Tua Tagovailoa says being healthy enough to start was a journey

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Tua Tagovailoa is now the Dolphins’ starting quarterback, 11 months after suffering a hip injury so bad there were fears it could jeopardize his career.

Tagovailoa said on Wednesday after being named the starter that it’s been a long, difficult experience getting himself healthy enough to play, and he’s not taking anything for granted.

It’s definitely been a journey,” Tagovailoa said, via the Miami Herald. “I definitely think of that injury, when I got hurt, and the process leading up to being able to walk, being able to do football drills, do things in general. I definitely do reflect on that process that I went through. I’m definitely blessed to still be here and be able to play the game I grew up dreaming I’d play.”

The Dolphins are on their bye this week, and next week we’ll see Tagovailoa taking meaningful snaps for the first time since he was at Alabama.

Robert Woods wants “to get it done in the air,” but will do whatever’s asked

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The Rams said farewell to Todd Gurley in the offseason and signed two wide receivers to big extensions, which may have led some to think that the team would be throwing the ball more often this season.

It’s been the opposite through the first six weeks of the season. The Rams are throwing the ball less than in head coach Sean McVay’s first three seasons as their head coach and Robert Woods, who got one of those extensions, is being targeted less often than in any other season with the team.

Woods has 27 catches on 41 targets, but he’s been used more often as a runner and he said this week that the team’s 4-2 record trumps any concern he might have about his role on the offense.

“Whatever it takes to win,” Woods said, via Kevin Modesti of the Los Angeles Daily News. “I obviously want the ball in my hands, to find ways to make plays, to get it done in the air. . . . That’s just how it’s been working out so far. I’m just trying to keep it going, and hope the ball finds me the rest of the season.”

The offense had a hard time against the 49ers last Sunday and they’ll be facing a tough Bears Defense this weekend as they try to get back on track.

JuJu Smith-Schuster “happy being 5-0” whether he gets ball or not

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After a down 2019 season playing with backup quarterbacks, the expectation in Pittsburgh was that wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s numbers would rise with Ben Roethlisberger back in the lineup.

That has not been the case, however. Smith-Schuster leads the Steelers with 23 catches through their first five games, but they’ve only amounted to 194 yards. Rookie Chase Claypool is leading the team with 335 receiving yards and has grabbed the headlines with five touchdowns over the last two weeks.

James Washington and Diontae Johnson have also had moments in the spotlight, but Smith-Schuster said he’s fine with anything that comes his way as long as the Steelers keep winning games.

“I’m happy being 5-0,” Smith-Schuster said, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “People tell me you only got me two points this week in fantasy. I’d rather have two points and be 5-0 than be 1-5 and have 25 fantasy points. . . . I’m having fun all the time whether I get the ball or not. Whether it’s two catches for 10 yards or six catches for 60 yards, it’s more for the team and the atmosphere.”

Smith-Schuster has been working out of the slot more than any time in the past and Claypool thinks that “enables the outside guys to do things” because of how much attention he draws from defenses. Whether that’s the case or not, the current approach is working for the Steelers and there’s little reason to rock the boat as long as that’s the case.

Bills G.M. Brandon Beane says no one is to blame for Quinton Spain getting cut

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The Bills cut guard Quinton Spain on Wednesday, just seven months after signing him to a three-year, $15 million contract. So what went wrong?

Bills General Manager Brandon Beane says the Bills’ coaching staff just decided to play Brian Winters ahead of Spain, who started every game last year, and it was hard to keep Spain if he wasn’t starting.

“It’s hard when you’re not a starter, in fairness to him,” Beane said, via the Buffalo News. “There’s no blame to go around. Quinton Spain’s a good guy, a good person. He didn’t see this. You never know how things are going to work out when you put a roster together. Every team’s a new team. Nothing happened. There’s no one thing like, this happened and the dam broke and all the water went out. It’s just, we decided at the end of the day, being today, that he would be happier having a chance to start. And so we just gave him that freedom and wish him nothing but the best.”

Spain hinted on Twitter that there was some discontent, writing, “If only they knew the real reason but I’m going to leave it at that,” but later deleting that tweet.

Now Spain is a free agent, and he can shop himself to any team that sees him as a starter. He’ll probably have to settle for less money than he signed for in March.

Kyle Allen says Alex Smith has been extremely helpful for him

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Even though this is Kyle Allen‘s first season in Washington, the current starting quarterback in D.C. has already managed to pick up insight from veteran quarterback Alex Smith.

Via Ryan Homler of NBC Sports Washington, Allen credited Smith with helping him learn more about handling the position at the NFL level.

He’s been extremely helpful for me and everybody in that room,” Allen said.

After over a year or rehabilitation from a devastating broken leg and ensuing infections that nearly forced amputation, Smith is back playing football again and saw his first game action in relief of an injured Allen two weeks ago. While he attempted to be a resource for the team last year as well as he continued his recovery, Smith is more readily accessible now that he is back in the quarterback room as one of of the participants.

Allen said watching Smith’s habits have made a difference for him.

