Lions last had a 100-yard rusher on Thanksgiving in 2013

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Lions coach Jim Caldwell said on Tuesday that he believes the running game is a quarterback’s “best friend,” which means that Matthew Stafford hasn’t enjoyed much kinship over the last four years.

The Lions have not ranked higher than 28th in rushing yards per game since finishing 17th in 2013, which was also the last year that the Lions had a running back go for 100 yards in a game. Reggie Bush pulled it off on Thanksgiving that year and the team has now played 62 games without anyone matching Bush’s accomplishment.

That’s a streak no other team has matched in over two decades.

“That’s more of an attitude than any technical thing,” running back Ameer Abdullah said, via the Detroit News. “It’s not always player issues. Sometimes we may not be dialing up the right thing at certain times. It’s about bringing a good attitude and executing your job. I want it to be better, but I got to be better. That’s the thing I keep telling myself, just try to be better, keep going hard.”

The Vikings will be on the other side of the ball on Thursday and they are the second-toughest team in the league to run against, which suggests that there’s a good chance that the Lions are going to be at 63 games and counting when they head to Baltimore in Week 13.

President Trump doesn’t like NFL’s potential anthem solution

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In 2009, the NFL decided to enhance its overt embrace of all things American by playing the national anthem after, not before, the players exited the locker room. According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the league’s quick and easy fix to the national anthem may be to go back to what they did previously, with the players staying in the locker room for the anthem.

“I think that if players are still kneeling at the end of the year, then it could very well happen,” an unnamed source familiar with the deliberations told Maske.

If that was a trial balloon intended for the Commander-in-Chief/Chief-Anthem-Agitator, it wandered straight in to power lines.

“The NFL is now thinking about a new idea — keeping teams in the Locker Room during the National Anthem next season,” President Trump said. “That’s almost as bad as kneeling! When will the highly paid Commissioner finally get tough and smart? This issue is killing your league!”

Chances are that the President doesn’t realize that the practice of putting the players on the field for the anthem is relatively new, or that college football teams routinely aren’t on the field for the anthem. Chances are that, even if he knew that, he wouldn’t care.

For the President, this continues to be a base-rallying shiny object that gets people to not pay attention to the things that he doesn’t want them to pay attention to. And it will be even harder for him to get people to pay attention to it in 2018 if the league picks a Friday afternoon in the summer to announce the new policy and then the games begin with the anthem being played in the same way at NFL games that it’s currently being played at NCAA games.

It’s also a way for the NFL to solve the issue without making any concessions to the players. Which, at a time when the league and the players continue to discuss a possible solution, would provide a solution that doesn’t require the league to do anything at all.

Calais Campbell on facing Cardinals: I’m living in the moment

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Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell says that this weekend’s game against the Cardinals is “not about me,” but he does have one individual goal in mind.

Campbell wants to get wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald‘s jersey when the game is over, something he said he’s wanted for a long time but never asked Fitzgerald for in the past. It seems like it would have been an easy enough conversation to have when Campbell was Fitzgerald’s teammate in Arizona for nine years, but apparently you need a little distance to have some conversations.

Outside of that, though, Campbell says facing his former team will not be a factor on his mind.

“I get that it’s a story line, but for me, you have to make it just another game,” Campbell said, via the Florida Times-Union. “You have to make it just about getting a`W’. I have friends there, I spent a lot of time there, a lot of history. But you’ve got to live in the moment. Right now, we’re a real good team trying to take that next step and set ourselves up to win a division.”

Campbell’s acquisition has played a big role in putting the Jaguars in position for a division title as his 11.5 sacks for the NFL’s stingiest defense are tied for the most in the league. That’s more than Campbell ever had for the Cardinals, who will be in for an unhappy reminder of what they’re missing if their offensive line can’t handle their former teammate this weekend.

Cam Newton posts old mugshots, talks second chances

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Sometimes Cam Newton can be an open book. Even if it’s hard to read the letters.

The Panthers quarterback celebrated the Thanksgiving week by rehashing one of the worst days of his life, by posting his mugshots from his stolen laptop incident at the University of Florida.

It was a reasonably heartfelt message. If you can read it, I mean. Newton posts message in his own special font for some reason, but if you look hard enough, you might see something worthwhile in there.

