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Saints’ Joe Morgan suspended

Joe Morgan AP

Saints receiver Joe Morgan has barely played this year, and it doesn’t appear that he will play any time soon.

Morgan, who started Week One but didn’t catch a pass and hasn’t played since, has now been suspended. The Saints announced today that Morgan has been placed on the reserve/suspended list, but they did not explain why.

The 26-year-old Morgan has shown flashes of great talent, but he’s never been able to put that talent to use consistently. Morgan signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2011, spent all season on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury in the preseason, and then emerged as a big-play threat in 2012, catching just 10 passes but totaling a whopping 379 yards on those 10 catches. Morgan missed the entire 2013 season after suffering a torn ACL in training camp.

Off-field issues derailed Morgan’s college career, which began at Illinois but concluded at Walsh University. Now it appears that the combination of injuries and off-field issues may have derailed his NFL career as well.

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Gruden hints at Sunday return from Griffin

Griffin Getty Images

Washington coach Jay Gruden has what some would call a good problem to have. If he doesn’t handle it the right way, however, he’ll just have a problem.

After backup Kirk Cousins showed promise but then imploded, Gruden turned to third-stringer Colt McCoy, who has shown more promise and no implosion. But starter Robert Griffin III seems to be ready to return from a dislocated ankle suffered in Week Two. And if Griffin thinks he can play and Gruden sticks with McCoy and McCoy wins at Minnesota to enter the bye, there will be pressure on Gruden to keep riding the hot hand — and pressure on Griffin to quickly develop an even hotter hand if/when he returns after the Week 10 bye.

So the signs point to Griffin supplanting McCoy for Sunday’s game at Minnesota. Gruden told reporters on Tuesday that Griffin is “very, very, very close,” via Rich Tandler of CSN Washington.

While Gruden will surely try to create the impression that the decision hinges on practice reps, Gruden surely already knows what he plans to do.  And there’s everything to gain and nothing to lose by keeping the Vikings in the dark about who they’ll face.

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Champ Bailey calls it a career

Champ+Bailey+Kansas+City+Chiefs+v+Denver+Broncos+uyyazpdyKs5l Getty Images

Champ Bailey is ready to hang up his cleats.

Bailey, the 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback for Washington and Denver, has decided to retire, his agent has told multiple reporters.

That decision was probably based on the reality that there isn’t much interest in the 36-year-old Bailey, who was cut by the Saints after spending the preseason in New Orleans. Bailey had tryouts with the Lions and Ravens but didn’t sign with either team.

The seventh overall pick of the 1999 NFL draft, Bailey was named an All-Pro cornerback for Washington twice before he was traded to Denver in exchange for Clinton Portis and a second-round draft pick. That turned out to be a wise trade for the Broncos, as Bailey was named All-Pro five more times in Denver and was chosen to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2000s.

Bailey will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2019, a class that could also include Tony Gonzalez and Ed Reed.

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NFL “maybe” will stage another early Sunday morning game

Detroit Lions v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

For the first time ever, the NFL played a game on Sunday morning in the Eastern time zone, with a 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff between the Lions and Falcons.

Of course, the game started several hours later in London, the site of the contest. So with the NFL committed to playing another three games in London next year, will one of them start at 9:30 a.m. ET?

“Maybe,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Tuesday.

One factor will be the TV ratings. According to FOX, they were strong to quite strong, with a 6.6 rating and a 17 share. That’s comparable to the numbers FOX is getting for the World Series.

So get ready to watch more early Sunday football. Because enough of you watched the first installment to justify doing it again.

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Jordan Cameron’s concussions a concern in Cleveland

jordancameron AP

The health of Browns tight end Jordan Cameron is increasingly becoming a concern after he suffered his third concussion in the last two years on Sunday.

Cameron suffered a concussion in December of 2012 and another in December of 2013 and missed a total of three games late in the last two seasons as a result. Now Cameron may need to miss even more time. It would seem unlikely that he’ll play on Sunday, and probably not in the Browns’ game next Thursday, either.

Browns coach Mike Pettine said the team will follow the NFL’s concussion protocol, and whether Cameron will play will be determined by the medical staff.

