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Hoyer still looks like the favorite as Pettine ponders Week 1 QB

hoyer AP

Prior to Monday night’s preseason game, Brian Hoyer was the favorite to win his competition with Johnny Manziel to open the season as the Browns’ starting quarterback. After the game, coach Mike Pettine’s comments suggested that Hoyer is still the favorite.

Pettine insisted that all options are on the table, but the combination of Pettine’s anger at Manziel for flipping the bird on the field and Pettine’s insistence that the Week One starter will be the quarterback who gives the Browns the best chance to win in Week One seem to point to Hoyer.

“Whoever gives us the best chance to win the opener will be the starter,” Pettine said. “Somebody has to be ready for the opener.”

Although the Browns drafted Manziel to be the long-term answer at quarterback, throughout the offseason Hoyer has been running the first-team offense. If Pettine thought Manziel gave the Browns the best chance to win their Week One game against the Steelers, then Manziel would have been running with the ones by now. The safer choice is the veteran, and Pettine sounds like he wants to go with the safer choice.

On Monday night in Washington, neither quarterback looked like he’d give the Browns a very good chance of beating the Steelers. Hoyer went 2-for-6 for 16 yards, while Manziel went 7-for-16 for 65 yards. But like Pettine said, somebody has to be ready. And it looks like that somebody is Hoyer.

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Pete Carroll: NFL admitted error on 105-yard return flag

Pete Carroll, Darryll Lewis AP

As soon as it happened, Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon thought the penalty that wiped out his 105-yard interception return for a touchdown was a bad call.

After a few days, the NFL apparently agreed with him.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on 710 ESPN’s “Brock and Salk” show that the league informed him Monday that Simon should not have been flagged for illegal contact on the play.

“If you look at the game, there’s so many opportunities when guys engage just kind of as they’re moving into their positions when hands are on guys,” Carroll said. “And it goes both ways now because they did emphasize offensive pass interference as well as the defensive issues. And so what’s happened is that now that it’s an elevated awareness, they’re seeing so many more contacts that they would have considered incidental in the past and so we’re getting those calls that really don’t have any bearing on the play recognized as penalties.”

Carroll said he was told officials were calling illegal contact at seven times the previous rate this preseason, which has turned a number of games in slow parades marched off in five-yard increments.

“This is just a very sensitive call right now and it’s not the officiating. I don’t blame the officials for this,” Carroll said. “This is really an emphasis that came from the competition committee, which is our coaches primarily. And so what I’m really curious to see is what happens in the next two weeks, how do they respond to these numbers, because there’s no way that we want this many penalties called. That’s ridiculous. I think the Saints might have had 20-something penalties last week or something crazy. That’s a bad game to watch.

“So I’m hoping and I’m trying to get involved in the conversation right now to find out what’s going to happen because we need to start talking now so something happens by opening day. So we’ll just have to work through it.”

It’s interesting for Carroll to take that stance, since his team is the main reason it’s being cracked down upon. But whether officials or players adapt, someone is going to have to, or the days of the three-hour game are history.

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Troy Polamalu glad to be back, in his normal position

Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu AP

With rookie Ryan Shazier on the scene and playing so well, Troy Polamalu might not have to play as much linebacker this year.

But he’s just glad to be back on the field in any capacity now.

The 33-year-old was held out of all live contact in training camp, and didn’t play the preseason opener. After playing every snap last year, he needed that kind of break, but is ready to go now.

Of course, I appreciate it,” Polamalu said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “God willing, I prepared for that, for sure. I feel good. I’m not going to tell you a lie and be like ‘I’m in the greatest shape of my life.’ In truth, I’m in the best shape that I can be in right now, in my 12th year. Time will tell whether that’s relevant this year.”

His playing linebacker on passing downs was out of necessity a year ago, but he thinks getting back to his natural position full-time will also help him.

“It depends, you know, because my role has changed so much through the years. So, it really all depends on how coach LeBeau wants to use me. It’s evolved, its changed, it’s kind of done everything.”

