VIDEO: An Intro Into Kellen Winslow's World Now

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Santana Moss Talks About His New Cherokee Indian-Inspired Tattoos

Recently, Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss decided that he wanted to get a new tattoo for the first time in about ten years. So he reached out to his Miami-based tattoo artist TattzbyD and arranged to get a mural—a huge mural—done on his legs. And that mural includes the faces of a handful of Cherokee Indians.

Moss' decision to get Cherokee Indians tattooed on his legs has raised a few eyebrows, because the Redskins are currently embedded in a controversy concerning their team name and logo. There are a handful of Native American groups who have petitioned the team to change both in recent years. But as he told 106.7 The Fan this week, Moss decided to get the tattoos to honor his mother's Cherokee heritage and not for any other reason.

"I've been wanting to do another tattoo for like the last 10 years," he said. "And one day it just clicked. You know, I've heard so much about my mom's side—she [has] a lot of Cherokee Indians in the family, starting back with my grandmother and her mom and their mom—so I just wanted to do something honoring them. And it came about, and I told [TattzbyD] what I wanted—look up some chiefs, look up this and that. And he just put a little mural together for me and he went to work on my leg."

Moss also delivered a message for anyone who doesn't like the mural: "Don't bother me," he said, "I won't bother you."


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An Incredible Sean Taylor Fan Art Piece

SeanTaylor copy
Lawrence Thomas let his heart speak when drawing the above picture of former Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor.

“My inspiration for this drawing was truly from sadness and from the heart. It took about a week to do and get Sean’s stats and past info,” he said in an accompanying letter.

Thomas continued by saying Taylor’s memories will always be remembered.

“Wanted to give the organization and the fans a copy. One of the team’s greatest players. He will never be forgotten. #21.”


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Titans add tight end Richard Gordon

The Titans have added tight end Richard Gordon to their 53-man roster.

Gordon (6-4, 265) has played three seasons, primarily with the Raiders and Chiefs. In 29 career games, he's totaled four receptions and one touchdown. He was a sixth-round selection by the Raiders in the 2011 NFL Draft.

The Titans have also added linebacker Nate Askew and receiver Derek Moye to their practice squad.

Askew (6-4, 235) was an undrafted college free agent who signed with the Buccaneers, and was waived following training camp. Moye (6-5, 210) was an undrafted college free agent in 2012, who spent time with Miami, New Orleans and Pittsburgh over the last three seasons.

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Harland Gunn gives Falcons a veteran option at center

LONDON — During the Falcons’ open portion of practice, offensive lineman Harland Gunn was working on his snaps at center with starting quarterback Matt Ryan at the Arsenal Football Club training ground on Wednesday.

Gunn was inactive last week against Baltimore.

With Peter Konz (knee) on injured reserve, Gunn gives the Falcons a veteran option to play center. Undrafted rookie James Stone finished the Baltimore game, playing 56 of the 66 offensive snaps.

“I think James is a very good young football player that understands the game,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “He impressed us early on with his ability to identify fronts and change protections. He’s an intelligent young guy, but he just doesn’t have any experience.”

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said he’s glad the team is away and in a hotel because he’s had extra time to watch film with Stone in order to make sure they are on the same page.

“James has done a great job since the first day he walked into the building,” Ryan said. “He’s a smart guy and has picked up our offense very quickly. I think (line coach) Mike Tice and (assistant line coach) Wade (Harman) have done a good job of working with our young guys.”

Gunn has played in just four NFL games, with one start. With Justin Blalock out with a back injury, he started at left guard earlier this season against the Giants.
Gunn wasn’t drafted out of the University of Miami in 2012 and was signed by the Cowboys. After Dallas cut him Gunn ended up on the Saints’ practice squad until the Falcons signed him to their 53-man roster for the final six weeks. Gunn didn’t play in a game that season, played in three games for the Falcons in 2013 and began this season on the practice squad.

The center will play a key role against Detroit’s stout defensive front.

“We are going to have to be solid up front,” Ryan said. “We really are. We are going to have to play well up front and account for where those guys are at. That’s what we are working on right now.”

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Sam Shields still sitting out

Packers starting cornerback Sam Shields, who missed the Week 7 win over Carolina with an ankle injury, did not practice Wednesday as the team prepared for Sunday night's visit to New Orleans. Shields has 14 tackles and two interceptions in six games.

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Calais Campbell Not Practicing

TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell may still return to the field sometime later this week, but he spent Wednesday sidelined for another practice.

That puts a larger emphasis on Thursday’s and Friday’s sessions should should his strained right MCL feel well enough for Campbell to engage in a full practice.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said about Campbell practicing later this week. “But he’s making good progress.

“There’s a big difference between jogging and running around a hoop, and taking on guys 300 pounds and pushing on him.”

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MRI shows no damage to Reggie Wayne's elbow

INDIANAPOLIS – The MRI done on Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne’s left elbow didn’t show significant damage, coach Chuck Pagano said Wednesday.

Wayne didn’t practice Wednesday because that’s his normal rest day and the Colts are calling him day-to-day when it comes to his availability for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pagano said they’ll be fine if Wayne, who missed the final nine games of the 2013 season with a torn ACL, is forced to miss any time.

“I feel great,” Pagano said. “You have a guy like [Hakeem] Nicks who has been on a Super Bowl championship team. Caught a lot of passes in his career. We all know what Donte [Moncrief] is capable of doing. I feel really good.”

Nicks, who has gotten off to a slow start in his first season with the Colts, would slide into the No. 2 receiver role if Wayne doesn’t play.

“He comes here every day with his hat on, lunch pail, ready to work,” Pagano said about Nicks. “He’s a competitive guy. We have a ton of competitive guys in that locker room. They all want to contribute and they all want to make plays. He understands that. He’ll be ready no matter when his number is called. He knows his stuff; he practices hard, prepares hard.”

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Jimmy Graham limited at Saints practice

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham wound up in the lineup against the Lions last week after several days of uncertainty because of his shoulder injury, but he only played a limited number of snaps and didn’t have a catch as the Saints blew a lead in the fourth quarter.

The Saints got back to practice on Wednesday to start their preparation for facing the Packers on Sunday Night Football and Graham remained a limited participant in the action for New Orleans. Barring a setback, his presence last week suggests he’d be in the lineup again this week in a game that the Saints could really use to give themselves boost in the struggle for playoff spots in the NFC. The question will be how effective Graham can be, but it’s not one that will be answered on the practice field.

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Warren Sapp, Jerome Brown, Ray Lewis among CFB HOF candidates

Eric Dickerson, Keyshawn Johnson, Ray Lewis and NFL Network's Warren Sapp are among the 193 candidates on the 2015 ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

There are 75 players and six coaches from the FBS ranks and 87 players and 25 coaches from the small-school ranks on the ballot.

Joining Sapp, Dickerson, Lewis and Johnson as FBS candidates are Brian Bosworth, Randall Cunningham, Kirk Gibson (a star at Michigan State before choosing baseball), Cade McNown, Zach Thomas, Ricky Williams and Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who was a star linebacker at California. Among the candidates in the small-school group are former NFL players Marlin Briscoe, Mark Cotney and Don Griffin, as well as Gary Wichard, a former high-profile agent. The entire list of the 193 candidates is here.

The announcement of the 2015 class will be made Jan. 9, in advance of the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

From the National Football Foundation website: "To be eligible for the ballot, players must have been named a first-team All-American by a major/national selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA for their consensus All-America teams; played their last year of intercollegiate football at least 10 years prior; played within the last 50 years and cannot be currently playing professional football. Coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games as a head coach; won at least 60 percent of their games; and be retired from coaching for at least three years. If a coach is retired and over the age of 70, there is no waiting period. If he is over the age of 75, he is eligible as an active coach. In both cases, the candidate's post-football record as a citizen may also be weighed."

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D-Backs prospect Peter O'Brien used to catching flak

The skeptics are not new, and Diamondbacks prospect Peter O'Brien has heard what they have to say. They don't think he can catch in the major leagues. O'Brien answers their doubts with an anecdote from his past.

"You're talking to the same guy that didn't have a Division I scholarship anywhere up until two weeks before the college season started," O'Brien said.

In four years, he went from going undrafted out of high school to being a second-round selection of the New York Yankees. He then developed into one of the better power-hitting prospects in baseball and is now playing in the talent-heavy Arizona Fall League, smashing home runs that leave vapor trails and showing why the Diamondbacks wanted him in exchange for Martin Prado at the trade deadline.

More: Diamondbacks coverage from Nick Piecoro

But he's perhaps also shown why the Yankees were willing to part with him. He has struggled with his throws from behind the plate, and scouts have also raised questions about his blocking and receiving skills.

O'Brien doesn't deny he has improvements to make. He also doesn't doubt he'll be able to make them.

"I definitely view myself as a catcher," he said. "I'm going to work as hard as I can and do everything I can to be back there."

In many ways, this is a familiar script for the Diamondbacks. Since Miguel Montero reached the big leagues in 2006, the organization has struggled to develop another frontline catcher despite spending several high draft picks on them and targeting them in trades.

Stryker Trahan, the team's top pick from 2012, has a similar back story to O'Brien. Few have doubted Trahan's offensive potential, but his ability to stick behind the plate is in doubt. This season, he bounced from catcher to the outfield and back to catcher.

O'Brien did the same during his time with the Yankees. With an advanced bat and others in the organization ahead of him at catcher, O'Brien was introduced to first base, third base and right field over the past two years.

Like Trahan, O'Brien sounds determined to reach the majors as a catcher, and the Diamondbacks sound willing to give him every chance to do so.

