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First England game has sparked firing of coach for two straight years

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20:  Head coach Joe Philbin of the Miami Dolphins looks on during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on September 20, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL begins its annual export of games to Europe on Sunday, with the 1-2 Colts and 0-3 Jaguars squaring off in London. The Jaguars specifically requested the earliest possible slot, given their history of improving after playing overseas.

But playing in the first England game comes with a risk. For each of the last two years, the initial London game has become a coaching Waterloo.

In 2014, a 38-14 loss to the Dolphins resulted in the termination of Raiders coach Dennis Allen, who went 8-28 during his time with the team.

Last year, the Dolphins fired coach Joe Philbin after a 27-14 loss to the Jets in London. Philbin finished his tenure in Miami with a 24-28 record.

This year, the 1-2 Colts face the 0-3 Jaguars in the first London game. A loss by the Jaguars would drop coach Gus Bradley to 12-40 since taking over in 2013, and it would fuel speculation that he’ll be released with 12 games left in 2016.

That would be a surprise, however. Although owner Shad Khan has made it clear on multiple occasions that the time for winning has arrived, there’s no indication that Khan would make a change this early in Bradley’s fourth year on the job.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who would stumble to 1-3 on the year with a loss to Jacksonville (which hung 50 on Indy last season), also isn’t in trouble, given the four-year contract he signed in January. (Philbin currently is on Pagano’s staff.)

Still, whoever loses on Sunday will be in the AFC South basement with 25 percent of the season in the books, and it will be the kind of start that could result in a change, sooner than later. For either team, an immediate change is unlikely, which would stop the Week Four London-and-done streak at two.

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Jameis Winston airing it out at a record pace

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter talks with quarterback Jameis Winston (3) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) AP

No quarterback in the NFL has thrown it more often than Jameis Winston this year. In fact, few have ever.

According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Winston’s 142 pass attempts are the second-most of any first or second-year quarterback in his first three games. Drew Bledsoe had 143 attempts in the first three games of 1993.

“My job is just to do whatever coach [Dirk] Koetter asks me to do,” the Buccaneers quarterback said. “Obviously, the way the games of been playing out, we have had to be in more passing situations. I just do what I’m coached to do. Go out there and try to get wins.”

There is the small matter of getting behind early against the Cardinals (52 attempts), and getting into a shootout with the Rams (a ridiculous 58) to inflate the passing numbers.

But offensive coordinator Todd Monken said the goal would be the first week, when they ran the ball 28 times and threw it 32 times against the Falcons.

“I think the first week is probably indicative of who we want to be,” Monken said. “Last year, being balanced. Obviously, being down at Arizona tends itself to skew it with out no huddle stuff. And really, this past week, if you look statistically in the first half, we had 33 snaps. We were pretty balanced. And then obviously, the second half, we had the drive and they got the strip-fumble. So now when you get behind two scores, and the time is running down, . . .

“But I don’t think anybody would say you want to be a team that’s throwing it as much as we’ve had to throw it. But I have been proud of our guys and I’ve been proud of Jameis and how he’s responded and kept competing.”

Of course, the Bucs were also without running back Doug Martin last week, which cuts into their ability to not pass on every down. But they need to get Winston some help in terms of health or play-calling, because he’s keeping a ridiculous pace.

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Jay Cutler back at practice, John Fox out sick

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears watches play against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bears coach John Fox said earlier this week that he doesn’t “think there are any givens” about Jay Cutler returning to the starting quarterback job once he’s recovered from the thumb injury that sidelined him in the team’s Week Three loss to the Cowboys.

Cutler took a step toward that recovery on Wednesday when he was a limited participant in the team’s first practice session of the week. Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Cutler was not wearing a brace on his thumb during the portion of the practice open to the media.

Cutler did some “light throwing” during that portion of the practice, but there won’t be any updates from Fox on Wednesday about the quarterback outlook for this weekend’s date with the Lions.

That’s not because Fox is being circumspect about such matters, although he usually is, but because Fox isn’t at the team’s facility because he’s home dealing with a case of the stomach flu. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is filling in and said that there wouldn’t be any word on whether it will be Cutler or Brian Hoyer.

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Belichick unfazed by Rex Ryan’s antics

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Patriots defeated the Cardinals 23-21.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s Belichick week for Bills coach Rex Ryan. The occasion, which comes while Tom Brady remains suspended, was marked by Ryan trying (key word: “trying”) to impersonate Belichick.

Ryan also pretended to be a reporter (Walt Patulski of the Buffalo News) during a conference call with receiver Julian Edelman, asking Edelman if he would be playing quarterback on Sunday.