“I contemplated posting this and even reluctant about it, but as I think about my life and the many things I’m thankful for, I want to be an open book so people can hear my testimony and learn from the flaws and mistakes I made,” he wrote, translated to English. “On this day — 11/21/2008 — I was arrested for a stolen laptop, and I’m sure you’re asking yourself: ‘Where is he going with this story?’ But the moral of the story is this: On this date, I thought my life and my career was over, and the fact that I had shamed my family with the media coverage surrounding this situation. I vowed to myself on this day (nine years ago) that I will be better from this situation.

“What you must learn from this story is this: If you live your life listening to what other people are saying what you should do and not your own, shame on you. I can honestly say to you today that no one gave me a chance to succeed down bad in my situation, and if I would have listened to those people that said I can’t, who knows where I would be today. So I’m extremely thankful for God’s mercy, grace and favor over my life. So if I can do it with my circumstances, surely you can do it and be whatever you want to be with hard work and persistence. — Love.”

Newton’s seems aware of the fact his act isn’t for everyone, even if sometimes he lacks the self-awareness that he has been an active participant in creating some of the negative perceptions.

After going through a series of missteps this year (making a sexist joke, losing yogurt money because of it, then freezing out the local media), he’s in a better mood at the moment. He just hosted his annual Thanksgiving dinner for local underprivileged families, which certainly helps. They’re also winning, and that’s part of it.

But whatever you think of him, looking back on his past problems seems to indicate a desire to learn and grow from them. That’s a decent idea, whether you’ve ever been a teenage petty thief, an MVP, or write in a readable typeface.

John Dorsey hopes to return to NFL in 2018


The Chiefs surprised many people when they fired General Manager John Dorsey in June and replaced him with his deputy Brett Veach, including Dorsey himself.

Dorsey said he was “just a caretaker,” but told Adam Schefter of ESPN that the firing after four years on the job still surprised him “a little bit” while appearing on Schefter’s podcast. He also said that he’s been spending his days watching tape and making calls around the league in hopes of landing another caretaker position come 2018.

“Hopefully when January comes rolling around something good will happen,” Dorsey said. “I’d like to see if I get another opportunity to build. I see myself as a builder and a teacher. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll still try to get into football somehow but I’m the eternal optimist. I’m hoping something may happen. You’ve got to be prepared if something does happen.”

Dorsey said he knows he “can do my job with the best of my peers” in the league and the first five games of this season were a pretty good example for Dorsey to point to on that front. Draft picks like Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Marcus Peters and Kareem Hunt joined Alex Smith, acquired in a trade a month after Dorsey was hired, in leading the way to a 5-0 record.

Things have slowed from there, but Dorsey believes the team will “make that final push in late November and late December.” If they don’t, they may turn to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who Dorsey drafted after orchestrating a move up the draft board in a more that will have an impact on the Chiefs roster long after Dorsey has moved on to his next job.

Some think Darnold, Rosen should stay in school

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When it comes to the draft, the best prospects of a given year go early, regardless of whether they’re prospects who are likely to become great players. This year, two of the quarterbacks perceived to be the best quarterback prospects from this bunch of prospects would likely be taken early in the draft. The question is whether they’re poised to become great players, right away or ever.

For USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen, both could choose to stay in school for one more year. And some in NFL circles think they should.

It’s a perception that comes both from scouts with teams that may be looking for a quarterback in the draft, and from scouts with teams that likely won’t be. As to Rosen, the thinking is that another year would assist with his maturity and leadership skills. As to Darnold, the thinking is that the extra year would help him improve his overall game.

As to Darnold, some still think he may choose to stay in school, and that he’d come out only if certain he’ll be a top-three pick. As to Rosen, some think he’ll enter the draft — and that he’ll likely be a top-10 pick if he does.

Officially, Rosen hasn’t finalized his plan.

“Everything matters when it comes to a decision like that, so I’ll take up all the different sorts of variables into the equation,” Rosen said Tuesday, via the Los Angeles Times. “Maybe in a few more weeks I’ll give you a good answer.”