"He just needs to catch more," Diamondbacks farm director Mike Bell said. "He needs more consistent reps behind the plate. With his bat, that would be a nice weapon to have (playing catcher)."

At a time when offense is down throughout the game, O'Brien stands out. In just 399 at-bats this season, he hit 34 home runs, the sixth-highest total in the minor leagues, and he already has three homers in 31 at-bats in the fall league.

He credits the hard work he put during the summer after his sophomore year of high school, a time when he said he fully bought into the idea of being a baseball player.

But not everyone bought into him. Lightly recruited out of high school in Miami, he secured a baseball scholarship at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., in a tryout only weeks before school started.

So this idea that people don't believe in him? It's nothing new, and it's something he's learned to embrace.

"I've always felt that even though I've done everything that the big guys have done and put up numbers, I've always felt like the underdog," said O'Brien, who played three years at Bethune-Cookman before transferring to Miami. "I think that's what has given me my work ethic and the drive I have to reach my goals and be where I want to be."

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Lamar Miller wearing brace on right knee

Dolphins running back Lamar Miller practiced Tuesday wearing a brace on his right knee, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Miller has been on the injury report lately with a knee injury, but it's not believed to be serious. He has not missed a game.

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Jon Beason might shut it down with big toe injury

Giants linebacker Jon Beason told WFAN that it's 50-50 whether he tries to play again this season or has surgery on his injured toe, reports the New York Daily News. Beason, who visited a foot specialist Tuesday, said in the interview that he's playing "without a critical ligament" in his big toe.

Beason returned to action Week 7 but aggravated the injury in the loss at Dallas.

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Pat O'Donnell Impressing

Rookie punter Pat O’Donnell, also known as “Mega-punt,” had the highest gross average by a Bears punter in a game since Todd Sauerbrun back in 1997. O’Donnell averaged 53 yards per punt with a net average of 45.7. O’Donnell has improved the Bears punt game vastly after Adam Podlesh struggled last year and seems to have clicked the past couple of weeks.

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Reggie Wayne expected to miss a game or two with elbow

Apparently, the “adult beverage” wasn’t enough to take the edge off Reggie Wayne’s elbow.

According to Mike Chappell of RTV6 in Indianapolis, the Colts wide receiver is expected to miss a game or two because of an elbow injury suffered early in Sunday’s win over the Bengals.

He fell after a play, bracing himself with his left arm as he fell. He had an MRI yesterday, but no results were announced.

Wayne suggested he wasn’t that concerned after the game.

“I’m good now,” he said. “I just kind of fell on it, fell on my arm. Go home, have an adult beverage and see how it feels in the morning.”

The veteran receiver’s numbers have been down in recent weeks (eight catches for 50 yards the last two games), but he was playing well prior to that (14 for 196 against the Titans and Ravens), an impressive comeback for a 35-year-old who tore his ACL last year.

But if he’s not back for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh, Hakeem Nicks will have to take on a bigger role.

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Dolphins add WR LaRon Byrd to practice squad

LaronByrd 2
The Miami Dolphins are signing wide receiver LaRon Byrd to the practice squad, according to a report from the National Football Post's Aaron Wilson. No corresponding move has been announced to open the space on the practice squad.

Byrd was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He appeared in four games his rookie season, but landed on injured reserve for the 2013 season due to concussion symptoms. This season, he has spent time with the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns, making one appearance with the Browns. He played seven snaps in the season opener for Cleveland against the PIttsburgh Steelers.

He has one career reception for eight yards.

At 6-foot-4, Byrd is the tallest wide receiver on the roster or practice squad for Miami. He is two inches taller than starter Brian Hartline and is tied with Dion Sims as the tallest of the receivers and tight ends.

Byrd played four years for the University of Miami from 2008 to 2011. He caught 106 passes for 1,254 yards and seven touchdowns.

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Andre Johnson salvages night with big fourth quarter

Texans receiver Andre Johnson had one 4-yard reception through three quarters Monday night at Pittsburgh. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finally looked Johnson's way in the fourth quarter, and the 33-year-old wideout finished with five catches for 77 yards.

In the process, Johnson moved past Steve Largent for 14th place in career receiving yards. Johnson has 14,057 receiving yards.

Johnson shared the team lead with nine targets, his average this season. He'll visit the Titans in Week 8.

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Reggie Wayne could miss one or two games

Colts wideout Reggie Wayne, who had an MRI on his elbow Monday, could miss one or two games, reports WRTV in Indianapolis. Wayne sustained the injury in the first quarter of Sunday's win over the Bengals.

The MRI results have not been released.

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Jon Beason going to see a foot specialist again

A frustrating season has continued for Giants linebacker Jon Beason.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin told reporters that Beason was going to see foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson after leaving yesterday’s game against the Cowboys.

Beason’s been bothered by a toe problem all season, and may have aggravated it yesterday. He’s missed three games, and hasn’t been able to stay well this season.

If anything, there’s familiarity there, as Anderson knows Beason’s (growing thicker) medical file well since he’s the Panthers’ team doctor as well.

When Beason’s on the field, he’s a difference-maker for the Giants defense. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to this season.

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Calais Campbell could practice later in the week

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he is hoping defensive end Calais Campbell, who has missed the last two games due to a knee injury, will return to practice later in the week.

Campbell has totaled 16 tackles, one sack and one interception in four games. The Cardinals play the Eagles in Week 8.

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Sam Shields' strained patellar tendon 'feeling better,' but timeline unclear

GREEN BAY – Sam Shields’ injured left knee is improving, but the Green Bay Packers starting cornerback won’t know when he will be able to play again until he tests his knee by running on it.

Shields said Monday that he suffered a strained patellar tendon when he went down while backpedaling to his pre-snap position before a play against Miami on Oct. 12. The bizarre injury caused him to miss Sunday’s 38-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers at Lambeau Field.

Whether Shields could return for next Sunday night’s game at New Orleans depends on if he’s able to test the knee this week and can run pain-free on it – something he didn’t sound overly optimistic about.

“I’m feeling better. As far as time, I don’t know right now because I haven’t ran,” Shields said Monday. “But the pain is slowly going away, so that’s good.”
Shields, who missed six games in 2012 with an ankle injury and two games last season with a hamstring injury, said he would make himself available for interviews again on Thursday with the hope of progressing by then.

With Shields out, Davon House started in his place and allowed only one 5-yard reception. House also had a pass breakup on which he suffered a dislocated right ring finger

“I think I did my job,” House said. “It was a solid game. No impact plays, though. Guarding a really good receiver in (Kelvin) Benjamin, I did my job, so that was a good job, but in my mind, if I was to get a pick, to me that’s an impact play. But to the coaches, they might’ve thought I did awesome because their best receiver didn’t have any catches on me.”

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Patriots still relying heavily on Vince Wilfork

When the Patriots restructured the contract of Vince Wilfork in March, they secured him for this season with an option for two more seasons. The 32-year-old Wilfork has been a mainstay of the New England defense for 11 seasons and figures to be for the foreseeable future as well. That he missed all but four games with a torn Achilles’ tendon last season suggested that they might ease his workload this season.

But that doesn’t mean the Patriots are easing off on their use of their 325-pound nose tackle.

Wilfork has played 78 percent of snaps this season, sixth-most on the New England defensive line. Darrelle Revis (92.2 percent), Rob Ninkovich (89.1 percent), Devin McCourty (88.1 percent), Jerod Mayo (86 percent) and Chandler Jones (84.2 percent) are the only defenders who have seen more time on the field than Wilfork — and Mayo is out for the season with a knee injury.

Last Thursday against the New York Jets, Wilfork was on the field for 64 of 69 defensive snaps — and eight more special-teams snaps. He saw more total snaps than any other New England defensive lineman or linebacker.

“Vince is a tremendous leader for us,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said in a conference call on Monday. “He does a great job every day with his approach to the game both through practice, through meetings and then obviously on game day. He’s a tremendous leader that our players can look up to, just really a hard-working individual that brings his lunch pail to work every day as far as getting in there and grinding it out and really trying to understand what our opponents are doing.

“Obviously, we look to him in that capacity from a very strong leadership aspect. For anything that we do on defense here as a team, we’re just trying to put the best players out there in the best position possible to win the game.”

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Jon Jay undergoes wrist surgery after big postseason

It certainly didn’t show while he was on fire during the playoffs, but Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay had a left wrist injury that required surgery and the recovery timetable is 6-8 weeks.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Jay played through the injury since July, yet he hit .325 in August and September before going 14-for-29 (.483) in the postseason.

It was quite a change from last year, when Jay struggled offensively and defensively in the playoffs, and according to Goold the Cardinals plan to keep him as their starting center fielder for 2015 after bringing in Peter Bourjos as competition last offseason.

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Photo: Warren Sapp Still Has His College ID From Miami In His Wallet

Warren Sapp’s days at the University of Miami ended 1995. 

Despite the fact that it’s been nearly 20 years since the NFL Hall of Famer was a student-athlete for the Hurricanes, the former All-American still has his Miami college ID in his wallet. It’s awesome. 

Check it out: 


Awesome -- @warrensapp still has his college ID from the 'U' in his wallet.

View on Instagram

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Greg Olsen posts first 100-yard game of season

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen led the way in the aerial attack, cracking the century mark for the first time this season in a Week 7 defeat to the Packets on Sunday.

Olsen came down with a 23-yard grab in the third quarter, and on the ensuing drive he caught passes for 20, 8 and 10 yards. He was held without a grab in the fourth quarter. He caught all eight of his targets for 105 yards in a 38-17 defeat. He has 493 yards and five touchdowns on the year.

The Panthers will host the Seahawks in Week 8.

