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9/11 truther disrupts Malcolm Smith’s press conference

Smith Getty Images

As Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith began his postgame press conference, something happened.

Something unusual.

A man approached Smith, grabbed the microphone, and said, “9/11 was perpetrated by our own government.”

(And, no, it wasn’t Pete Carroll.)

The man quickly exited.  Smith looked a bit stunned, but he then said, “Somebody check his press pass.”

It’ll be interesting to see who it was, given that security was very high for media access.

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Chris Spielman sees Matthew Stafford as an MVP candidate

228794 Getty Images

Former Lions linebacker Chris Spielman, who currently analyzes NFL action for FOX, paid a visit to Wednesday’s PFT Live. And Spielman likes what he sees from his former team.

He specifically likes what Detroit’s quarterback is doing, and Spielman made the case for Matthew Stafford getting MVP consideration.

On all topics, Spielman was great. Unconstrained by the 10-15 seconds he has to talk between plays during a game broadcast, he shared fascinating assessments of the clues culled from film study, keys during games, and other technical aspects of football that will make you feel like you’re on the field.

Come from me accidentally calling him “Rick,” and stay for some quality analysis and football conversation.

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Goff misses practice due to illness, considered probable for Sunday

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 02:  Quarterback Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams throws the football during warm ups prior to the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Rams rookie quarterback Jared Goff was sent home Wednesday due to an illness and did not practice.

Rams Coach Jeff Fisher told reporters that Goff was part of the team’s usual meetings and participated in a pre-practice walkthrough before leaving the team facility. As long as Goff gets healthy, he’ll make his fourth start Sunday against the Falcons.

The Rams are still trying to get Goff his first win. He had his worst game last week in a blowout loss at New England, completing 14-of-32 passes for 161 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Patriots sacked Goff four times.

Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin, who missed last week’s game with a chest injury, was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. Defensive end Robert Quinn, who missed last week’s game with a concussion, was a limited participant.

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Lions moving on from Pettigrew

Brandon Pettigrew, Sean Lee AP

The Lions have placed tight end Brandon Pettigrew on the non-football injury list — and cleaned out his locker.

Per the Detroit Free Press, the team will officially release Pettigrew soon.

“We made a decision on him,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “I think it’s been reported and that’s about all we can say on the matter. It was best for us.”

So, Pettigrew’s tenure ends with the Lions without much explanation.

The Lions drafted Pettigrew in the first round in 2009, and for five seasons he was a major contributor when healthy. He caught 71 passes in 2010 and 83 in 2011, and he’s caught 17 career touchdown passes.

Pettigrew suffered a torn ACL last December and was placed on the physically unable to perform list last summer. He had returned to practice Nov. 22, opening a three-week window for the team to evaluate his status before making a roster decision.

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Tyrod Taylor shows frustration at Wednesday press conference

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills rushes with the ball against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor is feeling the frustration of a season that is inching closer and closer to implosion.

Via Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News, Taylor abruptly ended his midweek press conference by declaring to no one in particular “I’m done talking” and walking away.

Taylor has drawn plenty of criticism in recent weeks, and a contract that requires the team to decide by early March whether to cut him or guarantee more than $30 million over the next two seasons hovers over the final four games of 2016.

“I’ve taken everything that y’all have stood up here and asked me right on the chest,” Taylor said at one point. “It doesn’t affect me emotionally or physically. I take it every week, so whatever y’all want to blame, I’ll take that. Like I said, my job is to get the team into a position where we can win on Sundays. Can I be better, yes. But it doesn’t just take me, it’s a collective effort out there on the field each and every Sunday.”

He’s right, but Taylor has been the focal point for the criticism. Despite his apparent irritation, he claims he doesn’t see or hear it.

“I don’t have Instagram on my phone,” Taylor said. “Twitter. Don’t watch TV, so don’t see it, don’t hear it. Continue to keep pounding away. We’re still in it, last time I checked.”

Yes, they’re still in it. But the window went from wide open to nearly closed after a 24-9 lead over the Raiders quickly became a 38-24 deficit. In that same game, Taylor plunged from completing eight of nine passes for 102 yards in the first quarter to completing 10 of 26 for 89 yards in quarters two, three, and four.

The real question is whether Taylor will have a third season in Buffalo. Whether he will hinges on whether the team keeps its current power structure in place — which may hinge on whether Taylor can get the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

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Andre Johnson spends $20,000 to bring Christmas to kids


Andre Johnson stopped drawing an NFL paycheck when he retired in October, but he’s not done using his money to do good.

Today at a toy store in Houston, Johnson did what he has done for the last nine years: He asked Houston Child Protective Services to bring together a group of children who have had a rough year and deserve a special Christmas, and he footed the bill for whatever toys they could grab while running through the store for 80 seconds. (Johnson wore No. 80 during his NFL career.) This year the bill for 12 kids came to $19,144.58, and after Johnson finished paying he posed with the receipts, which were as tall as he is.

