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Preseason Power Rankings No. 12: Chicago Bears

Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall AP

The 2013 Bears scored the second-most points in franchise history (445). Only the 1985 Bears tallied more in regular season play, putting up 456 in their bulldozing of all non-Dan Marino-led competition in a 15-1 season.

But for all of their skill on offense, the 2013 Bears were overmatched on defense, surrendering 478 points, 57 points more than any previous Chicago club had given up.

Long before the Packers’ Randall Cobb sprinted through the Chicago secondary en route to the division-clinching touchdown in the regular season finale, the Bears’ defense was broken. Chicago surrendered at least 28 points in half of its games, including 54 to Philadelphia, 45 to Washington, 42 to St. Louis and 40 to Detroit. No team allowed more yards per play than the Bears, and no team was worse against the run.

In the offseason, the Bears set out to bolster that “D,” signing two of the best available defensive ends (Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen) and drafting defensive players with four of their first five picks. On offense, the Bears tried to build continuity. They re-committed to quarterback Jay Cutler, signing him to a seven-year contract worth up to $126.7 million in January. In May, they signed wide receiver Brandon Marshall to a four-year deal worth as much as $40 million.

These were logical moves for Chicago. For once, it was the offense didn’t need much work. Now, the focus turns to whether the defense can provide more resistance in head coach Marc Trestman’s second season on the job.


The Bears’ 2014 offense could be one of the best the franchise has ever fielded. Marshall (100 catches, 1,295 yards, 12 TDs in 2013) and fellow starting wideout Alshon Jeffery (89-1,421-7) were Pro Bowlers a season ago, as were tailback Matt Forte (1,933 combined rushing-receiving yards) and right guard Kyle Long.

Cutler — now in sixth season in Chicago — appears to have taken well to Trestman’s scheme. The strong-armed Cutler connected on 63.1 percent of his throws a season ago, his best completion percentage in six years. He’s quite capable of being the first Bears quarterback to make a Pro Bowl since Jim McMahon 29 years ago.

If Cutler gets an all-star nod, he’ll be aided by strength of his pass catching corps. Marshall and Jeffery form an outstanding tandem. Forte is one of the game’s best receivers out of the backfield. Tight end Martellus Bennett is solid, too.

In Trestman’s inaugural campaign, the Bears’ passing attempts rose nearly 20 percent, but total sacks were down more than 30 percent. Moreover, the club’s completion percentage was up more than five percent. In short, the 2013 Bears threw it more and threw it better — and their quarterbacks hit the ground less. That’s testament to Trestman’s scheme, but it also reflects well on the offensive line, which the club overhauled last year, drafting Long and right tackle Jordan Mills and signing left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson.

The Bears can only hope their offseason D-line investment will pay similar dividends. And Allen, Houston and ex-Lions end Willie Young should strengthen a defense that got just 20 sacks from its front four a season ago.

Finally, in Robbie Gould, the Bears have one of the NFL’s most reliable kickers. He hit 26-of-29 field goals in 2013, including 9-of-11 from 40 yards and beyond.


Even with an upgraded defensive line, the Bears’ defense looms a major concern. The top player in the LB corps, Lance Briggs, will be 34 in November. Shea McClellin, the Bears’ 2012 first-round pick, could get reps at strong-side and middle linebacker in an attempt to jump-start his career. More is also needed from second-year pro Jon Bostic, whether at middle or outside linebacker.

The Bears’ secondary also looks shaky. Per Pro Football Focus grades, the club had two of the four worst starting safeties in 2013 (SS Major Wright, FS Chris Conte). Wright departed in free agency, and Conte comes off shoulder surgery. The Bears added four veterans and a draft pick at safety, which at least gives them some options as they try to craft a workable solution on the back end.

The Bears’ cornerback play should also be monitored. The club added some much-needed youth and depth in the draft, taking Kyle Fuller in Round One. Fuller, veterans Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman figure as the top three corners. If the 33-year-old Tillman stays healthy and returns to form, and if Fuller is a quick study, the Bears should be just fine at this key position. But if Tillman misses time, and if Fuller isn’t quite ready for prime time, the Bears could have a problem.

The worries don’t stop there. The Bears’ special teams are quite unsettled entering training camp. The club will have a new punter, holder, long-snapper, punt returner and kickoff returner. And backup quarterback could be a trouble spot after the departure of Josh McCown. Veterans Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer and sixth-round rookie David Fales will vie to back up Cutler. Clausen and Palmer have generally struggled against NFL competition, but Trestman is masterful with quarterbacks.


