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Greg Hardy’s ready to come out “guns blazin'” after suspension

Greg Hardy AP

Greg Hardy hasn’t played a game in more than a year, and hasn’t played two games in a row since the end of 2013. But he’s not going to get a chance to ease into it, with a game against the Patriots Sunday and the Cowboys needing the free agent defensive end to play well immediately.

“I hope not,” Hardy said of needing time to adapt, via Todd Archer of “I hope I come out guns blazin’. I’m full of excitement and full of juice. I’m ready to go. I have what they call fresh legs. I’m really excited to get out there on that grass or turf and see what they can do.”

Ah, “guns blazin.'” A charming choice of words for a guy who had to surrender nine assault-type rifles and shotguns to police following the domestic violence arrest which included charges of threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend and throwing her into a futon full of said guns. That led him to spend all but one game of last season on the commissioner’s exempt list, followed by a 10-game suspension this year which was reduced to four. The criminal charges were thrown out when the accuser didn’t show for court, following a civil settlement.

But Hardy was nonetheless stained by the ordeal, and said he was glad the Cowboys offered him a chance.

“It’s been the most awesome period of my life, man. I’m a Dallas Cowboy,” Hardy said. “Dream come true. Big star on my helmet. Jerry Jones up there, checking me out every week. I’m ecstatic, happy and elated.”

There was very little sign of contrition from Hardy, who only apologized for not being eligible to play.

“In the last few seasons, man, honestly, it’s been a blur just getting ready to come back,” Hardy said. “And now that I’m back, I don’t reminisce. I don’t look back, other than to know that I need to get forward, I need to get to progress and I need to get to sacks, and I need to get to the place where I need to be to help this team. That’s where we’re at right now.. . .

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be here for my teammates. The worst feeling in the world is not being there for somebody you care about or somebody that needs you. That’s what we need, a full team, and everybody pulling their load. And that’s what I’m going to do when I come back.”

When he’s been eligible, he’s been an incredible pass-rusher, with 15.0 sacks in 2013. But he’s also been a guy beset by bad judgment in the past, from a pre-training camp motorcycle wreck in Carolina, to turning his Bentley into a submarine shortly upon his arrival in Dallas.

And if he has any remorse for his actions, it only pertains to not being able to play as much football or make as much money as he could have.

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L.A. deal between Rams, Chargers could be brokered

Dean Spanos, Mark Davis AP

With Chargers owner Dean Spanos definitely having the nine votes needed to keep Rams owner Stan Kroenke out of L.A. and Kroenke likely having the nine votes needed to keep Spanos out of L.A., the future of the NFL in Los Angeles could hinge on the ability of Spanos and Kroenke to work something out.

Via Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego from the quarterly league meetings in New York, some owners believe a deal can be struck between Kroenke and Spanos regarding which team(s) will move to L.A.

Some owners actively oppose Kroenke’s desire to move the Rams, believing that Spanos has tried long enough to get a new stadium in San Diego, and that St. Louis is on the verge of crafting a viable stadium proposal to keep the Rams. But if at least nine owners feel strongly enough about Kroenke getting the L.A. market to vote against the Chargers, the situation will remain at impasse, with both teams in limbo.

A brokered deal would hinge, as many such arrangements do, on money and/or other considerations. With each owner able to block the other from moving, one owner needs to persuade the other owner to drop his opposition. In addition, then, to the relocation fee that would be paid to the league generally, the owner who moves to L.A. may have to make a large, separate payment to the one who doesn’t.

Likewise, the arrangement could include other terms. For example, if Spanos accepts that the Chargers will stay in San Diego and the Rams will move to L.A., the league could agree that only one team would be in L.A. Likewise, the league could agree to devote extra resources to the construction of a stadium in St. Louis to persuade Kroenke to stay there.

It’s becoming more and more clear that something will happen, sooner than later. While a one-year delay is possible (and some think Kroenke is pushing that angle because he believes it raises his chances of prevailing), Acee reports that Steelers owner Art Rooney II said Tuesday, “I think we have a chance of getting something voted on by January.”

Lost in the shuffle are the Raiders. Officially partnered with the Chargers for a proposed stadium project in Carson, the Raiders have become an afterthought in the Rams-Chargers impasse. Some assume that, if Kroenke prevails, it means the Raiders and Chargers will move to L.A. and share a venue. Others believe that the Chargers could be the only team in the Carson facility.