Johnson said he sees a lot of himself in the kids who come to his annual toy drive.

“When you grow up in certain situations you kind of understand so, there were times when I was not able to get what I wanted for Christmas. So I know that a lot kids don’t get what they want for Christmas. This idea was brought to me and I just kind of took it and ran with it,” Johnson told ABC 13 in Houston.

After Johnson retired, there were discussions of whether he’s had a Hall of Fame career. There’s no doubt that he’s a Hall of Fame person.

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Cedric Thornton isn’t interested in talking about whacking Sam Bradford in the head

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Cedric Thornton, left, sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) during the second half of an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King) AP

Last Thursday night’s win by the Cowboys over the Vikings was sealed when referee Tony Corrente did his best Stevie Wonder impersonation on a two-point conversion try.

Cowboys defensive lineman Cedric Thornton whacked Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford in the head, Corrente didn’t see it, and the Vikings didn’t get a second opportunity to tie the game and force overtime.

Six days later, Thornton had no desire to revisit the events of last Thursday night.

Man, we’re playing the Giants this week,” Thornton said, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, when asked about the play.

Thornton did say that he has yet to hear from the league regarding a fine. With the league possessing plenty of discretion when it comes to imposing fines, this could be one of those situations in which the NFL decides not to pick a player’s pocket, in order to avoid underscoring Corrente’s error.

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Jadeveon Clowney one of six Texans to miss practice

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 27:  Tyrell Williams #16 of the San Diego Chargers runs after a reception pursued by Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans’ three-game losing streak has created a three-way logjam at the top of the AFC South that won’t be in place come the end of Week 14.

Houston will be in Indianapolis to face the Colts, who have the same 6-6 record as the Texans and Titans. The Texans got on the field Wednesday for their first practice leading up to that game and they were missing a half-dozen players because of injuries.

Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is on that list. Oft-injured in his first two NFL seasons, Clowney missed his first game of 2016 last weekend because of elbow and wrist injuries which left the already J.J. Watt-less Texans defense thinner than they’d like.

It got even thinner when cornerback Johnathan Joseph left with an injury that’s since been diagnosed as cracked ribs and a bruised lung. Joseph also missed practice on Wednesday.

Quarterback Tom Savage, running back Tyler Ervin, wide receiver Braxton Miller and linebacker John Simon rounded out the group of non-participants.

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After walkthrough, Broncos estimate Siemian as limited participant

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 13:  Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos runs with the ball during the first half of a game against the San Diego Chargers  at Qualcomm Stadium on October 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos only offered an estimated injury report Wednesday after holding a walkthrough, and on that report quarterback Trevor Siemian was listed as a limited participant had the team held a real practice.

Estimated, unofficial, insert your own asterisk here. Siemian missed last week’s game due to a sprained left foot, and the Broncos will be cautious this week as they try to get him ready to play Sunday at Tennessee.

In a radio interview on Tuesday, Siemian said he’s “making some progress” and “getting better every day.” He’s clearly been well coached in what to say, but he did offer that he’s out of the protective boot he wore on his foot last week.

Siemian didn’t practice at all last week. Broncos Coach Gary Kubiak said then that he believed Siemian could have played without practicing, and he said Wednesday that rookie Paxton Lynch, who started last week, again took reps with the No. 1 offense in the walkthrough. Kubiak said the team will try to get both Lynch and Siemian ready to play.

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Hue Jackson says he’s not trying to fool the Bengals regarding Sunday’s quarterback

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Josh McCown #13 talks with head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Browns emerge from their bye, they have arguably one more decent chance to say hello to victory: At home on Sunday against the Bengals.

Some think that Browns coach Hue Jackson is concealing his quarterback choice for Sunday in order to keep the Bengals guessing. Jackson says he’s not.

“I think you guys know who I am,” Jackson told reporters on Wednesday. “Until I see guys do certain things [at] practice am I going to make that decision because it all has to fit. It is not just about one guy. It is about a unit playing together. We have not played as well together in several weeks. It is important that we practice, and I feel good about that decision so we can go out and give ourselves the best chance to win.”

One candidate to start is Robert Griffin III. Jackson explained that he needs to see more in practice from Griffin, who suffered a broken shoulder in Week One, before making that decision.

“I do need to see Robert go through the week,” Jackson said. “It is not so much gamesmanship. We are talking about a young man that has not played much football this year. I need to be for sure about everything that could potentially go on. Before you stick him out there, you want to make sure you are putting guys in the right situation, give him the right opportunity. We will keep practicing and we will keep getting these guys ready to play.”

Jackson agreed that one major factor in determining whether Griffin should play is the fact that he has played in only one regular-season game since the end of the 2014 season.