So what does Belichick think of Rex being Rex?

“I’m just focused on getting ready for the Bills,” Belichick said. “I’m not really in tune to all of that. I’m sure it’s important to you guys but it’s not really anything I spend much time with.”

It’s no surprise, given Belichick’s overall style and demeanor. And while it’s easy to presume that, quietly, Belichick derives extra motivation from Ryan’s words and demeanor, Belichick’s record has proven, time and again, that he’s already sufficiently motivated, each and every week.

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DeSean Jackson not practicing Wednesday

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Rashad Ross #19 of the Washington Redskins celebrates with DeSean Jackson #11 after a touchdown in the first half against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Redskins emerged from last Sunday’s victory over the Giants with a slew of injured players and they’ve placed a couple of them on injured reserve this week.

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson wasn’t one of those two players, but he did go down at one point against the Giants. Jackson aggravated an ankle injury that kept him out of practice last Wednesday and left briefly before returning to action.

Jackson is not practicing again this Wednesday while the rest of the Redskins work on a rainy day. There’s a fair chance that’s precautionary after Jackson ramped his way up to a full practice on Friday last week, something that worked out well as Jackson caught a 44-yard touchdown pass as part of a five-catch/96-yard day overall.

Wide receiver Josh Doctson, cornerback Bashaud Breeland and guard Shawn Lauvao are also out of practice as the team starts working toward Sunday’s game against the Browns.

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J.J. Watt vows to return in social media statement

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22: J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans runs out with the American flag before playing against the New York Jets on November 22, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans defensive end J.J. Watt didn’t shed much light on his injury or his timetable, but he made one thing clear Wednesday — going on injured reserve will not prevent him from being J.J. Watt.

Watt posted a statement to social media, vowing to return and saying the kind of stuff he says a lot.

Adversity sucks, your attitude toward it doesn’t have to. I will be back,” he wrote on Twitter, followed by a lengthier statement.

“I haven’t missed a game since my sophomore year of high school,” it read. “This won’t be fun, but it is necessary in order for me to return to 100 percent and play at the level that I am capable of playing at. Everybody deals with adversity in their lives, many much worse than what I’m going through.

“I have great people around me and I appreciate the thoughts and well wishes from all of you. I am looking forward to the fight back to the top and to the next time that I can step back on that field with my brothers to play the game that I love. You are the best fans in the world and I promise to continue to do everything in in my power to make you proud.”

Watt had played every game since entering the league, but that streak will end this week now that he’s been placed on I.R. It’s unclear at the moment whether he’ll be able to return this year, after the recurrence of back problems which precipitated surgery late in the offseason.

And while corny, his statement also speaks to the kind of work he’s put in to become one of the league’s top defensive players, with 76.0 sacks in 83 games (0.916 per game). To put his rate into context, all-time sack leader Bruce Smith averaged a sack every 0.716 games. Watt is already 69th on the all-time sack list.

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Cowboys place Charles Tapper on IR, add a tackle

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 21:  A helmet of the Dallas Cowboys during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 21, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys need some help on the offensive line this week, which means they ran out of time to wait for defensive end Charles Tapper to get healthy.

Tapper, a fourth-round pick this year, suffered a back injury this summer and made a brief return to practice last week before suffering a setback. He’ll now have at least eight weeks to continue healing after being placed on injured reserve.

The Cowboys signed tackle Emmett Cleary to take his spot on the active roster. Cleary has spent time with the Colts, Buccaneers, Raiders, Bengals and Giants without ever seeing action in a regular season game.

Cleary will provide some depth with left guard La’El Collins waiting to see if he’ll need surgery on his injured toe and left tackle Tyron Smith missing last Sunday’s game with back issues.

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Brissett says thumb feels fine, Garoppolo taking it day-by-day

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Jacoby Brissett #7 of the New England Patriots reacts after defeating the Houston Texans 27-0 at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Starting quarterbacks playing on Sunday usually speak to the media on Wednesday, although that setup requires teams to have a starting quarterback in place on Wednesday.

The Patriots don’t, which led to word on Wednesday morning that neither Jacoby Brissett nor Jimmy Garoppolo would be available to chat. That changed at some point, however, because both of the quarterbacks who have started for the Patriots this season met with reporters.

Brissett said, via Ryan Hannable of WEEI, that his right thumb feels fine and that he threw in Tuesday’s practice without any issues. Garoppolo said he’s taking it day-by-day with the shoulder injury he suffered in Week Two and doesn’t know if he’ll be able to play against the Bills.

