Bears sign Manti Te’o to practice squad

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The Bears signed veteran linebacker Manti Te'o to their practice squad, the team announced Tuesday.

He takes the roster spot of kicker Kai Forbath, whom the Rams signed to their active roster Tuesday.

Te’o has appeared in 62 games with 48 starts over seven NFL seasons. He has played with the Chargers (2013-16) and Saints (2017-19).

Te’o has 307 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 13 pass breakups, two interceptions, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

The Chargers made Te’o a second-round choice in 2013 out of Notre Dame, where, in 2012, he won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best college defensive player and the Butkus Award as the best college linebacker in the country.

Maurice Hurst off reserve/COVID-19 list

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Raiders defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is back.

The team activated him off the reserve/COVID-19 list. He landed on the list Oct. 6.

Hurst had 13 tackles and a half-sack while playing 107 defensive snaps the first four weeks.

Hurst, 25, joined the Raiders as a fifth-round choice in 2018. He played 13 games with 10 starts during his rookie season.

In 2019, Hurst played all 16 games with four starts.

He has 62 tackles, eight sacks, one interception and one forced fumble.

Rams sign Kai Forbath

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The Rams have added a second kicker to their active roster.

The team announced that they have signed veteran Kai Forbath on Tuesday. Forbath had been on the Bears practice squad.

Sam Sloman has done the kicking for the Rams this season. He’s 7-of-9 on field goals and 15-of-18 on extra points.

Forbath also spent time on Carolina’s practice squad in September and has had stints with the Cowboys, Patriots, Jaguars, Vikings, Saints, Buccaneers, and Washington over the last 10 years. Forbath has made 86.8 percent of his field goals and 93.8 percent of his extra points over the course of his career.

The Rams opened a roster spot by placing linebacker Obo Okoronkwo on injured reserve. He’s expected to miss more than a month after elbow surgery.

Steelers expect David DeCastro, Diontae Johnson to practice Wednesday

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The Steelers have a big game on tap in Week Seven as they will take their 5-0 record on the road for a matchup with the 5-0 Titans.

On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin provided some hope that Pittsburgh will have two key offensive players back in the lineup for that game. He said at his Tuesday press conference that he expects to have right guard David DeCastro and wide receiver Diontae Johnson on the practice field Wednesday.

DeCastro missed time early in the season with a knee injury and then suffered an abdominal injury in Week Five. Johnson hurt his back early in the same game and did not play in last Sunday’s win over the Browns.

It’s less clear if fullback Derek Watt (hamstring) and cornerback Mike Hilton (shoulder) will be able to go, but having DeCastron and Johnson on hand should help Pittsburgh’s chances of running their record to 6-0.

Bucs announce Steve McLendon trade, activate John Hurst from IR

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The Buccaneers agreed to a trade for defensive lineman Steve McLendon on Sunday and the deal became official on Tuesday.

The team announced that they have sent a 2020 sixth-round pick to the Jets for McLendon and a 2023 seventh-round pick. McLendon will not be formally added to the 53-man roster until he clears COVID-19 protocols.

McLendon will help the team fill the void left by Vita Vea‘s season-ending injury. He played for Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles when Bowles was the head coach of the Jets.

The Buccaneers also announced that they have activated wide receiver John Hurst from injured reserve. He was undrafted out of West Georgia this year and was placed on injured reserve in early September.

NFL had eight new positives among 2,459 players tested last week

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As each new positive test results in concerns about whether a team could have an outbreak that wreaks havoc on the NFL schedule, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that an exceedingly small percentage of players have tested positive for COVID-19.

According to data released by the NFL and NFL Players Association today, last week 15,167 tests were administered to 2,459 players. Only eight new positive test results were produced. That represents a positive rate of 0.3 percent, far lower than the American population as a whole.

The NFL also had 11 new confirmed positive tests for team personnel, out of 5,340 people tested and a total of 23,713 tests. That represents a positive rate of 0.2 percent for team personnel.

From August 1 through October 17, a total of 47 players and 71 other personnel have been confirmed positive, out of more than 450,000 tests administered.

Cap consequences make Matt Ryan, Julio Jones trades difficult, but not impossible

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Regardless of whether teams are or aren’t wondering about the availability of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and/or receiver Julio Jones in trade, there should be no wondering about this: The cap consequences for trading either guy would be very significant.

For one of them, however, the a trade is considerably easier. (Or, perhaps more accurately, considerably less difficult.)

Let’s start with Ryan. Trading him would result in a 2021 cap charge of $44.4 million.

For Jones, the cap hit would be much more manageable, relative to Ryan. Still, the Falcons would have to absorb $23.25 million by trading Jones.

Dumping the balance of their 2020 salaries would help. The Falcons would clear $7.24 million in unpaid salary for Jones, dropping the net cap hit in 2021 to $16.01 million.  For Ryan, a 2020 restructuring that reduced his salary to the veteran minimum of $1.05 million means they’d avoid only $679,000 by trading him now.

