Joe Thomas sees offensive linemen as “mushrooms”

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Fresh from 10,000th straight snap, Browns left tackle Joe Thomas arguably has received more attention in one week than he has in his entire career combined. And for good reason — offensive linemen typically get ignored.

“The only time we get noticed is if we do something poorly,” Thomas said earlier this week on PFT Live. “If we give up a sack or a penalty or miss a block that’s when we get noticed. So it’s easy to hate the stress and the anxiety that builds up before a game.”

So why be an offensive lineman?

“Well I think when I decided to be an offensive lineman a long time ago, it’s almost like you have to understand that you’re just going to be treated like a mushroom forever and you’re not gonna get any of the credit and you’re gonna get all of the blame and they’re gonna throw you in a dark corner and throw poop on you and expect you to grow and flourish,” Thomas said. “So I think you just have that expectation and that understanding that when you decide to be an offensive lineman that’s just the way how your life is gonna be.”

Thomas echoed the mushroom characterization on Thursday when asked by reporters about the presence of a mushroom on a T-shirt he was wearing.

“As offensive linemen, we consider ourselves mushrooms because we get thrown in the corner of a dark room and people pile poop on us and then expect us to grow,” Thomas said. “So that is why we are mushrooms.”

The reference to throwing poop on the linemen was figurative, not literal. It wasn’t that way back in the ’50s, however, when the Giants and Colts played an exhibition game in Louisville a week after the circus had been in town. Former Colts defensive tackle Art Donovan and his teammates threw the residual elephant dung at the offensive linemen.

Garett Bolles returns to practice; Broncos haven’t ruled him out for this week

AP

Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles left the field on a cart in tears Sunday, believing his season was over. He returned to practice Thursday the happiest player on the field.

“It felt good today, and I was grateful,” Bolles said, via Nicki Jhabvala of The Denver Post. “When I came out here, it was definitely a blessing to be back out here with my brothers knowing this is the greatest sport that any man can play. Knowing that I’m back out here and feeling good, that’s all that matters right now.”

The first-round draft pick was limited, participating in early positional drills and some team drills. Instead of week to week per the initial prognosis, Bolles now is day to day. He hopes to play this week.

“Not surprised by it,” coach Vance Joseph said of Bolles’ return to the practice field. “Obviously, the initial injury we thought was more serious, but he’s treated [it], and he’s getting better fast. He’s not there yet, so we’re not sure if he’s going to play on Sunday, but he’s getting better fast.”

Bolles left the stadium wearing a boot on his left foot and using crutches for support. Further testing Monday determined a lower-leg bruise. His left ankle was heavily taped Thursday, per Jhabvala.

“I feel great,” Bolles said. “Right now, I’m just going to take it one day at a time. I’m not planning on pushing it. . . . Whether it’s this week or next week, I just know that I’m going to be ready.”

Veteran swing tackle Donald Stephenson initially replaced Bolles, but played only two snaps before veteran Allen Barbre filled the spot.

Lawyer says Aaron Hernandez had “severe” CTE

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The late Aaron Hernandez, who played three seasons with the Patriots, had a “severe” case of Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy.

Lawyer Jose Baez said that Hernandez’s estate has filed a federal lawsuit against the NFL and the Patriots, arguing that the league was “fully aware of the damage that could be inflicted from repetitive impact injuries and failed to disclose, treat, or protect him from the dangers of such damage.” Baez did not rule out adding the NCAA or the University of Florida as defendants.

Baez may have no choice but to do so, since the case against the NFL and the Patriots may not last very long. Hernandez presumably is bound by the terms of the concussion settlement. Unless he opted out of the class action, his ability to file a lawsuit would have been blocked by the agreement that created a compensation system for former players. Hernandez has not played football since the settlement was reached.

He stopped playing, of course, because he was accused and convicted of murder. Baez successfully defended Hernandez against separate double murder charges, and Hernandez committed suicide not long after that.

The NFL did not immediately respond to the news by contending that Hernandez’s lawsuit is blocked by the settlement.

“We have not seen a copy of the suit and cannot comment at this time,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT by email.

Hue Jackson challenges Kenny Britt “to step up and make plays”

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With only five targets, two catches, 15 yards and one big drop, wide receiver Kenny Britt hasn’t yet lived up to the four-year, $32.5 million contract the Browns gave him in the offseason. Instead of benching Britt, Browns coach Hue Jackson challenged him.

