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Kelly pushes McCoy’s practice buttons

Kelly Getty Images

On Sunday, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy missed practice with what he called a “small version of turf toe.”  On Tuesday, coach Chip Kelly rolled out a small version of passive aggression when talking about McCoy’s overall practice habits.

It’s OK,” Kelly said regarding the question of whether McCoy’s return to practice on Monday reveals a strong work ethic, via Geoff Mosher of  “Some days he’s great out there.  Other days, he’s not so great.”

McCoy, who recently said that Kelly pushes the star tailback like no other coach ever has, didn’t take questions about Kelly’s remark.  (And all that that implies, possibly.)

Kelly otherwise downplayed the toe injury, said that McCoy is “fine,” that it’s “not as big of an issue as I think anybody has made it out to be, and that the issue has become “way overblown.”

Still, McCoy used the phrase “small version of turf toe,” and former NFL athletic trainer Mike Ryan joined Tuesday’s Pro Football Talk on NBCSN to explain what that means and how it can affect a running back.  Plus he brought props.

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Jets place rookie receiver Shaq Evans on injured reserve

shaqevans AP

The rookie season of Jets fourth-round draft pick Shaq Evans is over before it began.

Evans, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury, has been placed on injured reserve.

Reports today that Evans was waived/injured proved to be incorrect, as the Jets decided to put Evans directly on injured reserve. If the Jets had waived/injured Evans, he could have been claimed by any other team. It’s rare for players who are waived/injured to be claimed, but it’s possible that Evans would have been: He showed a lot of promise in college at UCLA, and if some other team that had a high draft grade on Evans wants him, he would have been there for the taking.

That the Jets put him on injured reserve, rather than exposing him to waivers, suggests that they believe he can still be a contributor. But that won’t be until 2015 at the earliest. His 2014 season is over.

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J.J. Watt: If I got paid a little more, I wouldn’t be terribly upset

J.J. Watt AP

The list of players from the 2011 draft that have outperformed Texans defensive end J.J. Watt over the last three years is somewhere between minuscule and non-existent depending on your point of view.

Watt has had to sit and watch as players like Patrick Peterson, Andy Dalton and Richard Sherman have signed long-term deals with their teams, however. Watt says it’s great to see them sign these deals “because it shows that their teams appreciate what work they put in” and said that he wouldn’t mind seeing the same appreciation from the Texans.

“I like to see those guys be shown appreciation so far,” Watt said, via Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports. “I hope that I’ve worked hard enough and hopefully I’ve put myself in a situation where I can be shown some of the same appreciation. Hopefully they feel I’ve outplayed my current contract, but the end of the day, we’re paid to play football. If I got paid a little more, I wouldn’t be terribly upset.”

Watt, who is under contract through next season after the Texans exercised their 2015 option on his rookie deal which will pay him the average of the 3rd-25th highest paid defensive ends, made it clear that he’s not thinking about a holdout and said he tries to live by the theory of giving $3 of work for $2 of pay. Still, Watt’s outperformed his current deal and has every reason to want another.

Texans owner Bob McNair said recently that the team would do an extension for Watt if it makes sense, but also pointed out that they could franchise him twice after the 2015 season to assure he remains in town. Such a decision might change Watt’s tune, although there’s plenty of time before push would come to shove on that front.

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Steelers bring back Brett Keisel after he snubs Arizona

Keisel AP

Well, now we know why longtime Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel turned down the Cardinals’ generous offer to come out for a visit.

Because he’s a Steeler again.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Keisel has agreed to return to the Steelers for a 13th season.

The move is a win-win, as Keisel lends some stability to a defensive line that lost some parts this offseason, and the timing kept him from having to go to training camp.

Any veteran will welcome that, and now the Steelers are welcoming Keisel home, and it only took using the Cardinals for a little leverage to get it done.

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NFL did not fine Tharold Simon after ejection

tharoldsimon AP

Seahawks cornerback Tharold Simon was ejected from the team’s preseason opener for punching Broncos tight end Gerell Robinson, but Simon got off without any punishment from the league office.

The NFL confirmed to PFT that Simon was not fined for the punch.

The league office doesn’t offer explanations when players aren’t fined, but this is a surprise: The officials were right on top of it and ejected Simon immediately, and ordinarily that would result in a fine as well. And although players aren’t paid their base salaries during the preseason, the NFL rules on fines are the same for the preseason as for the regular season.

Apparently the league decided that Simon’s hit to Robinson’s facemask wasn’t serious enough to merit any further punishment. Simon got off easy.

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Report: Brett Keisel declines invite to visit Arizona

Brett+Keisel+New+York+Jets+v+Pittsburgh+Steelers+aQeenJt6pn5l Getty Images

It looks like Brett Keisel won’t be part of the Cardinals’ plans to replace Darnell Dockett on the defensive line this season.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reported earlier on Tuesday that the veteran defensive end was scheduled to meet with the Cardinals in the wake of Dockett’s torn ACL. Somers is now reporting that Keisel declined the invitation to visit with the team by saying that he didn’t want to leave his family to play in Arizona this season.