Polamalu said he had a dream that the Steelers were out of cornerbacks, and he had to play there. That might not be a dream of LeBeau’s, but his willingness to do whatever, and do it well, speaks to his longevity and success.

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Jimmy Smith could play this week, Lardarius Webb won’t

Jimmy Smith AP

The Ravens could get one of their injured cornerbacks back for Saturday’s game against the Redskins, but it won’t be Lardarius Webb.

Coach John Harbaugh said that it isn’t realistic for Webb, who has not practiced since July 25 because of a back injury, to be in the lineup for the team’s third preseason game of the summer. With the fourth preseason game usually reserved for reserves and the soon-to-be unemployed, it seems Week One is the earliest we’ll see Webb on the field.

There’s more hope about Jimmy Smith. Smith left last weekend’s game with a chest injury that left him coughing up blood on the sideline, but Harbaugh said there’s a good chance that Smith is going to play against Washington.

“They said it’s not a serious thing,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “He just needs a couple of days to heal up. We do anticipate him to play against the Redskins unless something changes that I’m not aware of.”

Asa Jackson, another injured cornerback, hasn’t been ruled out of the game. He hasn’t practiced since August 10 because of an ankle injury, though, so he’ll likely need to get back on the field in the next couple of days if he’s going to get a chance to play in the Ravens’ tune-up for the regular season.

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Doug Marrone not commenting on Sammy Watkins’s timetable for return

Sammy Watkins AP

Last year, Bills coach Doug Marrone said that he was “110 percent” certain that quarterback EJ Manuel would play in the season finale despite a knee injury.

Manuel wound up missing the game and Marrone said Monday that he was no longer going to be offering injury updates about players as a result. Marrone brought that up in response to questions about when wide receiver Sammy Watkins would return from the rib injury he suffered last weekend. It’s been diagnosed as a bruise, but Marrone wasn’t getting anywhere close to specifics about Watkins’ outlook.

“Unless I know for sure, I am not going to comment on when they’re coming back or when they might come back because it’s too difficult. You have setbacks. You wake up one morning and you have this or that and then I have to stand up here and hear, ‘You told us this and you told us that.’ So, I really don’t know,” Marrone said, via the Buffalo News. “You can practice the next day sometimes. You can come back into a game. Sometimes on the X-ray it shows that it’s a crack. Sometimes it shows that it’s not and then you take a better X-ray and there is a crack. Sometimes, depending on the player, you can be out two weeks, four weeks, six weeks or two months.”

Watkins didn’t do anything more than ride a stationary bike at Monday’s practice. The Bills are scheduled to play the Buccaneers on Saturday in their third preseason game and it seems we’ll be waiting until closer to kickoff before finding out if Watkins has a chance to take part.

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Jets rookie was conscious after single-car accident

Jalen Saunders AP

No light has been shed on what caused Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders‘ car to roll off the road, leading to him being hospitalized, but a few more details are coming to light.

According to Darryl Slater of the Newark Star-Ledger, Saunders was conscious and accepted medical treatment when first responders got to him Friday morning.

What has been described as a “medical event,” led to his being hospitalized for observation. He’s was released from the hospital Sunday, but didn’t practice with the team yesterday. Jets coach Rex Ryan said he won’t play Friday in their third preseason game, but didn’t want to speculate about the regular season opener.

“I think from standing here, it’s easy to say, ‘Ah, I think he’ll play,’” Ryan said. “But we don’t know, really, how he’s going to progress through this exercise and all that. The main thing is, the health of our player, the health of Jalen. I think doing right by him will determine if he’s ready to play or not.

“I think the big thing is, I’m just leaning on the professionals’ advice, on how we’re going to approach it. For us to say ‘oh, yeah, he’s ready to go,’ or whatever, I think it’s a lot smarter to put it in somebody else’s hands that knows a lot more about it.”

