Report: Dan Bailey to miss several weeks with groin injury

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The Cowboys turned to safety Jeff Heath as a fill-in for kicker Dan Bailey during Sunday’s game against the 49ers and Heath made a couple of extra points during the 40-10 victory.

Bailey injured his groin and Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports on Monday that he will miss several weeks while he recovers from the injury. Heath’s double duty won’t be continuing, however.

Coach Jason Garrett didn’t discuss how long Bailey will be out, but said on 105.3 The Fan on Monday that the team will look at other kicking options to be ready for his continued absence. He didn’t name any names, but Field Yates of ESPN reports that Mike Nugent, Jason Myers, Sam Irwin Hill and Younghoe Koo are on the list.

Myers was recently cut by the Jaguars in favor of Josh Lambo, who lost the Chargers job to Koo this summer. Koo was discarded in favor of Nick Novak while Nugent came up short in a competition at Giants camp this summer. Irwin Hill spent the summer with Dallas as a camp leg alongside Bailey.

Duane Brown: I’m ready, just here to work

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Left tackle Duane Brown reported to the Texans on Monday, ending a long holdout that didn’t result in a new contract before it came to an end.

Brown didn’t delve into the financial aspect of his decision to return, saying only that he’s “just here to work” and that he’s “leaving everything else up to the front office and my agent.” When it comes to the working part of things, Brown said that he feels ready to hit the ground running.

“Very ready,” Brown said, via Danny Mata of FOX26. “It’s my 10th year doing this so I’m very familiar with what I need to do in order to be out there and be productive and be efficient, and I’m in shape. And so [I’m] just getting caught up to speed on the plays and terminology and I’ll be good.”

The coaches will obviously have to agree with Brown before he returns to his place on the left side of the line, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they do. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Chris Clark, who has been filling in for Brown, is expected to miss time with a calf injury and the Texans will need someone to step into the lineup against the Seahawks if that’s the case.

Report: Browns lose Joe Thomas for season to torn triceps

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Joe Thomas’s season is over.

Thomas tore his left triceps on Sunday. Although some reports have said Thomas is still evaluating his options, one source is saying Thomas has already been ruled out for the season, according to cleveland.com.

The 32-year-old Thomas had played 10,363 consecutive snaps until he was hurt in Sunday’s loss to the Titans. He’ll miss the first game of his career this week against the Vikings in London.

Thomas has one more year and $10 million remaining on his contract with the Browns.

Ravens sign tight end Gavin Escobar

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As the Ravens slowly run out of people to throw the ball to, they’re giving a former second-round pick a shot.

The Ravens announced they are signing former Cowboys tight end Gavin Escobar, and releasing offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom to create the roster spot.

Escobar was in camp with the Chiefs this summer, but didn’t make the 53-man roster out of camp, and has been making the workout circuit the last month and a half.

He’s always teased with potential, but has just 30 receptions in four seasons. The Cowboys took him 47th overall in 2013, thinking he’d develop into an heir for Jason Witten (or something). That never happened, but the Ravens aren’t in any position to quibble.

After losing Dennis Pitta to another injury, the Ravens haven’t gotten much from their tight end position, and they finished yesterday’s game without their top three receivers after Mike Wallace was put in the concussion protocol.

Blake Bortles says Jags wanted to break some tendencies on offense

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The Jaguars have relied on the ground game to move the ball on offense this season, which has led defenses to crowd the box in hopes of keeping them from moving the ball effectively.

That extra attention from defenses hasn’t led the Jaguars to waver from their plan, but they did show a different wrinkle without Leonard Fournette in the lineup against the Colts on Sunday. While the Jaguars still ran the ball 37 times, they also had their most productive passing game of the year.

Blake Bortles completed 18-of-26 passes for 330 yards and a touchdown with six of his completions going for more than 20 yards. After the game, Bortles said the team saw it as an opportunity to show defenses something new.

“We wanted to break some tendencies,” Bortles said, via the Florida Times-Union. “We had a feeling they were going to play us like teams have and put a bunch of people in the box so we wanted to take chances down the field.”