“The league, as they should be, is very deliberate with the protocol,” Pettine said, via Cleveland.com. “You just take each day and see where he is symptom-wise. I haven’t gotten the full medical report yet today. I’ll probably know a little bit more later this afternoon.”

Cameron suffered his concussion on Sunday when he took a hit to the head from Raiders safety Brandian Ross, who was flagged and will likely be fined.

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DeMarco Murray moves ahead of Eric Dickerson’s record pace

demarcomurray AP

The Cowboys didn’t have a good night on Monday, but DeMarco Murray kept churning out the yardage.

Murray became the first player in NFL history to rush for 100 yards in each of the first eight games of the season, totaling 141 on the ground. Murray was already the first player in NFL history to rush for 100 yards in each of the first seven games of the season.

Murray is at 1,054 yards at the halfway point of this season, putting him on pace for 2,108 this year. That would just break Eric Dickerson’s all-time record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season, set in 1984.

There are some questions about whether the Cowboys can keep giving the ball to Murray so often. With 206 carries this season, Murray is on pace for 412, which would be the second most in NFL history — if he can keep up that pace without breaking down. And Murray lost yet another fumble on Monday night, giving him five lost fumbles this year. That’s the most of any player in the NFL — even more than any quarterback, even though the fumbles lost stat is usually dominated by quarterbacks.

But if anything, the Cowboys’ offense looks like it should be going to Murray more often. The Cowboys gave Murray the ball on their first play in overtime on Monday night, then and he picked up eight yards. Then they passed three straight times, failed to pick up a first down, and lost the game. The Cowboys need to keep riding Murray. Maybe all the way to a new NFL rushing record.

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Week Eight power rankings

Patriots Big Test Football AP

1. Denver Broncos (Last week No. 2; 6-1):  Good news — they can handle the best the NFC has to offer.  Bad news — they may not be able to handle the Patriots.

2. Arizona Cardinals (No. 3; 6-1):  How good would this team be if it had Dansby, Dockett, and Darryl Washington?

3.  Dallas Cowboys (No. 1; 6-2):  Tony Romo says he’s fine.  Which means that the announcement of season-ending surgery should be coming any minute now.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (No. 4; 5-2):  Last year, Nick Foles carried the Eagles.  This year, he could be holding them back.

5. New England Patriots (No. 9; 6-2):  To get a full measure of revenge against the Bears for Super Bowl XX, the Pats should have let Vince Wilfork score a touchdown.

6. Detroit Lions (No. 10; 6-2):  In a year with plenty of viable candidates for coach of the year, Jim Caldwell deserves serious consideration.

7. San Diego Chargers (No. 5; 5-3):  Philip Rivers is an MVP candidate, but the Chargers may not have enough other VPs to get them where they want to be.

8. Green Bay Packers (No. 6; 5-3):  Aaron Rodgers will spend the next two weeks telling his hamstring to R-E-L-A-X.

9. Indianapolis Colts (No. 7; 5-3):  As they prepare for the latest installment of the Greatest Game Ever Played, maybe the surviving members of the ’58 Colts would do a better job of playing defense.

10. Baltimore Ravens (No. 8; 5-3):  Another game against the Bengals, another late lapse in pass defense.

11. Seattle Seahawks (No. 11; 4-3):  We’d believe that all was well in Seattle if players and coaches didn’t spend so much time trying to convince us of it.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (No. 12; 4-2-1):  Andy Dalton finally proves he can win without A.J. Green, thanks to Mohamed Sanu.

13. San Francisco 49ers (No. 13; 4-3):  The over/under of owners plotting for a run at Jim Harbaugh is currently 5.5.

14. Buffalo Bills (No. 14; 5-3):  Sammy Watkins‘ premature celebration could end up being a metaphor for his team’s 2014 season.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 18; 5-3):  It’s a good thing they didn’t listen to Snoop Dogg.  (That’s a sentence that probably has never been inaccurate.)

16. Kansas City Chiefs (No. 16; 4-3):  Maybe they should rename the battle of Missouri the Governor’s Cupcake.

17. Cleveland Browns (No. 17; 4-3):  If they’re still hovering around .500 in three weeks, it’ll be interesting to see what Josh Gordon can do for the stretch run.