Throw in the fact that the salary cap possibly will be as low as $175 million next year, the Falcons would have a hard time burning that kind of cap space on guys they won’t have.

That said, because the trades would be happening after June 1, the cap charges would apply next year. Ryan’s cap number for 2021 already will be $40.9 million; thus, trading him would only increases the already expected cap charge by $3.5 million. (It’s still $44.4 million in dead money.)

Jones’ 2021 cap charge in 2021 will be $23.05 million. By trading him now and by not using the cap money realized by his unpaid salary, they could drop that by $7 million. Still, if would result in a $16.01 million dead-money charge.

Though it wouldn’t be easy, they could potentially trade one or the other. It would be very hard to trade both, since that would push the total dead money for not having two key players north of $60 million.

UPDATE 3:06 p.m. ET: In a prior version of this item, I overlooked the fact that post-June 1 trades don’t trigger cap accelerations until the following year. Which was stupid of me. Before the NFL made the post-June 1 cap rule for trades match the post-June 1 cap rule for cuts, the trades couldn’t have happened at all. Even with the cap acceleration landing next year, it won’t be easy to pull off a trade, especially as to Ryan.

Mike Tomlin: Derrick Henry’s size, speed “really astounding”

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Mike Tomlin was coaching the Steelers against the Browns while Derrick Henry was running through and over the Texans in Tennessee’s overtime win on Sunday, but he’s seen the tape of that performance and plenty of other ones from Henry over the last few years.

The most recent outing featured a 94-yard run that made Henry the fifth-player in league history with multiple runs of more than 90 yards. Tomlin called Henry’s exploits “a highlight reel of big runs unlike I have ever seen” and said that it’s all the more remarkable because of how big Henry is.

“It’s really astounding that a back his size is capable of going to the house just about every time he touches it,” Tomlin said, via Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Media.

Henry has only faced the Steelers once since entering the NFL. He ran seven times for 32 yards in a 40-17 Titans loss in November 2017. A lot of time has passed since then and Henry hasn’t run for that few yards since Week 12 of the 2018 season, so it feels safe to say this weekend will be a new experience for the Steelers.

 

Jerry Jones: NFC East is “manna from heaven,” but we have to get better

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The Cowboys lost in ugly fashion to the Cardinals on Monday night and are now 2-4 on the season as a result.

It’s not the record anyone is striving for, but there is a silver lining. They are the only two-win team in the NFC East and the other three teams haven’t shown many signs of being on the verge of extended winning streaks.

That silver lining doesn’t mean much to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on the day after the loss to Arizona. Jones was on 105.3 The Fan Tuesday and acknowledged that the ineptitude of the division may work in his team’s favor, but he isn’t feeling great about that given the way the Cowboys have played.

“I’m not in the feel good mood frankly that we got manna from heaven being in the East. These things have a way of evening out as we go along, and certainly the NFC East is having its challenges right now,” Jones said. “All of that is a way of not wanting to talk about other teams. When you’re not playing any better than we are, it’s hard for me to basically look to the endgame, which is to win the East, and get excited about the fact that we’re better than anybody. We may be slow, but we’re ahead of you syndrome. We got to get better to have the kind of season that makes sense for us.”

The Cowboys get a pair of NFC East opponents in Washington and Philadelphia the next two weeks and the results of those games will determine whether they’ll head into the second half at the top of an unimpressive group or right in the middle of the muck with the other three teams.

Sterling Shepard returning to practice for Giants

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The Giants are set to have wide receiver Sterling Shepard back at practice on Tuesday.

Shepard was placed on injured reserve after injuring his toe during the team’s Week Two loss to the Bears. Designating him for return opens up a three-week window for Shepard to practice before the team has to activate him or shut him down for the season.

It also makes Shepard eligible to play against the Eagles on Thursday night. The team has an open roster spot after placing linebacker Lorenzo Carter on injured reserve and head coach Joe Judge said it is a possibility when he spoke to reporters on Monday.

Shepard had eight catches for 76 yards during the first two games of the year.

Patriots brace for diverse 49ers running game

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The Patriots are reeling. The 49ers were reeling. When the two teams meet this weekend, the 49ers will be running.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick knows what’s coming, and he offered up from praise for the San Francisco ground game on Tuesday.

“Yeah, they get everybody involved in the running game,” Belichick said. “They hand it to tight ends, receivers, backs. They run multiple personnel groupings with the fullback, with no fullback, with three receivers, two receivers. So they give you a lot of different looks.

“They’re very well-coached, they have a good scheme, they’re sound, they are fundamentally very good. Coach [Kyle] Shanahan does a great job of attacking defenses by creating formations and conflicts that are hard defensively and he can take advantage of them in a number of different ways, and then of course they make some big plays in the passing game, as well, by setting up those things in the running game.