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Lamar Miller thriving as No. 1 back for Dolphins

Dolphins running back Lamar Miller found the end zone for the third straight game in Week 7 against the Bears, as he continues to operate as the top option in the running game.

Sunday's was probably Miller's least impressive game so far, as he rushed for a season-low 3.4 yards per carry. Miller ripped a 2-yard run to get in the end zone in the third quarter. He registered 83 yards of total offense, rushing for a team-high 61 yards and a score on 18 carries, averaging 3.4 yards per attempt. He was thrown to three times and finished with two catches for 22 yards. There was nearly even more for his Fantasy owners to cheer about, as he had a touchdown wiped out by a holding penalty.

The Dolphins' revamped offensive line has made life much easier for Miller, and he has become a reliable Fantasy option as a result. With few contenders for playing time, there is little reason to think he will be unable to keep this kind of production up. Consider Miller a strong Fantasy option in all formats for Week 8 against the Jaguars.

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Frank Gore held in check by Broncos

Frank Gore was held to 20 yards on nine carries in the 49ers' Week 7 loss to the Broncos.

Gore was held in check by the Broncos run defense and couldn't get anything going behind an offensive line that was missing three starters. The 49ers abandoned the run in the second half, with Carlos Hyde getting the majority of work over Gore late in the game. Gore is averaging just 4.1 YPC and has one touchdown in seven games. The 49ers could look to get Hyde more involved coming out of their Week 8 bye.

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Historic Day For Reggie Wayne

Reggie Wayne planned to use an old-fashioned remedy Sunday evening to get a sense of how his injured arm was doing.

"I'm good right now," Wayne said after the Colts' 27-0 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. "Just kind of fell on it. I'll go home, have an adult beverage and see how it feels in the morning."

Coach Chuck Pagano said that Wayne wrenched his left elbow after falling awkwardly on it and Wayne was seen wearing a bandage around it late in the game. But he said afterwards that "it's a little bit of everything. We'll see how I feel tomorrow."

It was a big day historically for Wayne, who became the ninth receiver in NFL history to surpass 14,000 yards. But due in part to his injury and in part to the fact quarterback Andrew Luck has so many other receivers to throw to, it was a quiet day statistically.

Wayne finished with four catches — and two drops — for just 15 yards (3.8 average). He extended his streak of games with three or more receptions to 78, but it didn't happen until midway through the fourth quarter. The 14-year veteran has at least one reception in 126 consecutive games.

He wasn't complaining about it one bit after such a dominating performance against the Bengals. The Colts' defense got the shutout, but the offense was pretty good as well, rolling up 506 total yards and picking up 27 first downs.

"We've got something special," Wayne said. "We felt that way going into the season. Got a lot of guys back healthy and these last five games are an indication of what we can do. Like I said earlier, I'm sure there's a lot of corrections to be made, but if we continue to ride this wave, we can keep this streak going.

"This is what we envisioned. Hopefully, we can keep guys as healthy as possible. ... We're pretty loaded offensively."

Wayne wasn't about to be draw into comparisons. He demurred when asked if this was the most loaded the Colts have been offensively since the mid-2000s — when Wayne was part of a legendary offense that included quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, tight end Dallas Clark and running backs Edgerrin James and later Joseph Addai, among others.

"I'll let you decide that," he said. "I'm here to play with this team right now. Once I hang up my cleats, I'll think about that. But right now, this team is starting to gel pretty well and go out and play Colts football, which we did today."

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Steelers looking for Sean Spence to step up game at inside linebacker

Steelers rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier was feeling good about his chances of playing on “Monday Night Football” when he returned to the practice field last week.

Even though he's listed as questionable against the Houston Texans, Shazier isn't likely to line up at Heinz Field. Instead, Sean Spence again will be challenged when the Steelers face one of the league's best running teams.

Admittedly, Spence and outside linebacker Arthur Moats are feeling the heat. While neither has played poorly, they haven't distinguished themselves, especially against the run.

That, of course, has to change if the Steelers are to slow down Texans running back Arian Foster.

“A lot of people are questioning me and Sean,” Moats said. “We know they're asking if we're good enough, but we get a chance to prove ourselves on “Monday Night Football.”

Spence, though, said it will take a team effort to shut down Houston's running game. The goal, he added, is to force quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to lean more on an erratic passing game that features wide receiver Andre Johnson.

“Houston has a great receiver, but this is a run-first team,” Spence said. “If we get them one-dimensional, it's to our advantage.

“As a defense, we have to be gap sound. Everyone from the defensive line to the safeties have to fit into their gaps because Foster is one of the best backs in the league. He has great vision, and if guys get out of their gaps, he'll find it.”

In 2011, Foster exploited nearly every gap, seam and crease. Ultimately, he wore down a leg-weary defense as he rushed for 155 yards, including a game-clinching 42-yard run in a 17-10 victory.

“I heard about that,” said Spence, a third-round draft pick in 2012. “The (coaches) talk about it all the time.

“The speed you see on film is not equivalent to Foster's game speed. On film he floats. In real action, he's running by you. So, we have to get more than one hat on him.”

In other words, the defense must get physical with Foster.

Spence acknowledged that while most everyone ignored former Steelers receiver Hines Ward's criticism that the defense is soft, there is pressure to prove that getting run over twice by Cleveland's ground game is a mere aberration, not the norm.

“The whole defense takes exception to those comments,” Spence said. “The Steelers defense has never been called soft. With that perception out there, we have to change it immediately.”

Yet, the defense is ranked 15th against the run and 23rd in rushing yards per attempt. The Steelers allowed 406 combined rushing yards in three games: Cleveland twice and Baltimore. But they limited Carolina, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay to 161 rushing yards.

The Texans aren't likely to deviate from a game plan that worked three seasons ago. They might be even more persistent with the ground game, considering Spence and Moats are still trying to fit into a rather complex defense.

“The biggest thing is stopping the run,” said Moats, who will split time with James Harrison. “When they're forced to pass, they can be rattled as they were against Indianapolis (in a 33-28 loss).

“We've had our ups and downs, but we're jelling. The communication has been much better this week than it has been in previous weeks.”

“We can talk about what we have to do, but we have to make plays,” Spence said. “If you do your job, the plays will come to you. We can't force it because that's how Cleveland hurt us with the run game.”

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Allen Bailey has been nice find for Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs have been missing four defensive starters because of injuries since early in the season, so they needed help from unexpected places to keep things from collapsing on that side of the ball.

One player who has done that is end Allen Bailey. Mostly a situational pass rusher in his first three seasons with the Chiefs, Bailey is not only a starter but doesn’t come out of the lineup much. He has played almost as many snaps this season as Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe.

“He made a big jump a year ago I thought in football and knowing what’s going on,’’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said of Bailey. “He’s obviously a very gifted guy athletically. He could play 80 plays a week and never get tired. He and Poe are very similar that way. Where’s he’s started to develop is he’s getting all the other things that come really from just playing. The last two years is the first time he’s really played a lot of snaps and this year obviously he’s playing almost all the snaps.’’

The Chiefs lost starting end Tyson Jackson during the offseason as a free agent but signed Vance Walker as his replacement. Bailey instead won the starting job and is now playing well enough that he has a strong grasp on it.

The Chiefs have played most of the season without the other regular starting end, Mike DeVito. He ruptured his Achilles tendon in the season opener and is out for the season.

Though Bailey isn’t DeVito’s replacement, his solid play has eased the loss. Bailey has 2.5 sacks, putting him on a pace for more than 7.5 for the season. That would be the highest total for a Chiefs defensive lineman since Jared Allen had 15.5 in 2007.

“One of the things that’s really great for us is that those two inside guys can make plays for us chasing things down,’’ Sutton said of Bailey and Poe. “That doesn’t happen a lot. A lot of times you’re not fortunate enough to have that kind of player. You maybe have a big, sturdy guy in there who maybe can’t make the plays outside. These two guys can chase screen plays down, wide plays, and they really help your defense.’’

Bailey is in the final season of the contract he signed with the Chiefs as a third-round draft pick in 2011. He’s playing well enough to deserve a new contract from the Chiefs at the end of the season.

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Jimmy Graham shut out in Week 7 loss

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham played through a shoulder injury Week 7 at Detroit but did not record a catch. Graham was not targeted in the first half and drew two targets after halftime.

Early in the fourth quarter, Graham ran a deep sideline route but Drew Brees overthrew him. Graham's health will be a big topic of discussion as the Saints prepare to host the Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 8.

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The special cleats that allow Jon Beason to play for Giants this season

EAST RUTHERFORD -- Giants starting middle linebacker Jon Beason had a line of cleats in his locker this week at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Not all of them were usable at this point and time.

Beason needs special double-carbon-fiber-plated footwear to get on the field these days because of a right foot injury suffered in the spring and aggravated earlier this season. Carbon fiber is stronger than steel.

"That is what I'm giving up to play," Beason said earlier this week as he tried to bend the sole of his shoes without any success.

It's the result of a broken sesamoid bone and torn ligaments in his foot/toe during an Organized Team Activities (OTAs) workout in June, and an aggravation of the injury in a Week 2 loss to the Cardinals. Beason returned for the season opener, but missed three games because of the injury.

He unveiled the "secret weapon" upon his return last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Both his head coach and defensive coordinator called called him "rusty" in the contest.

The reality is Beason (like most players during a grueling NFL season) is not going to be 100 percent the remainder of this year. He intends to play through the discomfort with the help of his new cleats and a custom-made orthotic.

It's not ideal, but it's better than the alternative -- missing more time and more games.