“I think even though he’s done everything in his power to get back to the active roster and even when he wasn’t suiting out for game day earlier in the year, he was preparing his ass off,” Allen said. “He was having those conversations on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Thursdays. We’re in there grinding on tape and talking about different looks and talking about different situations. He’s been as locked in as anybody in this building.”

Allen completed 31 of 42 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in his first full game played as the starter for Washington last week against the New York Giants.

Defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson begins practicing with Rams

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Defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson was designated to return from the non-football injury list by the Los Angeles Rams on Wednesday.

Robinson was placed on the injured list prior to the start of training camp due to an unspecified injury. He can now practice with the team for the next 21 days before the Rams need to add him to the active roster and end his season.

This is just being precautionary with some things that we discovered,” McVay said of the injury to Robinson in August. “He was able really communicate clearly to us, so it was something that recently came about. It’s really not anything that’s too concerning, it’s more just really glad that we were able to get a hold of it early on.

Robinson signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Rams in March after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Detroit Lions. Robinson appeared in 58 games with 37 starts over his four years with the Lions, recording 172 tackles, with 5.0 sacks, 14 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles and an interception.

Robinson was a second-round pick out of Alabama in 2016.

Joe Judge anticipating icy welcome in Philly homecoming: “my in-laws are already buying batteries”

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Being a Philadelphia native, New York Giants head coach Joe Judge knows he won’t be getting a rosy reception as he returns home to face the Eagles on Thursday night.

I’ll probably buy a helmet too because my in-laws are already buying batteries,” Judge said, via Mike Rosenstein of NJ.com.

The comment from Judge is a nod to Eagles head coach, and former quarterback, Doug Pederson saying he had batteries thrown at him when he was the team’s starting quarterback in 1999. Eagles fans have also thrown snowballs at Santa Claus and at players. Also, broadcasters Verne Lundquist and Terry Bradshaw were in the line of fire in 1989.

It’s a history that Judge is quite familiar with. But with current restrictions on crowd sizes at games in Philadelphia, Judge won’t have to endue the full wrath of the Eagles’ fan base in his debut appearance in the city as Giants head coach.

“To be honest with you, it’s not my first time going back to Philly as an opposing coach,” Judge said. “It’s a great city. It has great, passionate fans. It’s an excellent team. It’s obviously a great rivalry. I grew up watching these games. They were always tough games, blue collar type games, when the Eagles and the Giants were playing when I was growing up watching the games. Again, you’re so focused on the opponent, the emotion doesn’t really get tied into it. We just know we have a heck of a team we have to match up against.”

Report: Interviews with Trump and Biden “very unlikely” for November 2 ESPN game

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The final NFL game before Election Day will be politics-free.

Ben Koo of AwfulAnnouncing.com reports that it’s “very unlikely” that President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden at halftime of the Week Eight Monday night game between the Buccaneers and Giants on ESPN.

As noted by Koo, ESPN last interviewed the presidential candidates the night before the 2012 election, when Barack Obama won a second term over Mitt Romney.

In 2016, Jim Gray of Westwood One interviewed both Trump and Hillary Clinton for the radio broadcast of the Monday night game preceding the election. ESPN passed.

It’s a no-win situation for ESPN, given the contentious nature of the election and the incessant cries from some in sports media that ESPN should stick to sports, even as some of those sports media outlets become increasingly and blatantly political themselves. (Thanks to that song from the ’90s, I never know when to properly use “irony,” but that’s probably a situation that justifies application of the term.)

If ESPN were to proceed, one side would complain that ESPN was too aggressive with its candidate while going too easy on the other and that it’s all fake and phony and rigged and whatever other grievance will be pounded into our ears and eyes until we can’t take it anymore. Which is pretty much where most of us currently are anyway.

Dolphins bring Malik McDowell in for a tryout

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The Miami Dolphins are bringing in former second-round defensive tackle Malik McDowell for a tryout, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com.

McDowell has never played a single snap of football in the NFL – preseason or regular season – since being selected with the No. 35 overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks.

Prior to training camp that season, McDowell was injured in an ATV accident that left him with a serious concussion, facial injuries and more. He did not report to the team for the start of training camp and remained on the non-football injury for the entire season. While away from the team, McDowell was arrested for disorderly conduct at an Atlanta bar.

McDowell was released and moved to the non-football injury list for a second straight season in 2018 before the team officially cut ties altogether in March, 2019. He visited the Dallas Cowboys soon after with his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, declaring that McDowell had been cleared to return to football. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said multiple times that their doctors would not clear him to play.

The Seahawks would sue McDowell for not repaying his signing bonus due to the accident that kept him off the field. McDowell then ran into more legal problems as he would be arrested on charges of assault and resisting arrest, operating a vehicle while intoxicated, and receiving and concealing stolen property.

McDowell was sentenced to 11 months in prison with three years or probation for the incidents.

Richard Sherman, Dee Ford not expected back before Week 11 bye

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The injury-ravaged 49es won’t see the cavalry for awhile.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he doesn’t expect cornerback Richard Sherman or defensive lineman Dee Ford to return before the team’s Week 11 off week. That means the 49ers will have to play at New England, at Seattle, vs. Green Bay and at New Orleans without two key defenders.

Neither player has played since the season-opening loss to the Cardinals.

