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Dirk Koetter declines to elaborate on decision to release Austin Seferian-Jenkins

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 26: Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers catches a touch down pass as outside linebacker Anthony Barr #55 of the Minnesota Vikings defends in the 4th quarter at Raymond James Stadium on October 26, 2014 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Friday, the Buccaneers proved yet again the time-honored sports adage that excuses are made for the stars and examples are made of the scrubs.

A DUI arrest prompted the Bucs to release tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The move came amid lingering concerns about his overall commitment to the game. If a player the team held in significantly higher regard had been arrested for DUI, he surely wouldn’t have been cut.

On Friday night, coach Dirk Koetter addressed the decision to move on from Seferian-Jenkins, without much elaboration.

“Well, it is disappointing and Austin is a guy that we had high hopes for,” Koetter said on SiriusXM NFL Radio, via JoeBucsFan.com. “He was a second-round pick here a couple of years back. He has fought through some injury issues. He’s a very talented individual. It is disappointing when guys, when they make mistakes, and there’s more to every story than meets the eye. Sometimes there is more to it than things I can say on the radio. We wish Austin well. The number one thing is I am glad that Austin is safe and healthy. And I hope he can get himself healthy.”

The use of the term “healthy” at the end of the quote will spark speculation regarding whether Koetter is referring to something beyond physical health. Any team that may be inclined to claim Seferian-Jenkins on waivers won’t have time to do their due diligence about the player’s overall “health” before making a decision on whether to try to snag him before he becomes a free agent.

A second-round pick in 2014, Seferian-Jenkins has 45 career catches for 603 yards and seven touchdowns. He has three receptions for 44 yards and one score in two 2016 games.

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High-school players in Oakland take anthem demonstration to another level

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Four weeks after 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem was first noticed, a high school team in Oakland has taken the anthem demonstrations to another level — with Kaepernick present.

Former NFL player Kirk Morrison, who currently has several media jobs, posted on Twitter a photos of Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem while the players laid on the ground with their hands up.

The gesture comes in a week that included a pair of fatal shootings by police of an African-American man: Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. The officer who shot and killed Crutcher faces manslaughter charges; in Charlotte, clear evidence has not yet emerged to prove that the shooting was justified — although Scott’s DNA reportedly was found on a gun recovered from the scene of the incident.

Kaepernick has explained that his decision not to stand for the anthem arises from concerns about police misconduct toward African-Americans and people of color, pointing out the degree of training and education required before men and women are authorized to serve on the front lines of law enforcement, armed with a handgun and the authority under certain specific circumstances to draw it and to pull the trigger.

[Photo credit: Twitter.com/kirkmorrison]

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Done deal: Lady Gaga will perform at Super Bowl halftime

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Lady Gaga sings the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images) Getty Images

The talks have ended, because a deal is done. And if I remembered the names of any of her songs or some of their lyrics, I’d be tempted to start dropping in some stupid puns.

Lady Gaga will perform at halftime of Super Bowl LI in Houston, according to Terry Lefton of SportsBusiness Daily.

The announcement will come on Sunday during FOX’s NFL programming, probably during the pregame show.

It’s unknown whether other performers will be involved in the show. The biggest unknown is whether the unpaid gig has indeed morphed into a revenue source for the league, based on a report from the Wall Street Journal in 2014 that the idea had been floated of, for example, the artist surrendering a portion of increased ticket sales arising from the nine-figure audience the Super Bowl will be delivering.

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Todd Gurley feels like he’s facing 12 defenders

SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams rushes against the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Todd Gurley is off to a disappointing start this season, and he sometimes feels like he doesn’t have a chance.

As opposing defenses load up to stop Gurley on the theory that the Rams’ passing game won’t be able to beat them, Gurley says it’s like the entire defense is on him — and then some.

“It’s been crazy,” Gurley said, via the Los Angeles Times. “I’m like, ‘There’s 12 people on the field!’ It’s definitely a lot of people.”