“[T]here is probably some rust there,” Jackson said. “He has not played a lot of football. Practice is only a simulation of what the game could be. The game is a very different game. That is why I am taking every consideration before truly making this decision about who is going to step out there.”

Whoever it is, the Browns need the quarterback to play better than any quarterback has played all year long for the Browns. Otherwise, 0-12 becomes 0-13 and the Browns move to within games against the Bills, Chargers, and Steelers of matching the Lions in 2008 with zero wins in 16 tries.

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NFL says refs have discretion to penalize players’ snow angels

Green Bay Packers' Randall Cobb does a snow angel after catching a touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer) AP

Sunday afternoon’s NFL action featured two snow games, and two players deciding to have a little fun by making snow angels. But only one player was flagged.

In Chicago, 49ers cornerback Rashard Robinson celebrated a big play by making a snow angel and was penalized. But in Green Bay, Packers receiver Randall Cobb also made a snow angel, and he didn’t draw a flag. What gives?

“I think our officials used some discretion there,” NFL Senior V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino said on NFL Network. “We do give the officials some discretion there and we don’t want to take the emotion out, and the spontaneity of the game. When you get to the 49ers game . . . the officials thought it was excessive and they flagged it. . . . I understand the questions about why is one snow angel illegal and one legal. But, again, the officials do have some discretion.”

Blandino added that the 49ers’ snow angel celebration lasted “a little bit longer,” although there doesn’t seem to be any clear standard for how long a snow angel celebration can last before a penalty flag comes out. It would seem that the NFL’s officials should have more important things to worry about than how long a player’s snow angel lasts, but it’s not the officials’ fault that the league has told them to make celebration penalties a priority.

Perhaps some day the league will come up with a clearer standard, such as treating celebrations like delay of game: If a celebration delays the game, it’s a delay of game penalty. If not, it’s not a penalty at all.

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Paul Tagliabue unhappy with performance of Rooney Rule

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 01: Former Commissioner of The National Football League, Paul Tagliabue attends the 3rd Annual NFL Honors at Radio City Music Hall on February 1, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images) Getty Images

A full 13 years after the NFL fashioned the Rooney Rule, the Commissioner who presided over its development and adoption isn’t happy with its performance.

“I don’t think the Rooney Rule has done as much as anyone hoped it would,” Paul Tagliabue said at the 2016 Learfield Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, via Danial Kaplan of SportsBusiness Daily.

Tagliabue later elaborated, in comments to Kaplan.

“What is it, five out of 32?” Tagliabue said regarding the number of minority head coaches currently in the NFL. “Everyone feels, I am sure, that it would be nice if there was more talent rising to the top.”

The current minority head coaches are Todd Bowles of the Jets, Marvin Lewis of the Bengals, Hue Jackson of the Browns, Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Jim Caldwell of the Lions, and Ron Rivera of the Panthers.

The Rooney Rule primarily requires that at least one minority candidate be interviewed for all coaching and G.M. jobs. The problem in most cases is that owners decide who they want to hire before firing their current coaches or General Managers, and the challenge comes from getting the owners to slow down and broaden the lens before making offers.

There’s also a question as to whether the Rooney Rule currently represents anything more than an effort to check boxes. Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, for example, said earlier this year that only two of his four interviews from the last hiring cycle were legitimate.

The league can only do so much to compel teams to consider minority candidates. The goal should be to embrace the manner in which owners make hiring decisions, and to ensure that, when formulating a wish list, minority candidates have a fair chance to show up on it.

Requiring at least one minority interview helps, because it gets the names of minority coaches into the media and creates a sense of inevitability that the coach will get an opportunity to run his own team. This dynamic would become even more significant if the NFL addressed the under representation of minority coaches at key positions like offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

NFL teams often gravitate toward coaches who know how to spot and groom quarterbacks; unless more minority assistant coaches are honing those skills, they won’t get into the conversation of potential head-coaching candidates.

With too few minority head coaches at the college level, another potential reservoir of talented candidates never becomes fully developed. But with the NFL chronically treading lightly when it comes to its relationship with the stewards of pro football’s free farm system, don’t count on the NFL to start twisting arms to get college football to do a better job when it comes to considering minority coaches.

So while the situation is better than it was 13 years ago, Tagliabue thinks it’s not nearly good enough. The NFL, which has a natural desire to not make the problem seem as bad as it is, tends to never make similar remarks, at least not publicly.

Hopefully, efforts are privately being considered to develop qualified minority candidates and to get their names in front of owners not after current coaches and General Managers are fired but before the moves are made, when the owners are quietly figuring out who they want to hire next.

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Odell on officials: Even Stevie Wonder could see calls they miss

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24:  Stevie Wonder performs "Visions" during the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on September 24, 2016 in Washington, DC. The museum is opening thirteen years after Congress and President George W. Bush authorized its construction.  (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images) Getty Images

After Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham complained about the officiating in last Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, quarterback Eli Manning suggested he take a different tack with officials and “kill them with kindness” if he wants to get calls in the future.