The defensive depth chart got a makeover. The Bears released defensive end Julius Peppers and didn’t bring back defensive tackle Henry Melton, defensive end Corey Wootton or linebacker James Anderson. The Bears’ most expensive free agent signings — Houston and Allen — are defensive ends, a nod to the premium that ready-made pass rushers command. To bolster the defensive tackle depth, the Bears turned to the draft, selecting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton in the second and third rounds, respectively.

The Bears took a value shopping approach at safety. Free agent additions Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, Danny McCray and Adrian Wilson are all slated to make less than $1 million in salary this season, per NFLPA records.

On offense, the changes were reserved to backup spots. McCown left to be the Buccaneers’ starter, while tailback Michael Bush and Earl Bennett were released. Rookie Ka’Deem Carey could help replace Bush, while former Washington wideout Josh Morgan was signed to bolster the WR depth.

The Bears underwent several major shakeups in the kicking game. Long-time star returner Devin Hester signed with Atlanta. Punter Adam Podlesh was released, and the club spent a draft pick on a potential replacement (Pat O’Donnell, Round Six). Then, late in the offseason, 16-year long-snapper Patrick Mannelly retired, adding another layer of uncertainty to the special teams.

Camp battles.

Here are the positions and players to watch:

— Safety: Ex-Giant Mundy might have the edge at strong safety, but Wilson is a wild card if he has something left after missing the 2013 season with an Achilles injury. Rookie Vereen is the biggest threat to the incumbent Conte at free safety.

— Cornerback: The progress of Fuller must be monitored. There are plenty of snaps to be had in this secondary if he’s up to it.

— Defensive tackle: Can Ferguson or Sutton push starters Jay Ratliff and Stephen Paea? If not, can the rookies at least prove capable rotation players?

— Linebacker: Will Bostic, McClellin and second-year outside linebacker Khaseem Greene step up their play? The Bears didn’t draft a linebacker and added only veteran backup Jordan Senn in free agency.

— Wide receiver: Morgan and second-year pro Marquess Wilson appear the favorites to replace Bennett as the third receiver.

— Running back: Carey and second-year pro Michael Ford will compete for the little work that won’t go to Forte, a true three-down back.

— Quarterback: Palmer, Clausen and Fales will compete for no more than two reserve roles. The question is, which of this trio most quickly applies Trestman’s lessons?

— Returner: Eric Weems is the most experienced option in the competition to return kickoffs and punts.

— Punter: O’Donnell will try to hold off veteran Tress Way.

— Long-snapper: First-year pro Brandon Hartson and CFL veteran Chad Rempel will battle it out.


The Bears must hang tough early. Six of their first nine games are on the road, including trips to visit the 49ers (Week Two), Falcons (Week Six), Patriots (Week Eight) and Packers (Week 10).

If Chicago can get through that nine-pack in decent order, there’s a real chance to close with gusto. From November 16 through December 21, the Bears play five home games and take just one road trip — Detroit on Thanksgiving Day. The Bears end their season at Minnesota — no picnic, yes, but not the worst draw ever.

It all looks fairly cut-and-dried with the Bears. If their defense is better, and if their offense hums along, they are serious contenders for a playoff spot. But if the defense remains a sieve, and if the offense regresses, they are vulnerable.

The Bears aren’t the youngest of teams. Tillman and Briggs don’t have many NFL years left. Cutler and Marshall aren’t kids, either, and Forte is approaching 2,000 career touches. There ought to be a real sense of urgency to get into the playoffs with an offense this talented. As Bears observers with any sense of history would tell you, scoring points traditionally hasn’t been a Chicago strength.

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Anderson touchdown caps long drive, gives Broncos first lead

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The Broncos have taken a 7-6 lead on the Texans early in the second quarter on a 7-yard touchdown run by C.J. Anderson.

The touchdown drive covered 85 yards in 10 plays and was the first productive Broncos’ drive of the night.

Both teams took their starting running backs out of the game after injury scares, but both are apparently OK. Lamar Miller was back in the game on the drive following the touchdown. Anderson was injured on the last play of the first quarter. He took a few plays off, then returned.

As expected, both defenses are playing well.

The Texans got two first quarter field goals to take a 6-0 lead.

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Texans tackle Newton carted off

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 01: Derek Newton #75 of the Houston Texans looks on during the game against the Minnesota Vikings on September 1, 2011 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans starting right tackle Derek Newton was carted off the field in the first quarter of Monday night’s Texans-Broncos game.