There’s also a chance that the Rams and Chargers will agree to resolve their differences with by sharing a stadium at Kroenke’s Hollywood Park location. That would leave the Raiders in Oakland, or elsewhere.

Whatever happens, Raiders owner Mark Davis (pictured, with Spanos) seems satisfied — or at least oblivious.

“I’m a happy camper,” Davis said, via Acee. “Everything is going to work out.”

Yes, it will. And there’s a good chance that, however it works out, Davis will be left out of Los Angeles.

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ESPN producer on illegal bat: “We all missed it live”

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One of the odd aspects of the Seahawks winning Monday night’s game on a bad call is that ESPN made no mention of it on the air during the game. ESPN’s Monday Night Football producer says it was simply a matter of the ESPN crew not realizing it was a penalty in all the action surrounding the game-changing play.

Producer Jay Rothman said in a statement to PFT that they would have offered up extended replay angles and commentary if they had realized the Seahawks committed a penalty, but they didn’t realize it until after the game.

“Our immediate responsibility in the frenzy of the play was to provide definitive looks of the turnover,” Rothman said. “Due to the immediate and decisive call of a touchback by the Back Judge and Referee Tony Corrente, and no disputing of the call by the Lions, we had no signs of the illegal tip. We all missed it live. Clearly, had we caught it, we would have extended the looks of all angles. And had we done so, the booth would have clearly seen the illegal tip. Having said all of that, it would not have determined the outcome of the game, as currently an illegal tip is not reviewable.”

It’s a little surprising that Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and any producers in their ears didn’t catch the bad call because Tirico and Gruden are good at what they do, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football production is usually first-rate. You’d think one of them would have noticed the illegal bat. But people miss things. It happens.

What’s harder to understand is how Gerry Austin, the former NFL referee who sits in the booth with Tirico and Gruden, didn’t notice it. Austin’s entire job is to analyze officiating. This was one of the biggest calls of the NFL season, and Austin whiffed. Perhaps Austin is hesitant to point out blown calls because he knows how hard the job of being an NFL official is. But if that’s the case, he’s not cut out for the job he has. And make no mistake, the job he has is a hard one. Although Mike Pereira does a good job of explaining NFL rules in his role as an analyst on FOX, Mike Carey struggles in a similar role on CBS, and Austin has struggled in his smaller on-air role on ESPN.

Another issue is that the NFL’s rules are incredibly complicated. Players, coaches, fans and the media often have a hard time understanding the rules. Monday night’s game showed that sometimes even the officials miss calls right in front of their faces. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a professional rules analyst misses some calls, too.

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Andrew Luck: I’m preparing to start

of the Indianapolis Colts during the game against the Tennessee Titans at LP Field on September 27, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. Getty Images

Andrew Luck wasn’t on the field during the portion of Colts practice open to the media on Tuesday, but his absence came to an end once the media left the scene.

Coach Chuck Pagano said that Luck, who is dealing with a right shoulder injury, was a limited participant in practice and that he threw passes while taking most of the first team reps during the session. Matt Hasselbeck, who started in place of Luck against the Jaguars last weekend, didn’t practice because of an illness.

Pagano offered little insight into Luck’s chances of playing by repeating his standard refrain that the quarterback is trending in the right direction. Luck also met the media and said that he’s operating under the assumption that he’ll be in the lineup against Houston on Thursday night.

“I’m preparing to start, and to play,” Luck said, via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “I think I’ve gotten better every day. I don’t think I’m necessarily where I’d want to be today in a perfect, perfect world.”

Wednesday will bring another practice and the release of the team’s final injury report before facing the Texans.

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Joe Philbin’s last practice showed he had lost control

Joe Philbin AP

Joe Philbin’s last practice as head coach of the Miami Dolphins demonstrated how thoroughly he had lost control of his team.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Saturday practice in London before Sunday’s loss to the Jets featured heated exchanges among quarterback Ryan Tannehill and defensive players who weren’t following Philbin’s instructions.

