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Drew Brees sits out scrimmage with strained oblique

Drew Brees AP

Saints quarterback Drew Brees might be able to play until he’s 45, but he wasn’t able to scrimmage Saturday.

According to Evan Woodbery of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Brees was held out of the scrimmage because of a strained left oblique.

Saints coach Sean Payton doesn’t normally say much if at all about injuries, but acknowledged that Brees was “day to day” as the team continued to “monitor” the situation.

The Saints have a day off, so Brees will have some time to rest and recover.

In his absence, they used both Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin with the first team.

Obviously, Brees’ condition is worth watching, to see if it lingers.

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Eric Decker’s wife makes Twitter war worse, then retreats

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We noted yesterday that new Jets wide receiver invited the wrath of Jets fans on Twitter when he made the mistake of asking for some honest feedback.

Now, his wife has gone and made it worse.

Via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News, country music singer Jessie James Decker took a poke at the Jets fans who mocked Decker, probably not helping things.

“You think he really cares what y’all think haters? He’s laughing his ass alllll the way home…. Life is pretty good here. Can’t complain,” she wrote on Twitter.

Of course, her bio claimed “I pee in the shower,” so delicate public relations skill isn’t her forte either. She’s since deleted her Twitter account.

To his credit, the Jets wideout said “you’ve got to expect that,” regarding the blowback to his initial attempt, and tried to play nice.

“I don’t think it’s against the law to try to unite or reach out to fans,” he said. “People obviously enjoy winning a lot more than losing, I get that. For me, that’s the biggest thing, making fans feel like they are important, because they are.

“Obviously I wish things could be different. I didn’t expect everything to be all happy and gung-ho; I knew I was going to get some sarcastic remarks.”

So at least he handled them better than his wife did.

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49ers getting away from printed tickets

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Ticket stubs will soon be going the way of the dodo bird.

According to Don Muret of SportsBusiness Daily, the 49ers will stop printing tickets to games in 2015.

The decision flows from heavy adoption of the team’s mobile ticketing device.  The 49ers expect 30,000 fans to use mobile ticketing for Sunday’s game against the Rams.

“Our goal when we launched this system was to drive adoption and the numbers have been mind-boggling,” COO Al Guido told Muret. “We want to rip the Band-Aid in year two, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Customers will still be able to print tickets at home, but gone are the days of the collectible piece of tangible proof of attendance at a game.

“We’ll be using those dollars for other gifts,” Guido said.

Of course, in 18 years those duffel bags, ear phones, and wireless chargers will be long gone.  Unlike, for example, the ticket stub from the 1995 AFC title game in Pittsburgh, where it cost a mere $65 to see Bill Cowher’s Steelers narrowly beat 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and the Colts.  (It’s not for sale, but if it were, it would cost more than $65.)

At a time when the NFL wants to make the in-stadium experience better than the at-home experience, giving the fans something that will make going to the game even more memorable doesn’t hurt.  Here’s hoping other teams won’t follow the 49ers’ lead on this one.

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Nick Foles: I have to do a better job

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People with realistic expectations for the 2014 season knew that Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was going to throw more interceptions this season.

He threw picks on a minuscule 0.6 percent of his throws last season, a number that wasn’t going to be sustainable for another season. Even those who knew Foles would be throwing more interceptions may not have expected him to throw quite as many as he’s been throwing.

As it’s turned out, Foles has thrown interceptions in all but one game this season and he’s thrown seven in the last four games. That’s led to criticism of his footwork and decision making, some of it from Eagles coach Chip Kelly, and work in the film room on identifying the problems. Foles knows that more is expected of him and that continuing to talk about the issues won’t do anything to make them better.

“I’m the decision-maker on offense,” Foles said, via ESPN.com. “I have the ball every single play. Yes, I have to do a better job. Words can’t describe it. I have to go out here and keep working. It doesn’t feel good at times. You have to keep working on fundamentals and on decision-making. I’m going to keep working, and I’m going to fix it. My words don’t mean anything. I have to go out here, and I have to prove it.”

Foles will try to stop the flood of interceptions against J.J. Watt and the Texans in Houston this weekend.

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Difference in schedules gives Panthers somewhat of a chance

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The Saints took control of the NFC South race Thursday night.

Such that a 4-4 team can be in control of anything.

They’re now clear of the 3-5-1 Panthers after last night’s 28-10 win in Charlotte, but nothing is as it appears in the dirty south (The NSFW South?).

The Saints have the edge now, but play a tougher schedule down the stretch, significantly tougher than the Panthers.

