Delanie Walker won’t give up hope of returning this year

Getty Images

Titans tight end Delanie Walker was carted off the field in Week One and landed on injured reserve with a dislocated and fractured ankle that left most people assuming he wouldn’t be seen on the field until 2019.

That might be the case, but Walker isn’t giving up hope that he can make it back to the lineup this year. Walker moved from requiring a scooter to get around to walking with crutches a couple of weeks ago and said on Wednesday that he’s not ruling anything out as his rehab unfolds.

“In my mind, it’s just to get healthy. But in the back of my mind, if I can get healthy earlier where I can come back and play, I’m going to do that,” Walker said, via the Tennessean. “But like I told you guys, I really don’t know. I don’t know what the time length is going to be. I feel good right now. Could I feel better when the time comes when we’re in the playoffs? Yeah. We’ll see. But right now, I’m just worried about taking it day by day just to get healthy and be able to come back next year. But if I can play this year, I will.”

Walker never had less than 60 catches in his five full seasons with the Titans, but the tight ends left on the roster haven’t had that big a role in the offense since his injury. Jonnu Smith doubled his reception total for the season with five catches in the last two weeks and Luke Stocker has eight catches on the year.

Eric Ebron making the most of his limited offensive snaps

Getty Images

Eric Ebron isn’t playing as many snaps as he might have imagined. He’s making more of those snaps than almost anyone imagined.

The former first-rounder, who was cast aside by the Lions this offseason, is flourishing with the Colts despite playing a limited amount of snaps each game.

Since he’s not the best blocker among their tight ends, they’re not asking him to block much. He’s played just 55.8 percent of their offensive snaps this year, and that’s higher than they wanted because of the injury to starter Jack Doyle.

That makes his 39 catches for 463 yards and 10 touchdowns even more impressive.

I knew that they would allow me to make plays, allow me to be me and do what I do best,” Ebron said, via Joel Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. “It was one of the reasons why I came here, and I knew Andrew (Luck) would facilitate it all good enough. That way, I’d be open.”

Ebron played just 21 snaps last week, but scored three touchdowns.

“I’m OK with it, because I know that when I am on the field, it’s a presence,” Ebron said. “Whether it’s me getting the ball or not, my presence is felt.”

It wasn’t in Detroit, which made it easy for the Lions to walk away rather than pay him more than $8 million this year. But he’s found his niche in Indianapolis, and finally looks like the player many envisioned five years ago.

James Conner will keep “doing the same thing”

Getty Images

Steelers running back James Conner has been in the concussion protocol since last Thursday’s win over the Panthers, but the feeling is that he’ll be cleared in time to play this weekend and his full practice on Wednesday is a sign that things are headed in that direction.

That should mean that the head injury will cause no change to Conner’s role in the Steelers offense. The running back feels the same way about this week’s confirmation that he won’t be sharing the backfield with Le'Veon Bell after Bell opted not to report to the team before Tuesday’s deadline.

“What’s there to change?” Conner said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Nothing changes. We’re in Week 11. I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing for all of these weeks. I don’t really pay attention to it. I always go by the motto of control what you can control. I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

One can play the “what if” game about how things would have played out with Bell had Conner fallen flat in the lead role this season, but the real world never offered much chance to wring hands about the second-year player’s production. He’s picked up 1,158 yards from scrimmage and scored 11 touchdowns through the first nine games, which leaves the Steelers with no reason to pine for Bell before or after his decision to sit out the entire year.

Thursday morning one-liners

Getty Images

Much like the Spanish Inquisition, no one expected QB Matt Barkley to save the Bills’ offense.

A couple of Dolphins veterans are adjusting well to rookie S Minkah Fitzpatrick‘s growing role.

The Patriots have homework during their bye week.

The Jets figure to be in the mix for RB Le'Veon Bell next offseason.

Ravens LT Ronnie Stanley was limited in practice, for a line that has seen plenty of upheaval.

The Bengals are still thin at LB, even with guys coming back.

Browns G.M. John Dorsey thinks his head coaching vacancy is “very attractive.”

Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert still missing practice after bye week.

Texans OLB Whitney Mercilus is learning to do more.

Colts TE Eric Ebron is putting up big numbers, even in a role that’s still limited.

Jaguars OL Patrick Omameh is back, with plenty of stuff to prepare for.

Titans TE Delanie Walker is holding out hope for a return.

Broncos QB Case Keenum has declared it “whatever-it-takes-time.”

