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Troy Vincent becomes NFL’s new executive V.P. of football operations

072012-troy-vincent-400 AP

With Ray Anderson, the NFL’s former executive V.P. of football operations, now the A.D. at Arizona State, the league needed a replacement.

That replacement is former NFL cornerback Troy Vincent.

The league has announced that Vincent has succeeded Anderson in one of the most important positions in the front office, overseeing all of the league’s game operations and, at times, having a direct hand in the imposition of discipline — especially on non-players.

“Troy Vincent brings a uniquely well-rounded perspective to this leadership position,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “He knows the game inside out from the locker room to the board room. He has done an exceptional job growing services to our players and former players, and he is ready and eager to lead our football operations group. Troy’s passion for education, personal development, and innovation will bring a new vitality and vision to our football group.”

Vincent, who once was believed to be on track to replace Gene Upshaw as executive director of the NFLPA, had a falling out with Upshaw in the months before the Hall of Fame offensive lineman died in 2008, after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.  Vincent, who ran for NFLPA executive director in 2009, ruffled some feathers at the players union by taking a job in the league office with the 2011 lockout on the horizon.

Since then, Vincent has thrived in his role as an employee of the NFL.  While the NFLPA executive director gig likely will never happen, the 43-year-old Vincent should placed on the short list of candidates to replace Commissioner Roger Goodell, whenever Goodell decides to retire.

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Ryan Shazier leaves with knee injury, won’t return

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

One of the bright spots of the Steelers defense had a short night.

Rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier has left the game with a knee injury, and won’t return.

Shazier was caught by one of his own teammates while trying to back away from a pile, and immediately limped to the sidelines, where trainers were looking at his right knee.

The first-round pick from Ohio State has been a revelation, the rare rookie who can start for Dick LeBeau. We’ll probably find out tomorrow whether he will again anytime soon.

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Steelers take 9-3 lead over Panthers into halftime

Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Are you ready for some field goals?

The Steelers have a 9-3 edge over the Panthers at halftime, in a game featuring solid defense on both sides.

The Steelers embarked on a 16-play, 87-yard voyage in the second quarter, but came away with just a field goal.

An apparent touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton was negated when the Steelers wideout was ruled to have stepped out of bounds.

Otherwise, the Panthers have given up some running yards, but held when needed.

The Steelers are out-rushing them 66-10 at the break, and both quarterbacks are taking some hard shots.

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49ers fall under .500 for only second time under Harbaugh

Harbaugh AP

Since Jim Harbaugh became head coach of the 49ers, things have been good.  Far more often than they’ve been bad.

Things have been so good that Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals puts the 49ers under .500 for only the second time since Harbaugh arrived in 2011.

Like last year, the 49ers have lost two in a row after winning the opener.  In 2013, the 49ers responded to adversity by winning five straight.

To do that again, the 49ers will have to beat the Eagles, Chiefs, Rams, Broncos, and Rams.  This team simply may not be good enough to reprise that feat, which could explain what Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News called “[o]ne of the most tense 49ers post-game locker rooms I’ve ever been in, especially for a regular-season game.”

Kawakami also shares the full transcript of Harbaugh’s press conference, which had even less useful content than his usual media availability.  If that’s even possible.

It remains possible that the 49ers will turn things around.  But it won’t be easy, and the margin for error in the top-heavy NFC West already is shrinking.

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Chris Harris: Russell Wilson “better than” Andrew Luck

Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson AP

For the second time in calendar year 2014, the Seahawks beat the Broncos on Sunday, and as was the case in Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was impressive in victory.

And after the Seahawks’ 26-20 overtime win vs. the Broncos, Denver cornerback Chris Harris reportedly suggested Wilson, a third-round pick in 2012, was superior to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, the top pick in the same draft.

Russell Wilson is better than (Luck). No question,” Harris said after the game, according to Vic Lombardi of CBS 4 in Denver.

On Sunday, Wilson completed 24-of-34 passes for 258 yards with two touchdowns and one interception against a Denver defense improved from a season ago. He also rushed nine times for 40 yards. Wilson was efficient, on-point and in-control in overtime, hitting 4-of-6 passes for 35 yards and racking up 21 yards on four carries on a drive ending in the game-winning touchdown by Marshawn Lynch.

