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Report: Steelers want to sign Cortez Allen to new contract

Cortez Allen AP

The Steelers are reportedly efforting to sign one of their starting defensive backs to a contract extension.

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the team wants to sign cornerback Cortez Allen to a new deal.

The 25-year-old Allen is in the final year of his contract. He has appeared in 44 games in three seasons with Pittsburgh, notching 121 tackles, defending 23 passes and recording four interceptions.

As a general rule, the Steelers don’t negotiate contracts during the regular season, so if Allen and Pittsburgh are to finalize a deal this year, it will have to be soon. Earlier this week, the club signed offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert to a five-year, $30 million contract.

The Steelers have long had a knack for signing their core players before they hit unrestricted free agency. Allen, who’s entering his prime, could draw quite a bit of interest next offseason, given his age and the demand for his position. But it appears Pittsburgh is working to strike a deal now.

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Le’Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount officially charged with marijuana possession

Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount AP

Steelers running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount are in Philadelphia to play the Eagles on Thursday, but they were in Pittsburgh on Wednesday when police found marijuana in a car the two men were in.

They were arrested and, on Thursday, formally charged with crimes. Ross Township Police detective Brian Kohlhepp informed PFT that Blount and Bell are both charged with marijuana possession, as was Mercedes Dollson, a 21-year-old woman who was also in the car at the time of the stop.

Bell, who was driving, has also been charged with driving under the influence of marijuana.

There’s no word on court dates at this point and the cases should take some time to make their way through the legal system. Until they do, it is unlikely that either player will face league discipline that could threaten their availability for games this season.

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Patriots cut TE D.J. Williams, DL Marcus Forston

D.J. Williams AP

The Patriots have made yet another roster move at the tight end position, announcing the release of D.J. Williams on Thursday.

A fourth-year pro from Arkansas, Williams appeared in two games for New England in the 2013 regular season. He has also played for Jacksonville (2013) and Green Bay (2011-2012).

The Packers selected the 25-year-old Williams in the fifth round in 2011. He reportedly has dealt with a leg injury of late.

The move leaves the Patriots with four tight ends.

The Patriots also announced the release of defensive lineman Marcus Forston, a second-year pro who played in three games for New England a season ago.

The Pats have three open roster spots.

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Ron Rivera wants Cam Newton to run, except he doesn’t

Cam Newton AP

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was able to survive his first game on a rebuilt left ankle, and even ran around a bit.

But as much as Panthers coach Ron Rivera holds his breath when Newton takes off, he also knows that that’s who Newton is, and when Newton’s at his best.

“I’m going to yell at him because I want him to get rid of the ball. But if he runs, he runs,” Rivera said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “He’s gotta do what he’s gotta do to protect himself. He’s gotta do what he’s gotta do to make plays. So if he runs, then I think it’s a great sign.”

Newton grinned and said he wasn’t much of a slider, but Rivera said his quarterback will need to adapt

“[Hornets owner] Michael Jordan used to go to the hole all the time and dunk,” Rivera said. “But if you ask Michael, he realized that later in his career, he had to develop that jumper. So he went work at it. Cam’s the same way. He needs to develop as a passer.

“In an interesting way, this may have been the best thing that happened to him in terms of his pure quarterbacking development. He’s had to stay in the pocket, he’s had to have good footwork, he’s had to step into his throws. I think this has been a plus for him.”

That and a suspect offensive line will keep Newton on the move this year, and time will tell if he’s ready to.

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Jamaal Charles returns to practice

Jamaal Charles AP

Running back Jamaal Charles missed last Sunday’s preseason game against the Panthers after suffering a foot injury while moving himself out of the dorm that the Chiefs were staying in during training camp and missed the first couple of practices this week as well, but his absence from the field came to an end on Thursday.

The only difference between his return to work and the days before his injury was that Charles was running the plays of the Vikings as a member of the scout team. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton explained that the team didn’t want to take snaps away from players who would definitely be in the lineup on Saturday night, a group that doesn’t include Charles at the moment.