“They’re well-coached, they’re very good fundamentally, they have an explosive group of players and they put pressure on you across the board. Certainly, the receivers carrying the ball is something that you’ve got to defend, but there’s a lot of other things you’ve got to defend, too, so that’s the whole problem with San Francisco is it’s not stopping one guy or one play or one player. It’s about being able to play good team defense and everybody’s got to hold up and do their job, and that’s challenging at all the positions — quarterback, tight end, running back, wide receiver and a good offensive line, and as I said, very well-coached. You can see why they won the NFC last year. Offensively, they’ve got a strong group.”

Yes they are, and they showed it again on Sunday night, with a win over the Rams. The question is whether they can make it two in a row, and whether the Patriots can stop their losing streak at two.

Is the Kansas City run-game meat grinder a fluke or the start of a trend?

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The Chiefs ran the ball 46 times and threw it 26 times against the Bills last night.

Yes, the Chiefs. The Andy Reid-coached Chiefs.

So was the 245-yard meat grinder (20 more yards than they gained through the air), a fluke or a sign of things to come. Apparently, it depends on what the defense does.

“Obviously, we had a few more pass plays called, I mean, we always do,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said after the 26-17 win. “Once we saw how deep their linebackers and safeties and corners were playing, we knew that we had the run game. So we really just stayed with it. If teams are gonna play us like this, you’re gonna see us running the football. We have the guys that can do it.”

Mahomes also explained that there were several run-pass options called, and that he resisted the temptation to not throw the ball, given that the run was there.

“I had a few of those RPOs called, and I had to tell myself not to throw it,” Mahomes said. “Just keep handing that thing off.”

Making it easier to resist the temptation to throw is the fact that the Bills have a very bad run defense. But the broader point is this: If the run is there to be had, they’ll run. If the throw is there to be had, they’ll throw.

Coming Sunday, Mahomes will have another guy to whom he can hand the ball. If Le'Veon Bell can turn back the clock to 2017, the Chiefs will have a perfect complement for rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who seemed to be more focused and determined given the knowledge that Bell is coming.

Joe Buck, Troy Aikman take heat for comments on flyovers

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For years, the military sends planes to fly over venues at which large-scale sporting events will be played.

On Sunday, military fighter jets flew over Raymond James Stadium prior to the Packers-Buccaneers game. Via Samer Kalef of Defector.com, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman offered their thoughts on the subject into a hot mic.

“That’s a lot of jet fuel just to do a little flyover,” Aikman says in the clip.

“That’s your hard-earned money and your tax dollars at work!” Buck interjects.

“That stuff ain’t happening with [a] Kamala-Biden ticket,” Aikman adds. “I’ll tell you that right now, partner.”

The final remark has likely made this into a red state/blue state thing, prompting Aikman to trend on Twitter. Although some are saying that Buck and Aikman “mocked” the flyover process in a way that attempts to imply they disrespected the military, the point is that they regard it as a waste of money. That’s a decidedly non-partisan observation.

On the surface, it is a waste of money. But it also gives pilots flying time, which they need anyway. Moreover, it’s a potentially strong recruiting tool, underscoring the ties between football and the military.

The bigger problem with Aikman’s observation isn’t that it’s political but that it’s incorrect. Flyovers will continue regardless of who wins the election, taking a break only when the federal government is shut down.

Vic Fangio talks up Malik Reed after two sacks of Cam Newton

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Broncos outside linebacker Malik Reed doesn’t always play a big role in Denver’s defense, but he’s making the most of his opportunities.

Starting in place of the injured Jeremiah Attaochu, Reed sacked Cam Newton twice in the Broncos’ win at New England on Sunday, and afterward head coach Vic Fangio praised Reed for filling in as he did.

“He put together two good rushes there,” Fangio said. “They were rushes where we had an extra guy or two in the rush which helped eliminate the quarterback’s ability to step up and wiggle through a space. He took full advantage and they were two great plays by Malik.”

Reed will probably go back to a situational pass rusher role when Attaochu is healthy. But as a player who made the roster as an undrafted rookie a year ago, Reed is showing he has what it takes.

Washington announces Joshua Garnett’s retirement

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The Washington Football Team claimed defensive end Casey Toohill off of waivers last week, but COVID-19 protocols required them to wait until Tuesday to add him to the 53-man roster.

Washington made the announcement that Toohill is now officially on board and also announced the corresponding move to make space for him. Guard Joshua Garnett has retired.

Garnett was a 49ers first-round pick in 2016 and he started 11 games during his rookie season. A knee injury kept him out for all of 2017 and he was gone from the Niners after playing seven games in 2018. Garnett signed with Washington in August and he’s appeared in three games this season.

Toohill was an Eagles seventh-round pick this year and he played in one game for Philly before being waived.