In a few more weeks an answer necessarily will come (with the identity of his next coach surely a factor), because there’s a deadline for declaring early for the draft. Between now and then, Darnold and Rosen need to do all they can to get the best possible information about when and where they’ll go, if they choose to go.

Eli Manning fired up the troops before last week’s win

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With the Giants riding high on a one-game winning streak, they’re looking for motivation wherever they can get it.

And they got some of it last week from a guy who isn’t exactly a yeller and screamer.

Via Tom Rock of Newsday, Giants teammates said quarterback Eli Manning delivered a pregame pep talk that might have been out of character for him, but was well-received.

Eli is the heartbeat of our team,” running back Orleans Darkwa. “In pregame he gave a fiery speech that got everybody riled up. To have a guy like that who has been through so much, who has those two Super Bowl rings, we follow his footsteps in everything. To have him come up there, it shows the weight that he carries on this team.

“He’s definitely up for it, and everybody tries to follow in his footsteps because he’s been there, he’s done that, as far as reaching the Promised Land.”

Manning’s track record, and the fact it came before some 209th consecutive start, gave his words some weight. But he doesn’t swing it around all the time, picking his spots. This year, with the Giants crumbling under the weight of large expectations, they clearly need a steady approach, since they can’t fix this mess all at once.

“He talks to us a lot,” Darkwa said. “The difference [Sunday] was just you could sense the fire in his voice. But at the end of the day, Eli is going to be Eli. He shouldn’t change the way he commands a room, he shouldn’t change the way he talks to us. That’s just how he is. That’s how he leads us.”

It’s reasonable to wonder if he should have done it sooner, but it also underscores the approach he has always taken.

Ben Roethlisberger insists he cares very much, thank you very much

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Ben Roethlisberger has a problem with people who extrapolated his own offseason musings about retirement into the idea he doesn’t care as much about the game.

And even though the topic began with his own words, and then a dash of “maybe I don’t have it anymore,” after a five-pick game in a loss to the Jaguars, he disputes that now.

Speaking from the platform of his weekly paid radio appearance on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger took issue with his critics mostly, saying they “don’t know what they are talking about.”

“In a way it’s like, ‘Wait a second, you’re going to take a shot at me and you don’t know me?'” Roethlisberger said, via Jeremy Fowler of “I’m going to go out here and bust my butt every day and be limping with bruises and put my body and my family through this and not care? You’re absolutely nuts.”

It’s easier to love football now, since the Steelers are winning (five straight) and he’s playing well (four touchdowns to beat the Titans last week). The fact he’s had the extra weekend off after that one probably helps his mood. But still he bristled at the idea his heart wasn’t in the game anymore.

“I laughed about it,” Roethlisberger said. “[It’s] why is Ben still playing if he doesn’t care? If he’s not playing well, he must not care about it. It couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t know what you’re talking about. . . .

“I’ve done this long enough, too, that I can let [criticism] roll off my back.”

Clearly. Regardless his inner motivation (or whether he’s just ginning up some external), the current situation is clear. He’s liking football very much now, because things are going well. Tune in when the offseason begins for the next installment in “As The Ben Turns.”

Wednesday morning one-liners

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The Patriots’ defense is giving up 282 passing yards per game, most in the NFL.

The Bills’ defense has forced an NFL-high 20 fumbles.

Dolphins RB Damien Williams has a 69-yard run this year but has just 74 yards on his other 37 carries.

With six games to go, Jets QB Josh McCown already has a career-high 14 touchdown passes.

The Ravens’ defense has an NFL-high 16 interceptions.

The Browns are the only team in the NFL converting less than 30 percent of their third downs.

The Bengals are gaining an NFL-low 265.6 yards a game.

Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell is leading the league with 886 rushing yards.

The Texans’ defense has allowed just three rushing touchdowns this season, fewest in the NFL.

The Colts’ defense is giving up an NFL-high 8.3 yards per pass.

The Jaguars’ defense has held opposing quarterbacks to a 64.5 passer rating, the lowest in the NFL.

The Titans’ defense has given up an NFL-high 151 passing first downs.

The Chargers’ defense is allowing an NFL-worst 138.9 rushing yards per game.

The Raiders’ defense still doesn’t have an interception. Every other team has at least three interceptions.