The report says Philbin told the defensive players to take it easy during Saturday practice so that the offense could work on getting its timing down. However, linebacker Chris McCain was still practicing aggressively, and that led to a shouting match between he and Tannehill. According to the report, Tannehill made a crack about giving McCain a scout team trophy. Other scout team defensive players then joined in and were aggressively going after the first-string offense, despite Philbin’s request that they ease up.

If it went down how it’s been described, it doesn’t speak well for Philbin’s ability to keep practices under control. If the head coach has told the scout team to settle down and let the offense work, the scout team should respect the head coach enough to do so. The head coach should also foster an atmosphere where there’s enough team camaraderie that the starting quarterback isn’t making cracks about the scout team guys.

After Philbin was fired on Monday, interim head coach Dan Campbell stressed at his introductory press conference that he wanted to see more competitiveness on his team. Although Campbell was careful not to criticize Philbin, it wouldn’t be surprising if Campbell saw Saturday’s incident as a sign of a team full of players who weren’t accustomed to pushing each other hard enough at practice. With Campbell now running the show, starters and scout teamers alike should be ready for tougher practices.

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Pete Carroll: I didn’t know batted ball rule

Pete Carroll AP

Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said he didn’t know that he should have been penalized for batting Calvin Johnson’s fumble out of the end zone on Monday night and he wasn’t alone on that front.

Coach Pete Carroll said that it was “unfortunate” that the officials didn’t apply the rule correctly after the game and on Tuesday admitted that he would have been taken aback if they had thrown a flag and returned the ball to the Lions. Carroll said that his staff tells players to knock loose balls out of bounds, but wasn’t aware that it’s against the rules to do that in the end zone.

“I would have done the exact same thing. I would have done the exact same thing,” Carroll said on 710 ESPN. “I didn’t know that rule either. I’ve never even seen it come up and I’ve been coaching for — I don’t even know how many years it is and how many games it could possibly be — I don’t know how anybody would have know that one. If they did, they did.”

Carroll probably should have known about the rule since the Seahawks were guilty of breaking another section of it in a 2013 game against the 49ers. In addition to barring players from batting the ball out of the end zone, the rule also makes it a penalty to bat a loose ball toward the opposing end zone as Seahawks safety Chris Maragos did with a blocked punt in that game.

Monday night’s play came in a bigger spot so there shouldn’t be too many people around the league unaware of the rule thanks to the attention generated by the non-call.

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ESPN dropped the ball on illegal bat

gerryaustin Getty Images

The officials weren’t the only ones who screwed up when the Seahawks weren’t flagged for an illegal bat in Monday night’s win over the Lions. ESPN also dropped the ball by waiting until after the game to point out that Seattle should have been penalized, and the ball should have been given back to the Lions, after Calvin Johnson’s fumble into the end zone.

After the fumble, neither Mike Tirico nor Jon Gruden said anything at all about the illegal bat, which the NFL has since admitted should have been a penalty on the Seahawks that would have given the Lions first-and-goal inside the 1-yard line. That’s surprising because Tirico is a consummate professional who’s always well-prepared for any game he calls, and Gruden is a former coach well known for his obsessive attention to detail. You’d think both of them, or at least one of them, would know that rule.

But it’s even more surprising because ESPN has former NFL referee Gerry Austin in the booth on Monday nights specifically to weigh in when there’s an officiating mistake. Tirico even pointed that out on Monday night, saying, “Retired Super Bowl referee Gerry Austin up here in the booth with us” at the start of the fourth quarter. At the start of the Lions’ drive that ended with Johnson’s fumble, Austin was on the air discussing the relevant rule when Lions’ punt returner picked up his own muffed punt and ran it out of the end zone.

So where was Austin a few minutes later? Why didn’t he immediately pipe up and explain that the officials had missed a huge call? We’ve reached out to ESPN to ask that question, but we didn’t immediately hear back.

Eventually, ESPN did identify the blown call, but only after the game, several minutes later. The blown call is the biggest story of Monday night’s game, but many viewers turned off the TV and went to bed without even realizing it had happened.

The NFL’s rules are so complex that identifying bad calls immediately and explaining them clearly is a hard job. Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira does the job well on FOX, but former referee Mike Carey has struggled in a similar role on CBS. Austin is used less prominently on ESPN, but Monday night was a perfect opportunity for him to shine. Instead, we never heard a word from him until the game was over.