I’ve challenged him that he needs to step up and make plays, and I think he will,” Jackson said Thursday, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I really do. This is where we are. We’ve got to make some plays, and we understand that these are the guys we have. Kenny is the elder statesman in that room, and I think he’ll raise up and help lead these young guys, and we’ll go play good this week.”

Britt, 29, understands his role and plans to do what the Browns are paying him to do — make plays.

“I mean, he wants me to step up, bring more energy to practice and to the field, on and off the field and in the classroom,” Britt said. “Because we’re leading down a path that we didn’t believe we were going to go. 0-2 is not where we wanted to be, and it’s not where we’re going to stay and as long as do the little things and the small things that we’ve been missing the last two games, I believe that we can be a contender in this league.”

He gets a third chance to make a first impression with Browns fans against the Colts on Sunday. Britt, who had his first 1,000-yard season a year ago, has accepted Jackson’s challenge.

“I’m always up to any challenge,” he said. “I’ve always been a competitive person. If the coaches want me to go out there and kick the ball down the field, I’ll go out there and do it.”

Jarrad Davis still out with concussion, Lions not complaining about Odell Beckham’s block

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Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis remains out of practice with a concussion suffered Monday night against the Giants, raising the possibility that he’ll have to miss Sunday’s big game against the Falcons. But while the Lions would like to have their first-round pick on the field, they’re not complaining about the play that got him hurt.

That play came when Giants receiver Odell Beckham pushed Davis in the back, forcing Davis into a collision that resulted in the concussion. Beckham probably should have been called for an illegal block in the back, but Lions coach Jim Caldwell declined to criticize Beckham or the officials.

“There was no flag thrown,” Caldwell said. “I believe that the officials do an outstanding job, actually. When you go into a ballgame, players make the most mistakes, coaches make the second most, and then officials make the fewest, so they do the best they can.”

Although Beckham has previously been suspended for on-field misconduct, that particular block, while possibly illegal, didn’t look dirty. Davis just got unlucky that when he was pushed from behind, it caused a head-first collision and a concussion.

Brian Cushing’s longtime trainer says DHEA caused positive PED test

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Joe DeFranco, a personal trainer who has worked with Texans linebacker Brian Cushing throughout Cushing’s high school, college and NFL careers, says that Cushing tested positive for PEDs because he took DHEA.

Although DHEA is a legal supplement sold in many nutrition stores, it is banned by the NFL and many other sports leagues. DeFranco said on his podcast that Cushing knows DHEA is banned and took it anyway.

“He knows it’s a banned substance,” DeFranco said. “He didn’t blame a tainted supplement. . . . He knowingly took a banned substance. He’s wrong. I don’t agree with the decision and, yeah, he’s got to be punished. It’s a banned substance in the NFL and when you take a banned substance you get suspended.”

Cushing was suspended 10 games because it was the second positive performance-enhancing drug test of his NFL career. After his first positive test, for HCG, Cushing claimed he hadn’t taken the substance and said overtraining must have changed the hormone levels in his body. After this more recent positive test, Cushing apologized and didn’t offer any excuses.

Ezekiel Elliott on lack of effort: I can’t do that; I can’t put that type of stuff on film

AP

Ezekiel Elliott heard LaDainian Tomlinson’s criticism, and the Cowboys star running back didn’t dispute he showed a “lack of effort” on Chris Harris‘ interception.

“I guess you could say it looked like that,” Elliott said Thursday in his first comments since Tomlinson’s criticism. “I would say I was just very frustrated, but that’s no excuse for the lack of effort I showed on tape. I just can’t do that. Being one of the leaders on the team and being a guy that people count on, I can’t put that type of stuff on film.”

Elliott said the Cowboys addressed the issue “in-house.”

After the Cowboys’ loss to the Broncos on Sunday, Tomlinson said on NFL Network that Elliott “absolutely quit on his team today.” The Hall of Fame running back, who lives in the Dallas area, pointed to Elliott’s lack of communication with his teammates on the sideline, as he sulked on the bench.

The second-year running back had a career-low nine carries for a career-low 8 yards, outgained by quarterback Dak Prescott.