In fact, after playing the Eagles on the road next Monday night, the only team the Panthers play the rest of the season which has a winning record now is the Browns (and no that’s not a typo).

The combined record of the rest of the Panthers’ opponents is 21-32. Of course, those teams are looking at the Panthers as examples of the relative strength of their own schedules as well.

The Saints, meanwhile, have to play some actual teams. Their next three opponents, all at home, are a combined 13-8-1 (San Francisco, Cincinnati and Baltimore).

Then come road trips to Pittsburgh and Chicago, and they haven’t been a particularly good cold weather team outdoors. Their opponents’ record the rest of the way is 27-33-2. That’s not good, but it’s Bataan-like compared to the Panthers’ schedule.

Heck, at that rate, even the 2-6 Falcons aren’t really out of it.

(Tried to type this with straight face. Couldn’t. Sorry.)

But as clean as the Saints have looked the last two games, and as hapless as the Panthers have looked the last seven (1-5-1), this division and the home playoff game that comes with it isn’t settled by a long shot.

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Junior Galette: We didn’t listen to the white noise of criticism

New Orleans at Carolina Getty Images

Linebacker Junior Galette made one of the biggest plays of Thursday night’s Saints win when he hit Panthers quarterback Cam Newton from behind in the second quarter to force a fumble that New Orleans recovered on the doorstep of the end zone.

They cashed in with the first points of the game a few plays later and the Saints were off and running to their first road win of the season. The win improved their record for the season to 4-4 and continued a trend of improved defense that has led to 12 sacks over the teams last 13 quarters of action and a 3-1 record. That unit drew a lot of criticism early this season, but Galette said the team never let it get to them.

“We didn’t listen to the white noise,” Galette said, via ESPN.com. “And here we are, first place in the division, and we can’t get complacent. We still won’t listen to the white noise and the good things people will say about us. Because we know how bad it feels when you’re down. So we’re just gonna keep our foot on the gas and not look back.”

As Galette noted, the win moved the Saints into the lead in the NFC South. The play of the defense, which shut Carolina out in the first half despite two turnovers by their offense, over the last month is a good development for their chances of remaining there the rest of the way.

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DeAngelo Hall tears Achilles tendon, again

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Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall has torn his Achilles tendon.  Yes, he did it last month.  He also has now done it again.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Hall re-tore the tendon this week.  He’ll need to have a second surgery to repair it.

The good news, if there is any, is that the second injury has happened early enough that Hall should be able to get ready for the 2015 season.  But his rehab could be a little more tentative this time around, given that the thing has torn again.

Washington has adjusted well to the absence of the team’s best cover corner, especially since Bashaud Breeland has continued to develop well in his rookie season.

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Saints blast NFL for short turnaround from SNF to TNF on road

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Saints coach Sean Payton held his tongue all week.

But after beating the Panthers on the road Thursday night (which followed beating the Packers Sunday night), Payton was finally ready to let the NFL know how he felt.

I just think it’s foolish,” Payton said, via Katherine Terrell of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I’ve got three guys that are hurt in there now.”

Right tackle Zach Strief left the game with a back injury. Wide receiver Kenny Stills (groin) and running back Mark Ingram (shoulder) got dinged up but returned.

The Saints didn’t send a player to the NFL Network’s post-game set either, a quiet protest.

Nobody likes Thursday games except the people who count money, and Payton gets that he has to play them sometimes. He just objected to losing an entire Sunday by playing a night game then having to travel on Wednesday.

When the Broncos did the Sunday night-Thursday double, they got to play both games at home.

“I think the challenges were obvious with regards to logistics,” Payton said. “Thursday night games are one thing, but to come out and play on a Sunday night and come back and play on a Thursday. It’s not an excuse for your players, you don’t want it to be, but I would say it’s crazy. It’s silly. It shouldn’t happen.

“When you actually go through the logistics and see what your players go through, they get out of the stadium Sunday night at midnight. And look, it’s an easy thing to fix.”

That’s why Strief said he didn’t buy the league’s contention that Thursdays had no affect on health and safety.

“At the end of the day, it’s baloney,” Strief said. “Do you think it’s fair to play a night game and then turn around and travel and play on a Thursday? Being conscious of player safety, why would you do that? . . .

“Nobody wants to hear it,” he said. “What difference does it make if you’re upset about it? It makes no difference about it. What’s the point in complaining? Control what you can control.”

The Saints did that on the field, handling the undermanned Panthers easily. But then it was time to talk.