To its credit, ESPN has done a good job of covering the story today. Mike & Mike began their broadcast this morning with a long discussion of the blown call, and it has been prominently featured on other ESPN programming all day long. But the time to identify the blown call was when it happened, and ESPN missed it.

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Forte on trade talk: I don’t think I’m going anywhere

Matt Forte AP

The Bears made a pair of trades last week after losing their first three games of the season, which led to a lot of talk about more moves to come as the Bears try to put together a better team under new coach John Fox and General Manager Ryan Pace.

One of the players whose names came up in that talk was running back Matt Forte. Forte’s contract is up after this season and there hasn’t been much sign that the Bears are clamoring to bring him back in 2016, which made it easy to speculate that a backfield-needy team might make a run at bringing him to their offense.

During an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show Tuesday, Forte said he doesn’t think that’s going to happen.

“I don’t worry about those things,” Forte said. “A lot of it is media speculation, just like in the offseason they were like ‘the Bears could trade Matt.’ Everybody was talking about me getting traded then and it didn’t happen. Now after one guy gets traded, it all comes back again. I can’t control that either. They can trade me if they want to. I don’t think I’m going anywhere, but I can only control how I play on the football field and that’s what I do.”

Forte said that he wants to be on a winning team, but that he’d like the Bears to be that team. That looks like a tall order to pull off in 2015, so things would have to change on the contract front for Forte to reach that goal.

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Bills accuse Odell Beckham of throwing punches refs didn’t see

Dwayne Harris, Bacarri Rambo, Odell Beckham, Corey Graham AP

Odell Beckham is off to perhaps the best start to a career of any receiver in NFL history. He’s also a cheap shot artist, if players on the Bills are to be believed.

Several players on the Bills told the Buffalo News that Beckham threw multiple punches during the Giants’ win on Sunday. According to the Bills, Beckham is good at throwing quick punches while the officials aren’t looking, then backing away from the fray.

In at least one case, video appears to back the Bills up: After a Bills interception, Bills safety Duke Williams blocked Beckham to the ground. As both of them got back up, Beckham appeared to throw a quick punch with his right hand toward Williams’s chin before running way. Williams wasn’t happy about it, saying he lost respect for Beckham.

“A guy like that,” Williams said, “you expect him to be a stand-up guy but I guess it is a part of his game. He likes to throw cheap shots here and there and gets away with it. I guess it’s his thing. . . . Right in front of the referee and he threw a jab at me and ran behind his teammates. He ran away. I’m just like, ‘Wow. That’s crazy.’”

In addition to being disappointed with the way Beckham handled himself, the Bills came away unimpressed with the kind of player he is. Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore said teammate Sammy Watkins is a better young receiver than Beckham, and that Beckham’s famous highlight-reel catch last year against the Cowboys has caused people to overrate him.

“I don’t really watch TV and listen to the hype. I study guys on the film and then I judge him,” Gilmore said. “He’s not Sammy Watkins. He has good hands, he can catch. He’s good but he’s not what people think after that one catch.”

Gilmore is off-base there. Beckham is a great player. But the Bills may be right that he’s a player who takes some cheap shots. Don’t be surprised if the league office has something to say about Beckham’s actions.

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Myles Jack to leave school, and his coach expresses his concern

Myles Jack AP

Myles Jack might be taking a chance, but he’s not going to let his next chance be for free.

According to Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, the injured UCLA hybrid linebacker/running back has withdrawn from school, and plans to enter the 2016 NFL Draft.

Jack suffered a season-ending knee injury in September, derailing a season which could have cemented his status as a first-round pick next year anyway.

But UCLA coach Jim Mora expressed concern over Jack’s decision.

“I think it’s very risky to do this. There’s a lot of speculation to . . . where he fits,” Mora said. “I’ve been in 25 draft rooms. I’ve never seen a guy taken off [two games of junior tape]. . . .

“Myles’ talent is without question. I hope he’s put enough out there where they can get a true evaluation.”

Mora’s concern is touching, assuming he’s not just worried about Jack making a financial decision which could only benefit Jack and not Mora.

The college football-industrial complex is full of territorial squatters, as evidenced by LSU’s tsk-tsking at the suggestion that Leonard Fournette should use his earning potential for Leonard Fournette and not LSU. So it’s not a surprise that Mora would join in, warning at the inherent danger of trying to capitalize on your own talents for yourself.