“It’s just a way for (Charles) to get work and not take away from guys that are definitely playing in this game,” Sutton said, via ESPN.com. “He gives us a good look in there. I’m glad to see him out there, period.”

Running back De’Anthony Thomas also returned to practice on Thursday, but safety Eric Berry and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe remained out and are unlikely to be in the lineup against Minnesota.

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Eric Weems returns to the Falcons

Eric+Weems+Minnesota+Vikings+v+Chicago+Bears+1iFgZQFXrA7l Getty Images

On the next Hard Knocks: A veteran receiver and special teams ace returns, and a youngster gets cut for the fifth time in his NFL career.

Eric Weems, a wide receiver and return man who played for the Falcons from 2007 to 2011, re-signed with Atlanta today. Weems was a Pro Bowl kick returner for the Falcons in 2010 and is also a solid player on kick coverage.

Weems spent the last two seasons with the Bears and wasn’t as much of a contributor, either on offense or special teams, in Chicago as he had been in Atlanta. The Falcons know what they’re getting in Weems, and they like what they’re getting.

To make room for Weems on the 90-man roster, the Falcons waived wide receiver Jabin Sambrano. Although Sambrano has never played in a regular-season game, he has bounced around the league long enough to get cut by the Buccaneers and Jaguars, and get cut by the Colts twice. Now he can add the Falcons to his list.

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Steelers finally will make heavy use of no-huddle, supposedly

Steelers AP

In recent years, the Steelers have been talking about using the no-huddle more frequently.  This year, perhaps they mean it.

In 2013, the Steelers indeed found the gas pedal after an 0-4 start, increasing the use of the no-huddle attack from (per Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) 6.5 percent of the time to 25 percent of the time.

We practice it all the time,” center Maurkice Pouncey said, via Robinson.  “When we’re in the no-huddle, guys are locked in and communicating at a high level. It’s been very, very good for us, and we’ve got to keep building on it.”

“It’s big for us,” receiver Antonio Brown said. “[It's] going to be a key for us this year to get things going fast and catch defenses off-balance and let Ben pick and read his reads, and it gives us the opportunity to play fast.”

In Thursday night’s dress rehearsal against the Eagles (a team that used the no-huddle extensively in 2013), the Steelers have a chance to experiment with the placement of the proverbial pedal to the metal.

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Jimmy Smith, Asa Jackson ruled out for Ravens

Baltimore Ravens v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Ravens are going to be light on cornerbacks when they play the Redskins on Saturday.

Coach John Harbaugh said Thursday that neither Jimmy Smith nor Asa Jackson would play, although he said that Smith, who injured his chest against the Cowboys last week, could probably play if it were a regular season contest. He and Jackson, who is battling an ankle injury, join Lardarius Webb on the inactive list.

Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks will get the start for the Ravens with Terrence Brooks handling slot duties with the first team. Harbaugh sees an upside to the situation for the players and the team.

“It’s going to be an opportunity for those guys to go against the best for a long period of time,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com. “It’s going to be a good chance to evaluate where we’re at and give those guys an opportunity to prove they can play with the best.”

All three of the injured corners are expected to be healthy in time for the start of the regular season, although they may be a bit rusty if the injuries keep them off the field much longer.

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Bill O’Brien: Randy Bullock has edge to keep Texans’ kicker job

Shane Lechler, Randy Bullock AP

If Chris Boswell is going to win the Texans’ kicking job, he is going to have to catch incumbent Randy Bullock.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien indicated Thursday that Bullock is “in the lead” in the kicking battle, according to Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com.

A third-year pro from Texas A&M, Bullock connected on 26-of-35 field goals in 2013 for Houston, forcing touchbacks on 29-of-67 kickoffs. All nine of Bullock’s misses were from 40 yards and out.

Both Boswell and Bullock have hit each hit one field goal try this preseason. However, Boswell, an undrafted rookie from Rice, missed a pair of extra points in Houston’s 32-7 win vs. Atlanta on August 16.

