Munchak “still alive” in both Detroit and Cleveland.

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Bruce Arians says Alex Okafor to miss 2-4 weeks with calf injury

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 17:   Chris Clemons #30 of the Miami Dolphins reacts to a play during their game against the San Diego Chargers at Sun Life Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said Alex Okafor’s calf injury isn’t as bad as initially thought.

Arians joined Alex Marvez and Bill Polian on Sirius XM NFL Radio Tuesday night.

Arians said Okafor is now expected to miss 2-4 weeks. The Cardinals signed Dwight Freeney to add additional depth at linebacker during Okafor’s absence.

The team also placed safety Chris Clemons on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury on Tuesday.

Clemons appeared in all fives games for the Cardinals this season while serving in a key special teams role for the team.

Arizona signed Clemons last December when Andre Ellington was placed on injured reserve.

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Larry Donnell talks about his game-winning catch

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Sunday night’s game between the 49ers and Giants ended with a stellar catch from New York tight end Larry Donnell. Falling backward to the ground, Donnell left no doubt by gripping the ball tightly as he struck the ground and beyond.

Donnell joined Tuesday’s PFT Live to discuss the catch, the play that led to the touchdown throw, and his reaction when he realized that, given the coverage shown by the 49ers, quarterback Eli Manning was coming to him.

In a game that often can turn on tells, Donnell’s smile could have given it away. Fortunately for the Giants, the 49ers didn’t notice.

Thanks to the drive that culminated in Donnell’s catch, people are now noticing the Giants. They’ll take on the Eagles next Monday night, with first place in the NFC East on the line. And with Philly safety Malcolm Jenkins due to join the show immediately after Donnell, I tried to get Larry to talk a little trash to Jenkins.

Listen to the effort and the response, along with everything else Donnell had to say, below.

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Saints bring back WR Joe Morgan

Joe Morgan AP

The Saints brought back wide receiver Joe Morgan Tuesday, a week after releasing him.

Morgan was added to the roster in time for practice Tuesday. The Saints host the Falcons Thursday, and Morgan’s return is probably directly tied to the shoulder injury suffered last weekend by Marques Colston.

Morgan was released last week when the team added punter Brandon Fields. Morgan, who’s been with the Saints on and off since 2011, was released at the end of the preseason but then signed again. He has caught three career touchdown passes, all in 2012.

The team released defensive back Don Jones to create a roster spot for Morgan.

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Cardinals sensed Lions lost their fight after fans turned on them

Matthew Stafford AP

On Sunday, the Lions jumped to an early lead against the Cardinals, an encouraging sign for an 0-4 team that had suffered through a Monday night loss in Seattle that many thought Detroit should have gone the other way but for an officiating blunder.

The Lions carried the lead into the second quarter. But on the first play, the Cardinals pulled even. Then, an interception by Arizona defensive lineman Cory Redding returned inside the Detroit five set the stage for the go-ahead score. Not long after that, the Lions lost their fight.

And that’s the assessment not from the outside, but from a pair of Cardinals defenders who were on the field.

“Early in the game you know the guys had a lot of fight to them,” Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio on Monday. “Once we got the opportunity to go 14-7, we got another turnover at that point. You could kind of see the fight kind of die out of them. They weren’t as excited, as motivated, as enthusiastic as they were earlier in the game. And I think that’s just something they’re struggling with right now. When adversity hit them, they haven’t been able to respond and fortunately for us we were able to catch them at this moment and get a big win for us. They’re a talented team. It’s tough to see a talented team like that give up pride.”

Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson, appearing on Tuesday’s PFT Live, agreed that the Lions lost their fight.

“They definitely did,” Jefferson said. “I think they lost it once their fans started booing them. It was kind of weird. They started cheering when they sat Matthew Stafford. . . . I don’t think fans understand how important they are to us. They’re very important, they play a big role especially in the fourth quarter. . . . Sometimes I don’t think the fans understand how important they are.”

For the Lions to regain their fight, they’ll need to regain their fans. But their fans won’t be in the mood to support the team until the team does something worth supporting. It’s a bizarro chicken-and-egg proposition that could make it much harder for the Lions to win any games at home this year.

Meanwhile, Jefferson said he’s seeing more Cardinals fans show up for road games. And he thinks there will be even more Cardinals fans if they get more prime-time games.