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said the decision to move this week’s game was based on “100 percent player safety.”

Chargers RB Melvin Gordon can feel things changing.

Raiders rookie WR Marcell Ateman will have a chance to prove himself with veterans injured.

Former Cowboys LB Jeff Rohrer is the first known former NFL player in a gay marriage.

The Giants’ pass-rush has been dreadful since they traded DE Jason Pierre-Paul.

The Eagles could be getting some defensive reinforcements this week.

Washington’s rebuilt OL will get a stern test this week.

Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky said the key for him was having fun and playing confidently.

The Lions shortened practice to accommodate a busy schedule.

The Packers are focusing on creating more turnovers.

The Vikings need to join the trend of rising scores across the league.

Falcons K Matt Bryant still isn’t practicing.

The Panthers aren’t worried about RB Christian McCaffrey taking 96 percent of their snaps.

The Saints are proving to be a more mature team during their current winning streak.

New Buccaneers K Cairo Santos is the latest contestant on what feels like a reality show.

Cardinals RB David Johnson looks like he’s getting back to his old form.

Comparing and contrasting the Rams and Chiefs on offense.

49ers CB Richard Sherman is proving he’s still got it.

The Seahawks are mostly healthy heading into tonight’s game.

Ravens have differing opinions on how good Marlon Humphrey is

Getty Images

The Ravens drafted cornerback Marlon Humphrey in the first round of the draft in 2017 with the hope that he’d turn out to be among the best in the league at his position.

According to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, Humphrey is well on his way to making good on that hope. Harbaugh was asked about Humphrey this week and he said that he is “becoming one of the top corners in the league.”

Those kind words were relayed to safety Eric Weddle and Humphrey’s fellow defensive back shared a different view of where things stand in the cornerback’s second NFL season.

“He just needs to be more consistent,” Weddle said, via the team’s website. “I think the sky’s the limit for him. He just has to focus on every play. He has too many lapses during the games and he knows it. I wouldn’t put him up there yet. He needs to be out there and play at a high level for the entire game, the whole season. I love him. He can get there. I wouldn’t anoint him yet.”

Given the team’s three-game losing streak and precarious position when it comes to fulfilling hopes of making the playoffs, the desire for humility is an easy one to understand. Should the defense carry the way to better results down the stretch, Humphrey, Weddle and several others won’t find praise hard to come by from sources other than their head coach.

Cam Newton likes to unwind with a glass of wine and a cigar

Getty Images

As Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has grown older, his game has changed.

His palate has matured as well.

Newton joked that he spent his mini-bye weekend after their loss last Thursday enjoying a glass of wine and a cigar, indulgences he’s only recently acquired.

I’m 29 years old,” Newton said, via Marcel Louis-Jacques of the Charlotte Observer, “and you know I ain’t eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and animal crackers at night.

“So many people are into it. It is relaxing, it is something that warms the soul, so to speak, with a very rigorous day that you would imagine I could have at times.”

Newton has consulted with one of the Panthers’ food service company supervisors, Rudy Patino, who is an actual sommelier, as he tries to learn what he likes and why (he’s currently drinking sauvignon blanc. Well hopefully not currently, it’s the morning, and while he’s older he’s not a suburban soccer mom yet).

“We have a sommelier on staff, Mr. Rudy. I didn’t know that until last year, I was giving a couple players one of my favorite wines and he was just telling me everything about it,” Newton said. “I had just watched the documentary on Netflix, ‘Somm,’ and that was just so cool to me.

“I feel like if I had a gift or a hidden talent outside of playing an instrument, I would want to be a sommelier. Those senses that you have — for those who don’t know it, it’s being able to distinctively tell what type of wine it is, where it’s from and everything about the wine by just the taste, the look and pretty much the feel of the wine.

“It was just pretty cool to come across a person on a day to day basis that knows what they’re talking about. It’s just like playing football, it’s an ongoing thing that you have to constantly keep taking your nose and your tastebuds through.”

In that way, it’s like his development as a passer, as he’s completing passes at a career-high 68.5 percent clip, and still using his skills as a runner to keep the Panthers offense moving.

NFL “immediately” realized Azteca Stadium field would not meet the standard for play

Getty Images

At least one report that emerged in the hours before the NFL pulled the plug on playing the Chiefs-Rams game at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City characterized the league as being “determined” to play the game as scheduled. That characterization was grossly optimistic, as best.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Rams field inspectors and NFL game-day operations representatives “immediately” realized that the field would not meet the NFL’s standard for play.