The Broncos have faced the Colts twice in the last calendar year, falling at Indianapolis in 2013 and besting the Colts in Denver two weeks ago. But the Broncos have yet to knock off Seattle in a game of consequence in the last two seasons. And when the game reached extra time on Sunday, Wilson had the Broncos’ number.

And clearly, Wilson has garnered the respect of Harris. The Broncos’ cornerback has, in turn, provided a nice chunk of sports radio programming for Monday, free of charge, for the “Luck or Wilson” debate is one where the ardent on either side can make some compelling arguments.

But we know which side Harris is taking.

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Jared Cook apologizes for shove of Austin Davis

Cook Getty Images

During Sunday’s defeat-snatched-from-the-jaws-of-victory against the Cowboys, Rams tight end Jared Cook celebrated a dropped touchdown pass by shoving the man who threw it, quarterback Austin Davis.

After the game, Cook apologized.

“My actions from today’s game were truly a mistake,” Cook said on Twitter, “unintentional and in the heat of the moment.  There is never an excuse for unsportsmanlike conduct and I apologize to everyone.  I want to thank my teammates again, Austin Davis and William Hayes for their support on the sideline, the Rams organization and especially to all of our fans for whom we fight so hard for your love and continued support.”

It sounds as if Davis has accepted the apology.

“On the sidelines we were all frustrated, we’re trying to kind of keep it together,” Davis said, via ESPN.com.  “That stuff happens all the time.  We talked, we’re fine.  I didn’t even think twice of it.”

The loss dropped the Rams to 1-2, putting them two games behind the 3-0 Cardinals and one game behind the 2-1 Seahawks.

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Defenses dominating early in Panthers-Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Panthers are proving they can still play defense without Greg Hardy.

But the Steelers are holding up pretty well for themselves.

A hard-hitting first quarter has resulted in a 3-3 tie, and both quarterbacks have taken some hard shots.

Ben Roethlisberger was just drilled twice by Panthers sub Mario Addison, while Cam Newton came up limping after a shot by Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons.

It might not match some of the offensive fireworks of the day’s earlier action, but it’s a different kind of compelling.

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DeAngelo Hall appears to be done for the year

Hall AP

While an official diagnosis has not yet come, it’s not looking good for Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

Per a league source, the early indication is that Hall has suffered a torn Achilles tendon.  If so, he won’t be playing again in 2014.

While only preliminary, it’s usually easy to determine whether an Achilles tendon is torn, since that thing at the back of the heel linking the calf muscle to the foot is, you know, gone.

Earlier this year, Hall signed a four-year, $17 million contract to stay in Washington.  He’ll earn a base salary of $1.25 million this year, and he’s due to make $4 million in 2015.

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Rooney says he, Mara, Mueller “understand the scrutiny” of investigation

ArtRooney AP

When the NFL opted to hire former FBI director Robert Mueller to investigate the league’s handling of the Ray Rice case and the NFL appointed Giants co-owner John Mara and Steelers owner Art Rooney II to oversee the investigation, legitimate questions were raised about the true independence of the so-called independent investigation.

While Commissioner Roger Goodell has defended the independence of the investigation, the investigation lacks the appearance of independence, which prevents it from being regarded as truly independent.

Nevertheless, the principals intend that the investigation will be independent.

Rooney told Michele Tafoya of NBC’s Sunday Night Football from tonight’s game at Charlotte that he, Mara, and Mueller “understand the scrutiny” they’ll be under, and that none of them wants to be part of a “whitewash” or a P.R. exercise.

Rooney also said that he believes Goodell still has the support of the owners, and that one mistake should not jeopardize an otherwise stellar career.  Still, it’s possible that Mueller will reach a conclusion that justifies if not requires a change in Commissioner.  By making such broad declarations before the investigation is over, Rooney potentially undermines even more the appearance of independence.

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Chiefs earn first win, knock off Miami 34-15

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

In a performance highlighted by three TD passes from quarterback Alex Smith and 132 yards rushing from Knile Davis, the Chiefs pulled away for a 34-15 victory on Sunday afternoon in Miami.