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Tony Jefferson cleared from concussion

Michael Crabtree, Larry Foote, Tony Jefferson AP

When the week opened, the Cardinals were looking at potentially facing the Cowboys without two key members of their defensive backfield because of concussions.

Now, though, they’ll almost certainly have both cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tony Jefferson in the lineup for their date with Dallas. Peterson was cleared to practice on Wednesday and got in a full workout on Thursday, putting him firmly on track to return to action.

Jefferson was a day behind Peterson, but the result is the same. Jefferson was limited in practice on Thursday, his first day on the field this week, and Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports that he got full clearance later in the day after passing his final test in the concussion protocol.

Jefferson has 50 tackles and a sack as one of the the four safeties who see notable playing time in the Cardinals Defense and his presence will be a welcome one as the Cardinals try to remain the frontrunner in the NFC in Dallas this weekend.

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Cam Newton takes the blame for Panthers’ loss

camnewton AP

Cam Newton had one of the worst games of his career on Thursday night, completing just 10 of his 28 passes, for 151 yards with an interception and a fumble. Afterward, he put the blame on his own shoulders.

“I know I missed a lot of throws,” Newton said, “and I’m not blaming anybody but myself.”

Newton is right: He did miss a lot of throws, and the Panthers missed on some potential big plays as a result. Although Newton had a solid game running the ball, gaining 43 yards and scoring on a 10-yard run, this was a rough night for him.

And it was a night when the Panthers fell to 3-5-1 and ceded first place in the NFC South to New Orleans. This is now the Saints’ division to lose.

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No sign of settlement talks in Rice appeal hearing, yet

Ray Rice AP

From the moment former federal judge Barbara S. Jones decided that Commissioner Roger Goodell will testify in the Ray Rice appeal hearing, a distinct possibility emerged that the challenge to Rice’s indefinite suspension will be resolved.

And while a settlement could indeed come at some point before the hearing commences on November 5, there’s no current indication of any negotiations aimed at concluding the case without requiring Goodell to answer questions under oath from lawyers Jeffrey Kessler or Peter Ginsberg or, possibly, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith himself.

Settling the case wouldn’t be a simple process.  Simply reinstating Rice surely wouldn’t cut it.  Rice would also want compensation for some of the time he already has missed as a result of a second punishment that prevented him from returning after Week Two, the duration of his original suspension.

Then there’s the reality that the financial value of avoiding the appeal hearing could be worth much more to the NFL than whatever it would take to fairly compensate Rice.  And Rice’s lawyers surely know this.

Settling the appeal also would create a delicate P.R. situation for the league, creating the impression for some that the NFL hopes not to do the right thing with Rice but to protect Goodell from having to answer questions about what happened — especially since anything Goodell says while testifying can be used against him by investigator Robert Mueller, who surely will be examining all testimony to compare it to the things that were said by those same witnesses when meeting with members of Mueller’s team.

So at this point a settlement would be a surprise, even if a settlement ultimate would make the most sense for everyone involved.

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Keenan Lewis shuts down Kelvin Benjamin

Lewis Getty Images

Many factors contributed to the Saints’ 28-10 win over the Panthers in Charlotte.  One that deserves some specific attention comes from the matchup between Carolina rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin and New Orleans cornerback Keenan Lewis.

Lewis wasn’t supposed to be able to handle Benjamin, because Benjamin stands four inches taller than Lewis — and because Benjamin quickly has become one of the best young receivers in the league.  Lewis got the job done, limiting Benjamin to a career low two catches for 18 yards.  And Lewis doesn’t appreciate the presumption that he can’t cover a guy like Benjamin.

Definitely, I take it personal,” Lewis said after the game, via Katherine Terrell of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.  “I have pride in what I do. . . .  I definitely feel like I’m one of the best in this league, even though I don’t get the credit.  To say I can’t match up with somebody, that definitely offends me.”

Lewis got credit Thursday night from the guy whose opinion matters most.

“You watch Keenan Lewis, I just finished telling him, he was outstanding,” coach Sean Payton said.

That doesn’t mean it was east for Lewis.

“He scared me!” Lewis said. “It’s definitely a matchup I have to prepare for, for years.”

Or maybe he was being sarcastic.  Based on how Benjamin did last night against Lewis, that’s definitely possible.

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Greg Roman “pretty darned pleased” with Marcus Lattimore

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Marcus Lattimore returned to practice for the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday for the first time this season.

The second-year running back from South Carolina has yet to play in an NFL game after being drafted by the 49ers in 2013. Lattimore suffered a devastating knee injury in college and has yet to be healthy enough to play in a game. He began the season on the non-football injury list for San Francisco and the team now has 21 days to evaluate Lattimore before making a decision to put him on the active roster or face another wasted season on injured reserve.