At the rate the Cardinals are going, they’ll have plenty of prime-time games, possibly through the flexible scheduling system that could put them on NBC late in the year.

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Colts brace for Patriots to neutralize T.Y. Hilton

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick has become a great coach by consistently taking away what opposing offenses do best. The Colts, and pretty much everyone else, realize this.

As the latest game between the Patriots and Colts approaches, the Colts specifically are bracing for the Patriots to take receiver T.Y. Hilton out of the game.

“I know they’re going to double me, triple me, do whatever they can to take me out of the game,” Hilton said, via the team’s official website. “In order for us to be successful, I’ve got to make plays.”

It won’t be easy, if the Patriots are indeed determined to neutralize Hilton. But Hilton is supremely confident, despite catching only four passes for 60 yards in two

“I’m going to make a lot of plays this week,” Hilton said.

The Colts nevertheless hope to find a way to produce in the passing game if Hilton can’t make plays. It means guys like Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, and/or Philip Dorsett getting open when facing single coverage.

“Our receiver group has to beat man,” receiver Donte Moncrief said. “No matter what they do, we’ve got to beat man-to-man.”

Regardless of whether it’s Hilton or Johnson or Moncrief or Dorsett, the Colts should have better luck getting open this year, because cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner are gone. Of course, none of that will matter if the Colts can stop the New England rushing attack.

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Cowboys waive rookie WR Mayle

Vince Mayle, K'Waun Williams AP

The Cowboys waived rookie wide receiver Vince Mayle Tuesday, a week after promoting him from the practice squad.

That transaction was buried by the news that the Cowboys plan to use this, their bye week, to change quarterbacks, benching Brandon Weeden in favor of Matt Cassel as Jerry Jones continues to count the hours until Tony Romo can come back.

Mayle was a fourth-round pick of the Browns last spring but broke his thumb in spring work and never made a serious bid to make the roster through training camp. He was waived in September before catching on with the Cowboys’ practice squad.

Mayle was the only receiver drafted by the Browns in the last two seasons.

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Chiefs work out running backs and more

Darrin Reaves, Alec Ogletree AP

As expected, the Chiefs brought in running backs Ben Tate and Pierre Thomas for tryouts on Tuesday. They were hardly alone.

In all, the Chiefs worked out seven running backs and 14 total players on Tuesday.

Per a league source, the running backs were George Atkinson, Bryce Brown, Bronson Hill, Isaiah Pead, Darrin Reaves (pictured), Ben Tate, and Pierre Thomas.

Also getting workouts were linebacker Jayson DiManche, defensive backs Saalim Hakim and Brandon McGee, guard Michael Liedtke, and defensive ends Steven Means, Greg Scruggs, and Quanterus Smith.

Reaves was signed to the practice squad at tailback, and Hakim, Liedtke, and DiManche getting practice-squad spots, too. Running back Spencer Ware was elevated from the practice squad to the active roster to replace Jamaal Charles.

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Belichick bristles at question about Brady, calls him one of the NFL’s toughest players

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A reporter prefaced a question to Patriots coach Bill Belichick by suggesting that Tom Brady’s toughness goes overlooked, and Belichick did not appreciate that.

Regarding the Patriots’ win over the Cowboys on Sunday, the reporter asked, “Bill, Tom took so many hits in the first half, what does a game like this say about his toughness, his resilience, things that are sometimes overlooked?”

Belichick looked taken aback and challenged the premise of the reporter’s question.

“I don’t think it’s overlooked,” Belichick said. “I don’t think anybody questions Tom’s toughness. Who’s ever done that?”

When the reporter again said Brady’s toughness could be overlooked, Belichick again asked, “By who?”

The reporter tried to continue to pursue the line of questioning, but Belichick shut it down by answering, “Tom is one of the toughest players in the league.”

Quarterbacks aren’t often thought of as the toughest players in football, but Belichick thinks his quarterback deserves that kind of recognition.

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PFT on NBCSN puts a bow on Week Five

Le'Veon Bell AP

Week Five of the 2015 regular season has ended. Before turning the attention to Week Six, Pro Football Talk on NBCSN takes one final look at the latest slate of games, focusing first on the latest wild Monday night finish.

