Report: DeShone Kizer to be reinstated as Browns starter today

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Last week, the Browns benched rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. This week, he’s back.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says via Twitter that she expects Kizer to be reinstated today as QB1, and that they’ll “ride with him as long as possible.”

It’s unclear what Kizer did or Kevin Hogan didn’t do to get the job back. But the idea that Kizer was yanked to the bench for only one game underscores the perception (reality) that the Browns wanted to avoid an apples-to-apples, DeShone vs. Deshaun showdown in Houston.

Why else would Kizer be benched for only one game? The one game that provided a stark reminder of how the Browns blew it by passing on Deshaun and taking DeShone.

Of course, the Browns are taking plenty of heat for passing on Deshaun this year and Carson Wentz last year — regardless of whether DeShone played in the game that the Browns lost to Deshaun.

Ryan Succop boots way to AFC special teams player of the week

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Titans kicker Ryan Succop entered the league as Mr. Irrelevant after being selected with the final pick of the 2009 draft, but he’s wound up with a much more relevant career than that spot would suggest.

That’s particularly true this year. Succop was named the AFC’s special teams player of the month for September and he’s added to his trophy case this week by winning the conference’s weekly honor for special teams work.

Succop hit all five field goals and all three extra points that he tried during the Titans’ 36-22 victory over the Colts on Monday night. Succop accounted for all of Tennessee’s scoring through the first three quarters and those 15 points kept the Titans in position to win the game with three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes of the game.

Succop is now 16-of-17 on field goals and 14-of-14 on extra points this season.

Chris Long donating 10 more game checks to charity

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At a time when some are wondering what NFL players who protest care about, Chris Long is showing the world what matters to him through his actions.

The Eagles defensive end, who already pledged six game checks to fund scholarships in his hometown of Charlottesville, Va., is now playing for free this season.

Via Dave Zangaro of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Long announced on Wednesday that he was giving away his final 10 game checks this year to four organizations he has identified “whose missions focus on making education easily accessible to underserved youth while also providing students the support they need to develop strong social and emotional character.”

Long’s base salary of $1 million this year is now earmarked for educational opportunities for others. The donations will go to groups in Philadelphia, Boston and St. Louis, the cities he’s played in during his 10-year career.

“In my 10th year, I want to celebrate the awesome opportunity I’ve had to play football by giving back to the communities that have given me that gift,” Long said in a statement. “Educational opportunity and equity are the best gateway to a better tomorrow for everyone in America.”

Long has already proven himself to be a man willing to put his principles into actions in other ways. He’s stood with his arm around teammate Malcolm Jenkins all season. Jenkins raises a fist during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality, and has since last year. That serves as a powerful symbol of the unity so many people are trying to co-opt and market.

Along with his donation today, Long has established the creation of the “Pledge 10 for Tomorrow” campaign, and anyone who wants to donate to that cause can do so by clicking here.

It’s a good thing he didn’t stick to sports.

NFL ratings down 7.5 percent for the season

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When it comes to the week-in, week-out NFL ratings, skilled P.R. professionals know how to make bad numbers look good and/or good numbers look bad. Cumulative, all-encompassing numbers are more difficult to spin.

And here are the cumulative, all-encompassing numbers for NFL ratings through six weeks, via Darren Rovell of ESPN.com: The audience is down by 7.5 percent.

Specifically, 15 million people on average watched games for the first six weeks of the year. Last year, the number was 16.2 million. The NFL had no comment on the issue, when contacted by ESPN.

The situation has gotten bad enough to prompt Credit Suisse to lower its price targets for both FOX and CBS stocks.

It’s unclear what the league is doing to address the situation, but the league has every reason to figure out what’s causing the decline, and to then solve it. Although the fees paid by the networks are largely locked in through 2022, it will be difficult if not impossible for the league to avoid taking a haircut in the next round of talks if the league can’t figure out how to spark some Chia-speed growth in viewership.