“We’ll see on Sunday,” Garoppolo said.

None of that does much to clear up who will be quarterback for the Patriots this week, but there should be a lot less uncertainty next Wednesday with Tom Brady back in the building.

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Tim Tebow hits a home run in first professional at-bat, of course

Tim Tebow signs autographs for fans at the New York Mets' complex, Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback got to the complex early Monday, and started his first workout as part of their instructional league team. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) AP

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Tim Tebow’s attempt to play professional baseball.

But one thing that can’t be denied is the guy has an incredible amount of athletic talent.

The former Broncos first-rounder started his baseball career in just about the Tebow-est way possible today, hitting a home run to the opposite field in his first at-bat, via ESPN.

Tebow was signed by the Mets, and sent to their instructional league team in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Today’s game was against a bunch of Cardinals prospects, and from the video, it looks like the smallest crowd he’s ever played in front of.

It’s going to take more than one home run to forge a career, just as one playoff run with the Broncos wasn’t enough to cement his status as an NFL quarterback.

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Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright bide their time

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 12:  Laquon Treadwell #11 of the Minnesota Vikings runs the football upfield during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Vikings defeated Bengals 17-16.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Receiver Laquon Treadwell, a first-round pick of the Vikings, hasn’t played very much as a rookie. Veteran Jarius Wright, the former No. 1 slot receiver, isn’t playing very much in his fifth NFL season. Both hope things will change.

“It’s just motivation to keep working harder, to keep getting better,” Treadwell said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’m taking it a day at a time and continuing to learn. I’m still waiting for my time, that’s the biggest thing. Guys put in their time, and the coaches have a feel for what they can do to help the team. I think that relationship will grow.”

Treadwell was active in Week One at Tennessee, but he didn’t play. In Week Two, Treadwell dressed against the Packers, and he made it onto the field for two plays. In Week Three, Treadwell was a healthy scratch.

Coach Mike Zimmer compared Treadwell’s situation to the delayed emergence of Stefon Diggs as a rookie in 2015. Diggs did not play in the Vikings’ first three games of his rookie year.

Zimmer explained that Treadwell needs to work on running pass routes, and that he’s thinking too much when he does.

Wright has been relegated to a single snap through three games, thanks in part to the team’s decision to go with five receivers instead of six.

“My mindset, I’m not going to change who I am just because of the situation,” Wright said, via Tomasson. “I’m going to be Jarius Wright, continue to lead the receivers whether it’s on the field or off the field. I’m a team player first.”

Adam Thielen is the player the team has been using in the slot. Wright’s status sparked speculation that he could be traded or cut before the season began. It likely will take an injury to Thielen or another receiver to get Wright back on the field in Minnesota.

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Chargers sign Korey Toomer to fill Manti Te’o’s roster spot

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Linebacker Korey Toomer #54 of the Oakland Raiders warms up before a game on December 20, 2015 at Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Packers won 30-20. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers have had to sign far too many injury replacements this year, and they found their latest one inside the division.

According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chargers have signed linebacker Korey Toomer, formerly of the Raiders practice squad.

He’ll fill the roster spot vacated when Manti Te’o suffered a torn Achilles last week, making him the latest high-end talent the Chargers have lost this year after Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, among others.

Toomer was a fifth-round pick of the Seahawks in 2012, and has also played for the Cowboys and Rams. He has appeared in 18 career games, 10 last year with the Raiders.

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Patriots won’t make Garoppolo or Brissett available to the media on Wednesday

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 11: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the New England Patriots and Jimmy Garoppolo #10 look on during pre game drills before a pre season game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

For teams that play on Sunday, the starting quarterback usually is made available to the media on Wednesday. But there’s nothing usual this week about the starting quarterback position in New England.

Via Mike Giardi of CSN New England, the Patriots will make neither Jimmy Garoppolo nor Jacoby Brissett available to reporters on Wednesday.

Both are injured. Garoppolo suffered an AC joint sprain in his shoulder 10 days ago, against the Dolphins. Six days ago, Brissett sustained a thumb injury against the Texans.

As explained on Sunday’s edition of Football Night in America, the team remains focused on getting them healthy enough to play on Sunday. Adding another quarterback was regarded as a “last resort”; three days later, with no quarterback added, either the Patriots believe one or both will be ready to go — or the Patriots will be getting receiver Julian Edelman ready to go.

Edelman has intimate knowledge of the offense. The team would rather use him than a stranger to the system who would be given a crash course on a limited collection of plays.

