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League won’t fine Kuechly

Kuechly Getty Images

Yes. Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly was ejected from Sunday’s game for making contact with an official.  No, he won’t be fined.

Yes (or no?), that’s not inconsistent.

Per a league source, Kuechly won’t be fined for that which got him ejected.  The decision not to fine Kuechly was first reported by Ed Werder of ESPN.

Kuechly won’t be fined because he didn’t know he was making contact with an official.  But while inadvertence and the absence of intent won’t get Kuechly fined, the league believes the right call was made to kick Kuechly out.

It’s a delicate balance.  If a strict liability standard applies when it comes to contact with officials, a player who makes inadvertent, unintentional contact with an official should be both ejected and fined.

Maybe an ejection but no fine is the right balance to strike where the contact wasn’t intended.  Still, it’s hard to reconcile the rules as written with their application.

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League introduces NFL Sportsmanship Award

2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Getty Images

The NFL has announced that a new annual Sportsmanship Award, to be determined by a player vote, will be given out on the day before the Super Bowl.

The announcement comes at a time when the league is eager to promote its high-character players while ugly cases of off-field misconduct have cast the NFL in a negative light. The Sportsmanship Award will join the league’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which recognizes good works off the field, in putting a spotlight on those players who conduct themselves the right way.

Other leagues including the NBA and the NHL already have awards for sportsmanship, but this will be the first season in which the NFL gives such an award.

Each team will nominate one player from its own team for the Sportsmanship Award. The league has appointed a panel of former players — Warrick Dunn, Curtis Martin, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler — to take the list of 32 nominees and come up with a list of eight finalists. Then the active players will vote among the eight finalists at the same time that they vote on the Pro Bowl rosters.

The recipient of the Sportsmanship Award will get a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice from the NFL Foundation.

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Eagles getting some bodies back in practice, including Darren Sproles

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Eagles got some needed rest over the bye week, and they got some guys back on the practice field today.

According to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com, the Eagles got center Jason Kelce, running back Darren Sproles and linebacker Mychal Kendricks back on the practice field today.

While that’s no guarantee they’ll play this week against the Cardinals this week, it’s still a good sign for a team that has played well through injuries this season.

Sproles sprained his MCL two weeks ago against the Giants, and the thought was he might miss some time but that it wasn’t that serious.

Kelce’s been out after sports hernia surgery, and was originally targeting a Week 10 return.

Kendricks has been out since Week Two with a calf injury, so today’s work might be the beginning of easing him back into the lineup.

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Bears fan beaten, critically injured while tailgating

Seahawks Bears Football AP

Another NFL fan has been the victim in an ugly incident of apparent violence before a game.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that a 57-year-old man is in critical condition after he was beaten up in a parking lot near Soldier Field while tailgating on Sunday morning.

Police say the man got into “an argument that turned physical” and was found near his SUV with trauma to the head and face. The victim was found to be “heavily intoxicated.”

The man is currently at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. No arrests have been made.

As the NFL continues to say it wants to make attending games a better experience for the fans, making the stadiums safer should be a high priority. This is the second case this month of a fan being seriously injured in an altercation before a game even started; a 49ers fan who was beaten up before a game at Levi’s Stadium was left partially paralyzed.

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PFT Live: Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, Redskins talk with Rich Tandler

Tennessee Titans v Washington Redskins Getty Images

The Redskins are preparing to start their third quarterback of the season this weekend with Colt McCoy in line to get the nod unless Robert Griffin III is deemed healthy enough to make his return.

Rich Tandler of CSN Washington will join Mike Florio on Tuesday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss the revolving door at quarterback and when Griffin will be able to walk back through it. They’ll also discuss whether the team should start their preferred quarterback or keep him on the bench until the second quarter given the fact that the Redskins have only won games this season when they’ve replaced their starting quarterback.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times will also be on the show to talk with Florio about the latest developments regarding a team finding its way to the City of Angels.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Ahtyba Rubin may need ankle surgery

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Browns have had a hard time stopping the run all season, including last Sunday when former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson went over 100 yards while helping the Jaguars to their first win of the season.

It hasn’t helped that they’ve been missing nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin for the last couple of weeks and their chances of getting him back for this week’s game aren’t looking great. Rubin is headed for another opinion on his injured ankle and coach Mike Pettine suggested that Rubin might need surgery before he can return to the lineup.

“We did get another opinion,” Pettine said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “We’re just awaiting word back on it. I haven’t heard [surgery] brought up yet, but I’m assuming that could be the case.”

The Browns are also playing without defensive end Phil Taylor, who is recovering from knee surgery and is expected to miss a third straight game this week. The Browns are down two starters with Rubin and Taylor out of the lineup, although Oakland’s past performances this season suggest that they might not be able to take full advantage of the missing pieces.