According to the ESPN broadcast, air casts were placed on both of Newton’s legs and Texans tackle Duane Brown had to assist the team’s training staff in getting Newton on the cart.

The Texans announced that Newton has a knee injury.

Newton missed last week’s game, ending a streak of 56 straight starts. Chris Clark is his likely replacement at right tackle, where he’ll be the primary matchup for All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller of the Broncos.

Trainers spent several minutes with Newton after his legs got tangled with Miller’s on a third-down play. The Texans kicked a field goal on the next play and have a 3-0 lead.

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Arian Foster calls it quits

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Arian Foster #29 of the Miami Dolphins carries the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins running back Arian Foster announced his retirement Monday evening.

Foster released a statement via the Twitter account of Uninterrupted, an athlete website owned by NBA star LeBron James.

“There comes a time in every athlete’s career when their ambition and their body are no longer on the same page,” Foster wrote. “I’ve reached that point. It’s hard to write those words because this game has been everything to me.”

Foster, 30, went from undrafted free agent to the Texans’ practice squad to the franchise’s all-time leading rusher and four-time Pro Bowler. He led the NFL with 1,616 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns in 2010, his second season.

He was limited to four games last season by injuries, then signed with the Dolphins after being released by the Texans last March. He’s retiring after battling more injuries this season.

In his statement, Foster thanked the Dolphins and said he was proud to have been a part of the NFL for eight seasons.

“Life has other plans,” he wrote. “I could not be prouder of the things my teammates and I accomplished in this game.”

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Hunter Henry in concussion protocol

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 13:  Hunter Henry #86 of the San Diego Chargers runs with the ball after his catch during the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium on October 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chargers rookie tight end Hunter Henry is in the NFL’s concussion protocol and will be monitored this week as the Chargers prepare to play at the Broncos.

Chargers Coach Mike McCoy said Monday that Henry reported concussion-like symptoms after the Chargers won in Atlanta Sunday.

Henry, who’s just 21, has 20 catches on the season, three for touchdowns. He’s become a key player in a dangerous Chargers’ offense, and if he can’t play Sunday it would be a significant loss.

Henry had eight catches for 83 yards and a touchdown when the Chargers beat the Broncos on Oct. 13.

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Denials from coaches don’t mean Joe Thomas, Joe Staley won’t be traded

SANTA CLARA, CA - AUGUST 24:  Joe Staley #74 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during the preseason game against the San Diego Chargers at Levi's Stadium on August 24, 2014 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

We have no intent to trade Percy Harvin.”

Remember that one? It came from Vikings G.M. Rick Spielman, not long before the team unloaded the mercurial wideout on a Seattle team that got limited use out of him before dumping him on the Jets for a bowl of soup.

Granted, Spielman never said Harvin wouldn’t be traded. But the message is that, no matter what a team says, trades can and do happen.

As to Browns tackle Joe Thomas and 49ers tackle Joe Staley, Browns coach Hue Jackson and 49ers coach Chip Kelly, respectively, have thrown water on the notion that either are available. Jackson said Thomas, who nearly was traded a year ago (before the Browns were in full-blown rebuilding mode), won’t be traded. Kelly said talk of a Staley trade is “news to him.”

That’s fine. But keep this in mind: Neither guy is the G.M., and neither guy owns the team. If either team gets what they want (the Browns, we’re told, want a second-round pick and the 49ers, we’re told want a late first-round selection) or perhaps something close to it, whatever Jackson or Kelly are saying now will quickly be forgotten.

Just like Minnesota’s lack of intent to trade Percy Harvin. Or like Jets coach Todd Bowles claim from one week ago tonight that he wouldn’t be benching Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Often in NFL circles, truth takes a back seat to strategic objectives. Which makes it foolish to take anything any coach, G.M., or owner says at face value.

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Okung is OK, in Monday night’s starting lineup

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 08:  Running back C.J. Anderson #22 of the Denver Broncos celebrates with offensive tackle Russell Okung #73 after Anderson scores on a 25-yard reception in the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 8, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos left tackle Russell Okung is active and in the starting lineup for Monday night’s game vs. the Texans.

Okung had been listed as questionable due to a concussion. He was a limited participant in practice on Friday and Saturday.

Broncos wide receiver Cody Latimer is out due to a concussion. He also had been listed as questionable. The Broncos had previously listed outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware as out as he continues to recover from a forearm injury.

As expected, the Texans have defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (wrist) and linebacker John Simon (shoulder) active and available. They had been listed as questionable.