"This is what got me back," Beason said, pointing to the shoe (see slideshow above from the version he wore in Sunday game in Philadelphia). "If it's too pliable, then my toe just keeps going. It has to stop so I can eventually push off. So it's kind of finding that perfect balance."

Beason needs some flexibility from his footwear so he can explode. If it's too stiff, it would be like trying to run with a wooden block attached to his foot.

It's all taking some getting used to. You could see, particularly on his first few plays against the Eagles, that Beason is getting acclimated to the stiffer feel. He stumbled and almost fell over on one play. He had trouble changing directions on another.

As the game progressed, it was evident he was becoming more comfortable. Beason finished with three tackles and a pass defended on 56 snaps.

There was clearly some progress being made. Even after coach Tom Coughlin expressed concerns in previous weeks about Beason playing on turf, he was out of the field with his teammates on Thursday when the Giants practiced indoors.

Beason's been working tirelessly to make sure his healthy improves, both for the short term and the season. The toe is vital to his success. He still works to strengthen the big toe using Thera-Bands. He described it as the equivalent of weight-lifting for your toe.

"Once you have that injury to the toe, you realize how important it is," Beason said.

Cleats too. They go a long way in determining what you can do on the field and, in Beason's case, whether he can get on the field.

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Frank Gore said 49ers never told him in offseason his spot was in jeopardy

Running back Frank Gore isn’t sure where he’ll be next year for his 11th season in the NFL. But returning to the 49ers for this season was never in question, he said Thursday.

A NFL Network report before Monday night’s win at St. Louis claimed that the 49ers approached Gore in the offseason and told him his roster spot was in jeopardy. General manager Trent Baalke said before kickoff that was “not true,” and Gore said the same Thursday at his locker.

Gore is as curious as anyone if the 49ers will attempt to re-sign him, and he’s all for it in his quest to win his first Super Bowl ring, and the 49ers’ first since 20 years ago.

As much as Gore thrives on being an offensive catalyst, he wasn’t complaining how the 49ers’ pass-oriented attack beat the Rams 31-17 behind Colin Kaepernick’s 343 yards.

“I’m happy with that game,” Gore said. “Now we get to see how (the Broncos) play us.”

A stronger passing threat would seem to benefit Gore, who was coming off back-to-back 100-yard rushing games before Monday’s 38-yard effort on 16 carries.

Gore said he feels “great” and believed coaches were being smart in the fourth quarter by resting him in favor of Carlos Hyde, who failed to score despite three consecutive runs from within the Rams’ 2-yard line.

Gore returned on the 49ers’ next series and also failed to convert a fourth-and-1 run from the Rams 34. “They stopped it and played good defense,” Gore said. “Whenever you can’t get yards, you get (upset).”

The more yards Gore can gain Sunday night, the longer that will keep Peyton Manning & Co. off the field. Gore isn’t campaigning for a marquee role, however.
“We all have to play well as a group,” Gore said. “Whoever’s number is called, they’ve got to make plays.”

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Darryl Sharpton stepping in and stepping up

When Darryl Sharpton signed with the Bears Sept. 25, he didn’t expect to be starting at middle linebacker less than three weeks later. But that’s exactly what transpired last Sunday in Atlanta.

“It’s not something that I had on my calendar obviously,” Sharpton said. “But it’s what adversity brought and with the coaching, this organization prepared me for this adverse situation and I was able to step in.”

With the Bears’ top four linebackers all unable to play against the Falcons due to injuries, Sharpton stepped in and stepped up. He not only recorded 10 tackles and broke up a key third-down pass with a crushing hit on receiver Roddy White but called all the defensive signals.

So how did Sharpton know enough about the defense to get his teammates lined up and make all the checks?

“Just experience playing football, just being in the game for so long,” he said. “There’s some carryover from different systems and you try to gather all of your football knowledge and information and then take the new game plan and then just go out there and try to mesh the two and do your best.

“I didn’t play perfect. I made mistakes, which I have to correct, which is why we’re going to these meetings, so you can improve the next week.”

Sharpton was selected by the Houston Texans in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of Miami. He appeared in 42 games with 19 starts over four seasons, recording 166 tackles, one interception, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

After ending each of his first three seasons on injured reserve, Sharpton became a starter midway through last year after Brian Cushing suffered a season-ending injury. The experience helped Sharpton excel in the same type of scenario last week with the Bears.

“It was a similar situation when ‘Cush’ went down,” he said. “Last year I stepped in his spot and I think I did a good job there. So it wasn’t unfamiliar territory [last Sunday]. It was like déjà vu.”

Sharpton left the Texans to sign with the Redskins in March. But he sustained an ankle injury in training camp and was eventually waived/injured Sept. 22. The 26-year-old signed with the Bears four days later, joining his third team in a six-month span.

“It just speaks to the nature of life, the nature of the league,” Sharpton said. “You never know what’s in store for you in the future. You don’t know what’s going to be there. Sometimes you don’t know whether you’re going to be on a team or you’re going to be starting on a team. You never know in this league. The only thing you control is your effort and your intensity and your willingness to play, As long as you keep that, you’ve just got to put the rest in the Lord’s hand.”

Sharpton is excited to reunite with Bears linebackers coach Reggie Herring, his position coach with the Texans in 2011-12.

“He holds everybody to a high standard and he doesn’t keep it a secret what he wants from you,” Sharpton said. “He’s going to tell you exactly what he wants and if you’re not doing it the right way he’s going to correct you.

“Reggie’s very direct and to the point. He has a lot of memorable quotes. His general message is just stay focused, focus on your job at hand and take advantage of your opportunities. He’s a guy who coaches details and he’s very detailed-oriented and he demands that from his players, all players. It doesn’t matter who you are, he has a high standard for everyone.”

Sharpton is the second cousin of Reverend Al Sharpton. But that’s far from the most interesting thing about the linebacker given his journey to the Bears, which began with a tryout.

“When I first came here I only had the clothes on my back,” Sharpton said. “That same night I had to go to Walmart and get some underwear and socks and stay in a hotel, so it was pretty rough. It was the first time I did something like that, just living out of Walmart pretty much. My wife was able to ship my car and some clothes up to me now, so I’m a little bit more settled.”

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Greg Olsen continues long streak of consecutive games

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen took exception to Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict apparently trying to hurt his ankle last week, calling for the player with the long history of personal foul penalties to be suspended.

And while Burfict avoided suspension, he was not successful in taking Olsen out of the lineup.

Olsen, who has two sprained ankles, expects to play Sunday at Green Bay, which would be his 118th consecutive regular-season game.

It’s the second-longest active streak among tight ends, trailing Dallas’ Jason Witten, who has played in 177 consecutive games. As a rookie in 2007 with Chicago, Olsen sat out the first two games with a knee injury but hasn’t missed a game since.

“I put a lot of pride into that. It’s not easy to play in this league to begin with, let alone play tight end and do all the things we’re asked to do,” Olsen said.

“I try to take good care of my body, both in the offseason and during the season. Little things are going to get nicked. You learn to play while not feeling top-notch. If you learn that pretty quick in this league, you’ll be in good shape.”

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Ravens will challenge Devin Hester, not kick away from him

Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg says that as he prepares to face the Falcons and Devin Hester on Sunday, he’s not planning to wave the white flag of surrender and kick high and short or out of bounds to avoid giving Hester a chance to run the ball back.

Instead, Rosburg says, the Ravens will welcome the opportunity to compete with Hester, and plan to contain him.

“We have faced a lot of good returners this year already,” Rosburg told the Baltimore Sun. “When we play Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, we face very good punt returners of that caliber and of that type. We have a lot of confidence in our punt game. We have good gunners, we have a good punter and we have good inside core guys, so we are going to do all we can to try to contain him with what we do.”

Hester is the NFL’s all-time leader in kick return touchdowns, and this year he’s in the Top 10 in the NFL in both kickoff return average and punt return average. Rosburg says that makes the Ravens look forward to taking him on.

“It’s up to our guys. They relish a challenge,” Rosburg said. “And playing against the best returner touchdown-wise that there’s ever been, that’s a great challenge for our guys. They look forward to that challenge, but they also have a great deal of respect for whom we are playing. . . . He has the perfect combination of skills for a returner. He’s fast, and he has incredible change-of-direction skills. He can run up and smell somebody’s breath and then disappear. The other thing he can do, which people aren’t really that aware of, he can break tackles. He’s a strong runner. So, he really has the three-way combination to be the outstanding returner he is. Every time you give him the ball, he’s a threat to take it to the house, and that’s his goal.”

The Ravens’ goal is to keep Hester off the highlight reel on Sunday.


Jon Beason would like to win a game

Jon Beason tried to force a smile when he delivered the one-liner, but it was hard because there was so much truth behind the joke.

"Right now I'm messing it up," he said on Thursday. "When I play, we don't win."

Beason has played in three games this season. The Giants have lost all of them. He has been inactive for three games this season. The Giants have won all of them. That is certainly little more than coincidence, but it is something Beason would like to rectify on Sunday against the Cowboys.

Beason played last week against the Eagles for the first time since aggravating his toe in Week 2. He had three tackles credited to him.

"I thought I moved pretty well," he said. "I read plays well. I'd like to be more active. That's the starting point coming off an injury with a limited amount of practice. I was somewhat happy to make it through the game. Obviously I want to build on that. I can play a whole lot better. I have to play better."

Tom Coughlin said Beason has been practicing fully the last two days and said Beason is making "good progress." He said that Beason's energy and enthusiasm have been the same that he provided last season, and that the production should be following soon.

Beason said he still feels limited in practices.

"I would like not to be, but everything is about Sunday," he said. "It's on the back burner in my mind how many snaps I'm taking in practice. I just know that I'm ready to go and try to get this win on Sunday."