The Broncos’ defense has given up 22 touchdown passes, tied for most in the NFL.

The Chiefs’ defense is holding quarterbacks to an NFL-low 54.6 percent completion rate.

The Giants’ defense has just 14 sacks, tied for fewest in the NFL.

The Eagles’ defense is allowing an NFL-low 71 rushing yards per game.

Cowboys RB Alfred Morris is averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

Washington QB Kirk Cousins has a career-high 101.8 passer rating.

Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky is averaging 7.8 yards per carry and 6.8 yards per pass.

Packers QB Brett Hundley is averaging 8.0 yards per carry and 5.9 yards per pass.

The Lions are 0-for-6 when going for it on fourth down, the worst in the NFL.

The Vikings have the NFL’s best third down defense.

The Falcons’ defense has allowed opposing offenses to pick up a first down on nine fourth downs, the most in the NFL.

The Panthers’ defense is giving up only 15.7 first downs per game, best in the NFL.

The Buccaneers’ defense is allowing opposing offenses to pick up the first down on 46 percent of third downs, worst in the NFL.

Saints QB Drew Brees has been sacked just 10 times in 10 games.

The Cardinals’ defense has recovered just two fumbles, tied for the fewest in the NFL.

The 49ers’ defense has allowed 77 rushing first downs this season, most in the NFL.

The Seahawks have just three rushing touchdowns and two of them are by Russell Wilson.

Rams RB Todd Gurley has a career high 11 total touchdowns.

Lions waive defensive tackle Khyri Thornton

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The Detroit Lions waived veteran defensive tackle Khyri Thornton on Tuesday.

Thornton had recorded just three tackles in four games since returning to the roster from suspension last month. He played 68 defensive snaps and 16 special teams snaps in his four games with Detroit this season.

Thornton appeared in 13 games while making six starts for the Lions last season. He recorded 18 tackles and a sack last season before being suspended the first six games of this year due to violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. He appeared in 23 games for Detroit over the last three seasons.

Thornton was a third round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2014. He never appeared in a game for the Packers after a hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve at the end of training camp. He was waived the following September, claimed by the New England Patriots and waived again a month later.

The Lions claimed him off waivers from New England and he’s spent the last three seasons with the Lions.

Charges dropped against Sam Adams in tax fraud case

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Former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sam Adams had charges against him dropped in a case where he was alleged to have committed tax evasion and wage theft while running six northwest health clubs.

“My wife Erika and I are relieved the truth has come out, and that our family can put this painful episode behind us,” Adams said in a statement released by his representatives. “Our lives have been on hold while this cloud hung over us.”

Adams claimed the issues stemmed from the billing company he hired to manage the finances of the clubs and that a forensic audit of the company would prove he was not responsible for any fraudulent activity.  The accusations against Adams alleged he failed to pay more than $445,000 in taxes, failed to pay employees $41,000 in wages and benefits, and failed to pay roughly $35,000 for unemployment insurance.

According to Ranji Sinha of KIRO 7, the Washington Attorney General’s office said Hollystone Holdings pleaded guilty to charges and will pay the employees their missing wages.

Adams played for the Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos during his 14 years in the NFL.

Luke Joeckel expected back this week for Seahawks, Oday Aboushi out with dislocated shoulder

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While the Seahawks had several more players go down with injuries Monday night against Atlanta, they appear set to get a member of their starting offensive line back this week.

Left guard Luke Joeckel has missed the last five games for Seattle after having a clean up surgery on his knee during the team’s bye week in October. The surgery was to address some nagging issues in the knee he sustained a torn ACL last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

There’s a really good chance,” head coach Pete Carroll said on his radio show Monday morning. “Luke wants to play and that’s important and he’s ready to go. That could likely happen.

“With Luke coming back and him and Duane (Brown) playing on the left side, that’s a pretty good group right there.”

Joeckel was one of Seattle’s most expensive free agent signings this offseason. He played the first five weeks of the season before needing surgery to address ongoing soreness in his knee. The team acquired Brown from Houston during Joeckel’s absence, so it will be the first game the two have played together if he can return to the lineup this week.

The Seahawks clearly feel they’ve lost something up front in Joeckel’s absence.