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Reggie Bush says he’s good to go this week

Rafael Bush, Reggie Bush AP

The Lions have had two key offensive players dealing with ankle injuries recently and they got little help from either of them as they came back to beat the Saints in the second half last Sunday.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson never suited up for the game and running back Reggie Bush was mostly relegated to the sideline after returning to the lineup from a week off against the Vikings. Bush played in the first half, but Joique Bell got most of the work down the stretch because Bush’s ankle was bothering him. Bush is adamant that he’ll be back in the lineup for Sunday’s matchup with the Falcons in London.

“I’m fine,” Bush said, via MLive.com. “I mean, I’m not 100 percent. But I haven’t been 100 percent since high school. Got rolled up on a few times and injured in the game. But I felt fine after the game, though. Didn’t have any setbacks, and that’s the most important thing. Looking to just continue to progress every week. I’ll be on the field Sunday.”

Bush had nine touches totaling 32 yards against the Saints and it has been several weeks since he’s given much of a boost to the Lions’ offensive attack. If the Falcons put up the kind of effort we’ve seen from them the last few weeks, Detroit might not need much from Bush to get a win and go on a bye that will give him and Johnson some extra time to get right before the second half of the season.

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Titans to promote running back Antonio Andrews

Titans AP

The Titans had an extra roster spot, created when tight end Brett Brackett was cut on Monday.

So they’ve apparently decided to fill it by promoting one of their own.
According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean, the Titans plan to sign running back Antonio Andrews off their practice squad.
Another team had shown interest in signing him, but he sent out word on Twitter this morning that he was “activated.”
The Titans are carrying five running backs at the moment, but Shonn Greene has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.
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ESPN confirms that Aldon Smith could be back early

Smith AP

More than a few eyebrows were raised on Sunday night when PFT reported that 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith could be back one or two games early on his nine-game suspension.

G.M. Trent Baalke quickly said he didn’t know anything about it.  On Monday, coach Jim Harbaugh said the same thing.  (Hey, at least Baalke and Harbaugh agree on something.)

On Monday night, Chris Mortensen of ESPN confirmed the PFT report.

Mortensen points out that the move wouldn’t be unprecedented, citing the reduction in Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s six-game suspension to four games in 2010.  But there’s a big difference in Smith’s case.  Roethlisberger — and the rest of the world — knew that his suspension could be reduced.  When Smith was suspended, the NFL said nothing publicly about a possible reduction.

With the 49ers currently on a bye, the NFL doesn’t need to say anything immediately.  Next Monday or Tuesday, the league could say that Smith will be back for the November 2 game against the Rams.  Or the following Monday or Tuesday, the league could say that Smith will be back for the November 9 game against the Saints.

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Broncos elevate Kapri Bibbs from practice squad

Kapri Bibbs, Caesar Rayford AP

The Broncos won’t have running back Montee Ball back for Thursday’s game against the Chargers and their backfield will have a different look than it has in the past two games without Ball.

Denver signed running back Kapri Bibbs off of their practice squad and he’ll join Ronnie Hillman, Juwan Thompson and C.J. Anderson at the position. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett was waived to make room for Bibbs on the active roster.

Bibbs signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in the offseason and ran for 84 yards and three touchdowns on 19 preseason carries. Bibbs played his college ball at nearby Colorado State, where he ran for 30 touchdowns in 2013. Ball and Barry Sanders are the only other players to pull off that feat at the highest level of NCAA football.

That scoring touch may have caught the eye of other teams and led the Broncos to promote Bibbs before someone could sign him away. Mike Klis of the Denver Post reports that other teams had expressed interest in doing just that.

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Kyle Long says he shouldn’t blame fans, blames media instead

Matt Forte, Kyle Long AP

Given some time to stretch, Bears guard Kyle Long was able to reach all the way up to take the foot out of his mouth.

After blaming Bears fans (Yep, it was their fault) in the aftermath of Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, Long came back Monday and told WXRT-FM that “it was wrong for me to point fingers at the fans.”

“I just think [reporters] had asked everybody in the locker room how they felt about [fans booing], and a lot of the guys didn’t take the bait,” Long said, via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “Obviously emotions are running high after a game. Obviously if we were giving them something to cheer about there would be a lot more cheers coming off the field at halftime. Hopefully the score would be a little bit closer as well.

That falls on our shoulders. It’s unfair to put it on the fans. There was a lot of frustration after the game. You work hard all week. You’re trying to string some wins together. You’re at home. You feel like you’re riding some momentum, and to be down 14-0 going into the half, it’s tough. It’s tough on everybody.”

So it’s not solely the fans’ fault. The media is partly to blame too. They must get tired, what with making concussion symptoms linger and now this.

At least Long realized that antagonizing the paying customers wasn’t the right call for a 3-4 team that’s slipping out of contention for the NFC North title.

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Bucs expected to sign Trindon Holliday

Trindon Holliday AP

The Buccaneers worked out kick returner Trindon Holliday on Monday and things appear to have gone well.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the team plans to sign the veteran returner to their 53-man roster. Holliday signed with the Giants in the offseason, but he came down with a hamstring injury in the summer and landed on injured reserve. The Giants released Holliday from injured reserve earlier this month, leaving him free to sign anywhere.