Keisel said early this offseason that he’d like to return to the Steelers, but said he was open to playing for other teams as well. The Steelers have not ruled out a return, but there’s been no recent sign that a reunion is in the cards for the 12-year veteran with the only team he’s ever played for in the NFL.

With Keisel out of the picture, the Cardinals will have to look elsewhere for help filling the void left by Dockett. Whoever they tab for that role will have a hard time providing the same kind of production on a defense that’s now lost three of its top contributors from last season.

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Steelers extend Marcus Gilbert through 2019

Gilbert Getty Images

The Steelers have had a hard time finding good offensive linemen in recent years.  When they do, they hold on to them.

The latest lineman onto whom the Steelers will be holding is right tackle Marcus Gilbert.  The team has announced that Gilbert is under contract through 2019.  Per a league source, Gilbert signed a five-year, $30 million extension.

“It means I am locked in hopefully as a Steeler for the rest of my career,” Gilbert told the team’s official website.  “It’s a blessing to work for a great organization, the Rooney family, Kevin Colbert and Coach [Mike] Tomlin.  Just to be around in Pittsburgh, where they show you so much love, I couldn’t be happier and in a better place.”

Gilbert, a second-round pick in 2011, has started 34 of 35 games in three seasons with the Steelers.  With Maurkice Pouncey also under contract through 2019, it puts 40 percent of the starting offensive line under contract.

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NFL announces expansion of practice squads to 10 players

Roger Goodell AP

Monday brought a report that the NFL and NFLPA had agreed to expand the size of practice squads to 10 players for the coming season and Tuesday brought official confirmation of that change.

According to a release from the league, the NFL and the union have agreed to expand the size of the squads for the next two seasons with the former eight-man limit coming back into effect for the 2016 season “barring extension” of the change. That means 64 more jobs will be available in each of the next two seasons, brightening the prospects of many players as we head toward cutdown day.

And it isn’t just players previously eligible for the practice squad either. The league also announced that each team will be able to sign two players “who have earned no more than two accrued seasons of free agency credit.” Otherwise players who have earned one or more accrued seasons would not be eligible for the practice squad unless they spent fewer than nine games on the 46-man gameday roster during those seasons.

One other change will allow players to hold onto practice squad eligibility longer. Players now need to have a minimum of six games on the practice squad, up from three, for the year to count as one of the three that they are eligible to be placed on the practice squad.

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Mike Pettine is not ready to name his starting quarterback

Cleveland Browns v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Browns coach Mike Pettine was hoping to name his starting quarterback for the regular season today.

But after watching Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel take turns playing hot potato with the gig last night, he’s decided to wait.

Via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Pettine said “we’re not in a position to make it at this time.”

You think.

Hoyer did next to nothing last night, and Manziel showed plenty of rookie jitters, from missing open receivers to flipping the bird to the Washington sideline (and alerting every opposing defense that his skin could get gotten under).

In fact, there were times last night when the Browns seemed to need a dose of Rex Grossman.

So we’ll continue to watch, and wait, and ponder the significance of every practice rep and digital gesture.

You’ve been warned.

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Packers waive-injured Colt Lyerla

Colt Lyerla AP

Tight end Colt Lyerla won’t get a chance to play for the Packers during the 2014 season, but it sounds like they saw enough of him to know that they’d like to see what he can do next year.

Rob Demovsky of reports that Lyerla said on Tuesday that the team told him that they will be waiving him off the 90-man roster. Lyerla is suffering from a knee injury and the tight end said that the Packers have told him that they want him to spend the year on injured reserve rather than take an injury settlement and become a free agent.

That would depend on whether or not Lyerla clears waivers, of course. That’s well short of guaranteed given the history of teams claiming players that their original teams were trying to stash on injured reserve. Lyerla, who is recovering from a torn MCL and PCL, would seem to be a candidate for such treatment given the impressive athletic ability he showed at Oregon before he left the team in October 2013. Lyerla was arrested a short time later for cocaine possession.

With Lyerla out of the picture, Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers and the currently injured Brandon Bostick look like the top choices at tight end for the Packers this season.

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Cardinals activate Tyrann Mathieu from PUP list

Houston Texans v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

His months of lobbying finally worked, so now Tyrann Mathieu is apparently within weeks of playing.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, the Cardinals activated Mathieu and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu from the physically unable to perform list.

While Ta’amu might help the short-term shortage of defensive linemen, getting Mathieu back on the practice field is a long-term boost.

Coming off a late-season knee injury, there was no guarantee he’d be ready to start the regular season. But activating now means they think he’ll be back soon enough that a six-week stint on the regular season version of the PUP list won’t be necessary.

That’s good news for a defense that will need all the playmakers it can find, after losing Daryl Washington to suspension and Darnell Dockett to a torn ACL.