“I think just the experience, more than anything, and the strength” offensive line coach Tom Cable said last week. “He was playing at such a high level before he got hurt, so you don’t just replace a guy who’s knocking people back and protecting like he was, and all of those things.”

Right guard Oday Aboushi won’t play this week due to a dislocated shoulder. His absence could allow Joeckel’s replacement on the left side, rookie Ethan Pocic, to slide over to the starting job at right guard this week if Joeckel is good to go. Pocic and Mark Glowinski would be the top options at right guard this week in Aboushi’s absence.

Jerry Jones says he won’t sue over Goodell contract

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has threatened to sue over Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension. Jones won’t be following through on it.

Jones told Jarrett Bell of USA Today that no lawsuit will be filed regarding the five-year deal that the Compensation Committee received unanimous authorization in May to execute.

But Jones nevertheless isn’t ending his crusade; he told Bell that he wants accountability from the Commissioner.

“This is not about replacing Roger,” Jones said. “It’s a misnomer to say it’s payback for Ezekiel Elliott. It is about the accountability of the Commissioner to all of the ownership.”

Jones also seems to think he has struck a deal with the Compensation Committee aimed at preventing litigation, even if the Compensation Committee sees it differently.

“I told the [Compensation] Committee that I was standing down on legal action because they wanted to get input from all of the owners,” Jones said.

Jones continues to have concerns about the situation, even though he voted (along with all other owners) to unanimously authorize the Compensation Committee to execute the deal in May.

“There have been material changes since the resolution,” Jones said. “It should go back to the ownership.”

The nature of the changes to the resolution isn’t clear, given that (as PFT reported over the weekend) the resolution essentially gave the Compensation Committee a blank check. During a Tuesday radio appearance, Jones seemed to suggest that he wants to see the Compensation Committee disband, making Goodell accountable to all owners and not just to a handful of them.

And Jones continues to believe that he’s serving as a representative of the 26 owners not on the Compensation Committee, even if the rest of them don’t collectively believe that.

“My position is that the owners expect me to be the ombudsman for them, as to this committee,” Jones said. “No one has the NFL’s best interest in mind more than me, and I’m doing what I was asked to do by the owners. I don’t see how you can be disciplined for that.”

The discipline would come not from the message, but from his manner and method. And if Jones has a message that he believes can resonate with the rest of his business partners, Jones arguably would be wise to find another owner to spearhead this specific project, without doing so in a way that alienates many of his fellow owners.

Browns’ woes are starting to impact attendance

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The Factory of Sadness is losing customers.

With one win in the first 26 games of the latest reboot, Browns fans are getting to the point where they’ve had enough.

According to Kevin Kleps of Crain’s Cleveland Business, via SportsBusiness Journal, the team’s performance has begun to impact attendance. Despite an announced crowd of 57,003 for Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars, Kleps write that the team “might be fortunate to have had 40,000 people” present.

According to the report, the Browns have routinely had announced attendance of 60,000 or less, a trend that hasn’t occurred since before the team returned as an expansion franchise in 1999.

Coincidentally (or not), owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam recently met with players to seek their input regarding possible changes to the team. Coach Hue Jackson attended; executive V.P. of football operations Sashi Brown didn’t. And all that that implies.

Whatever the Browns do the rest of the way — and an 0-16 season remains possible — changes are coming for the Browns. What they are and when they may happen remains to be seen.

And then the question will be whether those changes will have enough of an impact on Browns fans to get them to support the team, again.

Chris Johnson criticizes Cardinals on social media

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Chris Johnson has become one of the Cardinals’ biggest critics since he lost his job to Adrian Peterson on Oct. 10. He criticized the team’s play calling and offensive line play after Arizona’s 31-21 loss to Houston.

Johnson’s Twitter rant this week has included: “There is no blocking up front in the running game. There is no way u call that play when the game is on the line. Go to what’s working throw It to #FITZ11” as well as “AZ looking for new receivers I hope they are looking for lineman as well something that will actually help the team this time.”

Johnson also has engaged with fans on social media, calling them “clueless” for blaming him for the Cardinals’ running problems. He repeatedly has targeted the play calling and the offensive line as reasons for Arizona currently ranking 31st in rushing.