Beckham appears to be taking a different approach. While he admitted that “no calls are going to be made because of what I say now,” Beckham couldn’t resist taking another shot at last Sunday’s crew.

“Like I said, everybody knows what’s going on, on the field. Everybody can see it. Even Stevie Wonder can see it,” Beckham said, via “It just, it is what it is. You can’t do anything about it. There’s no point. I don’t know why, I shouldn’t have even brought it up. It’s always a lose-lose situation, bringing something up. Either you’re speaking out on it, and now you’re trying to defend yourself, or the other way around, and you’re complaining. Either way it goes, I should have never brought it up. It’s really irrelevant.”

Relevant or not, it’s now three days after the loss to the Steelers and the Giants have another big game coming up against the Cowboys this weekend. It might be prudent for Beckham to not worry about a thing other than his play in that game since the Giants will be left without playoff options other than a Wild Card spot if they lose to Dallas.

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Jeremy Maclin set to return, Karl Joseph out for Raiders

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 09:  Karl Joseph #42 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates after intercepting a pass by Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers during their NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on October 9, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs expect to have wide receiver Jeremy Maclin back for Thursday night’s game against the Raiders, who will be without one of their defensive backs for the AFC West clash.

Maclin was not given an injury designation on the team’s injury report for the game after being listed as a full participant in practice on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Maclin has missed the last four games with a groin injury, but his absence from the report leaves him in line to be part of the effort to move into first place in the division.

The Raiders won’t have safety Karl Joseph as part of the effort to keep Kansas City out of the top spot. Joseph has been ruled out because of a toe injury. Defensive tackle Stacy McGee and linebacker Shilique Calhoun will also miss the game while linebacker Cory James, defensive tackle Darius Latham and guard Kelechi Osemele are all listed as questionable.

Defensive linemen Dontari Poe and Kendall Reyes are questionable for the Chiefs, although two days of full practices for both players suggests they’ll play on Thursday.

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Rex Ryan seems less ambivalent about Tyrod Taylor

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Khalil Mack #52 of the Oakland Raiders tips a pass from Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills during their NFL game at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills coach Rex Ryan has quickly changed his tune about Tyrod Taylor.

After comments from Monday regarding Taylor’s future with the team that seemed lukewarm and ambivalent, Ryan reversed course on Wednesday, a bit.

I think Tyrod’s had a lot of really good games for us,” Ryan said, via Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News. “And then, like our football team, maybe he’s had some games that aren’t quite to that level. But that’s how I feel about him.”

Taylor has taken plenty of criticism in recent weeks, culminating with his performance against the Raiders.

“I can tell you this: I believe that Tyrod Taylor is an outstanding quarterback, has a chance to be an outstanding quarterback,” Ryan said.

Ryan apparently was trying to put to rest the extent to which folks were reading into his earlier remarks, which created the impression that the team isn’t sold on Taylor.

“Let’s just let this play out,” Ryan said Monday. “We feel pretty comfortable with Tyrod. There’s a lot of factors that go into everything. . . . I’m not going to go into a list of them. You guys can figure it out.”

One big factor is that the Bills will guarantee more than $30 million to Taylor if he’s on the roster in March. So they have to be sure he’s the guy before they allow those payments to vest.

Another big factor, as hinted via Ryan’s words and made a little stronger upon hearing and seeing him deliver them on Monday, is whether Ryan is the coach and Doug Whaley is the G.M. If ownership decides to blow up the football operation, a new coach and/or G.M. may not want Taylor, especially in light of the various other options that could be available in March.

That’s the reality. First, ownership must decide who’ll be running the team. Then, those folks must decide whether to make a major commitment to Taylor or to commit those $30 million elsewhere.

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Justin Pugh intends to play, give Cowboys “another loss” this week

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 11:  Rueben Randle #82 of the New York Giants celebrates his first down as teammates Justin Pugh #67 and  Ereck Flowers #76 congratulate him in the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at MetLife Stadium on October 11, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants left guard Justin Pugh has missed the last four games with a knee injury, but he believes his absence from the lineup will come to an end this week.

Pugh got in a week of limited practices before being ruled out last week and said Wednesday that his knee is feeling great. As a result, he has “all intentions of going out and playing” against the Cowboys in Sunday in a game the Giants must win to keep their chances of winning the NFC East alive.

The Giants beat the Cowboys in the season opener and Pugh is expecting the same outcome this time around.

“We know them very well and it should be exciting to get back out there and be able to give them another loss,” Pugh said, via Bob Glauber of Newsday.

The Cowboys likely have a different opinion of how things will play out at the Meadowlands this Sunday and they’ll have wins over every team they faced this season if they are able to win for the 12th straight time.

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