18. New Orleans Saints (No. 20; 3-4):  Rob Ryan is suddenly doing a little better than Rex.

19. Miami Dolphins (No. 19; 4-3):  The next four games (Chargers, Lions, Bills, Broncos) will go a long way toward shaping the fate of the team and its coach.

20. Carolina Panthers (No. 15; 3-4-1):  And yet they somehow still have a good chance of getting to the playoffs.

21. Houston Texans (No. 22; 4-4):  Selfies are “high school.”  Letterman jackets and post-game attire exposing half of a guy’s muscle mass aren’t.

21. Chicago Bears (No. 21; 3-5):  Giving up 51 points is way more unacceptable than being 3-4.

23. New York Giants (No. 23; 3-4):  G.M. Jerry Reese thinks Eli Manning needs to be more aggressive.  Eli probably felt the same way about Reese back in March.

24. Washington (No. 27; 3-5):  See, I told you they could get a first-round pick for Colt McCoy.

25. Minnesota Vikings (No. 29; 3-5):  The combined record of the three teams they’ve beaten is 5-17.

26. St. Louis Rams (No. 24; 2-5):  The All-IR team would be dominated by Rams.

27. Atlanta Falcons (No. 25; 2-6):  If that “home” game had actually been played at home, that 21-0 lead likely wouldn’t have been blown.

28. Tennessee Titans (No. 28; 2-6):  Somewhere, Mike Munchak is cackling.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 30; 1-7):  Somewhere, Mike Mularkey is cackling.

30. New York Jets (No. 26; 1-7):  Somewhere, Rich Kotite is cackling.

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 31; 1-6):  Somewhere, Greg Schiano is cackling.

32. Oakland Raiders (No. 32; 0-7):  Somewhere, Dennis Allen, Hue Jackson, Tom Cable, Lane Kiffin, Art Shell, Norv Turner, and Bill Callahan are cackling.

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Gruden says Griffin remains the starter

McCoy Getty Images

After backup Kirk Cousins showed promise while replacing injured starter Robert Griffin III, Washington coach Jay Gruden opted not to confirm that Griffin would remain the starter upon his return from a dislocated ankle.

We’ll cross that bridge when that comes,” Griffin said.

After Cousins began to play poorly, it became clear the bridge would never come.  But there’s now a new bridge, courtesy of a two straight wins from third-string option Colt McCoy.  The forgotten third-round pick of the Browns completed 25 of 30 passes for 299 yards, ran for a touchdown, and then went a perfect five-for-five in overtime, gaining 49 yards through the air and engineering the drive that ultimately produced the game-winning field goal.

But with McCoy perhaps playing even better than Cousins was playing before the wheels came off, Gruden isn’t leaving the door open for McCoy to keep the job.

“We went into training camp and did all the OTAs with Robert Griffin as our starter, so when Robert’s back, Robert’s our starter,” Gruden said after Monday night’s win, via the Washington Post.  “That hasn’t changed.  I haven’t varied off of that or wavered off of that. In my mind, Robert, when he’s ready, he’ll be ready to go.”

But Gruden did vary and waver when Cousins was making Joe Theismann look like a genius.  The fact that Gruden isn’t varying or wavering now shows that, indeed, McCoy won’t be stealing Griffin’s job any time soon.

It’s obvious that McCoy has leapfrogged Cousins, and that Cousins will be gone after the season (if not sooner), assuming McCoy chooses to return and be the backup.  After last night’s performance, McCoy could get a chance to go somewhere else and compete to be the starter in 2015.

It’s too early to know how it will all play out because it’s too soon to know whether Griffin will play effectively and stay healthy.  He could return on Sunday against the Vikings (and it’s now even more likely that he will, given McCoy’s performance on Monday night) and promptly get injured again.  Or Griffin could continue to struggle with Gruden’s offense.

Regardless, Washington has discovered that it has another alternative to Griffin — one that at least for now is clearly better than the backup who became an interception machine.  McCoy won’t get a chance to suffer the same fate, because Griffin won’t be inclined to give him another opportunity to prove that McCoy is a far more serious threat to Griffin’s status than Cousins ever was.