Sherman has a nagging calf injury and underwent injections for inflammation last week.

“Now he’s in a boot just taking care of it, making sure it heals and let those take course,” Shanahan said, via Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee. “It’s obviously going a little longer than we expected. Got to play it smart with him, but I don’t see it being week-to-week right now. I see it being probably until around our bye week.”

Ford initially had neck discomfort that the 49ers later called a back injury.

Ford, who also has received injections for inflammation, has a history of back issues. He had surgeries on his back in 2011 while at Auburn and in 2017 with the Chiefs.

“He’s gotten the work he’s needed; he’s gotten the shots he’s needed; he’s rested it, and now he’s just starting to get back into some things,” Shanahan said, “but still a ways away on that.”

The 49ers practiced without linebacker Kwon Alexander (ankle), running back Raheem Mostert (ankle), safety Jaquiski Tartt (groin) and left tackle Trent Williams (ankle) on Wednesday.

Cornerback Dontae Johnson (groin) and running back Jeff Wilson (calf) were limited.

DeAndre Hopkins’ injured ankle keeps him out of practice

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DeAndre Hopkins has missed practices this season with an ankle injury. He has not missed a game, even in Week Four when the Cardinals listed him as questionable.

The Cardinals receiver was listed as a non-participant Wednesday, though it was an estimated report since the team didn’t practice.

Hopkins leads the NFL with 47 catches for 601 yards, though he has only two touchdowns.

The Cardinals also estimated defensive lineman Jordan Phillips (foot) and offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum (ankle) as non-practice participants.

Linebackers Kylie Fitts (hamstring) and Dennis Gardeck (foot) were limited.

Safety Budda Baker (thumb) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (wrist) were full participants.

Bills promote Justin Zimmer from practice squad

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The Bills promoted defensive tackle Justin Zimmer from the practice squad to the 53-player roster, the team announced Wednesday.

Zimmer has played two games this season, seeing action on 48 defensive snaps.

He has accounted for 10 tackles, including two tackles for loss, and has one quarterback hit.

Zimmer has played five career games in three NFL seasons.

The Bills signed Zimmer as a free agent this summer. He is a product of Ferris State and has spent time with the Browns and Falcons.

Kenyan Drake’s mom challenged him to “hit some holes”

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Kenyan Drake‘s mother is tougher on him than Cardinals coaches. The running back called home before Monday night’s game against the Cowboys.

“Hey son,” she asked, “you going to hit some holes today?”

“‘I got you,'” Drake said he told his mother, via Darren Urban of the team website.

“It really hit home when your own mom is not liking what she sees out there. I just had to buckle up and play ball. Get north and south and make them tackle me going forward.”

Drake rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. His 69-yard touchdown run with 1:49 remaining was icing on the Cardinals’ 38-10 win.

Conversations with running backs coach James Saxon also helped.
“Just telling him about how I couldn’t really sleep through the holes (in my game) and the issues I had leading up to this week,” Drake said. “He put his complete trust in me that I’m the type of back they want me to be here and in this system. That gave me a lot of confidence to put my head down and grind and go out there like I know I am capable.”

For the season, Drake has 478 yards rushing on 105 carries – a 4.6 average – and four touchdowns.

Former Raiders left tackle Mario Henderson dies at 35

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Former Raiders left tackle Mario Henderson died Wednesday, the team announced. He was 35.

“The Raiders Family is heavy hearted following the passing of Mario Henderson, who was a third-round draft pick and played four seasons with the Silver and Black,” the Raiders said in a statement. “Everyone will miss Mario’s sense of humor and passion for football and life. The prayers of the entire Raider Nation are with Mario’s family and loved ones at this time.”

Henderson’s cause of death is unknown.

Henderson, a one-year starter at Florida State, was selected by the Raiders in the third round of the 2007 draft. He played one game as a rookie.

Henderson played 43 games with 28 starts in his final three seasons.

He spent time with the Chargers after his career in Oakland but never played a down for San Diego.

Henderson earned his degree from Florida State in 2018. He was working with special needs students at Dunbar High School in Fort Myers while serving as an assistant coach on the football team.

Former Patriots quarterback/punter Tom Yewcic dies

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Former Patriots punter/quarterback Tom Yewcic has died, the team announced Wednesday. Yewcic was 88.

The Steelers made Yewcic a 27th-round choice in 1954 out of Michigan State. But Yewcic opted to play baseball, signing with the Detroit Tigers.

Yewcic spent time in the minor leagues before playing one game at catcher for Detroit on June 27, 1957. He signed with the Patriots in 1961 following a half a season with Toronto of the Canadian Football League.

Yewcic was chiefly a punter in 1961 and the first half of 1962. He was pressed into service as a starting quarterback when Babe Parilli was injured, and Yewcic sparked the Patriots to three consecutive victories.

Yewcic punted 377 times for 14,553 yards during his career. In addition to punting and playing quarterback, he was also used as a receiver and running back.

In 77 career regular-season games, Yewcic completed 87 passes for 1,374 yards and 12 touchdowns. He added 72 carries for 424 yards and four touchdowns and seven receptions for 69 yards.