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Dean Blandino calls illegal bat calls “subjective”

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwi4mjgxodc1mwuwowrmndy5y2yxntkymta1otk3nzuw AP

NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino says penalties like illegal batting of a loose ball in the end zone are inherently subjective. But in Blandino’s subjective opinion, the Seahawks should have been flagged and the Lions should have been given the ball back late in Monday night’s game.

“The rule itself, a bat is an intentional act, so there is subjectivity to it,” Blandino said on NFL Network. “The official has to see it and then he has to rule whether it was intentional. It could be a muff, it could just hit the player and bounce out of bounds, so he has to make all of those decisions in that split second that he has on the field and he felt it wasn’t an intentional, overt act, and that’s why he didn’t throw the flag, so it certainly is subjective.”

Blandino said the Competition Committee might consider making illegally batting a loose ball a reviewable penalty in the future, but the league generally prefers not to make subjective calls reviewable.

“Again, we try to stay away from subjective fouls, and this being one of them, similar to pass interference or offensive holding, so that’s why it hasn’t been reviewable, so I think it’s fair to say that the committee will look at this just like we look at other situations that occur throughout the year and decide if we need to add it to the list of reviewable plays,” Blandino said.

The bottom line, however, is that Blandino was able to use the TV replays to determine that the flag should have been thrown, and so the referee should have been able to use replay to review the play to put the ball back in the Lions’ hands. The NFL should change the rules to make such plays reviewable.

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FanDuel, DraftKings scrutinized over access to inside information

draftkings AP

If you’ve watched any football or read any coverage of football this season, you’ve seen plenty of ads for daily fantasy, including right here on PFT and in the sponsorship of PFT Live. NBC Sports has an equity stake in FanDuel, which along with DraftKings has quickly become a ubiquitous part of the football-watching experience.

And now there’s a controversy brewing about the access to inside information within the company, and some in Congress are calling for tighter regulations of the huge daily fantasy business.

Both companies have acknowledged that a DraftKings employee won $350,000 at FanDuel. That raised big questions about whether people with access to detailed information about how daily fantasy players are making picks are using that information to win: If you’re competing with people who have access to more information than you, how are you supposed to beat them? It’s a question that gets to the fundamental fairness of daily fantasy.

Even though DraftKings says the employee who won big at FanDuel won on his own skill and didn’t have any access to any inside information until after all FanDuel lineups were locked, FanDuel and DraftKings have responded to the questions by temporarily banning their employees from playing daily fantasy. Both companies released a statement insisting that the integrity of their games is paramount.

“While there has been recent attention on industry employees playing on FanDuel and DraftKings, nothing is more important to DraftKings and FanDuel than the integrity of the games we offer to our customers,” the statement says. “Both companies have strong policies in place to ensure that employees do not misuse any information at their disposal and strictly limit access to company data to only those employees who require it to do their jobs. Employees with access to this data are rigorously monitored by internal fraud control teams, and we have no evidence that anyone has misused it. However, we continue to review our internal controls to ensure they are as strong as they can be. We also plan to work with the entire fantasy sports industry on this specific issue so that fans everywhere can continue to enjoy and trust the games they love.”

That might not be enough to placate critics of daily fantasy. Members of Congress have called for hearings on daily fantasy and are asking for an explanation of how daily fantasy differs from gambling. Even if the games are scrupulously fair, some believe they should be banned under existing gambling laws. If Congress believes the games are rigged to benefit FanDuel and DraftKings employees at the expense of ordinary players, you can bet that the federal government will come down hard on the daily fantasy industry.

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It’s time for the NFL to adopt Bill Belichick’s “challenge everything” suggestion

hi-res-156051124-bill-belichick-of-the-new-england-patriots-throws-the_crop_exact Getty Images

Last night, in the aftermath a Monday night officiating blunder in Seattle that can’t be blamed on replacement officials, I suggested the formation of a committee that would scour the rule book, line by line, in an effort to identify all situations in which replay review should be available.

That approach would be far better than sitting back and waiting for the next situation that cries out for replay review, only to find out that replay review isn’t available.