Elliott, though, mostly has taken heat for failing to chase Harris after the interception. He instead pulled up, put his hands on his hips and walked off the field.

“Just bad effort,” Elliott said.

Elliott insists the play and the game were out of character.

“It’s definitely not me,” Elliott said. “It’s definitely not the type of player I am. It’s definitely not who I am for this team. I just can’t do that. I was frustrated, and I wasn’t myself.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones defended Elliott, sort of, earlier this week, and Prescott threw his support behind Elliott, too.

“First, I don’t really listen to outside criticism,” Prescott said. “For me, I know who he is. I know the type of football player he is, and the type of guy he is. I’ve never, and never will, question his competitiveness or his lack of effort or whatever you want to say. I’ll never question that. I know he’s going to be there for me, for his teammates, for this organization, so I don’t pay attention to what other people say.”

Gerald McCoy returns to practice

AP

Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy returned to practice, according to Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. It is not yet known whether McCoy’s injured right ankle will limit him Thursday, but Jenna Laine of ESPN tweeted that McCoy’s limp appears to be gone.

McCoy missed Wednesday’s work as he rehabbed the ankle.

He played 40 of 64 snaps against the Bears on Sunday, making three tackles, including one for loss, and four quarterback hits.

Linebacker Kwon Alexander (hamstring) remains out of practice Thursday, but said, via Auman, that he expects to play Sunday against the Vikings.

Alexander played only 17 snaps against the Bears, with rookie Kendall Beckwith replacing him.

Jets to use a committee approach at tailback

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Matt Forte? No.

Bilal Powell? Nope.

Elijah McGuire? Not McHappening.

The Jets will be using a three-man rotation at tailback. Via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, offensive coordinator John Morton said the Jets will use a three-man committee at the position.

This means that, barring injury or an in-game decision to ride a hot hand, none will generate much by way of production. Which means that anyone playing football of the fantasy variety should steer clear of the Jets.

More accurately, it’s another reason to steer clear of the Jets.

Saints cut John Kuhn, again

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For the second time this month, the Saints have released fullback John Kuhn.

The Saints cut Kuhn on September 3 and then re-signed him on September 6, and it’s possible they’re planning something similar this time around: New Orleans may not plan to use many offensive formations with a fullback on Sunday against the Panthers, making Kuhn expendable, but they could bring him back next week if they want to have a fullback on the roster.

It’s also possible that some other team could sign Kuhn, although in today’s NFL there aren’t a lot of teams eager to add fullbacks.

Cutting Kuhn frees up the roster spot that the Saints will use for the newly signed Kendall Langford.

Odell Beckham expects bigger workload this week

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Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham returned to the lineup against the Lions on Monday night after missing the season opener with a sprained ankle, but he didn’t play quite as much as he’s usually accustomed to playing.

Beckham was in on 34-of-56 snaps in the 24-10 loss and caught four passes for 36 yards. He’s remained a limited participant in practice the first two days this week, but said Thursday that he expects to be less limited come Sunday.

“I look to play a lot more this week,” Beckham said, via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.

Having Beckham closer to full speed would be a plus to a beleaguered Giants offense, but how much he’ll be able to add to the effort will be tied to how much time Eli Manning has to find him. Manning didn’t have much time in either of the first two games and the Eagles pass rush has been strong during their first two games of the season.

Cyrus Mehri won’t concede to De Smith, yet

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The campaign for NFLPA executive director ended before it even began. For the candidate who never officially became a candidate, the campaign hasn’t ended.

In a letter to the eleven members of the NFLPA’s Executive Committee, Mehri vows to continue his effort to supplant DeMaurice Smith, two days after the NFLPA selection committee decided unanimously to extend Smith’s contract. Mehri, an accomplished lawyer who among other things helped force the league to adopt the Rooney Rule, refuses to concede to a process union leadership has decided to shift away from an automatic election every three years.

NFLPA president Eric Winston explained the new procedures in detail during a recent visit to PFT Live; the union has decided to adopt a process similar to other sports unions and businesses, eliminating the automatic election process.

This isn’t a public office,” Winston said.

Mehri seems to think it is, and he has opted to place direct, public pressure on the men he would eventually serve, if he should ever get the job.