Rodney Harrison, Paul Burmeister, and yours truly will react to the Steelers-Chargers game and discuss the bizarre clock error. We’ll also look at the sub-.500 teams in each conference that are still alive for the postseason, play a round of “unless he doesn’t,” and begin to get ready for the huge Sunday night showdown between the Patriots and Colts.

And by huge I mean “let’s see if the Colts can stay within 30 points.”

Tune in to NBCSN at 6:00 p.m. ET and stay for 30 minutes. It’s PFT on NBCSN time.

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Terron Armstead practices with Saints Tuesday

during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. Getty Images

The Saints played without left tackle Terron Armstead in their blowout loss to the Eagles last Sunday, but they may get him back in the mix for Thursday’s game against the Falcons.

Armstead returned to practice as a limited participant on Tuesday after missing the Eagles game with a knee injury. First-round pick Andrus Peat made his first NFL start in Armstead’s place and was part of a line that gave up five sacks to the Eagles as the Saints dropped to 1-4 on the season.

Right guard Jahri Evans also missed that game while recovering from a knee scope. It was the third straight game that New Orleans played without Evans, but he was a full participant on Tuesday and said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune, that he plans to be in the lineup against Atlanta.

Not all the news on the offensive line is positive for the Saints. Left guard Tim Lelito has been out of both practices this week because of a shoulder injury.

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NFL tells DeAngelo Williams he can’t wear pink all year

DeAngelo Williams, Cody Wallace AP

For the NFL, putting pink on players’ uniforms is part of outreach to women during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, it’s more personal than that.

Williams lost his mother to breast cancer, and he says he contacted NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent to seek permission to keep wearing pink on his uniform after October ends. But Vincent said pink is only to be worn in October, and there are no exceptions.

He told me no. I’m assuming they are telling everybody else no as well,” Williams told ESPN.

Williams, who wears his hair long enough that it hangs out from his helmet, says he has researched the NFL’s rules and can find no rules about hair color. So he plans to keep the pink he’s been wearing in his hair.

“The hair, it’s part of the uniform from the standpoint of being tackled, but it’s not specific on what color it has to be or if it has to match the uniform,” he said.

Williams isn’t only supporting breast cancer awareness with his hair. He’s also supporting breast cancer awareness with his money: Williams made a donation to fund mammograms for 53 women, in memory of his mother, who died at the age of 53.

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Chiefs place Charles on IR, call up Spencer Ware

Lamarcus Joyner, Bryce Hager, Spencer Ware AP

The Chiefs had some veteran running backs in for workouts to start the week, but the new member of the backfield comes from within the organization.

The Chiefs announced Tuesday that they have elevated Spencer Ware from the practice squad to take Jamaal Charles’s roster spot. Charles has been placed on season-ending injured reserve after tearing his ACL during last Sunday’s loss to the Bears.

Ware was a sixth-round pick by the Seahawks in 2013 and played two games with Seattle during his rookie season. He had three carries for 10 yards in those appearances and ran 18 times for 66 yards and a touchdown with the Chiefs in the preseason. He’ll join Charcandrick West, Knile Davis and De’Anthony Thomas as backfield options with Charles out of the picture in Kansas City.

The Chiefs took a look at Ben Tate and Pierre Thomas this week and could conceivably turn back to one of them if they don’t get what they want from their in-house crop of backs.

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Report: Matt Cassel to start next Cowboys game

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Dallas Cowboys Brandon Weeden #3 of the Dallas Cowboys and Matt Cassel #16 of the Dallas Cowboys fist bump before the start of their NFL game against the New England Patriots at AT&T Stadium on October 11, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images) Getty Images

After losing to the Patriots last Sunday, the Cowboys said that they’d consider making a change at starting quarterback.

Ed Werder of ESPN reports that the Cowboys will indeed be making a change. Werder reports that Brandon Weeden has been informed that the team plans to start Matt Cassel against the Giants when they return from their bye week on October 25.

With Tony Romo on injured reserve with the designation to return because of a broken collarbone, Weeden has started the last three games for the Cowboys. They’ve lost all three of those games, running the record of teams starting Weeden to 0-11 in his last 11 starts.