Two of Smith’s TD passes went to running back Joe McKnight, who had never scored a regular season offensive touchdown before Sunday. But McKnight, the former celebrated USC recruit and Jets tailback, was a key cog in the Chiefs’ victory, catching six passes for 64 yards, including a four-yard score that extended the Kansas City lead to 27-15 with 4:35 left.

From there, the Chiefs’ defense closed it out, forcing a pair of fourth-down stops. The final points came on tailback Cyrus Gray’s six-yard TD score with 13 seconds left and the outcome no longer in doubt.

Davis, who filled in for the injured Jamaal Charles, handled a heavy workload well, carrying 32 times. He did fumble twice, losing one, though it didn’t cost Kansas City any points.

Smith, meanwhile, was tough and sharp, completing 19-of-25 passes for 186 yards. He was sacked five times, including once on a safety, and the Chiefs’ ability to protect him over the course of the season is something to watch.

But on Sunday, Smith came up big for his team, which notched its first win of the season.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, have now lost two games in a row after a Week One win vs. New England. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was just 21-of-43 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, and he was sacked four times. The Miami defense has had better days, too; the Chiefs converted 9-of-16 third downs in victory.

The loss drops the Dolphins one game behind the Patriots and Bills in the AFC East. Miami (1-2) plays Oakland (0-3) in London next Sunday. The Chiefs will host the Pats on Monday night.

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Seahawks beat Broncos in Super Bowl rematch

lockette AP

It was a lot more competitive than the Super Bowl, but the end result was the same: The Seahawks beat the Broncos.

In today’s rematch of February’s Super Bowl blowout, the Seahawks once again jumped out to an early lead and were up 17-3 at halftime. But this time around the Broncos were poised and collected, and they worked their way back into the game, forcing overtime with a touchdown and two-point conversion in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the Broncos, Russell Wilson, who had a big game, engineered a 13-play, 80-yard drive in overtime, culminating with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run, and the Seahawks won 26-20. Wilson also threw a beautiful 39-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Lockette early in the game, used his feet to make plays all day, and even caught a pass on a trick play. It was a big game on a big game for Wilson, a young quarterback who has already led a whole lot of big wins.

But the Broncos’ defense played well, and new additions including Demarcus Ware and T.J. Ward — who weren’t with the Broncos in the Super Bowl — have made Denver better. That’s a positive step for the Broncos.

And it’s also positive that Peyton Manning, even when it appeared he was beaten, found a way to hit Jacob Tamme on a beautiful touchdown pass to send the game into overtime. Manning found holes in the Seahawks’ secondary, it just took him until the fourth quarter to find them.

The Broncos can feel good about the fact that they went to the toughest place to play in the NFL and stood toe-to-toe with the Seahawks, rather than wilting as they did in the Super Bowl. But the Broncos aren’t yet in the Seahawks’ class.

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Peterson hopes to resolve charges in 2014, return to action

Peterson AP

Last week, lawyer Rusty Hardin said that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will stand trial on Texas child-abuse charges in 2015.  That plan could be changing.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, an effort will be made to accelerated the trial date, with the goal of getting it set for 2014.  The broader goal will be to resolve the charges in time for Peterson to return to action for the Vikings this year.

Of course, Peterson would need to resolve the charges in a way that doesn’t expose him to a potential suspension without pay under the personal-conduct policy.  Currently, he’s suspended as a practical matter with pay, until the legal process is resolved.

More information is expected this week regarding the anticipated trial date.  If exonerated, it would suddenly becomes easier for the Vikings to keep Peterson beyond the 2014 season.

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Broncos storm back to force overtime in Seattle

peyton AP

In a game that appeared to be lost, Peyton Manning and the Broncos have stormed back to force overtime in Seattle.

The Super Bowl rematch has lived up to the billing, with the Seahawks jumping out to a big early lead, the Broncos hanging around, the Seahawks appearing to take the game over with an interception on what looked like it could be the Broncos’ final chance, and then Peyton Manning leading his team back with a sensational touchdown pass to Jacob Tamme.

The Broncos have scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to make the score 20-20.

Overtime is going to be fun.

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Jason Peters: I didn’t think, I just reacted

Jason Peters, Chris Baker AP

Eagles tackle Jason Peters was ejected from Sunday’s victory over the Redskins for throwing punches at Redskins defensive tackle Chris Baker and other members of the Washington team during a scrum in the fourth quarter.