The Texans had listed four players — cornerback Kevin Johnson, linebacker Brian Peters, safety Quintin Demps and running back Jonathan Grimes — as out. The team announced that Corey Moore will start in place of Demps.

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Patriots waive Anthony Johnson

Kansas City Chiefs v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

The Patriots waived defensive lineman Anthony Johnson on Monday.

Johnson had played in four games this season for the Patriots, starting one. He also served a previous short stint on the practice squad, and he could end up back on the team’s practice squad.

Johnson previously spent time with the Dolphins and Redskins. He first signed with the Patriots last May.

The Patriots also released safety Vinnie Sunseri from their practice squad.

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Cardinals have talked to Chandler Jones about a new contract

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Outside linebackers Chandler Jones #55 and Markus Golden #44 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrate after a tackle on the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones has played well this season, but when Arizona traded a second-round pick to acquire Jones this year, it hoped to get more than one good year from Jones. And that can only happen with a new contract.

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said after Sunday night’s game that he has talked to Jones’s agent about a new contract for Jones, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. Keim described the pass rush Jones provides as “something we have not had here in years,” and he hopes to keep that pass rushing presence in Arizona for years to come.

Keim didn’t say a deal is close, but the fact that the team and the player are talking is a sign that something may get worked out before March, when the Cardinals would need to either put the franchise tag on Jones or risk seeing him leave in free agency.

Jones has five sacks so far this season and had a sack and forced fumble in last night’s tie against the Seahawks. The Cardinals are going to need more big plays like that from Jones to get back into playoff contention, both this year and in future years.

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Redskins ST coach Ben Kotwica gave Lions fans more than they bargained for Sunday

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 24:  Urinals hang on a wall in a newly-inaugurated gender-free toilet at the office building of the city's Senate Administration for Work, Integration and Women (Senatsverwaltung fuer Arbeit, Integration und Frauen) on November 24, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. The administration has converted four of its previously separate men's and women's toilets to gender-free toilets in a sign of respect towards Berlin's trans-gender community, who otherwise often face potentially uncomfortable decisions or confrontations in the use of public toilets.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) Getty Images

When you gotta go, you gotta go and that presented a problem for Redskins special teams coach Ben Kotwica during Sunday’s game against the Lions.

Kotwica couldn’t really leave the field to answer nature’s call and no one wants a case of uromysitisis poisoning, so he followed the lead of many others over the years and found a spot on the sideline to take care of business. Unlike some of those others, Kotwica neglected to bring along another coach, player or team employee to act as a shield.

As a result, some Lions fans sitting close to the field got an eyeful as Kotwica relieved himself into a Gatorade cup — Is it in you? never seemed to be so fine a slogan –while standing next to a trash can on the sideline. A photo made its way to TMZ Sports along with a report that Kotwica was the second member of the staff to use that spot over the course of the game.

TMZ reached out to the team, which had no comment about something that happens frequently if not always in such plain sight of the paying customers.

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Kaepernick doesn’t think anthem protests affect ratings

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sidelines during their NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Commissioner Roger Goodell and 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick likely don’t agree on much. But here’s one thing on which they occupy the same page: They believe the 2016 drop in TV ratings has nothing to do with the ongoing national anthem protests.

“I don’t know much about ratings and how they are affected and all of those things,” Kaepernick said after Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers, via Andy Furillo of the Sacramento Bee. “But I don’t understand why ratings would go down, fighting for justice for people, to try to stop oppression, especially in a league that is predominantly black.”

Goodell was blunt and concise last week when asked about the potential connection by reporters: “That it’s not a factor. It’s not having any significant impact on our ratings.”

On one hand, it’s strange to think that anyone would deprive themselves of something they enjoy because of the actions of a small handful of all players. On the other hand, how does the league know for sure that it’s not a factor? Many have said it is; they all can’t simply be exaggerating and embellishing the connection in order to push an anti-protest agenda that isn’t affecting ratings.

Absent meaningful and effective research by the league aimed at identifying all reasons for the reduction in TV ratings, there’s no way to rule out the anthem protests. But the league surely has no interest in legitimizing the connection between the ongoing anthem protests and the declining ratings, because the league has no power to stop the protests.

Moreover, acknowledging that an exercise of player rights could impact TV ratings would be an admission that the players have much more power than they ever dreamed they’d possess.