One game against a bad Colts team isn’t likely to lead to major changes in the way defenses play the Jaguars in the future, but a few more signs of that kind of efficiency from Bortles could loosen things up a bit while boosting Jacksonville’s chances of stringing together enough wins to take control in the AFC South.

Dirk Koetter: When you’re losing games, team can shatter from inside out

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The Buccaneers rallied from 11 points down to take a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Bills, but it was a short-lived advantage.

The Bills drove for a quick touchdown to tie the game and then turned an Adam Humphries fumble into a field goal that gave them a 30-27 win and left the Buccaneers with a 2-4 record. After the game, coach Dirk Koetter said the team’s response to that record concerned him.

“My biggest concern is we’re 2-4,” Koetter said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “Of course, when you’re not playing up to expectations, it’s easy for your team to shatter from the inside out.”

Safety T.J. Ward complained about a lack of playing time and defensive lineman Chris Baker shared a similar complaint on social media, so there are already some fires in the locker room for Koetter to handle as the team prepares to face the Panthers in Week Eight.

Vikings don’t want to expose Bridgewater to slippery field in London

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Lost in the fact that Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been cleared to practice but not play is the reality that, for the kind of injury Bridgewater sustained (and in light of the position he plays), clearance to practice is clearance to play.

Which means that he’s good to go, right now, if the Vikings want him to play.

But the Vikings don’t want him to play, right now. As one source explained it, the Vikings and Bridgewater definitely don’t want him to play next week in London, given the notoriously slippery surfaces of the soccer pitches that periodically transmogrify into gridirons.

So he’ll be back on the roster for Week 10, the first post-bye game to be played by the Vikings. The question then becomes when he’ll actually play.

That one will be more complicated, given that Case Keenum has played very well this season in the absence of Bridgewater and Sam Bradford. Keenum has been good, but Bridgewater could be better — and he could take the Vikings farther than Keenum ever will.

So go ahead and put this one in the “good problem to have” category, even though that good problem quickly could become just a problem.

Ezekiel Elliott gets another week, at least

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The Dallas Cowboys will continue to have the benefit of the services of running back Ezekiel Elliott, for at least another week.

Via multiple reports, Judge Katherine Polk Failla has refused the league’s request to expedite the hearing on whether the pending temporary restraining order will become a preliminary injunction, which would block the Elliott suspension until the litigation ends. The hearing will be held on October 30, after the Cowboys play Washington.

Judge Failla, nominated to the federal bench by President Obama, presumably has a political background and ideology that favors employee rights, which means that Elliott and the NFL Players Association have reason to believe that the suspension will be blocked as the validity of the suspension is resolved in court.

That observation comes with two caveats. First, during last week’s TRO hearing before Judge Paul Crotty (Judge Failla was on vacation), NFL attorney Dan Nash pointed out that Judge Failla “just two months ago . . . reviewed a labor arbitration award, confronted the same kinds of fundamental fairness argument [presented in Elliott’s case], and she said quoting [the NFL’s victory in the Tom Brady case] that does not apply in the Second Circuit.” Second, the NFL likely would appeal a preliminary injunction to the Second Circuit, like it did in the case Elliott initially filed in Texas — but like it didn’t do when Brady secured a preliminary injunction two years ago. Armed with the Brady ruling from the Second Circuit, the NFL likely believes it would secure a reversal of the injunction in the Second Circuit.

At the core of the NFL’s position is, essentially, a “fairness schmairness” argument. The league believes it’s not required to provide fundamental fairness in connection with player discipline, an intriguing legal point but, frankly, a troubling glimpse into how the league views its players.

Every employer should want to be fair to its work force, regardless of whether a labor agreement or a court order requires it. And if the NFL truly believes it’s not required to be fair to its players when those players are accused of criminal misconduct, the NFL deserves far more criticism for this attitude toward the men who make the NFL what it is than it’s currently receiving for any all current warts and blemishes, combined.