Which, as he knows, would be his first of the year.

"You say, 'Hey, do your job, do it hard, and hopefully you can be a reason why we win as opposed to a reason why we don't.'"

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Timeout With Chase Ford

Vikings tight end Chase Fordicon-article-link has eight catches for 85 yards in the past three games since being elevated from the practice squad to the active roster to fill in for injured TE Kyle Rudolphicon-article-link. After stops in Philadelphia and a brief stint in Dallas, the native of Corrigan, Texas, a town of less than 2,000 people northeast of Houston, Ford caught on with Minnesota for the final two games of 2013. took a Timeout with Ford for a Q & A this week.

Q: What did you like or not like about growing up in a small town?
Ford: I pretty much loved everything about it. I guess you could say the only downfall to it is you can’t just, you’ve got to drive to go to Walmart or the mall. That’s kind of the only down thing.

Q: Better not forget something on your grocery list then?
Ford: We’ve got a local grocery store, but if you’re trying to go get a TV or some shoes or something you’ve got to drive about 25-30 minutes. It’s not too far, but it’s not just hop in the car and “Let’s go.”

Q: Describe the transition you made from junior college to Miami and then the NFL.
Ford: To me, the way I’ve always explained it when people ask me, I feel like that way it was good for me because the game, it was like your talent level rose with how you were playing. It’s not like an 18-year-old going to Tennessee or Miami or something like that, because it would take them by storm, like ‘This game is too fast.’ It was like a ladder that got me up here, a little bit better, a little bit better and then the top level.

Q: What did you learn from spending time with three NFL teams as a rookie?
I learned it don’t feel good to get cut (laughs). Do everything you can to not get cut.

Q: Did you learn something to take with you to your next team?
Ford: I learned a lot. In Philly, Tom Melvin, he’s the tight ends coach at Kansas City now, but he taught me a lot. There was stuff I didn’t know, little things with your route running and blocking that helped me out a lot. I was only in Dallas for a week, so I’m not going to say I learned anything there, but I’ve learned a whole lot from last year’s staff and this year’s staff here.

Q: How have those experiences helped you adjust to the new offensive system here?
Ford: You’ve just got to be prepared for anything. Coming from high school to junior college to college, I haven’t had the same playbook for more than two years since I’ve been playing football. Having the same playbook for years to come would be real nice.

Q: How much time do you spend in your playbook?
Ford: I’m going to start spending more time because that was something that I never really was taught, so it’s something I’m learning as I go, that it helps you to watch extra film and helps you to study your plays a little more. You might know it, but if you look over it one more time, you might not mess up.

Q: Would you rather block, catch the ball or run after the catch?
Ford: You know what? If I had to pick one, I’d probably say catch the ball. That’s really the reason I play football, because I like catching the football.

Q: How much emphasis do you place on catching the ball?
Ford: I’ve never been one of those guys that caught 100 jugs after practice every day. It was just a natural gift God gave me, where I can catch the ball. I’m thankful for that.

Q: What about the other parts besides the catch, the route running and things like that? How much of that did you have to learn more of at this level?
Ford: I had to learn all of it, pretty much. I didn’t even really know how to run routes until I got into the league. That was something that Tom helped me with in Philadelphia. You would see it on paper and draw it up on paper, but you wouldn’t know stuff like when you’re running this inside route, this dig route, you’re falling up field and you’re not supposed to do that, little things like that help you out a whole lot in any league but especially this one because they’re so fast and so good on their reads that the little things count, and I’ve picked all that up since I’ve been in the league.

Q: There’s a lot of Texas guys, lot of Florida guys, lot of California guys in the locker room. Do the Texas guys kind of hang together a little more or have a state pride thing?
Ford: No, everything’s better in Texas, don’t get me wrong. Our team ain’t like that. I feel like everybody’s cool with everybody, and I feel like the way we hang out would be less state-wise and more position-wise. I’m probably cooler with my tight ends than I would be with the defensive backs — nothing against them, they’re my boys too, but you spend more time with your position group.

Q: Do you have any pre-game habits or rituals?
Ford: Not really. I like to listen to a little, I don’t want to call it Gospel music because Gospel music puts out a different term, but a Christian music like Kirk Franklin cause it’s more upbeat but is still sending the same message, so I try to listen to that before the game to clear my mind.

Q: How long has your faith been important to you?
Ford: Coming from the South, they call it the Bible belt, so I’ve kind of always been brought up in it and it was really important to me when I was younger, but it’s something that I went through my teenage years living my life or whatever, but it’s something I’m trying to get back on like I was when I was younger.

Q: What goals do you have for the rest of the season?
Ford: Win. That’s the number one goal. I want to do whatever it takes to win. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have a catch and the receivers have 30 catches.


Saints list Jimmy Graham as limited participant Thursday

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was listed as a limited participant in practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday due to a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 5. During his Thursday press conference, coach Sean Payton said he was "optimistic" about Graham's status heading into Week 7 against the Lions.

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Texans simply need a win on MNF, Andre Johnson says

The Texans are four days away from playing their final primetime regular-season game this season.

With the national lights of “Monday Night Football” and the Pittsburgh Steelers waiting, Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson said his team simply needs a victory.

The Texans started 2-0 but are 1-3 during their last four games, including back-to-back near wins that ended in defeat.

“We just need to get a win,” Johnson said Thursday at NRG Stadium.

He added: “We’re not in a bad spot. Of course, we would like to be in a better situation — we feel like we’ve let some games get away.”

The Texans only have two primetime games this season. After recently falling to Indianapolis on “Thursday Night Football,” Monday at Pittsburgh is the final scheduled national showcase for the 2014 Texans.

“Everybody’s watching. It’s the only game on TV,” Johnson said. “A great big stage for us and hopefully we’ll go out there and put our best game on Monday night.”

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Eric Winston blasts Marvin Lewis

CINCINNATI -- Bengals coach Marvin Lewis has been criticized from the minute he made comments during his Wednesday afternoon news conference that concussions "linger longer" now because of the media attention that head injuries receive.

One of his most vocal critics was NFL Players Association president and former player Eric Winston, who expressed his thoughts on Twitter.

Winston's tweets also could be targeting Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who said wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin came in Monday complaining of a "little headache" after a receiving a hit Sunday from Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Panthers doctors determined Benjamin had a mild concussion.

Lewis' comments came during a portion of his weekly news conference in which he was asked about Burfict and the intense, aggressive, emotion-filled edge he plays with. Those same traits have made Burfict one of the more penalized players in the league, and one who has started getting a negative reputation for some of his post-whistle antics.

A source told ESPN's Ed Werder that Burfict was fined $25,000 this week for twisting the ankles of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and tight end Greg Olsen after he had tackled both in last Sunday's 37-37 overtime tie in Cincinnati.

In a fiery interview session with Panthers reporters the day after the game, Olsen called for Burfict to be suspended for the actions and called out his style of play.

"He's a hard-nosed player," Olsen said. "His style of game is what he is. It's why he knocks himself out half the time."

The latter portion of Olsen's comment was in reference to the three concussions Burfict has had since the end of last season. He already has had two in back-to-back weeks this season. The concussions forced him out of the season opener at Baltimore and the Week 2 game against the Falcons. They also kept him sidelined for three weeks before he returned last weekend against the Panthers.

Despite leaving the game briefly for what the Bengals said was a "hit to the head," Burfict returned and finished the game.
It's the only game he has finished this season.

At one point during Lewis' news conference, a reporter asked about at what point the coach becomes concerned about Burfict not only as a player, but as a human being, given his number of concussions.

Replied Lewis: "He had a concussion against Atlanta. That's the biggest concern. You don't want him to have ... again, I coached defense and linebackers for a long time and concussions didn't linger. Now we've found that because of the media and things they seem to linger longer. There's a lot of attention paid to it. I don't know why they linger longer, but I don't remember them lingering like they do now."

The NFL in recent years has intensified its approach regarding concussions and renewed its policies related to the level of medical scrutiny players must go through before getting cleared to play again after a concussion. Many of the league's concerns stem from long-term health issues retired players have experienced, and recent research that has made some connections between former player deaths and head trauma.

Lewis was asked after Wednesday's practice if he wanted to clarify his comments. He declined, acknowledging he probably shouldn't have broached the topic in the first place.

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Reggie Wayne Talks His Bond With T.Y. Hilton

INDIANAPOLIS – With a short week last week, Reggie Wayneicon-article-link did not appear on his weekly radio show.

The 14-year veteran was back on it this Tuesday though for a more in-depth conversation.

On WNDE, Wayne talked his relationship with T.Y. Hiltonicon-article-link, the play of Pat McAfeeicon-article-link, the retirement of Pat Angerer and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Here are some of the highlights from Wayne joining Query and Schultz:

On T.Y. Hilton and the relationship he has with Wayne:

“He has that playmaking ability and he was able to show that Thursday night.

“T.Y. comes and he’s always asking questions. He asks, ‘What do you think I should of done there? Should have I gone inside or should have I gone outside?’ That’s the way you learn. That’s the way I was with Marvin Harrison. I would ask him things what I could do to run this particular route better. Whenever you have a guy that’s played a little longer I think you should use that. T.Y., he’s taken advantage of that opportunity. He’s asked me a lot of questions in his three years. He’s a true professional already. He’s a student of the game. He takes a lot of notes. He asks questions in meetings and you don’t see a lot of young guys that do that. He’s a guy that really wants to be good and whenever you see a guy that wants to be good, you want to do everything you can to help. At one point in time, I used to say in his rookie year, ‘You might want to think about doing this or doing that.’ Now I don’t have to do that much. He has that experience under his belt. He knows defenses. He understands his role. If we are talking anything football, it’s probably a question he comes and asks me and it’s probably pretty minor.”