According to the police report, Saunders was driving his Toyota Corolla toward the Jets facility at 7:50 a.m. Friday, when he attempted to make a left turn. But because of the “medical event,” he didn’t complete the turn, and rolled at an angle through the intersection and off the road before his car stopped in the tall grass.

The good news is, he’s seemingly well now. He is expected to talk to reporters today or tomorrow.

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RG3 bruises thigh, says avoiding hits is “work in progress”

Robert Griffin III, Billy Winn AP

In one of our five questions about the Redskins, we wondered whether quarterback Robert Griffin III could rebound from his 2013 campaign.

One worrisome point was his inability to stay healthy during his first two seasons and we got a reminder of why that’s been an issue on Monday night. Griffin took several hard hits at the end of scrambles against the Browns and ended the evening with a bruised thigh. Griffin says that it isn’t a serious injury and admitted that he has to do a better job of avoiding those collisions, calling his attempts to better protect himself a “work in progress.”

Griffin promised that he’d get better at it, something coach Jay Gruden said has to happen.

“It’s something we have to continue to talk to him about — how important he is to this team and this franchise. When he gets out of the pocket, he needs to protect himself,” Gruden said, via the Associated Press. “He’s had a habit in his career of being able to get himself out of those predicaments with his speed and his athleticism. But here it’s a 16-game season, with the great talent across the league in the NFL, [and] he’s got to pick his shots and learn how to get down a little bit better.”

Gruden’s not the first to say that about Griffin and he may not be the last, but at some point one has to wonder if Griffin can change something so fundamental to the way he plays the game without hurting his productivity. It would benefit him and the team if he could, although he certainly wouldn’t be the first player unable to shake such a habit.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie AP

Bills T Cyrus Kouandijo is learning about NFL football the hard way.

WR Rishard Matthews is motivated by the competition at Dolphins practice.

Patriots RB Stevan Ridley knows that he can’t keep fumbling the ball and remain in the lineup.

The Jets hope to have CB Dimitri Patterson for the regular season opener.

Rick Wagner has kept a tight grip on the Ravens right tackle job.

The Bengals didn’t like that the Jets blitzed their backups.

Browns defensive players weren’t happy with the flags thrown their way on Monday night.

Steelers WR Martavis Bryant knows he has a lot of work to do to contribute as a rookie.

TE C.J. Fiedorowicz has to do a better job of catching the ball to make the Texans.

The Colts website takes a closer look at S Mike Adams.

WR Allen Hurns is making strides at Jaguars camp.

Titans RB Shonn Greene made a quick return to practice.

The Broncos are still figuring out how much playing time QB Peyton Manning will get this week.

Where does the Chiefs offense need to improve?

The Raiders defense has to make life more difficult on opposing quarterbacks.

The Chargers added DE Doug Worthington to their roster.

A look at the Cowboys’ competition for the third running back job.

Inside CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie’s decision to sign with the Giants.

Eagles T Allen Barbre calls himself a “work in progress” on the right side.

RB Evan Royster helped his chances of making the Redskins on Monday.

T Jordan Mills is getting closer to a return to the Bears lineup.

S DeJon Gomes and WR T.J. Jones aren’t practicing for the Lions.

The Packers will be without TE Brandon Bostick for a while.

LB Justin Jackson made his way from the Lions to the Vikings on waivers.

The Falcons are still looking for a nickel back.

A.J. Klein appears set for a linebacker spot with the Panthers.

A stomach bug kept Saints WR Brandin Cooks out of practice on Monday.

Buccaneers players have taken a liking to Jeff Tedford’s offense.

LB Desmond Bishop has made a good early impression on the Cardinals.

Are things coming together for Rams WR Brian Quick?

What’s the level of concern about the 49ers defense?

The Seahawks are getting healthier at linebacker.

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Brian Orakpo thought Johnny Manziel’s finger was “hilarious”

Brian Orakpo, Johnny Manziel AP

The NFL will likely not share their amusement, but apparently the recipients of Johnny Manziel’s Half-Bud Adams Salute thought it was funny.