The NFL’s longer extra point experiment has ended, leaving the customary chip shots for the rest of the exhibition season. But those one-point misses couldn’t have helped Boswell’s cause. That said, he’s still in the competition with Bullock, which gives him a chance to show Houston (and other clubs) what he can do.

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Pete Carroll: It’s time to get Marshawn Lynch some carries

Marshawn Lynch, Dan Quinn AP

The Seahawks started training camp without running back Marshawn Lynch because of Lynch’s holdout and they started working him back into the lineup during last week’s game against the Chargers.

Lynch played a handful of snaps, but never touched the ball before turning things over to Robert Turbin. Coach Pete Carroll said that Lynch will do more when the Seahawks face the Bears on Friday night.

“It’s time for him to get some carries and get involved a little bit. I really could not be more pleased with the conditioning level that he’s had, the consistency of practice and his preparation has been great. He’ll be ready to go and I know he’s looking forward to that too,” Lynch said, via Curtis Crabtree of PFT.

Lynch probably doesn’t need much preseason work to get ready for September and his body may even benefit from the lighter workload that he took as a result of his extended time away from the team this offseason. Turbin and Christine Michael have looked good in the first two games, giving the Seahawks enviable depth behind Lynch.

Carroll didn’t say whether or not Lynch and company would be running behind the team’s starting offensive line, which has yet to play together during the preseason, but they were practicing as a unit this week. That puts the Seahawks offense pretty close to ready for Week One heading into their regular season dress rehearsal.

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Jadeveon Clowney is OK, but status for Saturday undecided

Matt Ryan, Jadeveon Clowney AP

The Texans and Broncos wrapped up their joint practices on Thursday without linebacker Jadeveon Clowney.

Clowney left Wednesday’s practice early and went to the medical tent. Texans coach Bill O’Brien channelled his former boss Bill Belichick after the session by saying that he nothing about what happened to the first overall pick in May’s draft and wasn’t much more forthcoming on Thursday.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that O’Brien didn’t elaborate on what was bothering Clowney, who had sports hernia surgery during the offseason, but that the linebacker was fine. O’Brien said he hasn’t decided whether or not Clowney would play against the Broncos on Saturday yet.

That’s one of many decisions O’Brien has to make before the game. Running back Arian Foster, wide receiver Andre Johnson and linebacker Brian Cushing are all waiting to find out if they’ll get to play after wrapping up the week of practice.

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PFT Live: Will the Niners and Levi’s Stadium be ready for the regular season?

Niners’ insider Matt Maiocco discusses the poor turf that will be removed from Levi’s Stadium and the struggles the 49ers have faced so far in the preseason.

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PFT Live: Are changes coming in the Steelers backfield?

Steelers’ beat writer Ed Bouchette joins Mike Florio to discuss the situation involving LeGarrette Blount and Le’Veon Bell. Both Steelers RBs were pulled over by a cop who smelled marijuana coming from their car.

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PFT Live: NFL is being unfair to the Browns with Josh Gordon decision

Josh Gordon has waited 17 days to find out the result of his appeal to his yearlong suspension. Mike Florio wonders what has taken the NFL so long to get back to the Browns regarding his status.

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Bucs trade Kelcie McCray to Chiefs for Rishaw Johnson

Kansas City Chiefs v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Buccaneers have spent the summer looking for guards and they added another name to the hat in a trade with the Chiefs on Thursday.

Tampa acquired Rishaw Johnson from Kansas City in exchange for safety Kelcie McCray. Johnson had been in the mix for the right guard job with the Chiefs, but it would seem rookie Zach Fulton has taken that job and made it his own. He’ll presumably plunge into a similar competition with the Bucs, who have plugged Oniel Cousins in at left guard as they try to cobble things together on the interior of the line after Carl Nicks’s retirement.

Johnson played three games and made one start for the Chiefs last season.

McCray played 11 games for the Buccaneers and four for the Dolphins last year, recording 12 tackles during his time in Tampa. The Chiefs were in need of depth at safety after Sanders Commings was injured and Steve Gregory retired shortly after signing with the team.

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