Matt Patricia on Malcolm Butler: It’s all about this year

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In the season opener, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was on the field for every defensive snap of a 42-27 loss to the Chiefs.

Butler’s playing time dropped to 75 percent of the snaps against the Saints in Week Two and didn’t start as Eric Rowe, who played a little over half the snaps each week, was on the field opposite Stephon Gilmore to open the game. Those changes led to questions about Butler for coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on Tuesday conference calls.

Belichick was asked if Butler’s play has been as consistent as it was in the past and his answer didn’t address Butler’s play specifically, but the coach said “we’re into a new season” and that he doesn’t “think anybody’s performance this season is really where it needs to be” at this point. 

Patricia talked a bit about different situations calling for different personnel, but reiterated Belichick’s point about the present taking precedence over the past.

“In terms of asking me as far as for us defensively, you know it’s all about this year,” Patricia said in comments distributed by the team. “I think what things have gone down in the past doesn’t really matter to us. We’re trying to get better for this year and the guys that are out there and positions or where we think they need to be right now currently and to help us win that particular week.”

The Patriots have never been sentimental about players when they feel they have a better option. That said, we are only two games into a long season and there will be further changes to the way the Patriots deploy their defensive backs so it probably isn’t the time to draw any big conclusions about how the coaching staff views Butler.

Tyler Boyd not sure why Bengals sat him last week

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With the firing of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese on Friday, there wasn’t much attention paid to wide receiver Tyler Boyd being a healthy scratch for Thursday night’s loss to the Texans.

The 2016 second-round pick had been active for every other game in his brief career and caught 54 passes for 603 yards during his rookie season. The Bengals have seven wideouts on the 53-man roster and Boyd said he didn’t get “a specific answer” from the team about why they chose to sit him down along with Josh Malone, but theorized it was because they needed other players who do more on special teams.

“I don’t feel like what I was doing on offense was bad, because they haven’t really came and said anything negative about my performance or play,” Boyd said, via ESPN.com. “I think it was just a huge part of special teams emphasis and lack of depth there. That’s what I got from them, so I accepted it and there was nothing real made on how I perform.”

Boyd said he isn’t sure how the roles will shake out in the receiving corps now that Bill Lazor has replaced Zampese, who Boyd said was a great coordinator despite occasionally trying to “overwhelm with things to do out there in terms of details and what to do and what not to do.” Boyd and the rest of the Bengals will begin finding out how Lazor differs from Zampese and whether Boyd features in his plans as they get ready to face the Packers this week.

Report: NFL official Carl Johnson under investigation for domestic violence

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It appears the NFL has another domestic violence case to sort out, although this one doesn’t involve a player.

TMZ reports that line judge and former NFL vice president of officiating Carl Johnson is under investigation in Louisiana for domestic violence. Johnson has denied the allegations by a woman who claims she and Johnson lived together in 2016 and began being violent with her in December.

Per the report, the woman claims Johnson broke one of her breast implants and reached out to the NFL in March of this year before going to the police. She was granted a temporary restraining order, but a permanent one was denied. A representative of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office told TMZ that the case remains under investigation.

Johnson offered no comment when reached by the website and the NFL has not commented about any internal investigation. Johnson, who left the league office to become the league’s first full-time official in 2012, is subject to discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy.

Ravens fill the roster spots for last week’s injuries

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The Ravens are 2-0 and that’s great, but they lost one of their best players last week, when guard Marshal Yanda was lost for the season with a broken leg.

Tuesday, they went about the mundane paperwork of replacing him on the roster.

The team announced that Yanda and linebacker Bam Bradley (torn ACL) were placed on injured reserve. To replace them on the roster, they promoted center Matt Skura from the practice squad and signed offensive tackle Dieugot Joseph to the 53-man roster.

Joseph, an undrafted rookie from Florida International, was on the Bears practice squad.

The Ravens also added linebacker Nicholas Grigsby, guard Arie Kouandjio and running back Jeremy Langford to the practice squad. Langford was promoted from the practice squad last week, but was cut two days later so they could sign running back Alex Collins.

Buccaneers were without cannons last week, but they’re coming back

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It wasn’t that the Buccaneers offense was quiet Sunday.

But when they return home, they’ll definitely have more firepower.

According to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, the signature pirate-ship cannons which fire when the Bucs get to the red zone and score didn’t go off Sunday, but will be repaired in time for their next home game on Oct. 1 against the Giants.

(And in honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, we can’t help but wonder if the guys who fire the cannons are members of the N-AARRRRRGGH-A.)

The electrical system which controls the cannons was damaged by water from Hurricane Irma, which kept them from going off during a 29-7 win over the Bears.

The Bucs are hoping to offer plenty of fireworks on offense this year, and when they do, hopefully they’ll be accompanied by one of the cooler new traditions in the NFL.

Darius Slay: Lions defense is for real

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Much of the focus after Monday night’s game was on doling out blame for the play of the hapless Giants offense, but they weren’t playing against air.