That realization came early enough to shift the game to L.A., but late enough to be an embarrassment to the NFL and an inconvenience to fans that had planned to travel to Mexico City for the game. Yes, the NFL did the right thing; based on the quality of the field, the NFL did the only thing it could have done.

Moving forward, what can be done (what should be done) is that these assessments need to be made much sooner than the week before the game. Even though the league requires the home team for international contests to keep its home stadium available, shifting an international game back to domestic soil less than a week before kickoff isn’t a good look, and it gives fans who already view dimly the effort to export the top American sport another reason to grumble about the league’s ongoing obsession with globalizing football.

Hue Jackson on role: “Whatever they need me to do”

AP

Someone in Cincinnati must know exactly what Hue Jackson’s job is.

But good luck getting a clear explanation from either Jackson or his boss about what it might be.

“In my own words: Whatever this organization needs me to do,” Jackson said, via Fletcher Page of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “Whatever Marvin thinks I need to do to help him, to help him be the best version of himself. To help whether it’s offensively, defensively or special teams, I’ll do whatever they need me to do.”

Jackson’s title is special assistant to the head coach (assistant to the traveling secretary was taken), which is vague enough. When he was hired midseason in 2012, his title was secondary assistant and special teams coach.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis stammered around an answer, but seemed to make clear that Jackson’s role wouldn’t be on offense. They fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin this week, and Lewis will call the defensive signals.

“Hue is here to, you know, right now he’s trying to find, you know, just get, uh, immersed back into what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and the added morsels to me about things he, you know, observes,” Lewis said. “That way he can assist with players on the field and with us defensively with the implementation and development of the plan and, you know, he’ll continue to look at things analytically. He’s got a lot more exposure to that than I’ve had, and that’s helpful because we have the data and just how they continue to use the data correctly. And so that’s good and he’s been involved in that quite a bit, so that’s another added plus exposure to things.”

Thanks for clearing that up, Marvin.

Jackson was just as clear about his time in Cleveland. He was fired after going 3-36-1, but declared the experience “good.”

“You know, regardless of what the record was, I mean, it was an opportunity and an experience and you can’t get those back,” he said. “I think I’m a better coach for it, you know, having gone through it. But at the same time, you know, nobody wants to have that kind of record, you know. But I’m looking to being here, helping this organization win and getting this organization back to where it needs to be.”

Whatever that entails.

Adrian Peterson says ankle, shoulder are healed, he feels “amazing”

Getty Images

Washington running back Adrian Peterson has been playing through shoulder and ankle injuries the last couple weeks, but he says those injuries are no longer bothering him.

Peterson was limited in practice on Wednesday but it sounds like that’s just about giving the 33-year-old some rest than about any lingering issues.

“I’m feeling good. Last week I actually started feeling all the way healthy,” Peterson said. “My shoulder, I’m back to bench pressing. I hadn’t did that in three weeks. So, I’m back to kind of doing the normal things that I was able to do. My ankle is feeling good. My body is just kind of feeling refreshed. The second half has been a blessing to me. [It was] a grind the first eight weeks and here now, as I stand in front of you guys, my body is feeling amazing. That’s big [considering] that we just started the second stretch and we have a big game coming up.”

Peterson’s production this year has been amazing. After totaling just 679 yards from scrimmage in 2016 and 2017 combined, Peterson already has 840 yards from scrimmage through nine games this season. Washington will want him to carry another big workload on Sunday against Houston.

Louisiana court hears appeal in 2016 slaying of Saints star Will Smith

Getty Images

The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals heard a petition seeking a new trial from Cardell Hayes on Wednesday in the 2016 shooting death of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith on Wednesday.

According to Kevin McGill of the Associated Press, Hayes’ attorney, Paul Barker, told the court that prosecutors in the original case failed to disprove the notion that Hayes acted in self-defense. Hayes and Smith ended up in a confrontation following a traffic collision when Hayes shot and killed Smith and wounded his wife, Racquel.

Hayes was convicted of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years in jail.

Barker claimed a new trial should be granted as a new witness has come forward supporting Hayes’ claims that Smith fired a guy first, which resulted in Hayes’ retaliation in self-defense. However, Smith’s gun was deemed to be loaded and unused by authorities. The witness, Michael Burnside, had been deemed not credible at a hearing last year after delivering scattered testimony.

The defense also claimed they should have been able to introduce evidence of Smith’s arrest on a domestic violence charge to refute the testimony of character witnesses such as Smith’s teammates with the Saints that spoke unflinchingly about his high reputation.