Holliday scored four times for the Broncos over the last two seasons — twice on kickoff returns and twice on punt returns — but also fumbled 10 times, which makes him pretty much the definition of a boom or bust return option. The Bucs will naturally be hoping for more boom, especially with Holliday offering nothing but return work to his team.

There’s no word on a corresponding move, but it’s probably not great news for current Bucs returner Solomon Patton that the team is looking for a new player at his position.

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Jason Pierre-Paul: Don’t count us out yet

Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants have lost their last two games in fairly convincing fashion, but that’s not shaking defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s confidence in what the team can achieve this season.

Pierre-Paul has looked at the Giants’ schedule — they host the Colts, travel to Seattle and then return home for the 49ers and Cowboys — when they return from this week’s bye and thinks the team can handle whatever those teams and the others still to come will throw their way.

“Let’s win all nine games. I think we can do it,” Pierre-Paul said, via the New York Daily News. “We just have to believe. There’s a lot of football to be played. Don’t count us out yet.”

A nine-game winning streak probably isn’t in the cards, even with Pierre-Paul playing at a level similar to his 2011 breakout season, but it is hard to know just what the Giants will do over the second half. They were abysmal to open the year, but then looked like they were rounding into form during a three-game winning streak before taking backward steps the last two weeks. If they can iron some things out during the bye week and get back to the way they were playing during the winning streak, being in contention down the stretch doesn’t feel like a major stretch.

Those next four games are tough, though, and it’s not any more of a stretch to think they’ll remain a work in progress until it’s too late to find a path into the playoffs.

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Sean Payton: Drew Brees is the least of our worries

Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Saints quarterback Drew Brees said that he felt like he let the team down last Sunday when he threw a late interception that wound up setting the Lions up for their game-winning score.

It was part of a rough fourth quarter overall for Brees, who completed only three of the 14 passes he tried in the final 15 minutes of a game that the Saints led by 13 points before losing 24-23. When it comes to preparing for future opponents, though, coach Sean Payton’s concerns will be about other spots on the roster.

“I just finished talking with him, obviously he would want to have the one interception back,” Payton said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “But I felt like his decision making, rhythm — I felt like his week of preparation and how he played all during practice week was outstanding. He is going to be just fine. He is the least of our worries.”

Brees has thrown seven interceptions this year which amounts to 2.7 percent of his passes. That’s up from last year, but it is in line with career norms and not surprising given the need to throw a lot in order to keep up with the points being given up by the defense.

The Saints are scoring 25.8 points per game, which is essentially the same as what they scored while making the playoffs last season. They allowed 19 points per game in 2013, a number that has skyrocketed to 27.5 points per game this year. If you’re listing worries about the Saints, defensive ones are going to take up most of the top spots on the list.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

T.Y. Hilton, Dwayne Allen AP

The Bills will get a chance to see if their trade for RB Bryce Brown paid off.

The Dolphins have sowed optimism and distrust with their performances thus far.

DT Vince Wilfork continues to play a crucial role in the team’s defense.

LB Quinton Coples is expected to start for the Jets this week after his playing time dropped in Week Seven.

Ravens CB Lardarius Webb played every snap in last Sunday’s win.

Ten things that led to the Bengals losing 27-0 to the Colts.

C Alex Mack’s injury created a new challenge for the Browns offense.

Rookie WR Martavis Bryant sparked the Steelers’ deep passing game.

Said Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick of the team blowing a lead on Monday night, “It was miserable and just a terrible, terrible display of offensive football by us.”

Colts TE Dwayne Allen has continued to show improvement this season.

The Jaguars are losing a lot with LB Paul Posluszny out for the rest of the season.

Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt was happy with S Michael Griffin’s ability to bounce back from mistakes against the Redskins.

Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware have sparked the Broncos defense.

The Chiefs offense showed progress late in the win over the Chargers.

The Raiders are now using QB Matt Schaub as their holder.

Chargers LB Dwight Freeney will get his chance to sack Peyton Manning this week.

An efficient performance last Sunday has led to praise for Cowboys QB Tony Romo.

The talent on hand might not be enough to fix the Giants’ problems at the point of attack.

The Eagles are hopeful that LB Mychal Kendricks can return this week.

QB Colt McCoy got in a little hunting practice at Redskins headquarters.

Has the league figured out the Bears offense?

Lions coach Jim Caldwell likes his team’s fighting spirit.

The Packers broke a lot of tackles for the Panthers.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer lamented not calling a timeout before the Bills converted a 4th-and-20 on the way to their winning touchdown.

The Falcons haven’t found a way to consistently protect QB Matt Ryan.

The Panthers defense isn’t doing too much swarming these days.

Wednesday’s injury report should be a long one for the Saints.

The Buccaneers are feeling refreshed after their bye.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians says his team is mostly healthy heading into Week Eight.

Last Sunday’s trickery fit right into Rams coach Jeff Fisher’s history.

Marcus Martin is the next man up at center for the 49ers.

It looks like the Seahawks will get CB Byron Maxwell back in the secondary.

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