Last year, it was easy to blame the decline on election coverage. This year, it’s harder to pinpoint the precise reason. Whatever it is, the decline for the first six weeks of 2017 in comparison to 2016 has grown to 18.7 percent.

And that’s not gonna be good for business.

Cameron Jordan nabs NFC defensive player of the week

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The Saints played a wild game against the Lions last Sunday and came out on top thanks in large part to the work of defensive end Cameron Jordan.

Jordan did a little bit of everything in the 52-38 win, up to and including scoring the Saints’ final points of the game by deflecting and then intercepting a Matthew Stafford pass in the end zone. That put the Saints back up 14 points after they’d handed over most of a big lead and Jordan made sure no other comeback was in the offing when he hit running back Theo Riddick while Riddick was juggling a pass that wound up in safety Kenny Vaccaro‘s hands.

Jordan also had two sacks, one of which came when he simply pushed Lions tackle Brian Mihalik back until he knocked Stafford over without Jordan laying a finger on him. It added up to a performance that made Jordan the NFC defensive player of the week.

Jordan now has five sacks to go with his interception and forced fumble for a Saints defense that has shown a lot of improvement since allowing more than 1,000 yards in the first two weeks of the season.

Pharoh Cooper wins NFC special teams player of the week

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Kick returns might be dying as an art form, but Rams wide receiver Pharoh Cooper is doing his part to keep them alive.

He was named NFC special teams player of the week, after returning the opening kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown against the Jaguars last week.

It was his second return of 65 yards or longer this year, and he’s averaging 31.7 yards per return this season.

He has 476 total kick return yards, which is more than 150 more than the next most productive returner (Quan Bray of the Colts, 319).

The second-year wideout has yet to emerge as a threat on offense (or shown he can reliably field punts), but the Rams are glad to have the contributions where they can get them.

Le’Veon Bell named AFC offensive player of the week

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The Steelers needed to bounce back from a loss to the Jaguars that featured five interceptions from Ben Roethlisberger when they faced the Chiefs last Sunday and they did that by giving the ball to running back Le'Veon Bell.

Bell ran the ball 32 times for 179 yards and scored a touchdown in the second quarter to pace the Pittsburgh offense in a 19-13 win that knocked the Chiefs from their perch as the last unbeaten team in the league this season.

Bell has been named the AFC offensive player of the week as a result of that effort. It’s the third time Bell has been so honored, tying him with Jerome Bettis for the most of any Steelers running back.

Bell did not report to the Steelers until the end of August after the two sides did the franchise tag dance all offseason. Some pointed to that absence as the reason why Bell managed 180 rushing yards in the first three games of the season, but if there was rust it’s been knocked off as he’s put up 370 yards and three touchdowns in the last three games.

Johnathan Joseph snags AFC defensive player of the week

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Even after losing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus to season-ending injuries, the Texans still have guys who can make plays.

Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph was named AFC defensive player of the week for his work in last week’s thrashing of the Browns.

Joseph broke up three passes and intercepted two.

The first one, he returned 82 yards for a touchdown off Browns quarterback Kevin Hogan.

With the second one, he broke the Texans franchise record with his 14th interception, passing Kareem Jackson and Dunta Robinson (13) .

The Texans are going to need him, and others, as they transition from a team defined by defensive stars to one helping a dynamic rookie quarterback win.

Adrian Peterson runs away with NFC offensive player of week

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Adrian Peterson said all he needed was a chance. And when he got a few, he delivered.

The newly minted Cardinals running back was named NFC offensive player of the week after his breakout game against the Buccaneers.

Peterson had 26 carries for 134 yards and two touchdowns in his first game since coming over in a trade with the Saints. He was barely used in New Orleans, with just 27 carries for 81 yards in four weeks.

But it wasn’t just that he got carries, he did something with them. It was Peterson’s first 100-yard game since late 2015, so it was reasonable to wonder if he still had it in him after knee problems.