Weeden has gone 64-of-91 for 666 yards in his three starts, but has just one touchdown to go with a pair of interceptions. The numbers speak to the pared-down offense that Dallas has been running since Romo’s injury, although Cassel’s work in recent seasons suggests that won’t change along with the name of the guy playing quarterback.

While the possible return of Dez Bryant to the lineup against the Giants should help, the running game and defense are both going to need to perform at a higher level if the Cowboys are going to remain in contention when Romo is ready to return to action.

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NFL should investigate clock error

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Clock errors surely happen all the time in any sport that relies on a human being periodically turning the thing on and eventually turning it off. At the lower levels of many sports, it presents an ideal opportunity for the phenomenon known as “home cooking.” At the highest level of football, it’s a potential integrity-of-the-game donut hole that needs to be taken seriously.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, regular-season NFL clock operators are indeed hired by the league, and not by individual teams. They typically have college football officiating experience, and they live in the same geographic area as the home team stadium. The fact that the NFL uses postseason clock operators from outside the geographic area of the home team’s stadium highlights the possibility that local residents during regular-season games may have a bias that would cause them to hit the off or on button too slowly or to quickly, depending upon the circumstances of the game.

In most cases, the subtle shaving (or addition) of a few seconds here and there would likely go unnoticed, especially for a clock operator who is skilled at deliberately hitting the button a little late or a little early on a consistent basis. This dynamic makes it critical that the clock operators are truly unbiased, that they have a high degree of personal integrity, and that they are conscientious about turning the clock on and off at precisely the right moment.

Monday night’s Steelers-Chargers game involved a very different phenomenon. In the fourth quarter, it wasn’t a case of someone forgetting to turn a running clock off or a stopped clock on. Instead, the clock was off, it was supposed to remain off, and it inexplicably was turned on. For nearly one third of a minute.

It’s the kind of bizarre outcome that cries out for an investigation. Not a Ted Wells “independent” (or not) investigation, but a thorough and appropriate in-house probe into what happened and why no one in a position to fix the situation noticed.

With the Patriots and their footballs at the AFC title game, the league presumed guilt and worked backward. In this case, it would be dangerous to presume inadvertence and move forward. It’s entirely possible that someone tried to influence the outcome of the game through what by all appearances was a mistake.

If the NFL is going to scorch the earth (and bastardize science) to prove that the Patriots broke the rules, the NFL should at least apply some basic curiosity to a situation that never should have happened, that possibly happened on purpose, and that now cries out for an overhaul to the way the NFL ensures that each game consists of exactly 3,600 seconds — no more, no fewer.

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Steelers activate Martavis Bryant

Martavis Bryant AP

The Steelers officially activated wide receiver Martavis Bryant Tuesday following his four-game suspension and an extra week during which the team kept Bryant exempt from the active 53.

He injured his knee in his first practice back with the team last week, and though the Steelers didn’t have to list Bryant on their injury report last week because he wasn’t activated, the knee is the most likely reason he didn’t play Monday night in San Diego.

Safety and special teams player Ross Ventrone was released to clear a roster spot for Bryant.

Bryant spent part of his month-long suspension in Houston working with substance abuse counselor John Lucas.

The Steelers held Bryant back until the seventh game of his rookie season last year, and their patience was rewarded. He averaged 21.2 yards per reception and caught eight touchdown passes.

The Steelers host the Cardinals Sunday.

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Josh McDaniels: Facing Colts no different than any other game

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots congratulates  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots after his 400th career touchdown pass during the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots will travel to Indianapolis on Sunday night to face the Colts under the AFC Finalist banner they helped put in the rafters of Lucas Oil Stadium, but the AFC Championship game rematch isn’t the major selling point for the game.

It’s the aftermath of that game that’s providing the big angle this time around, particularly the Colts’ role in touching off the eight-month saga known as Deflategate. The Patriots’ scalding start to the season has led to talk of a revenge tour after Tom Brady’s suspension was overturned in federal court and the prominent place the Colts played in the accusations have some saying that this will be more than just another game for the Patriots.

The people saying that haven’t come from inside the Patriots, of course. Both history and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’s comments on Tuesday suggest that’s unlikely to change.

“I really don’t see it any different than each of the other games we’ve played,” McDaniels said in a conference call. “I think it’s a very good team. It’s a road game in a hostile environment, in a place that’s tough to play on a Sunday night. They’ve got new people, new personnel. But they want to beat us and we want to beat them. It’s not very complicated. But that’s the same thing it is every single week that you play in this league.”