Duane Brown returns to the Texans

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The Texans’ suddenly hot offense just got a key player back.

Texans left tackle Duane Brown ended his holdout and re-joined the team this morning, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Brown is healthy and ready to get to work, and could be back Sunday at Seattle.

Brown hasn’t said much during his holdout but did say he would eventually play this year, and apparently the time is now. He has already lost about $5 million in fines and lost salary, and he seems to have decided it’s time to start making money again.

Houston’s line looked like a mess in the first game of the season with Tom Savage at quarterback, but Deshaun Watson has been able to make plays despite a lack of protection, which may have made the Texans feel like they had the upper hand in negotiations with Brown. Still, getting the starting left tackle back can only help a Texans team that has every reason to view itself as a playoff contender.

Chuck Pagano’s seat is growing hotter by the day

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Chuck Pagano is in his sixth season as the Colts’ head coach, and there’s growing talk that it should and will be his last.

After the Colts were embarrassed 27-0 by the Jaguars yesterday, much of Indianapolis is calling for Pagano’s dismissal, and the strongest case for Pagano’s firing may come from longtime Colts observer Bob Kravitz, who argues that Pagano should be fired today, rather than waiting until the end of the season.

Kravitz argues that the players have quit on Pagano, citing several plays on which players didn’t appear to be hustling. When T.Y. Hilton pointed the finger at the offensive line after the game, that also indicated that Pagano may have lost the locker room.

Pagano is far from the only one deserving blame for the Colts’ 2-5 record. Colts owner Jim Irsay is the one who insisted in January that the Colts didn’t need another quarterback because Andrew Luck would heal from surgery in time for the start of the season. And Colts G.M. Chris Ballard is the one who waited until September to trade for Jacoby Brissett, even though it had been obvious for months that Luck’s shoulder was healing more slowly than Irsay’s initial timeline.

But Irsay isn’t going to fire himself, and he isn’t going to fire the G.M. he just hired this year, either. So if someone is going to go, it’s going to be Pagano. And given the way the Colts are playing, someone’s got to go.

Vikings stacking up injuries on offensive line

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The Vikings can’t seem to keep quarterbacks upright. But they’re having problems now keeping the guys who keep the quarterback healthy on the field.

The 5-2 Vikings finished yesterday’s win over the Ravens without left tackle Riley Reiff and left guard Jeremiah Sirles, who left with knee injuries.

Via Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said: “I don’t think it’s anything serious.”

But considering the problems the Vikings had on the offensive line last year, any absence is going to trigger alarms.

Sirles was starting in place of the injured Nick Easton, who has been out the last two weeks. That left rookie Danny Isidora getting his first action on offense. Reiff was replaced by second-year tackle Rashod Hill.

Zimmer said the hope is that Easton can return next week for their game in London against the Browns.

Sean McVay: We haven’t arrived by any stretch

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The Rams took the Cardinals apart in London on Sunday afternoon for a 33-0 win that gave them a 5-2 record for the first time in 14 years and continued a rousing start to head coach Sean McVay’s tenure with the team.

McVay called the win the best of the year so far, but stressed how much more time there is to play this season while discussing the team’s overall trajectory in 2017.

“We haven’t arrived by any stretch, but 5-2 is a good feeling. But that’s all it is right now,” McVay said, via the Los Angeles Times.

The Rams staff will likely continue to send that message in the next couple of days as a buffer against any signs of complacency that might kick in during their bye week. They’ll be back in action against the Giants on the road in Week Nine and another impressive showing will be a sign that their approach to handling the move to 5-2 was the correct one.

Landon Collins: Simultaneous possession call was “crazy”

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The Seahawks were up 10-7 on the Giants in the second half of Sunday’s game when Eli Manning lost a fumble to give them the ball on the Giants’ 38-yard-line.

It would be 17-7 Seahawks after one play, but sorting out exactly what happened on that play took some time. Russell Wilson ran a flea flicker and threw the ball to Paul Richardson, who went up to get it with Giants safety Landon Collins in close pursuit. The two men wrestled for the ball on the way down before officials ruled it was a touchdown for Seattle. The call stood after a review that found the two players had simultaneous possession of the ball and ties go to the offense.