Via Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Washington outside linebacker Brian Orakpo used all 10 of his fingers to make Manziel’s “money” gesture after one of the three sacks Manziel took.

“I didn’t even notice it,” Manziel said, probably focusing on his 6-of-17 passing night. “I was really tuned in and more upset at myself about the first play on that drive not letting that ball fly to [tight end Jordan Cameron] as he was coming under. I kind of hesitated, and when you hesitate things close up.”

And then in the third quarter, when Manziel flipped the bird to the Redskins sidelines, that frustration was evident.

It was hilarious,” Orakpo said. “We were messing with him a little bit, just saying this ain’t college and stuff like that. We were having a little fun.

“Manziel flipped us off. It was something funny. We were all laughing on the sidelines.”

Again, they’ll likely not share that enthusiasm at 345 Park Avenue, since players have been fined for saluting their own sidelines that way. So the next time Manziel makes his traditional money gesture, he might have to put his fingers a little closer together.

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Book claims Stephen Jones stopped Jerry from taking Manziel

Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones

Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones has acknowledged that he almost drafted Johnny Manziel, and that he talked about it with his son Stephen at the moment the Cowboys were turning in their card. But a new book says it was a more dramatic scene than that.

According to author Jim Dent in the new book Manziel Mania, Stephen had to physically restrain Jerry from turning in a card with Manziel’s name on it, and if it hadn’t been for Steven stepping in, Manziel would be a Cowboy.

“Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones had snatched the Manziel card straight out of his dad’s hand. Otherwise, Jerry would have drafted him and JFF would have sat for at least three years behind Tony Romo,” Dent writes, via the Dallas Morning News.

If Jerry watched Manziel’s sub-par performance on Monday night, he may be thanking his son today.

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Mike Pettine says all options still on the table for starting QB job

Cleveland Browns v Washington Redskins Getty Images

The starting quarterback job for the Cleveland Browns was fully up for grabs for either Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel Monday night against the Washington Redskins.

Instead, both quarterbacks fumbled away a chance to seize the job.

Head coach Mike Pettine had wanted to name a starting quarterback by Tuesday. Now that decision may have to be delayed.

“All the options are still on the table,” Pettine said. “It’s still something we would like to do but we will see.”

Hoyer and Manziel were wholly uninspiring against Washington. Hoyer completed just 2-of-6 passes for 16 yards while Manziel was 7-for-16 for 65 yards and a touchdown with an obscene gesture thrown in as well.

Pettine said it’s possible the team waits through another preseason game before determining who will start against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 1 despite their initial hope to choose early this week. Neither quarterback has produced any truly stellar play to prove they are the best option for the job in the Browns two preseason games. It may take some more time before Pettine will feel comfortable finally making a decision.

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Manziel’s gesture doesn’t “sit well” with Mike Pettine

Johnny Manziel AP

Count Browns head coach Mike Pettine as less than thrilled about Johnny Manziel’s middle finger flash during Monday’s exhibition loss at Washington.

“It does not sit well.  . . . It’s disappointing, because what we talk about is being poised and being focused,” Pettine said in his postgame press conference. “You have to be able to maintain your poise. That’s a big part of all football players, especially the quarterback, that we have to keep our composure, so that’s something that we’ll obviously address with him.”

Manziel made the gesture toward the Washington bench late in the third quarter as he ran toward the Cleveland huddle. It came as he played with Cleveland’s reserves after two series with the starters in the first half.

Overall, Manziel completed 7-of-16 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in Cleveland’s 24-23 loss at Washington, with the scoring play coming after the rookie quarterback’s gesture.

So back to the bird. Manziel indicated it was a byproduct of the on-field trash talking that can occur in a football game.

“I get words exchanged with me throughout the entirety of the game every game, week after week, and should have been smarter,” Manziel said. “It was [a] Monday Night Football game, and the cameras were probably solidly on me, so I just need to be, need to be smarter about that.”

Manziel also noted he “felt like I did a good job of holding my composure throughout the night, and you have a lapse of judgment and slip up.”