There’s an even better approach. The NFL should adopt the suggestion from Patriots coach Bill Belichick that everything should be reviewable.

Specifically, coaches should be able to throw the red challenge flag in any situation. If indisputable visual evidence exists to rectify a mistake made on the field, why not give coaches a way to fix it?

One of the concerns raised by the NFL relates to the possibility that coaches will throw the red flag in desperation after a key play, hopeful that some obscure failure to, for example, throw a flag for holding away from the action will be caught via replay. But that possibility can be addressed by limiting challenges to portions of the play directly relevant to the outcome.

Like, for example, an illegal bat that the official who was looking right at the play failed to recognize.

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PFT’s Week Five power rankings

Aaron Rodgers AP

1. Patriots (3-0; last week No. 1): The bye week, the one weekend of the year when the Patriots definitely won’t win.

2. Packers (4-0; No. 2): When they envisioned finally beating the 49ers, they likely assumed the 49ers would be a little bit better than they currently are.

3. Broncos (4-0; No. 3): Peyton Manning should be very glad he’ll never have to face the Denver defense.

4. Bengals (4-0; No. 5): They’re separating from the rest of the division; the next goal is to separate from the rest of the conference.

5. Falcons (4-0; No. 6): Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, and Julio Jones are the new triplets.

6. Cardinals (3-1; No. 4): We’ll know a lot more about this team after back-to-back games at Detroit and Pittsburgh.

7. Panthers (4-0; No. 10): The schedule gets a lot tougher, soon.

8. Seahawks (2-2; No. 9): Jimmy Graham doesn’t block in the running game. And the offensive line doesn’t block in the passing game.

9. Jets (3-1; No. 14): The Jets hadn’t killed a coach this convincingly since Rich Kotite.

10. Rams (2-2; No. 17): Sunday’s win over the Cardinals inevitably will be bookended by a loss to someone like the Browns.

11. Cowboys (2-2; No. 8): Brandon Weeden deserves the least blame for the last two losses, and he’ll likely get the most of it.

12. Steelers (2-2; No. 11): Yes, Ben Roethlisberger had a phone on the sideline. And he was trying to drop Josh Scobee from his fantasy team.

13. Giants (2-2; No. 25): Unfortunately, “we should be 4-0” doesn’t count as a tiebreaker.

14. Bills (2-2; No. 7): From a coach who accused a referee from being an “over-officious jerk” to a coach who is giving the referees carpal tunnel syndrome from reaching for their flags.

15. Ravens (1-3; No. 15): They’re not dead yet. If they don’t get some help at receiver, they will be.

16. Vikings (2-2; No. 13): After the bye, 2-2 could quickly become 7-2.

17. Chiefs (1-3; No. 12): They’re still haunted by that fumble.

18. Raiders (2-2; No. 18): The fact that they didn’t think it was a trap game made it a perfect trap game.

19. Chargers (2-2; No. 19): The team that once traded the right to make Mike Vick the first pick in the draft welcomes him to town for the first time as a starter.

20. Colts (2-2; No. 20): Barely beating the Titans and Jaguars doesn’t bode well for hanging another banner this year. Unless the banner will say “We beat the Titans and Jaguars.”

21. Browns (1-3; No. 21): Dwayne Bowe said “it starts Sunday.” Maybe on one of these Sundays it will.

22. Washington (2-2; No. 29): Every win delays by roughly a month the possible decision to risk putting RG3 and his $16.1 million injury guarantee on the field.

23. Dolphins (1-3; No. 16): And now comes the artificial improvement as players hope to help the interim head coach keep the job, so they can then go back to underachieving.

24. Titans (1-2; No. 24): With the Colts poised to lose some games and the Texans unsettled at quarterback, the Titans could make things interesting after Marcus Mariota gets his NFL sea legs.

25. Texans (1-3; No. 23): They gave up on Brian Hoyer too soon, and they’re sticking with Ryan Mallett too long.

26. Jaguars (1-3; No. 26): Maybe they should have kept Josh Scobee, after all.

27. Eagles (1-3; No. 22): Unfortunately, “we’re a few missed field goals away from being 3-1” doesn’t count as a tiebreaker.

28. Buccaneers (1-3; No. 30): Baseball may be looking pretty good to Jameis right about now.

29. Saints (1-3; No. 31): With the Panthers and Falcons each 4-0, it’s going to be a tough climb to the top of the division.