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Freeney furious at Seahawks’ Zach Miller

freeney AP

Chargers outside linebacker Dwight Freeney is not happy with Seahawks tight end Zach Miller, who hit San Diego’s Sean Lissemore with a block that Freeney described as illegal.

Freeney said that Miller took a cheap shot at Lissemore’s lower leg. Although Miller wasn’t penalized on the play, Freeney said he should have been.

It looked very, very illegal to me,” Freeney said, via U-T San Diego. “Now, are they going to see everything? No. Should they catch that? Absolutely. Should that guy get a fine? Yes. Did he? Who knows.”

The NFL has not yet disclosed whether Miller was fined, but Freeney wants the league to crack down on low blocks. Instead, Freeney says the league’s emphasis on player safety just protects the players he calls the “moneymakers.”

“I’m running and I’ve got a big man on me here, high, and I’ve got to make a tackle – and then all of sudden a guy comes from behind me and clips my knees. How is that OK?” he said. “Everybody’s so concerned with player safety these days. There’s all these rules up protecting receivers, quarterbacks, kickers, punters.”

It’s a common refrain from defensive players, and it’s often completely correct: The NFL doesn’t protect defensive players the way it protects quarterbacks.

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Eagles finally make a roster move, cut Jason Phillips

Zach Miller, Jason Phillips AP

The Eagles cut a guy Tuesday, which wouldn’t necessarily be news, except it is.

The team announced they released veteran linebacker Jason Phillips.

Phillips was expected to be a solid backup and special teams player, but suffered a torn ACL in training camp last year and hasn’t been the same player this offseason.

As Adam Caplan of ESPN points out, that’s the Eagles’ first transaction other than signing a rookie since May 19.

That’s a remarkable run of stability, at a time when many teams use the 85th through 90th roster spots as a revolving door, looking at guys for a few days at a time before shipping them out for new versions.

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Mark Ingram wants bigger role in passing game

New Orleans Saints v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Saints running back Mark Ingram’s father was an NFL wide receiver and the younger Ingram would like a chance to show that he inherited some of his father’s pass-catching skills.

Ingram turned a pass into a 23-yard touchdown in last week’s game against the Titans, the first time that he’s caught a touchdown pass in the NFL during either the preseason or regular season. The passing game has never been seen as one of Ingram’s strong suits, but he says he’s “comfortable” doing more on that front and hopes the Saints feel the same way.

“I hope so. I want to do everything. I want to be involved in the pass game, run game, picking up pass pro. I want to be the most versatile player I can be,” Ingram said, via “The majority of the time, if you just watch the film, most of the teams think when I’m in the game it’s either gonna be a run or play-action or something like that. But … we had [Darren] Sproles, Pierre [Thomas], a lot of receiving targets. I’m just trying to welcome that role and prove that I can do it. I know I’m an all-purpose back, a complete back. I can do everything.”

The Saints still do have a lot of receiving targets and Thomas is seen as their best pass blocker at running back, so Ingram may not get a chance to channel his father. If he does get the opportunity and makes something of it, though, it would be a positive for the Saints offense as defenses will have to be aware of all the options available to Drew Brees.

It would also be a positive for Ingram, who would enter free agency with a bigger portfolio to show prospective employers inside and outside of New Orleans.

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One of the NFL’s most-fined players scolds Manziel for finger

Green Bay Packers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The noted critic of manners and decorum Bernard Pollard has weighed in on the Johnny Manziel finger.

And amazingly, Pollard was the one wagging his finger today.

The Titans safety said Manziel said giving the Half-Bud Adams salute to the Washington sidelines sent a bad message “for a lot of young people.”

“I don’t know what was said, I could really care less. But we as players, we are blessed with this opportunity to play this game. We are on a stage, regardless if you want to say it or not, or believe it or not. We are on a stage,” Pollard said, via Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean. “He is at a position where he is a quarterback, and every young boy wants to be a quarterback, they want to be a face of a franchise, they want to be that guy. He is in that position.

“Everybody has seen [the gesture], and that set a bad example for a lot of young people.”

That clearly offended the delicate sensibilities of Pollard, who said he wouldn’t hesitate to take a shot at Manziel when they see each other next.

“We just have to play the game. If I get a clean shot at him, I am going to take it.” Pollard said. “This league, the rules are set up to where these quarterbacks are protected. . . . But God has blessed us with this ability, with these talents, so don’t ruin it. The guy is a great player; he was a great college player. I don’t know what to say about him at the league level. I don’t know who he is. He has to prove himself and these little things he continues to get himself, with whatever gestures.

“All we can do is judge him off of game play. And that gesture, that wasn’t good.”

This from Pollard, one of the league’s chronic illegal-hit artists, who threw his former coach under the bus, blaming Hall of Famer Mike Munchak as the reason his own team “sucked butt,” last season.

So clearly, he’s the one to scold Manziel for bad manners.

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