They were playing against a defense that has given up 26 points (a pick-six by Cardinals corner Justin Bethel accounted for another touchdown), and 107 rushing yards while forcing five turnovers through the first two weeks of the season. That’s a step up from last season and one that cornerback Darius Slay believes is about the Lions and not about the quality of the offenses they’ve faced so far.

“Oh yeah, it’s for real,” Slay said, via ESPN.com. “We for real. We ain’t no fake. We’re for real.”

Anyone taking a more measured approach to judging Detroit’s defense will get a pretty good data point for their own assessment in Week Three when the Falcons pay the Lions a visit. Another strong performance from the defense against Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Julio Jones and company will likely sway a few more converts to the side of the believers.

Chris Long donating six game checks to fund scholarships in Charlottesville

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After a man drove his car into a group of people protesting a gathering of white supremacists and killed a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia this August, Eagles defensive end and Charlottesville resident Chris Long spoke out about people “who have had the opportunity to strike [hatred] down but didn’t” act.

Long is now using what happened as the impetus for action to improve educational opportunities for others in his hometown. Long announced on Tuesday that he and his wife are donating his first six game checks from this season to fund a pair of seven-year all expenses paid school programs.

“In August, we watched people fill our hometown streets with hatred and bigotry,” Long said in a statement. “Megan and I decided to try to combat those actions with our own positive investment in our community.”

The scholarship fund will be administered through St. Anne’s-Belfield School, Long’s alma mater, and will go to two middle school students affiliated with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia.

Chiefs C Mitch Morse doesn’t need foot surgery

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The Chiefs will be without their starting center for a little while, but he’ll avoid a trip to the operating room.

Mitch Morse had to leave Sunday’s game against the Eagles due to a foot injury that was diagnosed as a sprain. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Morse will not need to have surgery in order to repair the injury, but he is expected to miss a few weeks while he recovers.

Morse has started all but one game for the Chiefs since they drafted him in the second round of the 2015 draft. He’s been part of a unit that’s done well through the first two weeks of the season, particularly when it comes to creating running room for rookie Kareem Hunt.

Zach Fulton is expected to step in at center until Morse is ready to return to action.

Chargers program has unfortunate typo

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The Chargers’ return to L.A. isn’t going well, in more than a few ways.

Here’s a gaffe noted by Bob Ley of ESPN, via SportsBusiness Daily: The official program at the first regular-season game in L.A. for the Chargers since 1960 pointed out that team Vice Chair Michael Spanos is “working on an ongoing effort to bring a new stadium to San Diego.”

Then again, maybe it wasn’t a typo.

But while some in the Spanos family may have regrets about the move, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune explains that there won’t be a re-relocation, in large part because the other owners won’t want to lose their share of the $645 million relocation fee.

So the Chargers are staying put in L.A., even if L.A. doesn’t really want them. The real apples-to-apples test will come in 2021, when the Rams and Chargers will be playing in the same stadium.

In-game migraine was one of DeShone Kizer’s “biggest fears”

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Browns rookie DeShone Kizer missed a portion of Sunday’s loss to the Ravens while being treated for a migraine headache that came on during the first quarter of the game.

Kizer said he started noticing visual issues a few plays before forgetting to put a man in motion on a play that ended with an interception. Coach Hue Jackson knew something was wrong when Kizer returned to the sideline and the quarterback told Jackson his head was pounding.

Kizer was taken for a concussion evaluation before being given medication for the migraine. Kizer has dealt with the condition for a long time and said that getting one during a game has always been on his mind.

“That’s one of my biggest fears being a guy who does get chronic migraines,” Kizer said, via Cleveland.com. “It was bound to happen sometime for me, and I’d rather they’re in the season where I can learn from them and create a better plan.”

Kizer was able to return to action and threw two more interceptions in the second half, although neither he nor Jackson thinks the migraine was the reason for those miscues. Kizer also said the migraines typically come a couple of times a year, so they’ll be hoping the next one falls sometime other than a football Sunday.

Martellus Bennett having a “fundamental” problem with drops

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At a time when the Packers are looking for reliable receiving targets, one of the ones they thought they could count on has been less than reliable.

Veteran tight end Martellus Bennett is off to a slow start to his Packers career, and they could use him since it seems all their receivers are hurt at once.

But Sunday night against the Falcons, he didn’t offer much help, with four dropped passes among an unspectacular stat line (five receptions for 47 yards, on 11 targets). He also was guilty of an offensive pass interference, which wiped out a 36-yard pass to Randall Cobb.

I just go back to the fundamentals of it. It’s as simple as that, to be honest with you,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said, via Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It really just always goes back to being fundamentally sound, trusting his training. He has really good hands. We just have to be fundamentally sound in those situations, not allowing the ball to cross your eyes, things like that, extending for the football.

“He’s obviously a special player, but in that case it was more fundamentals than anything else.”