30. Bears (1-3; No. 32): Suddenly, Jay Cutler doesn’t seem like such a horrible option.

31. 49ers (1-3; No. 27): “Losing with class” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

32. Lions (0-4; No. 28): For a change, the Lions have someone but themselves to blame for a tough loss.

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Chip Kelly: We’re two field goals away from 3-1

Chip Kelly AP

The Eagles are 1-3, but coach Chip Kelly would like to point out that they could easily be 3-1.

“We’ve lost three games by 15 points, so you hit two kicks, and we’re sitting here 3-1 and everyone’s happy,” Kelly said Monday. “It’s razor-thin, so you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and say, ‘OK, we’re going to change our offense, change our defense, and change everything we’re doing with our approach.’ We need to settle down, take a deep breath, and when we have an opportunity to make a play, make a play.”

Kelly is right that the Eagles could have won at Washington on Sunday and at Atlanta Week One if they’d made their kicks: They missed a field goal and an extra point in a 23-20 loss on Sunday, and they missed a field goal in a 26-24 loss in Week One. The Eagles are the only team in the league with two losses by a field goal or less.

Of course, the Jets could easily say they would have beaten the Eagles if Brandon Marshall hadn’t committed the bonehead play of the year by lateraling the ball to no one, setting up an Eagles touchdown in a game Philadelphia won 24-17. If Marshall hadn’t lateraled that ball, the Eagles might be 0-4.

Most NFL games are close enough that the losing team can say that if a play or two had gone the other way, they would have won.

“It’s just one play here or there,” Kelly said, “and it’s a different story.”

That’s true, but that’s what every losing team in the NFL thinks.

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Kurt Warner on Kaepernick: Don’t know if it’s regression or learning

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 04:  quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers is hit by free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Green Bay Packers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on October 4, 2015 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

During the offseason, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick worked out with Kurt Warner as he tried to make improvements to his ability to throw downfield out of the pocket.

Warner had some complimentary things to say about Kaepernick’s game, but acknowledged that one offseason might not be enough to make the necessary changes to “what you’ve been doing your entire career.” Warner also wondered what would happen “when bullets are flying and people are attacking you.”

The first four weeks of this season have provided some answers and they haven’t been good for Kaepernick. He’s not completing passes downfield and struggling to make quick reads against opposing pass rushes while doing less of the playmaking with his legs that made him successful earlier in his career. Warner said Kaepernick deserves a “chance to grow,” but admitted that he doesn’t know if that growth is ever going to come.

“Now that they’re not running as much and they don’t want to subject him to those kind of hits, now he’s playing more dropback quarterback,” Warner said, via “Teams are playing more zone against him, and he’s having to make more decisions, see more on the fly and be able to anticipate and make some of those throws that he hasn’t really had to make in the past. I don’t know if it’s regression or it’s just a young man that’s trying to learn. As I always say, it’s hard to learn at the best level. It’s hard to learn against the best players in the world, and that’s what we’re asking some of these spread quarterbacks to do once they move into the NFL.”

It’s possible that Kaepernick has regressed while trying to learn how to play a different style of quarterback. The teardown process has certainly been successful, now the 49ers have to show they can build him back up or they’ll have to look at other possibilities in the future.

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Lions coach Jim Caldwell: “We’re not going to cry about it”

Jim Caldwell AP

Even though the NFL has sent out a reminder to teams to not criticize officials or other teams, they better be glad the latest team to be blatantly deprived of a chance to win by the refs was Jim Caldwell.

Because the rock-steady coach of the Lions might have been the only one to not flip his switch after that one.

What can you do?” said a “visibly dazed” Caldwell, according to Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press. “You know what I mean? We’re not going to cry about it.”

Others had very different emotions, after the Seahawks were able to seal a 13-10 win over the surging Lions when linebacker K.J. Wright illegally batted a fumble out the back of the end zone, giving the Seahawks the ball instead of the Lions at the 1 with 1:45 left to play.

The league has already admitted it screwed up, with vice president of officiating Dean Blandino saying so after the game on the NFL Network.

And Lions safety James Ihedigbo summed up the feelings of many frustrated by the helplessness.