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Falcons making plans to deal with Tevin Coleman’s hamstring injury

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 23: Tevin Coleman #26 of the Atlanta Falcons runs for a second quarter touchdown against the San Diego Chargers at the Georgia Dome on October 23, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons are discussing their options in the event running back Tevin Coleman has to miss time after injuring his hamstring in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers.

Coleman played 14 snaps before being forced out of the game and coach Dan Quinn said Monday that the team is still waiting to “find out how long he’ll be out.” Devonta Freeman is the only other running back currently on the roster, but the team has Terron Ward on the practice squad if they need to add a body.

“We’re discussing that big this afternoon,” Quinn said, via “Fortunately for us, Ward is here, and he’s somebody that’s got game experience in the system and somebody that we can totally rely on.”

Ward played in 13 games for the Falcons last season and ran 29 times for 95 yards. The Falcons would need to open up a spot to bring him onto the 53-man roster.

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Chip Kelly says it’s “news to him” if Staley is on trade block

Frank Gore, Joe Staley AP

If the 49ers are shopping offensive tackle Joe Staley ahead of next week’s trade deadline, 49ers coach Chip Kelly said Monday he has no knowledge of it.

That’s news to me,” Kelly told reporters. “Nobody’s had any discussions with me about Joe being traded. We need Joe here.”

Kelly isn’t in charge of the roster. 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke is, so we’ll see what happens. A source with knowledge of the situation told PFT that the 49ers were seeking a first-round pick for Staley.

Kelly said he hasn’t spoken with Staley about the trade rumors because he doesn’t “make a habit of talking with our guys about erroneous reports.”

Staley, 32, is under contract through 2019. His base salary spikes from $5.4 million this year to $8.25 million in 2017. The trade deadline is next Tuesday, November 1.

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Aaron Williams in team meetings, head/neck still being evaluated

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 16:   Aaron Williams #23 of the Buffalo Bills is looked after on the sidlelines during the first half against the San Francisco 49er at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s Patriots week, but Bills coach Rex Ryan hasn’t turned his attention or bombast to New England yet because he still has some housekeeping to take care of after Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins.

Injuries were at the top of that housekeeping list and Ryan offered updates on several players Monday, including safety Aaron Williams. Williams traveled home with the Bills on Sunday after going to the hospital for an MRI after taking a shot to the head from Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

“Aaron Williams was in meetings, walking around the building,” Ryan said. “Our medical staff is still on the process of evaluating his head and neck.”

Ryan called Landry’s hit, which was penalized, “totally unnecessary” and said he thought college football’s targeting rule might have it right by ejecting players guilty of such infractions.

Ryan said the team will wait and see how running back LeSean McCoy’s hamstring feels as the week unfolds. McCoy was listed as questionable to play on Sunday and had to leave early after feeling pain in the hamstring. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is in the concussion protocol and Ryan said he hopes wide receiver Robert Woods and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus will be able to play this week.

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Jalen Ramsey on fighting: I’d do it again, I won’t be disrespected

#20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars against the Baltimore Ravens at EverBank Field on September 25, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was ejected from Sunday’s loss to the Raiders for fighting with Raiders wide receiver Johnny Holton after Raiders punter Marquette King ran 26 yards for a first down after a botched snap.

Ramsey was the second Jaguars defender ejected from the game with defensive tackle Malik Jackson also getting the thumb after he was penalized twice for unsportsmanlike conduct. Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said he thought the ejections were “unacceptable” and that the behavior was something the team “can’t tolerate,” but Ramsey expressed a different point of view on Monday.

“They don’t want me to say this but I would do it again. I won’t be disrespected,” Ramsey said, via Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union.

Jackson said, via Philip Heilman of, that he understands there’s a “line to toe” and that he’d apologize by playing his hardest against the Titans this Thursday.

The Jaguars had 13 penalties for 122 yards overall in the game, something that doesn’t reflect well on the amount of discipline in place under coach Gus Bradley. Bradley’s record doesn’t speak that well for him either and he may need big improvements on both fronts to continue in his current role.

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Jameis Winston on pace for 136 hits

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 23:  Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signals against the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston never shies away from contact. But maybe, once in a while, he should.

As noted by the folks at, Winston took nine hits in Sunday’s win over the 49ers. That’s 51 for the year, which translates to 136 for a 16-game season.

Last year, Winston led all quarterbacks with 109 hits. This year, more fit and mobile, Winston is encountering (if not embracing) even more contact.

At some point, Winston’s approach could get him injured, under the basic theory that more hits equal more opportunities to eventually absorb a hit that keeps the player from playing.

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