Peters went after Baker after Baker laid out Eagles quarterback Nick Foles with a block during an interception return that ultimately never happened because the pick was overturned on a replay. Peters said standing up for his quarterback was the only thing going through his mind as things escalated near the sideline.

“I wasn’t having it,” Peters said, via CSNPhilly.com. “That’s just a cheap shot. You’re taking on the smallest guy on the field and you’re cheap-shotting him, and he’s not even trying to make the play. I just reacted. I shouldn’t have did what I did, but I was just trying to protect my quarterback. I really wasn’t thinking. I seen him hit him, and I just reacted.”

Baker said he thought he made a “legal football move,” which wasn’t the ruling by the officials who ejected him for the hit.

“I was doing what I was taught,” Baker said. “And that’s to go get a block. I didn’t look to see if it was the quarterback. All I saw was someone going toward the ball, and I got my head in front and lowered my shoulder, which is a legal football move. Doing what I was taught to do, and I get punched in my face on the sideline, and the next thing you know I’m ejected for a block.”

Both Peters and Baker are expected to be fined by the league this week along with several other combatants in Sunday’s melee.

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No DeAngelo Williams for Panthers tonight

Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The Panthers are trying to get their running game fixed — against a Steelers defense which is amenable — but they have their own problems.

Starting running back DeAngelo Williams is inactive again with a hamstring injury.

That leaves the Panthers in the hands of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert tonight, but the Steelers have been soft up the middle against the run so far this year.

The Panthers will also be without veteran wideout Jerricho Cotchery, which will test their scant depth at that position.

Also inactive for the Panthers are quarterback Joe Webb, running back Fozzy Whittaker, offensive linemen David Foucault and Andrew Norwell and safety Tre Boston.

The Steelers deactivated quarterback Landry Jones, running back Dri Archer, wide receiver Martavis Bryant, nose tackle Daniel McCullers, offensive linemen Wesley Johnson and Ramon Foster and cornerback B.W. Webb.

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Cardinals improve to 3-0 with comeback win over 49ers

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals have lost a slew of defenders from last year’s unit and played the last two games without their starting quarterback, so they’d have plenty of excuses to point to if they got off to a slow start this season.

There’s no need to pull them out, though. The Cardinals scored 17 points in the second half as the 49ers short-circuited in the final 30 minutes for the second straight week in a 23-14 Arizona victory. That win leaves Arizona at 3-0 on the season and 13-6 since Bruce Arians took over as the team’s head coach before last season, a mark that leaves the Cardinals right next to any teams outside Seattle and Denver in terms of performance since the start of the 2013 season.

The Cardinals haven’t shied away from letting it rip with Drew Stanton playing instead of Carson Palmer and Stanton made Arians look smart for doing so by completing 18-of-33 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. Stanton hit on several big plays in the second half and the team looked like they were driving for another touchdown when Larry Fitzgerald fumbled inside the 49ers’ five-yard line.

San Francisco had the ball after that fumble with a chance to drive and win the game, but their offense continued to sputter in the back end of games. The 49ers have not scored a touchdown in the second half yet this season and their one scoring chance on Sunday ended when Phil Dawson’s field goal was blocked. San Francisco had to settle for that kick because Anquan Boldin was flagged for head butting Tony Jefferson (Carolina fans are free to wonder why that’s a penalty all of sudden) and pushed the Niners too far back to get six points.

Boldin’s penalty was one of several personal foul and pass interference calls in the second half that helped seal the 49ers’ fate. Not all of them were good calls and a couple were worse than that, but the Niners did plenty to shoot themselves in the foot all by themselves over the course of the second half. The lack of discipline and the second half fades need to be sorted out if the Niners are going to make another trip to the playoffs.

There are fewer pressing matters in Arizona, where Arians has put together an opportunistic, aggressive team that turns almost every mistake by the opposition into a positive for themselves. Unlike San Francisco, they also finish well as evidenced by their 30-0 edge in the fourth quarter. Those are the kinds of traits that serve you well when you’ve been dealt a tough hand by injuries and they’ve been played perfectly by Arians so far this season.

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