“You just can’t keep apologizing,” Ihedigbo said. “It’s not going to change it to a win. I mean, it’s just unfortunate. I mean, they got to be held accountable as players are in terms of equipment violations, whatever it might be. There’s a standard that players are held to on the field, there’s a standard that coaches are held to on the field, there’s a standard that teams are held to on the field and there has to be a standard that officials are held to as well. You can’t just apologize.”

At that point, Ihedigbo stopped, saying he didn’t want to risk a fine. But then he kept going.

“They’ve got to do something,” he said. “They’ve got to change the protocol or something. You can’t let that happen and then do nothing.”

Clearly, the Lions feel twice burned after being the victims of a pass interference no-call against the Cowboys in the playoffs. And while they had plenty of the blame themselves for a loss, this instance was even more clear, that a chance to at least tie the game was wrongly taken away.

They should be upset. Every football fan who cares about the integrity of the game should be. Perhaps the league officials in New York will someday join them, and fix a system that clearly needs work.

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K.J. Wright: “I didn’t know that rule at all”

Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright AP

After the Seahawks won Monday night and the NFL admitted the deciding play should have been a penalty that allowed the Lions to retain possession, the man who batted the ball out of the back of the end zone told reporters he didn’t know he should have been flagged for doing so.

“I didn’t know that rule at all,” K.J. Wright said.

Kam Chancellor forced the ball out of the hands of Calvin Johnson and sent the ball bouncing towards the back of the end zone. Wright tracked it and intentionally knocked it over the back line. Wright should have been flagged for illegal batting, NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino admitted after the game.

“As soon as Calvin went down, I saw the ball bouncing, bouncing, bouncing and I was running so I just tried to knock it out,” Wright said.

Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll admitted his team was “fortunate,” which is one way to put it.

“I wanted to just knock it out out of bounds and not try to catch it and fumble it,” Wright said. “I just tried to make a good play for my team.”

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Blandino: Illegal bat is not reviewable

Dean Blandino, Rich McKay AP

Over the years, the NFL has expanded the list of reviewable calls on a reactive, not proactive, basis. So when there’s a bad call that could have been easily fixed by replay review but the rules don’t allow for replay review of that specific play, the NFL has later changed the rule to encompass that type of play in the future.

And now it’s time to another expansion of the replay rules.

Appearing on NFL Network after the Lions-Seahawks game, NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said that the question of whether an illegal bat occurred is not subject to replay review. He also said that a discussion about whether illegal batting should be subject to replay review will now surely occur.

Of course, this specific flaw in the rules would have continued to hide in plain sight until a team like the Lions was victimized by the failure to apply the rule in real time, and by the unavailability of replay review. So here’s an idea for the owners to consider at meetings beginning Tuesday in New York: Form a committee to scour every line of the rule book in search of every possible rule: (1) that currently doesn’t allow for replay review; and (2) that could and should easily be changed to include that rule within the scope of reviewable plays.

This won’t help the Lions. But it may help the next team that has to settle for a private apology from 345 Park Avenue instead of a win.

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Bat of loose ball by K.J. Wright should have been flagged

b99342879z.1_20140902233205_000_gp57n0p3.1-0 Getty Images

Setting aside for now (but not for long) how the most unfair rule in football gave possession of the ball to the Seahawks even though they never recovered the football fumbled by Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, the decision of Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright to bat the ball out of the end zone should have given possession back to the Lions.

As explained by ESPN rules analyst Gerry Austin after the game (and confirmed to ESPN by NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino), Wright committed an illegal bat that should have given the ball back to the Lions at the spot where they lost possession, with the ball moved half the distance to the goal line.

Rule 12, Section 4, Article 1(b) applies the term “illegal bat” when “any player bats or punches a loose ball (that has touched the ground) in any direction, if it is in either end zone.”

So even though the rule that gives possession to the defense when the offense fumbles the ball in the field of play and it goes out of the end zone needs to be changed, a rule change wasn’t needed here. With Wright knocking the ball out of the end zone, the ball should have been given back to the Lions, on the fringe of the end zone.

Amazingly, the non-replacement officials missed the call, a little more than three years after replacement officials missed an offensive pass interference foul that allowed the Seahawks to steal a late win over the Packers on a Monday night.

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