Gurley said he’s hoping to make opposing defenses pay for stacking the line of scrimmage, thinking if he can get past the line there will be no one to stop him.

“Sometimes that’s a good thing because if you get past that first level, then you’re gone,” he said. “But you have to get past that first level first.”

Unfortunately, Gurley hasn’t been able to do that: His longest run this season is 11 yards, and overall he has 36 carries for 98 yards, an average of 2.7 yards a carry. Until Case Keenum and the Rams’ passing game can take advantage of the way opposing defenses are selling out to stop Gurley, it’s going to be hard for him to find room to run.

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With kicker injured, Browns to bring in Cody Parkey

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The long list of Browns injuries was lengthened today when kicker Patrick Murray hurt his knee in a walkthrough practice. Now the Browns are bringing in a veteran replacement.

Cody Parkey will sign with the Browns, Cleveland.com reports.

Parkey lost a training camp competition in Philadelphia this year. He played three games for the Eagles last year, making three of four field goals and all seven extra points before being lost for the season with a groin injury.

Murray joined a group of injured Browns that included their top two quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, as well as receiver Corey Coleman, safety Ibraheim Campbell, defensive end Carl Nassib and center Cam Erving.

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Stephen Jones: Tony Romo is coming along, but we won’t push it

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on from the sideline against the Washington Redskins in the first quarter at FedExField on September 18, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has made significant progress from the fractured vertebra he suffered in the preseason, but the team remains unsure when he’ll be back on the field.

That’s the word from Cowboys Executive V.P. Stephen Jones, who said Romo has come along nicely.

“He’s throwing the ball around now, so he’ll just keep doing more unless there is something that concerns us,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “Right now everything is looking great. He’s feeling good and certainly feels good about the progress he’s making.”

Early November has been mentioned as the time Romo can expect to return, although Jones said it will always come down to what the doctors say.

“Every injury is different,” Jones said. “Everybody wants to say, ‘Well, we rushed him back last time and he got hurt.’ I think unfortunately it was a tough lick there that happened to hit him just right again. At the same time, unless he’s ready and the doctors feel like he’s ready to go, we won’t push it.”

The good news for the Cowboys is that rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has shown enough promise early in the season to make them think they can stay in playoff contention without Romo this year — something that didn’t happen last year, when the team fell apart with Romo out. Prescott’s presence makes it easier for the Cowboys to stay patient.

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Thomas Rawls doubtful for Sunday

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Thomas Rawls #34 of the Seattle Seahawks runs after his catch as Coty Sensabaugh #21 of the Los Angeles Rams defends during the first quarter of the home opening NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks need something more on offense. They likely won’t get it from running back Thomas Rawls on Sunday against the 49ers.

Seattle has listed Rawls as doubtful with a leg injury. Under the revised injury-reporting rules, Rawls’ availability lands anywhere from 49.9 to 0.1 percent.

“It’s not a dangerous injury or anything like that, it’s problematic for him at this time,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Friday. “We’re just going to be open minded and still make the decision to see what we’re going to do. We are prepared to go without him if he can’t go, but we’d love to see him if he can get there.”

Christine Michael will get the start if Rawls can’t play, and Carroll is ready to make Michael the workhorse.

“He’s averaging five yards a carry for a reason,” Carroll said of Michael. “He had a really good off season, he had a terrific camp. All indications that he’s ready for a bigger load. He’s had 20-something carries so far, he’s ready to carry the ball 20-something times in a game. He could be fine with that.”

Joining Rawls as doubtful are offensive lineman Germain Ifedi (ankle) and tight end Nick Vannett (ankle). Running back C.J. Prosise is questionable with a wrist injury, and receiver Tyler Lockett is questionable with a knee injury.

As to Ifedi, Carroll suggested he’ll be ready for Week Four. The coach was noncommittal on Prosise but indicated that Lockett should be ready to play.