Collins was not thrilled with that interpretation.

“It was an interception,” Collins said, via the New York Post. “I came down with the ball. … Once I rolled over, he’s trying to fight back into position for it. Once that happened, he had no possession of the ball anymore. It’s crazy.”

In a pool report, referee Tony Corrente explained why Collins didn’t get his way.

“The receiver went into the air, had control of the ball, lost control, re-grasped the ball and at the same time he did, the defender grabbed the ball, also,” Corrente said. “They went to the ground simultaneously with the football. Then they started a little wrestling match. It’s over now. That catch is established because if the defender was to pull the ball out of his hands now, it’s still a catch because the defender has a second action. So at that point when they were on the ground together, and they’re tussling to begin with, the catch is over, that’s the touchdown. Now, after that is when he rolled over and we don’t have any clear view of, quote unquote, anything happening after that. So that’s where it stands.”

The Seahawks would add another touchdown for a 24-7 win and the Giants added another frustrating moment to a season overflowing with them.

John Fox is an offensive wizard, obviously

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After yesterday’s games, there can be no more doubt as to the owner of the keenest offensive mind in the NFL.

That’s right: Bears head coach John Fox.

The veteran head coach presided over a comfortable win over his own team, with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky completing an awe-inspriring 4-of-7 passing for 102 yards.

If it reminded you of a few things, it should have.

The last time a team won with a quarterback completing four passes or fewer was Nov. 13, 2011, when one Timothy Richard Tebow of Denver was a clean 2-of-8 for 69 yards and a touchdown to beat the Chiefs.

Or you might have recalled a Christmas Eve, 2006 game, when the Panthers were without a healthy quarterback, but a hobbled Chris Weinke led them to a win by completing 4-of-7 passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.

That’s right, Fox had his thumbprints all over those games as well.

This is a team game,” Fox said, via J.J. Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago. “Sometimes it’s going to be one-sided in one way or another. I’ve seen that before. But at the end of the day, you have smiling faces in the locker room and they fought hard for that victory.”

Fox grew up as a defensive coach, and that remains his specialty. But in football, there are many ways to skin a cat, and Fox has figured out a number of them. He wants to play a rookie quarterback the same way I want a colonoscopy this morning, but he’s found a way to insulate Trubisky from having to do too much.

Which is the same way he held his nose and figured out a way to win with Tebow.

And while others have generally gotten more of the credit, Fox was the instigator of the modern Wildcat back in 2006, when the Panthers were without healthy quarterbacks but had plenty of running backs.

The mantle of “offensive genius” is generally bestowed upon those who want to throw the ball all over the yard, and draw many pretty Xs and Os in unique ways. But sometimes, football can be as simple as figuring out what you do well, doing that, and not trying to do the stuff you’re not as good at. If that means playing without a quarterback, so be it.

“It’s not always going to be perfect,” Fox said. “You have to give the other team some credit. But I thought as a football team, we played well today, and it was enough to get a decisive win.”

And that, ultimately, is the point, regardless how many points your offense is able or willing to try to put on the board.

President Trump notes players still kneeling during national anthem

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President Trump’s push to keep NFL players who don’t stand during the national anthem a major storyline continued on Monday morning.

Players from the Giants, Seahawks and 49ers did not stand for the anthem before Sunday’s games and the President took note of it as well as the fact that the league has not bowed to his call to change the rules to force players to stand during the playing of the song. As you could probably guess, the President chose Twitter as the medium for his message.

“Two dozen NFL players continue to kneel during the National Anthem, showing total disrespect to our Flag & Country. No leadership in NFL!”

The number of players was a bit lower than 24, but it seems clear than any number of players not standing will elicit a response from the White House. He directed tweets at the league after their meetings last week ended without an edict forcing players to stand and released a petition asking people to sign in support of his view on the matter.