On the first quarter against the Texans and if he remembers a time when the Colts had an opening quarter like that:

“That’s a good question. I’ve got a lot of games under my belt in 14 years (laughs). I don’t think there’s any to be honest with you. We were hitting on all cylinders. We went out and scored fast, had a surprise onside that worked and were able to take that turnover and score real quick. We saw early that things were going to be all right for us and that’s kind of the way it goes. I really believe that football is a game of momentum and it seemed like everything we dialed up was the right choice. We need to figure out a way to just continue to ride that wave, even though we know it’s going to be tough.”

On the play of Pat McAfee and special teams in 2014:

“I believe he’s changing the whole mindset of the way team’s think of that. If you look at what he’s already done this season, and the way he’s punting the ball, he’s punting the ball outstanding. He’s doing things that we aren’t really used to seeing on the special teams side as far as the Indianapolis Colts. He’s definitely become a weapon for us. He can make any kick that you can ask him.

“You’ve got a Hall of Famer in Adam Vinatieriicon-article-link always in his ear and I think Pat has taken his game to a whole ‘nother level. I think he’s realized how good he can be. He’s playing phenomenal.”

On Pat Angerer retiring from the NFL:

“Pat was a feisty guy. He was kind of an undersized guy. It was funny because he always played with a little chip on his shoulder and he brought a lot of energy to that locker room, to that team. I saw he shut it down and retired due to injuries and things like that. That just makes you realize that Pat was a young player and it seemed like he was doing so well, but the injuries kind of took over and forced him to retire.

“I enjoyed Pat. He was a great teammate, a great person. We spent a lot of time together laughing. Unfortunately a lot of that time was in the training room, getting healthy but that’s the way it is. We call the training room, the “barbershop.” Everybody is going to be in the barbershop trying to get back to 100 percent as close as they can and we had a lot of laughs in that training room.”

On the Bengals:

“They are always right in the mix, especially the last few years since they got the quarterback in Andy Dalton. He’s really had them in the fold of the AFC race. At one point in time in my career, you kind of looked at Cincinnati and figured, alright they are going to be one of the bottom echelon teams in the AFC but now you can’t do that anymore. They are a team that’s going to make you come out and play a good game or they will embarrass you.”

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Knicks to pick up guard Shane Larkin's third-year contract option

After some initial uncertainty, the New York Knicks plan to pick up the third-year contract option for guard Shane Larkin, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Knicks have been satisfied with Larkin, 22, in the preseason, and will guarantee the $1.67 million on his contract for the 2015-16 season.

The deadline for guaranteeing the third-year option comes at the end of October.

As Knicks president Phil Jackson plans to use significant salary cap space for high-profile free agents in the summer of 2015, he’s been cautious on committing guaranteed money to the payroll. In the preseason, Larkin has averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 assists in 20 minutes per game for New York.

New York acquired Larkin, guard Jose Calderon and center Sam Dalembert from Dallas as part of a deal for center Tyson Chandler and guard Raymond Felton in June.

Larkin was the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft in which he was part of a deal from Atlanta to Dallas. He averaged 10.2 minutes per game as a rookie for the Mavericks in the 2013-14 season. Larkin was an All-ACC player at the University of Miami.

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Lauryn Williams wins championship

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- This time last year, Lauryn Williams was getting into a bobsled for the first time.

Now she's not only an Olympic silver medalist, but a national champion as well.

Williams -- one of five people to medal in different sports at the Summer and Winter Olympics -- won the U.S. national bobsled push championship in the women's brakeman division Thursday, finishing her two starts on the wheeled track at Lake Placid in 9.56 seconds.

Katie Eberling, who's transitioning from push athlete to driver, won the women's pilot competition and Olympic veteran Nick Cunningham won the men's pilot title.

"It was really inspiring to get back out there and be on the track and to win my first push championships," said Williams, who became a two-time Olympic track and field medalist before turning to bobsledding. "I think it's really awesome to see all of the new girls so bubbly and excited about bobsled, and I really relate to that feeling since that was me not even a year ago."

Williams considered retirement after she and Elana Meyers Taylor won silver at the Sochi Games, doing so just six months after getting in a sled for the first time.

But she kept her options open, never making her plans to step away official, and now she's expected to lead the push athletes on the women's World Cup team this winter.

"I'm really looking forward to the season," Williams said.

Eberling finished her two pushes in 8.41 seconds, edging Olympic bronze medalist Jamie Greubel Poser (8.47) for the women's pilot title. Maureen Ajoku was third in 8.72.

Meyers Taylor did not compete because of injury. She had won six straight national push titles.

"I think anytime Elana isn't entered into the competition there's an asterisk next to the win," Eberling said. "But it feels good to start the season with a win and to get back into competition mode after a long offseason."

Cunningham won his third straight men's pilot title, his time of 7.93 topping Codie Bascue (8.00) and rookie Andrew Blaser (8.05).

Steven Holcomb, the 2010 Olympic champion, was fourth and Olympic veteran John Napier -- who is contemplating a return from retirement -- was fifth.

"As a competitor, I always want to win," Cunningham said. "We are going through a rebuilding phase with our program, so to come out here and start the season out like this and to see the depth of pilots is a great thing to see."

Napier isn't sure what his future holds yet.

"I am back to enjoy myself and to spend time with the team," said Napier, who was in college at Lakeland, Florida last year. "I missed being around the team and the guys. This culture is a part of my life and it seems no matter how far I run away, it will always be near to my heart."

The men's brakeman push championships are scheduled for Friday. On-ice training in Lake Placid is expected to start next week, weather permitting. National team selection races also start later this month.

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Dejected Jon Jay appreciates season of resiliency

SAN FRANCISCO -- Shortly after the Cardinals' season-ending 6-3 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park on Thursday night, Jon Jay lay flat on his back in the visitors' clubhouse, displaying the exhaustion and disappointment of a man who played his heart out, but ultimately came up short.

A second straight trip to the Fall Classic was not in the cards this year for St. Louis, which dropped the National League Championship Series to San Francisco in five games. But it was not for a lack of inspired performance by Jay, one of nine current Cardinals who's been present for all four of the club's consecutive runs to the NLCS.

"He was big for us all year," said first baseman Matt Adams. "Just a great ballplayer. Great all-around player, great defender, and he's a gamer. He comes to the field ready to go each day."

Jay went 14-for-29 (.483) this postseason and made big plays in the outfield, including a sliding catch in left field in the eighth Thursday to rob Gregor Blanco of a hit.

Now, the 29-year-old outfielder will enter his second offseason of arbitration, and after making $3.25 million this season, Jay will certainly receive a raise. Whether general manager John Mozeliak opts to give him a long-term extension, trade him or sign him to another one-year deal remains to be seen.

One thing, however, is clear: Jay was rock solid in 2014. He batted .303 during the regular season, before shining in October. And in Jay's fifth Major League season, he was also a key team leader.

"I want to thank him," Adams said. "He did a good job taking me under his wing this year and kind of showing me the ropes. He's just a great teammate.

"Just being there," Adams said when asked for specifics. "Some situations that he went through when he was younger. He just was able to help me out all year long. It was pretty cool."

Throughout the playoffs, Jay and second baseman Kolten Wong were the most consistent hitters in St. Louis' lineup.

"We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for what they were able to do," Matt Carpenter said. "This team's got a lot of players that take a lot of pride in what they do, and those guys are a big part of it. You can't say enough about what they were able to do for us."

On Thursday, a dejected Jay was not yet ready to celebrate his personal performance. But he could appreciate being part of yet another deep postseason run with the Cards.

"This team, we dealt with so much adversity all year long," Jay said. "We kept getting hit with different things and a lot of people counted us out, and we played well the second half and we kept believing in ourselves, and we got to this point.

"Obviously, you want to go to the World Series and get a chance for a ring, but when you look back at the season, we'll know how hard we fought and how we really came together as a team and as a family. We gave it our all, but they were just better than us." 

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Lamar Miller: Practices in Limited Capacity Wednesday

Miller (knee) was a limited participant at Wednesday's practice, the Dolphins' official site reports.

Miller was one of 11 players listed as limited by the Dolphins on Wednesday, with his status worth tracking as Sunday's game against the Bears approaches. With Knowshon Moreno now out for the season, Miller's status as the Dolphins' lead back looks secure, assuming his health. That said, those looking to insure Miller, whose knee issue isn't believed to be serious or who are simply of a mind to secure a back that is an injury away from an expanded role, are advised to consider Damien Williams, who currently slots in as Miller's top backup.

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Darryl Sharpton Goes from No Name to Big Game for Bears

Who’s #53 for the Bears?  Who the heck is Darryl Sharpton?  I heard those questions a lot on Sunday during the Bears’ surprising 27-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons.  The Bears, who limped into the game with their top four linebackers sidelined with injuries, called upon a bunch of “no name” linebackers to lead the Bears defense against one of the top offenses in the league.  I have to admit, when I heard the names Christian Jones, Khaseem Greene and Darryl Sharpton as the Bears starting linebackers, I thought two things.  1) we’re screwed and 2) who is Darryl Sharpton?  After a strong showing on Sunday, I had to do a little research about Sharpton, who’s not just another random Phil Emery waiver wire claim.

Phil Emery has been churning the bottom of the Bears roster so much every week, that it’s easy to overlook who he’s bringing in.  Most of the guys coming in are undrafted free agents or late round roster cuts who couldn’t cut it elsewhere.  That’s not the case with Darryl Sharpton.  He’s an experienced veteran with a nice linebacking resume.