The Cardinals offense suddenly looked viable once he started carrying the ball, showing how reliant on David Johnson they are.

Ryan Kalil optimistic about getting back on the field this week

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The Panthers haven’t been running the ball lately the way they’re accustomed to, but they hope to be getting a key part of that back this week.

According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Panthers center Ryan Kalil is optimistic he’s going to be able to return this week after missing five games with a neck issue.

Kalil said he was “full-go” in practice, and that he had “made a lot of progress and just excited to be back out there.”

“We’ll keep rehabbing, keep working and see how it goes,” he said.

The Panthers have been starting Tyler Larsen in Kalil’s absence, which began when his neck stiffened up on him prior to their Week Two game. And while they think Larsen’s a solid backup, Kalil’s a Pro Bowl-level center who makes a difference for the entire line and quarterback Cam Newton.

“When you see the communication and how he ID’s stuff, it’s a little bit different obviously just because Tyler doesn’t have Ryan’s experience, yet,” Rivera said. “It will mean a lot in terms of communication [and] handling his teammates and other players.”

Two weeks ago, the Lions dared the Panthers to run and they didn’t bother, with just 28 yards on the ground and Newton having an excellent game. Last week, the Eagles simply stoned them up front, and their 80 rushing yards were a mirage because Newton had 71 of them and their running back gained a single yard.

They’ve had multiple communication problems up front, and getting Kalil back on the field should help some of that, and get the Panthers back to who they want to be.

Jets looking for first sack from defensive line

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There have been plenty of surprising developments for the Jets in the first six weeks of the season and many of them have been positive, but one negative has been the lack of pass rush production from their defensive line.

Even after trading Sheldon Richardson to the Seahawks, the Jets still had Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams and they added Kony Ealy to the mix after he was waived by the Patriots. The efforts of that trio along with the other five linemen who have seen time for the Jets this season haven’t resulted in any sacks.

Williams has had a handful of hits on quarterbacks while Wilkerson hasn’t been credited with any to this point, so it’s not like the team is just missing out on plays while providing significant pressure. The entire team has seven sacks, which ranks 31st in the league, and coach Todd Bowles thinks doing a better job of stopping the run will lead to better pass rush opportunities in obvious passing situations.

“If we stop the run a little better, we can rush the passer a little more,” Bowles said, via ESPN.com. “Right now, we have some spurts where we did and then had some spurts where we didn’t, so we just have to be more consistent at it and the pass rush will be there.”

The Jets had three of their sacks in a Week Three win over the Dolphins and they’ll be in Miami for a rematch this Sunday. After allowing nine sacks in their first three games, the Dolphins have only given up one in the last two.

Riveron triples down on controversial Patriots-Jets ruling

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NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron, who had twice before defended a controversial decision to turn a touchdown in the Patriots-Jets game into a touchback via replay review, previously declined to address the comments from two of his predecessors on the issue. On Tuesday, Riveron was asked again about the beliefs of Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino that the visual evidence was not clear and obvious to show tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins failed to recover the ball. This time, he responded. Sort of.

“So Dean Blandino [and] Mike Pereira, who both held your job before you did, both questioned the decision,” Total Access co-host Dan Hellie asked Riveron. “They thought that there wasn’t a good enough view and that he regained control and the call on the field should have stood. Did you guys have enough angles to look at this when you were evaluating it?”

“Oh, no doubt about it, Dan,” Riveron replied. “And as we see, he must maintain control of the ball once he hits the ground, and he does not. And we’ve already established that there was a fumble. He does not maintain control when he hits the ground and [goes] out of bounds. So therefore it’s a fumble that goes out of bounds.”

Hellie also asked, in a pointed but respectful way, about images that seem to show Seferian-Jenkins controlling the ball before he lands out of bounds.