McDaniels went on from there, but didn’t say anything that veered from the message of this week being business as usual. Given how well that approach has worked for the Patriots in recent matchups with the Colts, there’s not much reason to try something different.

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Eagles sign lineman Tanner Hawkinson off 49ers practice squad

Tanner Hawkinson, James Jr. Wilder AP

The Eagles have had offensive line problems all season, and they did something Tuesday to address the issue.

Sort of.

The team announced they signed offensive lineman Tanner Hawkinson from the 49ers practice squad. They released center/guard Julian Vandervelde (their personal Josh Johnson) to make the roster spot.

Hawkinson entered the league as a fifth-round pick of the Bengals in 2013, but he was released in final cuts this year. The 49ers then signed him to the practice squad.

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Mike Tannenbaum: Suh hasn’t played as well as we hoped

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 27: Ndamukong Suh #93 of the Miami Dolphins looks on before the game against the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dan Campbell era will kick off for the Dolphins this week and the team hopes it will get off to a better start than the Ndamukong Suh era.

Suh’s arrival in Miami didn’t have the kind of impact that many expected as the Dolphins defense played a major role in the 1-3 start that claimed the jobs of head coach Joe Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle last week. Suh has had nine tackles while spearheading a defense that has generated one sack while giving up the most rushing yards per game in the NFL.

Spinning that to look like the Dolphins got what they thought they were getting would be impossible, so executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum didn’t try during an appearance on 640 AM with Sid Rosenberg. Instead he focused on the big picture for a player who is signed through 2020.

“Let’s be fair,” Tannenbaum said. “We signed him to a six-year contract, so we’re four games into a six-year contract. He hasn’t played as well as we hoped, we haven’t played as well as we hoped. I think we have to give it a grade of incomplete.”

Suh was one of several players reportedly upset by Coyle’s scheme, so the hope in Miami will now be that changes to the system will unleash the player they remember from Detroit. Sunday’s visit to the Titans will bring the first answers on that front.

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Matt Ryan calls effort to run over a safety “an error in judgment”

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There are quarterbacks in the NFC South who can put a shoulder into a tackler and drive them backward, or at least one.

Matt Ryan is not that guy.

The Falcons quarterback said he may have made a mistake, when trying to run for a first down, he lowered his shoulder and tried to drive Washington safety Kyshoen Jarrett back instead of sliding or running out of bounds. It wasn’t much of an effort, as Jarrett didn’t really move and Ryan fell to the side.

“I thought I was closer to the first down than I actually was,” Ryan said, via Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I thought I was going to get it and it turns out I was a couple yards short.”

Ryan called the decision “an error in judgement,” and added “It happens.”

He had reason to want to make a play. The Falcons were trailing 16-12 inside the two-minute warning as he scrambled, so there was urgency.

But he’s far more valuable to the 5-0 Falcons in the pocket than he is on the run, so it’s probably best he realized he’s no Cam Newton.

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Report: Bills QB has sprained MCL, could miss multiple games

Tyrod Taylor AP

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor has a sprained MCL, Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reports, and the Bills will prepare E.J. Manuel to be their starting quarterback for Sunday’s game vs. the Bengals.

Earlier Tuesday, Bills coach Rex Ryan told reporters that Taylor “is pretty beat up.” LaCanfora reported that Taylor injured his knee on a horse-collar tackle on what became the go-ahead drive in the Bills’ 14-13 win over the Titans last Sunday.

The Bills host the Bengals Sunday, then play the Jaguars in London on Oct. 25 before a bye week, making Manuel the likely starter for the next two games.

Taylor, a first-time starter, is completing 70 percent of his passes and has thrown nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s also rushed 31 times for 187 yards.

Manuel has not accumulated any stats this season. He’s 6-8 as the Bills’ starter over the last two seasons, during which time he’s completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He started four games last season.

Earlier Tuesday, the Buffalo News reported that the Bills had checked the passport status of available quarterbacks, a sign they were looking to sign someone for multiple weeks.

The team signed Josh Johnson. Johnson had been signed, then cut, then signed again by the Colts over the last two weeks with Andrew Luck’s status in limbo.

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