However, early impressions from offensive coordinator Greg Roman seem to indicate Lattimore has a chance to get on the field this season.

It was good, very good … great to see him out there,” Roman said via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. “He worked with [running backs] Coach [Tom] Rathman after practice extra and got with some of the defensive players and got some contact work, which was really good. And I know they looked at that this morning in a pretty early meeting.

“He’s got his window and there’s a good plan in place to kind of progress him through that window and see where he’s at. Was pretty darned pleased.”

The 49ers only have two running backs on their active roster right now in Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde. Lattimore, if healthy, could bring some additional depth to a position that hasn’t been as successful for San Francisco as they’ve shown in past seasons.

 

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Seahawks hurting at center as Stephen Schilling misses practice Thursday

Max Unger, J.R. Sweezy AP

The Seattle Seahawks could be short-handed at center this week for their game against the Oakland Raiders.

Stephen Schilling has started the last three games at center in relief of an injured Max Unger. However, Schilling did not practice on Thursday due to a knee injury.

Unger has missed the last three games for Seattle after suffering a sprained foot against Washington earlier this month. While Unger has been limited in practice the last two days, his availability for Sunday’s game  also remains in doubt.

With Schilling sitting and Unger limited, Patrick Lewis picked up the additional workload for Seattle on Thursday. However, Lewis has only appeared in one game in his career, which was in brief relief of Schilling in St. Louis two weeks ago.

It remains to be seen whether Schilling’s knee injury is anything of concern or more just a day off to manage soreness. If it is an issue, it could lead to Unger having to suit up even if he’s not at 100 percent or Lewis getting the first extended playing opportunity of his career.

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Saints pick up first road victory of year 28-10 over Panthers

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After a sloppy first half that featured multiple turnovers by both teams, the New Orleans Saints kicked the offense into gear and cruised to a 28-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers for their first road win of the season.

Mark Ingram rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns and Drew Brees added two touchdowns of his own – one passing and one rushing – to lead the Saints into the lead into the NFC south. Ingram is the first New Orleans running back to rush for 100 yards in consecutive games since Deuce McAllister in 2006.

The Saints had lost their first four games away from the Superdome this season and won all three games played at home prior to Thursday night. Now the Saints get four of their five games at home and appear primed to take control of the division after a slow start to the season.

Brees was intercepted by Dwan Edwards on the Saints opening possession and fumbled away the ball on their second drive of the game. However, the Panthers Offense could not capitalize on the turnovers. After a Cam Newton fumble, New Orleans responded with touchdowns on four of five possessions to put the game out of reach.

Newton was sacked and fumbled to give the Saints the ball at the Panthers 5-yard line. Ingram punched in the ball from three yards out to give the Saints the lead.

The Saints followed with a lightning quick 10-play, 85-yard drive before halftime that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham to take a 14-0 lead into the locker room.

Newton scrambled for a 10-yard touchdown run cap a 10-play, 81-yard drive for the Panthers first points of the night.

Newton dumped a pass to DeAngelo Williams that Wiliams turned into a 30-yard gain to open the drive. After a potential touchdown pass was dropped by Kelvin Benjamin in the end zone, Newton pirouetted away from pressure and escaped the pocket to his left. Newton dived for the goal line and managed to get the ball to cross over the line for the touchdown.

Newton had a poor night passing. He completed just 10 of 28 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.

New Orleans answered right back with Brees quickly sneaking the ball over the goal line to extend the Saints lead to 21-7. After a Graham Gano field goal for Carolina, Ingram added his second 3-yard scoring effort of the night to put the game away.

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Rams sign QB Case Keenum to practice squad

Case Keenum AP

The Rams have brought back Case Keenum.

St. Louis signed Keenum, the ex-Texans quarterback, to its practice squad on Thursday, according to the NFL’s transaction log.

The Rams waived Keenum on Tuesday. When he cleared waivers Wednesday, he was eligible to be added to the practice squad.

The 26-year-old Keenum started eight games for Houston in 2013. However, the Texans overhauled their QB depth chart entering this season, and Keenum lost his spot. The Rams claimed him on waivers from the Texans on Sept. 1.

The Rams are one of 19 teams carrying just two quarterbacks on the active roster. However, 14 of those clubs, including St. Louis, have at least one practice squad passer as insurance.

Overall, there are 78 quarterbacks on 53-player rosters, with 16 passers on practice squads, which were expanded to 10 players this season.

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