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Jay Gruden: “We expected to win”

coltjay AP

Surprised that Washington beat Dallas last night? Jay Gruden isn’t.

Gruden said after the game that while everyone outside Washington’s locker room may have expected Dallas to win, everyone inside Washington’s locker room fully expected to win.

“The whole country, except the 53 guys in here, and the coaches,” Gruden said. “We expected to win and we came out and played like it, played with confidence, and we got the win.”

The win improves Washington’s record to 3-5 and at least gives them some hope that they could still turn their season around. With the next two games coming against Minnesota and Tampa Bay, Washington has a real shot at being 5-5 by mid-November. Maybe no one else sees Washington turning this season around, but Gruden expects it.

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Phil Emery on Jay Cutler: We’re a 3-5 team, he’s a 3-5 quarterback

Chicago Bears v New England Patriots Getty Images

Last week, Bears General Manager Phil Emery defended Jay Cutler as a “winning quarterback” during an online Q&A with fans who wanted to know if Emery was having any regrets about signing Cutler to an extension in the offseason.

Cutler and the Bears lost again to the Patriots last Sunday, which means that the winning quarterback is in charge of a 3-5 team halfway through the season. Cutler turned the ball over twice against New England and has turned the ball over multiple times in each of Chicago’s losses this season, which isn’t enough for Emery to back off support for the quarterback but might have been enough for him to tweak his earlier view on Cutler’s status as a winner.

“Obviously, we’re a 3-5 team, and he’s a 3-5 quarterback right now,” Emery said, via ESPN.com. “There’s a lot of things he’s got to get better at. There are a lot of things we’ve got to get better at. In terms of protecting the ball, in the fumbles, he had one against San Francisco [in Week 2], had one this past week and had one the previous week against Miami. Some of them are just situations, a guy coming from the blind side. But obviously, you have to keep the ball up and away. We’ve got to get better at that. Obviously he knows that. He holds himself accountable for it, and he’ll continue to strive to get better in that area.”

Coach Marc Trestman said he thinks Cutler is “handling himself exceptionally well on a play-by-play basis” and that the team needs to do a better job of playing “complementary football” while also allowing that there are some negatives they’d like to see Cutler erase.

It’s more likely that Cutler will remain the same quarterback with the same positives and negatives that he’s displayed this season and throughout his career. That was enough for the Bears to sign him to an extension that ties them to him for the next few seasons, so they’ll have plenty of chances to weigh in on how that decision is working out as long as all three are still in Chicago.

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Jerry Jones went on field to tell Jason Garrett that Tony Romo was OK

Jerry Jones, Tony Romo AP

With 31 other teams, the sight of the owner on the sidelines talking to the coach during the fourth quarter would be big news.

But you have almost come to expect such sights with the Cowboys.

During the fourth quarter of last night’s loss to Washington, owner Jerry Jones went downstairs to check on the status of injured quarterback Tony Romo, and then to update coach Jason Garrett on the prognosis.

“I was here during the tail end of the examination and knew he planned to come back out and play if he were needed,” Jones said, via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. “Of course he was needed. I felt good that he could come back out. When he saw the opportunity he did. I told Jason that he would be back in.”

Of course. Because that’s totally normal.
Dr. Jones also added that initial concerns about Romo’s surgically repaired back were allayed when he saw the X-rays.

“We knew there were no structural issues when they gave him the X-rays,” Jones said. “I very concerned [by] the fact that he laid there as long as he laid there. After we looked at the play and saw that was a knee kind of to the side of the back, then we felt better about it.

“We got him in here and looked at it real carefully everybody felt better about it. But he was certainly limited when he first got in here, but he loosened it up real good and went back out.”

And who other than Jones to spread the good news, since Garrett clearly doesn’t have anyone else to pass along the information.

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Jerry Jones says Justin Durant out for year with biceps tear

Justin Durant AP

Linebacker Justin Durant has been a pivotal piece in returning a putrid Dallas Cowboys defense to respectability this season.

Now the Cowboys will have to go on without him for the remainder of the season.