When asked why the incident was “a negative,” Manziel joked: “I mean, I don’t think it’s a positive,” as reporters laughed and the quarterback smiled.

The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner was then asked if he believed the incident would distract him.

“No, no, no distraction, no distraction at all,” Manziel said.

“I mean, it’s not a big deal to me,” said the Browns’ first-round quarterback, shrugging and smiling. “I think I need to, like I said, hold my composure better, but it’s a gesture.”

Whether the NFL agrees is another story. And then there’s the matter of whether Manziel’s next on-field work will be as the starter or as Brian Hoyer’s backup — or whether Cleveland’s quarterback competition will continue to grind on, with neither Hoyer nor Manziel playing especially well on Monday night.

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Pete Carroll expresses confidence in Terrelle Pryor’s passing ability

Terrelle Pryor AP

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Terrelle Pryor rushed for 59 yards on three carries – including a 44-yard touchdown run – against the San Diego Chargers on Friday night.

Pryor is a freakish athlete and has shown his ability to run around and past opposing defenders with the football in the past. However, what Pryor hasn’t shown nearly as often is his proficiency to pass the football.

However, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll spoke highly of Pryor’s passing ability following practice on Monday.

“I like the way he throws the ball,” Carroll said. “He’s been great in practice. He hasn’t had as much opportunity yet [in games] as we’d like to see. The games have just gone in a manner that he hasn’t had to [throw the ball]. But he throws the ball really well. He’s a terrific downfield thrower, he’s got a big arm. He’s made a lot of big plays for us against the ones, and done a lot of good stuff so we feel very confident he can throw the whole passing game.”

Pryor is 10-for-20 for 147 yards and one interception in two preseason games for Seattle. Pryor is fighting for a roster spot with the Seahawks. Tarvaris Jackson appears to be the clear backup option to Russell Wilson and was given a guaranteed contract this offseason by Seattle.

Carroll is clearly intrigued by Pryor’s athletic ability and the potential he has to create explosive plays in Seattle’s offense. However, Pryor still has to shown he is competent enough passer to deserve a roster spot. It appears he is doing enough to show Carroll he deserves to stick around.

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Report: Cardinals to activate Tyrann Mathieu from PUP on Tuesday

Tyrann Mathieu AP

The Arizona Cardinals defense took a massive hit Monday with defensive tackle Darnell Dockett lost for the season with a torn ACL.

But the Cardinals did get some good news as it appears defensive back Tryann Mathieu is getting closer to returning to the field.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the Cardinals are expected to activate Mathieu from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday.

It’s still uncertain whether Mathieu will be ready for the start of the regular season. However, being removed from PUP means Mathieu has passed a physical and should be back on the practice field soon for the Cardinals.

Mathieu believed he was 6-8 weeks away from being able to play when placed on PUP at the start of training camp. That timeline would have Mathieu ready to play sometime between Week 1 and Week 3 of the regular season.

The Cardinals already lost Karlos Dansby to the Cleveland Browns and Daryl Washington to a suspension before Dockett tore his ACL on Monday. A defense that was terrific last season couldn’t take any more bad news. Mathieu coming off PUP now means he’s likely to be ready to play and contribute sooner rather than later.

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Johnny Manziel flashes middle finger after incompletion

Johnny Manziel AP

A fine could be coming for Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel.

After he threw an incomplete pass near the Washington sideline late in the third quarter, Manziel appeared to extend his middle finger up for the Washington bench to see as he ran back to the Cleveland huddle.

As NFL writer Aaron Nagler pointed out on Twitter, the NFL fined Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk $10,000 for giving the finger to the Green Bay bench — something Hawk reportedly said was a joke.

Also, the league fined the late Bud Adams $250,000 for flashing both middle fingers in 2009.

Given that the traction this story has already received on social media, Manziel might have a hard time skating on this one.

In non-gesture related news, Manziel threw his first NFL TD pass early in the fourth quarter on a short toss to tailback Dion Lewis, who took it in for an eight-yard score.

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