Not listed are quarterback Russell Wilson (ankle) and receiver Doug Baldwin (knee). Baldwin was limited in practice on Wednesday, but he fully participated thereafter. Wilson reportedly has a high ankle sprain, but he played last week with the injury.

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Twitter audience spikes for second Thursday Night Football effort

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 11:  In this photo illustration the Twitter website is displayed on a mobile phone at a NRL match on July 11, 2009 in Newcastle, Australia. The micro-blogging phenomenon sees users post text 'tweets' of upto 140 characters in response to the question 'What are you doing?'.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) Getty Images

After plenty of evidence suggesting not just a flattening but a decline in the American TV appetite for NFL prime-time football, the trend abruptly changed on Thursday night, boring and non-competitive game notwithstanding.

The NFL has sent out the perfunctory chest-thumping press release touting the dominance of live pro football action against scripted and other pre-taped/watch-whenever programming on other broadcast networks, a victory that has become a given in today’s world. In reality, the NFL is competing only against its past performance (and The Walking Dead); this week, the numbers finally have gone up.

For Twitter, the spike was significant. The average audience for Texans-Patriots via the prominent (anti)social media platform was 327,000. That’s an increase of 34 percent over the Week 2 Thursday night game between the Jets and Bills.

The TV numbers also were strong, with a 14-percent increase over Week Two and a four-percent climb over the Week Three Thursday night game (Washington-Giants) from 2015.

In all, the most recent Thursday night game had an average total viewership of 17.9 million across all platforms.

That’s a good way to start a week destined to end with an ugly Monday night performance in the TV ratings. Apart from the reality that the Falcons-Saints game will be broadcast on cable at a time when viewers are cutting cords like a producer trying to fit Free Bird onto a 45, the first presidential debate conflicts with the game. Whatever the low-water mark is for NFL prime-time viewership, chances are that Monday’s numbers will be even lower.

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Decker, Richardson fined for taunting penalties

Eric Decker, Jalil Brown AP

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson were each fined $9,115 for taunting during last week’s win over the Bills, PFT has confirmed.

Decker’s was a double whammy; it came after what appeared to be a big gain but was negated by penalty. Richardson’s came after the Bills scored on an 84-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin.

Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore was also fined the same amount for his facemask on Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall in that game.

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Key defensive players on both sides out for Lions-Packers

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 28:  Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah #94 of the Detroit Lions stands over quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers as he holds his leg in the second quarter during the NFL game at Lambeau Field on December 28, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) Getty Images

Neither team’s defense is at full strength for Sunday’s game in Green Bay.

For the Lions, defensive end Ziggy Ansah is out with an ankle sprain. The injury, which is expected to sideline Ansah for multiple games, is a big one for arguably the Lions’ best defensive player. Detroit will also be without two linebackers, DeAndre Levy and Antwione Williams, who are both listed as doubtful.

For the Packers, cornerback Sam Shields is out with a concussion. Shields saw a concussion specialist during the week amid talk that the team and the player are increasingly concerned about the matter.

Players listed as questionable for the Lions include TE Eric Ebron (back), DE Wallace Gilberry (abdomen), OT Riley Reiff (ankle) and G Larry Warford (illness). Players listed as questionable for the Packers include S Morgan Burnett (groin), DT Letroy Guion (knee), G T.J. Lang (hip) and LB Clay Matthews (ankle and hamstring).

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Raiders punter slapped with fine for horse-collar tackle

Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Raiders punter Marquette King has been fined $18,231 for a horse-collar tackle in last week’s loss to the Falcons.

King saved a touchdown but drew a flag when he brought down Eric Weems of the Falcons from behind last week.

He knew the fine was coming. King had joked earlier this week about setting up a GoFundMe account to pay the fine.

King got a new contract last February, so chances are he can afford it.

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Mike Daniels fined for hit on Sam Bradford

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the Minnesota Vikings passes as defensive end Mike Daniels #76 of the Green Bay Packers rushes during the game on September 18, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers defensive lineman Mike Daniels has been hit in the paycheck for a hit on Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford.