According to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said following Monday night’s 20-17 overtime defeat to the Washington Redskins that Durant had suffered a torn biceps and will miss the remainder of the season.

Durant led the Cowboys with 10 tackles, including two for loss, against Washington on Monday night.

He started six games for Dallas this season. Durant recorded 49 tackles with an interception and two forced fumbles.

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Colt McCoy leads Washington to 20-17 overtime win over Cowboys

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Tony Romo’s fourth down pass to Dez Bryant was knocked down by Bashaun Breeland to give the Washington Redskins a 20-17 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night.

Colt McCoy passed for 299 yards with a rushing touchdown and an interception to help lead Washington to victory in his first start since Dec. 8, 2011 with the Cleveland Browns. McCoy completed 25 of 30 passes and made some key throws late, particularly on throws to tight end Jordan Reed.

Romo left the game and was taken to the locker room after being sacked by Washington Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson in the third quarter.

Romo turned his back to absorb a blow from the blitzing Robinson and appeared to have taken a knee to his surgically repaired back on the play. Romo spent a few minutes down on the turf at AT&T Stadium before walking off the field incredibly gingerly while flanked by members of the team’s training staff.

In Romo’s absence, Brandon Weeden helped lead the Cowboys on two scoring drives to keep level with Washington.

Dan Bailey’s 21-yard field goal tied the game at 10-10 with four minutes left in the third quarter.

Colt McCoy then scored on a 7-yard touchdown run to cap a nine-play, 80-yard drive to put Washington back on top.

But the Cowboys would answer again. Weeden led Dallas on an 80-yard drive of their own with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten with 9:27 left to play leveling the score at 17-17.

Romo returned to the game for the Cowboys final possession of regulation and nearly fumbled away the game. Brandon Meriweather came free on a blitz and stripped Romo of the ball. Ryan Kerrigan fell on the loose ball but it somehow squirted free and Dallas recovered to keep possession inside their own 10-yard line.

Romo was nearly intercepted by Bashaud Breeland as well but the ball slipped through his hands to Terrance Williams for 18 yards instead. Either turnover would have likely led to a game-winning field goal try or Washington at the end of regulation.

After winning the coin toss, McCoy led Washington inside the Dallas 30-yard line. The drive stalled when J.J. Wilcox stopped Jordan Reed for no gain on third down to force a 40-yard field goal from Kai Forbath to give Washington a 20-17 lead.

Bryant scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Romo in the second quarter to give Dallas a 7-3 lead. Alfred Morris scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to put Washington back on top 10-7 in the third quarter.

Washington’s defense had five sacks on the night and forced four fumbles, two of which they recovered for turnovers.

DeMarco Murray went over the 100-yard mark for the eighth straight game this year, finishing with 141 yards on the night.

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Tony Romo leaves game, heads to locker room after hit

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo left Monday night’s game and was taken to the locker room after being sacked by Washington Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson in the third quarter.

Romo turned his back to absorb a blow from the blitzing Robinson and appeared to have taken a knee to his surgically repaired back on the play.

Romo spent a few minutes down on the turf at AT&T Stadium before walking off the field incredibly gingerly while flanked by members of the team’s training staff.

Romo had surgery on his back last December after being injured in a game at Washington last season.

Romo was replaced by Brandon Weeden with 5:43 left in the third quarter.

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Washington putting up a fight in Dallas

meriweatherromo AP

Anyone who thought we were in for another prime time blowout tonight in Dallas is mistaken. Washington is hanging tough.

After Washington’s defense played well throughout the first half, it was Washington’s offense that took over early in the second half: In the first drive of the third quarter, Washington went 80 yards over eight plays, culminating with a five-yard Alfred Morris touchdown run.

That score gave Washington a 10-7 lead in a game most people thought Dallas would win easily.

Colt McCoy is proving himself to be competent if not spectacular leading the offense, completing 10 of his first 13 passes for 140 yards. Morris has 50 yards rushing, and Roy Helu has another 30 yards on the ground.

There’s still plenty of time for Dallas to turn this game around. But so far, the Cowboys look like they’re in a tougher fight than they were expecting.

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