The 5-11 linebacker was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans out of Miami (FL).  Coming out of “The U” is a pretty good pedigree to begin with and was named 2nd team All-ACC in his senior season.  Sharpton appeared in 12 games as a rookie and recorded 34 tackles.  He played a reserve role for the Texans for the first three years with the Texans until he was pressed into action to fill in for Brian Cushing, who went out with a broken leg in 2013.  Sharpton had a terrific season including 87 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass defended and 6 stuffs in 15 games.

Sharpton was targeted by the Redskins in the offseason, signing a 1-year deal in March of 2014 worth up to $2 million.  It didn’t get that far as a preseason high ankle sprain led to his contract getting terminated on September 22nd.  Phil Emery scooped him up on September 24th.

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Warren Sapp: ‘I Almost Threw Up’ When I Saw McCoy Helping Other Players Up

NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp joined The Booger and Ryan Show to discuss what’s gone wrong for the Bucs this season.
Sapp said what he’s watching from the Bucs defense isn’t the Tampa 2.

“That ain’t (Tampa) 2,” Sapp said. “No, they’re not playing that defense I mean it’s a different version.”

Sapp did say though that even with Derrick Brooks, Hardy Nickerson and John Lynch the Bucs were 1-7 in their first 8 games with the new system. It takes time to learn.

Sapp said it’s plain as day on film. It’s about the players on the field.

“It’s the Willys and Joes, not the X’s and O’s,” Sapp told Booger and Marc. “Me and Gerald (McCoy) had a real frank conversation this morning. He said ‘I had a bad day at the office, I’ve chalked it up and I’ve got to get better.’ I said there we go.”

Sapp told us that there are quality players there they just need to make some plays.

Gerald McCoy defended helping up opposing players. Sapp said he didn’t like that.

“Too see him (McCoy) reach down and help the running back up and help the lineman up, I almost threw up. Uh! This could never happen, this could never happen. There’s a certain mentality you play this game with.”

So far though, Sapp said he likes Lovie Smith and what he’s doing. It takes time for a bad team to let all the bad habits go. Sapp said even in his day, it took him time to become a disciplined DT.

In today’s current NFL, Sapp said that you can’t rely just on defense.

“You can’t come out and play like we did anymore,” Sapp said. “We can forget those days, Buc ball is dead fellas. The 17-10 games all that 13-9 uh-uh. It’s over. There will be some points put up on the scoreboard, the defense has to keep you in it and the offense has to win it for you.”

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PHOTO: Bears LB Darryl Sharpton Forces Fumble

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Calais Campbell jogging, could return Week 8

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday that defensive lineman Calais Campbell (knee) is jogging, reports.

Campbell likely won't be able to play this week, but it appears he could return in Week 8 against the Eagles. He was injured by an ugly cut block in Week 5.

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Lamar Miller riding exercise bike at practice

Dolphins running back Lamar Miller did not participate in the start of practice Tuesday and rode an exercise bike instead, reports the Palm Beach Post. It's unclear if Miller was limited or held out of practice entirely, the report said.

Miami won't issue an injury report until after Wednesday's practice.

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Sam Shields: Injury Not Considered Serious

The knee injury Shields suffered in Sunday's game is not believed to be serious, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The full extent of Shields' injury is uncertain, and he could miss this week's game against the Panthers, but head coach Mike McCarthy said he isn't concerned about Shields missing an extended period of time. Shields' participation, or lack thereof, during practice this week will likely determine whether or not he suits up for Week 7.

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Calais Campbell 'hopeful' to return this week, play at Oakland

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Despite Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians saying a return by Calais Campbell this weekend against Oakland is "very slim," the star defensive end is holding out hope.

His goal is to practice by the end of week, which, in his eyes, would mean he could play Sunday.

"I understand that it's a process and all depends on how my body feels," Campbell told ESPN on Monday night at his annual CRC Foundation fundraiser dinner in Scottsdale. "The process right now is just listening to my body and just to see how it progresses over the next few days."

Campbell's initial prognosis was one-to-three weeks. Sunday marked a week since Denver's Julius Thomas injured Campbell with an illegal chop block. The end of the second week would be in Oakland and the third would conclude at home against Philadelphia on Oct. 26.

The process of returning from a strained MCL in a week is different for Campbell than that of a player less agile on the field, such as an offensive lineman, he said. His knee is feeling "way better," but he feels the injury is going to linger.

"I guess the biggest thing is making sure the muscle or ligament reattaches and gets strong enough where it won't re-injure itself," Campbell said. "That's the hardest part, so I won't re-injure myself. Once I get through that point, it's just tolerating pain and being able to play."

On Monday, Arians was asked whether he expects Campbell against the Raiders.

"There's a chance," Arians said. "But it's a very slim one, I think."

Watching Sunday's win from the sideline was tough for Campbell, who only missed four games in his first six seasons. It was harder, he said, knowing he was just starting to find a rhythm that could've taken him straight to the Pro Bowl.

He had 16 tackles, a sack and an interception, in the first four games this season, in which Arizona went 3-1.

"It's frustrating because I felt like I was just getting into the groove," Campbell said. "I felt explosive. I felt like I was getting to that mentality where I could dominate. Really felt in Denver, that second half I was going to dominate.

"Things happen and the beauty of it is whenever I do get back, it's still a lot of football left to be played. I can still do what I want to do and help the team win games."

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Chase Ford goes 4-37 against Lions

Vikings TE Chase Ford caught four passes for 37 yards in Minnesota's Week 6 loss to Detroit.

Ford finished second on the team in receiving behind Jerick McKinnon on a day where Teddy Bridgewater absorbed eight sacks and threw three interceptions, failing to engineer a scoring drive until fourth-quarter garbage time. Ford is the Vikings' pass-catching tight end with Kyle Rudolph on the shelf.

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Allen Bailey, unsung hero for the KC defense

Travel back to Week 1 for a second. Yes, I know, remembering that dumpster fire of a game against the Titans is painful. But I need you to get into the mindset for just a second.

You there? Suppress that vomit, you! Power through, you can do this! All right, now that you've retched your way into your mindset following that awful, awful loss, let me ask you a question.

What would you say if I told you that through Week 6, the Chiefs would have the fifth ranked defense in the NFL in points allowed despite only having three total takeaways (INT/FUM) and losing Eric Berry to injury midway through their second game?

You'd tell me I was insane, right? After all, we'd just witnessed Jake Locker and the Titans hang roughly a thousand points on the Chiefs without all that much difficulty. The secondary looked problematic, the pass rush looked problematic, the run defense looked problematic ... the word of the day was "problematic."
Never mind that the Chiefs had dates with the Broncos, Patriots, and 49ers prior to that date. Every one of those teams has a more potent offense than the Titans, and looked primed to shred a struggling Chiefs defense. Mike DeVito was gone. Derrick Johnson was gone. The entire secondary (minus Husain Abdullah) had just gotten handled in a way that looked very, very repeatable. Times were grim.

Yet here we are, five weeks later, and the Chiefs are indeed ranked fifth in the NFL in points per game allowed at 20.2 points per game being given up (it says something about the "new" NFL when 20.2 points per game allowed leads to a top five ranking). That includes holding offensive powerhouses New England and Denver both to under their season averages by a decent margin (New England, in particular, had nothing but a pair of garbage time touchdowns to boast about).

So ... how is that happening? Without Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson, or Mike DeVito? And no, the answer isn't "The Chiefs defense is better without those guys." That's an insane theory I've seen regarding one of those players, and it's asinine enough that I refuse to acknowledge its existence. Those three players are all better (two of them significantly so) than the players they've got replacing them. So what's happening?

Well, a few things could be pointed to for an answer. Sean Smith is playing really solid football. Ron Parker has been significantly better at safety than he was at cornerback (how it took the coaches this long to put him at safety is beyond me. Great speed, terrible at mirroring routes). Tamba Hali and Justin Houston have been doing their thing and terrorizing quarterbacks. Husain Abdullah has been playing out of his mind.

All of those have been important factors, but it's the pass rush that stands out as the principle reason the defense has been highly competitive (despite the defense struggling against the run, giving up 4.8 yards per carry. We'll worry about that another day). In fact, the Chiefs pass rush has been arguably the most efficient in the NFL this season.

The Chiefs are currently tied for seventh in the NFL with 15 sacks. On the surface that's good, but not great. However, as always, looking at base stats themselves doesn't tell the story accurately. Because some teams (including the Chiefs) but not others have taken their bye week, those numbers are skewed.

A more accurate method would be to look at passes attempted per sack. The Chiefs have only had opposing quarterbacks attempt 159 passes against them. No other team in the top 10 for sacks has had fewer than 193 passes attempted. Obviously, more passes attempted means more opportunities for a sack. In fact, only two teams, Oakland and St. Louis, have seen fewer pass attempts than the Chiefs. Those teams have five sacks and one sack, respectively.

When you instead look to see how many passes opposing teams attempt per sack, the numbers are starkly different. The Chiefs sack the quarterback every 10.6 pass attempts. Only the Lions (with a sack every 10.35 pass attempts) are getting to the quarterback at a higher rate.

In other words, the Chiefs (despite playing the legendarily tough-to-sack Fivehead) are sporting a pair of the two best pass rushes in the NFL.

And that's where we get to the point (700 words later). While a great deal of credit needs to go to the ridiculous duo of Houston / Hali, this year has been slightly different when it comes to the Chiefs pass rush. And that difference has started with a player most of us had given up on: Allen Bailey.