“That was not the case, Dan,” Riveron said. “The ball was moving. He never regains control of the football once he’s on the grounds out of bounds. Therefore, it’s a loose ball out of bounds in the end zone.”

That’s what Riveron may believe based on the video, but the question isn’t whether Riveron believes it based on the video. The question is whether it’s clear and obvious that the officials who were looking at the play in real time erroneously ruled that Seferian-Jenkins failed to regain possession of the ball. It’s not clear and obvious. And that’s why the issue won’t go away.

At this point, it’s too late for Riveron to change his mind. But it’s safe to say he has been reminded, either via external or internal sources, that he needs to stubbornly adhere to the standard that applies to replay review, even if the former referee in Riveron thinks that he would have made a different decision in real time.

President Trump slams NFL for not forcing players to stand for anthem

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The NFL is back on President Trump’s radar Wednesday.

The President went on a Twitter spurt Wednesday morning and the NFL’s announcement that there will be no change to league rules regarding the national anthem was part of his agenda.

After a day that included a meeting between players and team owners as well as another meeting with just owners, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the league did not make any proposals regarding changing the rules for the national anthem.

Goodell and others in attendance at both meetings conveyed that the meetings were focused on issues raised by player protests over the last two years and how to work together to take action toward addressing them rather than the anthem. That strategy is one that attempts to move beyond the anthem issue, although it’s clear the President isn’t interested in joining the league and players in that effort.

Giants ownership “very supportive” of Ben McAdoo

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The Giants are not a team fond of making changes at key positions, but an 0-5 start and the prospect of ongoing struggles raised the possibility that they might veer from their traditional course of action.

One win doesn’t change how rough the first five weeks were, but it offered one of the team’s owners a chance to provide a verbal pat on the back for coach Ben McAdoo. Co-owner Steve Tisch said on Tuesday that McAdoo made a “very good adjustment” when he handed offensive playcalling duties over to offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and that he has a “vote of confidence” from the owner’s box.

“The job description of a head coach was tested last week and on Sunday I think head coach McAdoo did a great job,” Tisch said, via the New York Post. “He showed up, the players showed up, they had a strong desire to win. It was a very exciting game to watch. After the game, it was a very happy locker room. I think coach McAdoo knows that ownership is very supportive going forward.”

Another five-game losing streak may result in a different reaction, but the message from the Giants right now is that the ship is moving forward as planned.

Martavis Bryant jokes that he wants to be traded to the Warriors

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Martavis Bryant admits he wants to be traded. But to a different sport, not to a different team.

The Steelers wide receiver was laughing Tuesday about reports that he wanted out of Pittsburgh, saying again he was content there.

“No, I am good to go,” Bryant said, via the team’s official website. “I clarified it last night on my Twitter. I am happy to be here. As far as me getting traded, I would like to get traded to the (Golden State) Warriors.

“Everything is good. I am going to keep on moving and just get better for this week.”

The Warriors may need the help, after the defending NBA champions lost their opener to the Rockets last night.

Of course, the Steelers website also took shots at the original report from the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, going air quotes around “sources” and pointing out in a mocking tone that Rapoport also reported in 2013 that Roethlisberger wanted out.

(We do love a good case of NFL-on-NFL crime first thing in the morning with our coffee.)

Of course, the Steelers can take a victory lap and shots at their fellow members of state-run media, but they didn’t address the tweets from Bryant’s girlfriend, which seemed to confirm the notion that he was displeased with his role.

But they had plenty of laughs about it, and since they just won a game, they can.

“I thought he was talking about getting traded to the Cavs,” said Ramon Foster. “I thought he wanted to switch sports. I thought he was talking about basketball.

“We are not going to feed into it any more. It’s over. We crushed that. That is done. He cleared it up. We are good.”

The Steelers can joke about it all they want, but the report of frustration probably didn’t come from nowhere, and their efforts at joking about a different type of toothpaste isn’t going to put it back in the tube.