The Packers need Bennett to be more reliable, since they have other pressing issues on offense. They started last week’s game without both starting tackles, and wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Cobb each left with injuries before the night was over.

Falcons talk to Dwight Freeney, but no plans to bring him back right now

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A report on Monday indicated Falcons pass rusher Vic Beasley will miss about a month after hurting his hamstring in Sunday night’s win over the Packers, but coach Dan Quinn didn’t go that far while discussing Beasley’s condition.

Quinn confirmed that Beasley won’t play against the Lions this week and that was enough to lead to questions about whether the Falcons would look for outside help. Among those questions was whether the team is still in touch with Dwight Freeney, who had three sacks during the 2016 regular season and has not signed with anyone for this season.

“Yes,” Quinn said, via the team’s website. “[He’s] definitely somebody that we still talk to on a regular basis. We’re hopeful that he’s going to play this year, he certainly wants to. Right now, there are no changes on our end as we head into today.”

Freeney’s experience in the defense would make him an obvious choice if the Falcons decide they need more pressure off the edge than the players on hand can provide. For now, though, they’re sticking with what’s on hand.

Chargers still riding with Younghoe Koo

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The Chargers’ first two games have ended in similar fashion.

An attempt to tie the Broncos in the opener fizzled when Younghoe Koo had a 44-yard field goal try blocked and an attempt to beat the Dolphins Sunday went up in smoke when Koo missed from 44 yards. It was the second miss of the day for Koo and both loomed large in a 19-17 loss.

The bad day won’t lead to a change at kicker, though. Coach Anthony Lynn said Monday that the team will not be looking at other options this week.

“He’s very confident and I have to give him the benefit of the doubt, after being around him the whole offseason and watching how he competed and how he took that job,” Lynn said, via the Los Angeles Daily News. “He went out and had a bad day yesterday, but we’re still riding with him. And we’re hoping that he’ll bounce back.”

Koo, who beat out Josh Lambo in a competition this summer, missed three field goals over his final two seasons at Georgia Southern and the Chargers will be hoping that he doesn’t add to the three he’s already missed in the NFL.

Lamarr Houston working out for Saints

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In their never-ending quest to fix one of the league’s worst defenses, the Saints are taking a look at a veteran pass-rusher today.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Saints are working out linebacker Lamarr Houston.

Houston was released with an injury settlement by the Bears this summer, and was expected to be close to a return for some team that wanted him. The Saints could certainly use the help, and the 30-year-old Houston is worth a look.

He has some familiarity with Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen from their days together with the Raiders.

The Saints are last in the league in total defense, giving up 512.5 yards per game. For context, the Jets are 30th and have allowed just (!?!) 409.0 yards per game.

The Saints have also allowed 32.5 points per game (31st in the league, thanks Jets at 33.0) and have just two sacks in two games.

Tuesday morning one-liners

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The Bills lost in Week Two, but they can build off their defensive effort.

A call for the Dolphins to come to a quick resolution regarding LB Lawrence Timmons.

WR Phillip Dorsett hopes he feels well enough to return to the Patriots lineup this week.

When is it time to seriously contemplate a winless season for the Jets?

The Ravens are coming up with plans for life without G Marshal Yanda.

Said Bengals QB Andy Dalton of criticism, “I don’t read anything. There’s no reason to read anything because it doesn’t mean anything,. People can come up with a headline all they want, but all that matters is what’s being said in this organization, on this team, and what happens in this locker room.”

Browns rookie S Jabrill Peppers is waiting for an opportunity to make a big play.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster helped the Steelers as a receiver and a blocker in Sunday’s win.

The Texans are looking for more help at tight end.

Colts WR Donte Moncrief‘s efforts are found lacking.

The Jaguars haven’t done a good job of covering punts in the first two weeks.

A late hit led to Titans TE Delanie Walker omitting a dance after Sunday’s touchdown.

The Broncos are going on the road for the first time this season.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid was happy with LB Justin Houston‘s work on Sunday.

The Raiders offensive line has started well this season.

The Chargers can’t shake their habit of losing in close games.

Cornerback injuries will be something the Cowboys are watching this week.

Seven ideas about improving the Giants offense.

Diagnosing the Eagles’ issues running the ball.

RB Chris Thompson’s versatility has been a boost for the Redskins.

It’s been a slow start for Bears RB Jordan Howard.

The Lions might not have impressed, but they won on Monday.

Rookie CB Kevin King may be playing more for the Packers.

The Vikings hope for a quick return for QB Sam Bradford.

Falcons QB Matt Ryan said WR Mohamed Sanu is fearless.

The Panthers will have to improve their offense without TE Greg Olsen‘s help.

The Saints haven’t seen a return on their running back investments.

Playing with high tempo agrees with the Buccaneers offense.

The Cardinals want more from their offense.

Stopping the run was a problem for the Rams in Week Two.

Said 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, “We’d love to run the ball more. We’ve got to do a better job all around to be able to get that done.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll suggested changes are coming for the offense.