Regardless, the Patriots won’t be participating in a Wednesday ritual that could shed light on who will be taking the snaps in the last game before Tom Brady’s suspension ends.

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Brandon Marshall on Seferian-Jenkins: Fresh starts can be good

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 23:  Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs after a catch during the NFL game against the Chicago Bears on November 23, 2014 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Buccaneers 21-13. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets claimed tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins off of waivers from the Buccaneers this week, offering him a chance to continue his career after the 2014 second-round pick’s run in Tampa came to an end after a DUI last Friday.

Seferian-Jenkins isn’t the first player to see his career get sidetracked by off-field decisions. His new teammate Brandon Marshall had an DUI arrest while he was with the Broncos in 2007 and had other off-field issues earlier in his career. Those experiences led him to reach out to Seferian-Jenkins, who also had a DUI in college, even before the tight end joined the Jets.

“I’ve been talking to Austin for a week now, even before this even happened,” Marshall said, via Newsday. “When I saw what he was going through I reached out to him. We’ve been talking for a while. He is a great talent. When I heard yesterday we claimed him I was like ‘This is God sent. If he needs me, I am there. I’ve already connected him with the right people in the city if he needs them. Guys need second chances. When you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person. You need people to believe in you, and sometimes a fresh start is a good start.”

Marshall has had several fresh starts in the NFL, largely because he has produced everywhere he’s played while eventually turning his off-field time toward mental health causes. Seferian-Jenkins hasn’t been on the field enough to produce in his first two seasons and that will need to change as well if he’s going to remain in the league long enough to be a turnaround story.

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Perfect day earns Dustin Hopkins player of the week award

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:   Dustin Hopkins #3 of the Washington Redskins kicks the game winning field goal against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Washington Redskins defeated the New York Giants 29-27.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins went 5-for-5 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra points in Sunday’s win over the Giants, and he’s been recognized for it.

Hopkins was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week today.

It’s the first player of the week award for Hopkins, who tied a franchise record with his five field goals.

Hopkins is 11-for-11 on field goals on the season and has made 15 field goals in a row dating back to last season.

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Spygate, Favre are two of Mangini’s Jets regrets

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 12: Eric Mangini, head coach of the Cleveland Browns stands over injured Browns player David Bowens #86 during a timeout against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ten years ago, Eric Mangini arrived in New York as coach of the Jets and spiced up the rivalry between his new employer and his former one, the Patriots.

The rivalry reached new heights in Mangini’s second season on the job, when Week One of the 2007 season sparked Spygate.

In a nutshell, Mangini knew that Patriots coach Bill Belichick recorded defensive coaching signals in violation of league rules, and Mangini wanted Belichick to not do it when playing the Jets. That morphed into the Jets catching the Patriots in the act, and the Jets reporting the situation to the league office.

Spygate is a big regret,” Mangini tells Brian Costello of the New York Post. “It wasn’t supposed to go down the way it went down. . . . There was no great value in what they were doing. It wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it to me personally. It wasn’t worth it to the relationship.”

It’s been long believed that Mangini didn’t want to blow the whistle on the Patriots, but that others in the organization (presumably, G.M. Mike Tannenbaum) pulled the pin on the Spygate grenade.

“I cared about [Belichick],” Mangini said. “I didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to hurt the Patriots. They were a huge part of my life, too, and the Kraft family. The Krafts were always great to me. It wasn’t like I was thinking I really want to get these guys. My thought was I don’t want to put my team at a competitive disadvantage, no matter how small.”

The following year, Mangini was put at a competitive disadvantage via the arrival of Brett Favre at quarterback. Mangini didn’t want to add the veteran, who had retired in February and then unretired for a Packers team that didn’t want him.

“We weren’t going to be a team that was going to be built on one guy,” Mangini said. “We were a team. I preached that and I preached that. When we had the opportunity to bring Brett in, it didn’t fit with the vision, the idea of bringing someone in who was really bigger than the team.”

Mangini eventually agreed to do it because he was told by owner Woody Johnson that it was a one-year experiment.

“I was told no matter what happens if we bring in Brett Favre, you’re absolutely safe,” Mangini said. “I probably should have gotten that in writing.”

Mangini was fired after the failed one-year experiment with Brett Favre.

The former Jets coach landed quickly in Cleveland, where he spent a couple of seasons before working for ESPN and then serving in various roles with the 49ers. He told Costello that Mangini hopes to coach again, or maybe to work in a front office.

Still only 45, Mangini surely has plenty of football left in him. The only question is whether and when someone else will give him another chance to show what he can do.

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