The NFL has fined Daniels $18,231 for roughing the passer. That’s the standard fine for that infraction.

That penalty aside, Daniels had an excellent game against the Vikings, routinely beating the linemen in front of him and blowing through the line to hit Bradford or Adrian Peterson.

If Daniels can keep playing that way, the Packers can tolerate the occasional roughing the passer penalty.

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Texans sends mixed signals on Duane Brown

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 22:  Duane Brown #76 of the Houston Texans raises his fist during the national anthem before the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 22, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Thursday night, Texans tackle Duane Brown raised a fist during the national anthem, two days after tweeting, “I hope I see the same amount of outrage on here for this killing of an unarmed American citizen as I do for someone kneeling.”

On Friday, Texans coach Bill O’Brien opened his day-after-shutout press conference with a statement regarding  Brown that seemed to be heading in one direction, but that then took a hard turn.

“I’m going to start off just talking about Duane Brown and the national anthem,” O’Brien said, via comments distributed by the team. “We’ve been clear as an organization that our expectation for the Houston Texans is that we stand for the national anthem. This team has a long history of supporting our veterans, active military and our first responders. This support has been evident since the inception of the franchise.”

Those first four sentences created the impression that the Texans weren’t happy with Brown for his gesture. Then came the jerking of the wheel.

“I understand that there is a lot going on in this country right now and that we all have strong opinions about it,” O’Brien said. “Duane Brown expressed himself during the anthem, which is his right. It is his right of free speech. It’s his right to do what he did during the anthem last night. I support his individual right to do that.”

O’Brien later was asked whether he has spoken to Brown about the situation, and whether O’Brien is concerned other players will join in the protest.

“I have spoken to Duane about it,” O’Brien said. “Again, I would tell you that I’m not concerned at all about what our players are going to do as it relates to that. Again, I think it’s their right to express their opinion. I support that right. As an organization, we encourage them to stand for the national anthem because of all the things I just said that Mr. McNair and the Texans stand for. With that, I will tell you that I think very highly of all of our players. I know that they’re very thoughtful guys and they’ll do what they believe is right.”

On one hand, O’Brien conveyed the Texans’ position that the organization wraps itself in the flag. On the other hand, O’Brien made it clear that he believes players can do whatever they want, notwithstanding the “expectation” from the organization that they will stand at attention. The somewhat mixed signals likely reflect the tension O’Brien feels as the employee of an owner who likely believes, similar to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, that it is “really disappointing” when players don’t stand at attention for the anthem and as the head coach of a team consisting of at least one key player who currently refuses to do so, given other issues currently unfolding in our nation.

The broader question is whether McNair will speak with equal care and tact, if and when he’s questioned on the subject. Chances are that won’t happen until next Sunday, when the Titans comes to town for a Week Four game.

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Gilmore fined for tackling Marshall by the facemask

New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) is injured while being tackled by Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) during the first half an NFL football game on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) AP

Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore has been fined $9,115 for tackling Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall by the facemask in last week’s game, per multiple reports.

Marshall had caught a pass inside the 10-yard line and was twisted down by the facemask, landing awkwardly. Gilmore was immediately flagged and said after the game that he’d spoken to Marshall and that Marshall understood the act wasn’t intentional.

Marshall left the game and was examined in the locker room but returned to finish the game. He’s been limited this week due to a sprained knee and is questionable for Sunday’s game vs. the Chiefs.

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Broncos rule out tight end Virgil Green

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 08:  Tight end Virgil Green #85 of the Denver Broncos runs out of the tunnel before taking on the Carolina Panthers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 8, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Broncos leave Denver for their first true road game since December 20, several players won’t be joining them.

In addition to linebacker DeMarcus Ware and guard Donald Stephenson, starting tight end Virgil Green has been ruled out for the game, via CBS 4 in Denver.

Green missed practiced Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with a calf injury.

The Broncos will have two healthy tight ends on the roster for Sunday’s game at Cincinnati: Jeff Heuerman and John Phillips.

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