It’s uncertain when a decision on the appeal will be issued by the court.

Stefon Diggs on Adrian Peterson’s desire to beat Vikings: “That sounds like A.P.”

Getty Images
Former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson recently said he’d like to face his old team in the playoffs, and beat them.
One of his former teammates smiled upon hearing about Peterson’s preference.
“That sounds like A.P.,” Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs recently told the #PFTPM podcast. “That sounds like something A.P. would say. I haven’t thought about the Redskins. I don’t know if [former Washington quarterback] Kirk [Cousins] has, that’s something you have to take up with him. But that comment is so A.P. If we make it down there and we see them, it’ll definitely be exciting.”
Washington currently leads the NFC North with a 6-3 record. Minnesota sits in second place in the NFC North with a 5-3-1 mark. If the two teams meet at all this year, it will happen in the postseason.

United, American Airlines waive change fees for fans re-routing trips from Mexico City to Los Angeles

Getty Images

With the NFL moving Monday night’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams from Mexico City to Los Angeles due to poor field conditions at Estadio Azetca, many fans are scrambling on short notice trying to change their travel plans to attend the game.

A pair of major airlines are making a gesture to help alleviate some of the financial burden for fans trying to switch flights just days before Monday’s clash between two of the top offenses in football.

United Airlines announced on Wednesday that they are waiving flight change fees for anyone changing their flights from Mexico City to Los Angeles in an attempt to get to the game. Additionally, American Airlines said in a tweet to ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry that they had made the same decision on Tuesday.

United said they will also reimburse anyone for the change fees if they had already made changes to their flights before the decision was announced.

The waiving of fees seemingly won’t include any variance in price in the flights themselves, but it’s at least one cost that won’t also be thrust upon the consumer that is trying to alter their plans for the upcoming weekend.

Dolphins work out Paxton Lynch

Getty Images

The Dolphins worked out free agent quarterback Paxton Lynch this week.

Lynch’s tryout was “merely due diligence,” according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Lynch, 24, has remained a free agent since the Broncos waived him out of the preseason. He has worked out for Tennessee, Seattle, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Detroit, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Washington.

He played two games for the Broncos last season, throwing two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Denver made him the 26th overall choice in 2016.

Eagles add Malcolm Jenkins to injury report with wrist issue

Getty Images

The Eagles’ initial injury report did not include safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Jenkins, though, was wearing a cast on his right arm during practice.

John Clark of NBC Philadelphia asked Jenkins if he was injured, and Jenkins said, “It’s OK.”

The Eagles later revised their injury report to include Jenkins, listing him as a full participant with a wrist injury.

Jenkins is the only starter in the team’s secondary not to miss time this season. He is expected to play Sunday.

Cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) and right tackle Lane Johnson (knee) were limited in Wednesday’s practice.

Cornerback Jalen Mills (foot), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee), running back Darren Sproles (hamstring), tight end Joshua Perkins (knee) and cornerback Ronald Darby (knee) did not practice.

Pete Carroll: Short-week conversation has been only about the game

Getty Images

It’s a poopfest no more.

In Seattle’s first season since 2011 without cornerback Richard Sherman on the roster, the discussion in advance of the team’s annual short-week game has included no criticism of the league’s habit of making teams play once per year with only three days in between games.

“It’s a challenge,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Wednesday, one day before hosting the Packers. “It’s a physical challenge for the guys. Emotionally, our guys handled it great, I think better than maybe we have in other years and the whole conversation has been about the game and all that kind of stuff. It hasn’t been anything about the fact that there’s a physical challenge to it. Our guys are not tuned into that end of it. But, it is taxing. The other side of it is — there’s always a good side to it — we get a break on the weekend. We’ll take full advantage of that.”

Two years ago, Sherman dumped on the NFL’s habit of compelling nearly every team to play on a Thursday after playing on a Sunday.

It’s terrible,” Sherman said in December 2016. “We got home like 1:00 in the morning, something like that on Monday and then you’ve got to play again. Congratulations, NFL, you did it again. But they’ve been doing it all season, so I guess we’re the last ones to get the middle finger.”

If the current Seahawks view it as a middle finger, they apparently aren’t saying so. And that’s become the trend over the past two years throughout the league. With short-week football not likely to talk a long walk any time soon, players have adapted to it, realizing that the practice week is less intense, and that a mini-bye is waiting.