“I am very disappointed that you have decided not to conduct a thorough and comprehensive process for the election of the NFLPA Executive Director but have instead hurriedly rubber-stamped DeMaurice Smith’s selection and contract extension,” Mehri writes. “The NFLPA is not a corporation like Apple or a trade association like the NFL — it is a union which must have democratic principles at its core.”

Mehri also accuses the Executive Committee of a “failure to accord the membership this fundamental democratic opportunity to determine their destiny,” arguing that it both benefits the NFL and “weakens the NFLPA because its leader has become ever weaker without the legitimacy of an election.” Mehri said that his “efforts will not cease until there is a process for providing for a democratic election of the Executive Director.”

And if Mehri can’t secure the job through a campaign that isn’t going to happen, he apparently hopes to set the stage for the job to come open later, asking the Executive Committee to “insist that the contract’s termination provisions provide the utmost flexibility to the NFLPA,” making it “terminable at will” and without any guaranteed money.

“Prudence, as well as your fiduciary duties, compels such flexibility in order to protect the interests of the players and the treasury of the NFLPA,” Mehri writes.

Mehri’s advice, sound as it possibly may be when regarded in isolation, likely won’t register with the intended audience, if the intended audience is the Executive Committee. Pointed fingers and public confrontations are the way to persuade football players, and they’ll undoubtedly ignore Mehri’s aspirations now the same way they ignored him in deciding to give Smith a new term that will last at least three years, as dictated by the union’s Constitution.

But it’s possible that Mehri’s intended audience isn’t the list of names to whom the letter is addressed. Mehri may be hoping to recruit current players, former players, and members of the media to begin pressuring the Executive Committee either to change its Constitution to call for an election or to negotiate a contract that makes it easier for any new members of the Executive Committee to dump Smith and, presumably, hire Mehri.

The fact that Mehri’s effort gained no traction before the NFLPA decided to keep Smith (indeed, a grand total of no current players showed up for a meeting with players in Dallas) suggests that it won’t gain any more traction now that the NFLPA has decided to stay the course with Smith.

David Bakhtiari, Randall Cobb remain out of practice

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The Packers opened the week with eight players out of practice and that number dropped to seven on Thursday, although that’s only because the team placed tackle Jason Spriggs on injured reserve.

The other seven players who were out on Wednesday remained out on Thursday. That group includes left tackle David Bakhtiari, a player Spriggs backs up when both are healthy. Bakhtiari missed last Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and his lack of activity this week suggests they may be without him for another week.

Wide receiver Randall Cobb is missing practice with a chest injury. Initial reports were that the injury wasn’t particularly serious, but his chances of playing this week are looking less good as the days go by.

On the defensive side, linebacker Nick Perry is having hand surgery and defensive lineman Mike Daniels remains out with a hip injury. Safety Kentrell Brice, cornerback Davon House and linebacker Jake Ryan round out the list of non-participants for the Packers.

Sam Bradford getting what he “needs” in practice

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Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford continues to be limited by a non-contact knee injury from 10 days ago. He’ll practice again on Thursday as the Vikings continue to be unsure regarding whether he’ll face the Buccaneers on Sunday.

“He got what he needed yesterday and he’ll do the same today,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur told reporters on Thursday.

The Vikings need Bradford if they’re going to have a chance against Tampa Bay. Sure, Case Keenum has had good luck against the Bucs in the past, but these Bucs seem to be better than they’ve been in recent years. Minnesota will need to be executing on offense the way it did against the Saints in Week One, if the home team hopes to move to 2-1.

Packers place Jason Spriggs on injured reserve

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Wednesday brought word that the Packers were bringing defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois back to the team and Thursday brought the official announcement from the team.

They also announced that tackle Jason Spriggs is being placed on injured reserve to make space on the active roster. Spriggs, a 2016 second-round pick, has a hamstring injury that kept him from playing in last Sunday’s loss to the Falcons.

Spriggs played in every game last season and made a couple of starts, but the team opted to go with Kyle Murphy as their right tackle when Bryan Bulaga hurt his ankle before the start of the regular season. His injury meant he wasn’t an option from stepping in for left tackle David Bakhtiari when Bakhtiari sat out last Sunday with his own hamstring injury.

Spriggs will be eligible to be designated for return after spending at least six weeks on injured reserve.

Bulaga missed Week Two as well, but returned for a full practice on Wednesday. Bakhtiari remained out of action.