Last year I finally made peace with the fact that Bailey was a decent run defender who would forever be a liability against the pass. Despite constantly seeing individual matchups due to the presence of Dontari Poe, Bailey was generally unable to generate any pressure of his own when quarterbacks dropped back to pass. Teams picked up on this, and over the second half of the season last year quarterbacks benefited from beautiful pockets as Poe was double teamed and Bailey was stonewalled.

This year has been markedly different. Bailey already as 2.5 sacks through five games, or 250 percent of his production last year for the ENTIRE SEASON (yeah, it's only an increase by 1.5 sacks. But 250 percent sounds way better, no?). While Bailey is being credited with "hurries" and "hits" at about the same rate as last year per ProFootballFocus, he's simply been more impactful this season when rushing the passer.

Look no further than the third quarter of the 49ers game if you want to see the havoc Poe and Bailey have been causing. One of the primary reasons the Niners weren't able to do much on offense in that quarter is the Chiefs interior defenders were terrorizing Colin Kaepernick when he dropped back to pass.
Last year Bailey couldn't be counted on to help Poe finish plays. So even if Poe was able to get penetration, quarterbacks were able to move away and either scramble or complete the pass from an open area in the pocket. Not so this season.

Again, go back to the third quarter of the Niners game. That's where Bailey picked up a sack and a half. On both plays, Poe was right beside him causing chaos (including this life-altering club on Alex Boone, which will never get old). Bailey actually wasn't even the principle issue for the Niners on either sack; that would be Poe.

But that's the thing: the Chiefs don't NEED Bailey to be the primary disruptor in the inside. All the need is for him to be able to beat individual matchups often enough to make teams pay for doubling Poe, or that he at least be able to get free to chase down quarterbacks Poe / Hali / Houston have forced to move out of the pocket. Last season, Bailey doesn't clean up on Poe's massive club because he wasn't able to separate himself from blockers as plays broke down. This y/ear, he's been just a little bit stronger, a little bit faster, and a little bit more decisive.

Additionally, Bailey has shown a newfound ability to successfully participate in stunts this season in tandem with Poe. The shared sack of Kaepernick is a demonstration of this. Poe drives right and takes the left guard and left tackle with him, if only momentarily. Bailey, with speed he seems to have re-discovered this season, sprints to the gap and gets hit by Frank Gore and the left guard, who recovers nicely.

In the meantime, Poe (because he's Poe) has discarded the left tackle with a club and is headed toward Kap with bad intentions. The left guard sees this and tries to move toward Poe, only to be pushed off balance by a well-timed shove from Bailey. Gore, because he was forced to help with Bailey on the stunt, doesn't get into his route on time and isn't open until Kap is about to get hit by Poe and Bailey. Shared sack for Poe and Bailey.

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Knowshon Moreno's torn ACL means Lamar Miller could shine

Knowshon Moreno's to return this past week was supposed to boost an already strong Dolphins run game. Instead, his return was the last we'll see of the running back as he's done for the season with a torn ACL.

Moreno returned to the Fins after dealing with an elbow injury that caused him to miss two games earlier this year. He played against the Packers in Week 6's loss but only carried the ball six times for 10 yards, including a stuff on fourth and goal from the one.

Signed as a free agent away from the Broncos in the offseason, Moreno was supposed to be the answer to the Dolphins rushing woes. He came out blazing for the Fins in Week 1, rushing for 134 yards and a touchdown on 24 attempts.

The season-ending nature of his injury means it's Lamar Miller's time to shine. Heretofore, the former Miami Hurricanes star hasn't met expectations; he was supposed to pair with Daniel Thomas as a lightning/thunder combo.

That ... hasn't exactly worked out.

Theoretically a modern-day, explosive feature back (a.k.a. an "air back"), Miller didn't impress out of the gate. Part of that was his running style and inability to break off big plays, and part of that was the offensive line issues that've plagued the Dolphins over the past few years.

He totaled just 959 yards in his first two seasons and looked like a major disappointment. In Bill Lazor's offense this season, and with Moreno sidelined, Miller has been revitalized.

The former fourth-round pick is averaging 5.2 yards per carry with two scores plus 15 catches for 93 yards and a receiving touchdown to boot.

Miller is quietly 13th in the NFL in rushing yards during a season in which few feature backs have stepped up.

In games without Moreno, Miller has averaged 5.74 yards per carry (13 carries, 73 yards) and nearly a touchdown per game.

With Moreno gone, the Dolphins have to adjust their plan of attack -- Miller hasn't topped 15 carries yet this season and might not be an ideal "workhorse" back -- but they've got a talented enough back in the young ex-Cane that the rushing offense could continue to thrive.

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Antrel Rolle: Can’t get Victor Cruz screams ‘out of my head’

Antrel Rolle has watched the replay of the Victor Cruz injury “at least 15, 20 times to see what could have possibly happened’’ and admits he is having a hard time dealing with the season-ending loss of one of the Giants’ most invaluable players and personalities.

“Man, I just can’t get it out of my head the way he was just down there screaming, screaming to the top of his lungs and you didn’t know why,’’ Rolle said Tuesday on his weekly WFAN spot. “I don’t know, man, that’s a hard pill to swallow.’’

The fateful play, in the third quarter of last Sunday’s 27-0 loss in Philadelphia, was a fade thrown by Eli Manning. Cruz leaped for the ball in the right corner of the end zone and reached for his right knee before he even hit the ground. He had surgery Monday to repair a torn patellar tendon and faces a long and arduous recovery.

“I’ve seen Victor run that play 20 times in practice, I see him catch it 20 times in practice, some things are just freakish and that’s just a freakish accident,’’ said Rolle, who acknowledged that finishing the game was difficult when Cruz’s injury was “the only thing on your mind.’’

The Giants must move on without Cruz and must shake off the devastating loss in time for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. Rolle said the Giants must keep Cruz in their thoughts.

“As a Giant and as a player, we need to definitely go out there and honor this guy,’’ said Rolle, one of five team captains, along with Cruz.

“You always find a reason to play this game for something bigger than yourself, and right now here’s an opportunity to go out there and play the game for something that’s bigger than yourself. Here’s a guy who contributed so much and put so much on the line for this team and for this organization, we have to make sure we go out there and do something to inspire him while he’s going through this tough time.’’

Rolle said he thought the Eagles and their fans “showed great character’’ for showing such concern for Cruz once everyone realized this was a serious injury.
As far as the rest of the Giants’ performance, Rolle was bewildered.

“Once the whistle was blown, there was no Giants team to play,’’ he said.

Rolle was asked to evaluate the performance of an offensive line that surrendered six sacks of Eli Manning (and two more of backup Ryan Nassib).

“I really don’t know exactly how it breaks down with the offensive line, what I do know is you take care of the guy in front of you,” Rolle said.  “You whup the man that’s in front of you, it’s just mano a mano. To me that’s what it looked like, we just got whupped, we got manhandled, we got punched in the mouth and we didn’t fight back. Scheme is one thing and there’s your heart and the way you attack the game.

“No one’s gonna be perfect, we all get beat at some point in time, but how you respond to that, how you respond to getting beat? Are you going to hang your head and allow yourself to stay beat, or are you gonna raise up and fight like a man? I didn’t see anyone raise up and fight like a man throughout the entire course of the game. We lost that team as a whole, I don’t care who may have thought they had a decent game or who may have thought they played OK, no one played OK. When you lose 27-zip, no one has a good game.

“There are no individuals on our team, especially when you lost 27-zip, I don’t care who you are. In my opinion, everyone’s grade is an F. 27-zero, that’s embarrassing, man.’’

What he perceived as a lack of fight is what bothers Rolle most of all.

“The loss is bad and the loss obviously bothered everyone within our organization, but I don’t like the way we didn’t fight back,’’ he said. “That’s my biggest concern, that’s my biggest problem. I felt like we took it, we took it, we took it, we took it and never once did we ever turn and fight back. That’s not being a football player, that’s about being a man. We need to do something about that this upcoming Sunday.’’

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John Salmons earns his first start in the preseason at small forward

For the first time in four games, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams made a change at small forward.

Instead of Darius Miller, 34-year-old veteran John Salmons earned his first start in the preseason on Tuesday night against the Houston Rockets. After the first three games, Salmons had shot a lackluster 28.6 percent from the field and had averaged 2.0 points.

But Williams said he wants to see how Salmons performs with the starters. Neither Miller, Salmons or Luke Babbitt had been able to emerge at the spot. It appears now that swingman Tyreke Evans will earn the starting small forward spot when he returns from a strained right hamstring.

Although he sat out Tuesday's game, Evans is expected to get his first game action in the preseason on Thursday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Smoothie King Center.

''He’s (Salmons) had some minutes and they've all had a great shot,'' Williams said before Tuesday's game. "But John hasn’t had a chance to play with the starters. I want to see how that goes before Tyreke gets himself ready to play.''

Salmons said he has been slow to make progress but it has taken him time to get acclimated to Williams' system and adjust to new teammates. Last week against the Washington Wizards, Salmons scored three points on 1-of-3 shooting.

In 20 minutes during Tuesday's 117-98 victory, Salmons was held scoreless. He grabbed five rebounds, had a block and steal.

''It's a process because we're all still trying to adjust to each other,'' Salmons said. ''I just have to continue to develop and try to find where I can fit in and find my niche. I'm trying to get in game shape.''

The Pelicans signed Salmons to a one year, $2 million contract this summer after the team decided not to pursue re-signing Al-Farouq Aminu, who had started the past two seasons at small forward. 

Williams said Babbitt would likely draw more minutes off the bench against the Rockets than he did in the previous two games. He kept his promise by playing Babbitt almost nine minutes in the first half.  Babbitt had struggled since scoring 15 points in the preseason opener against the Miami Heat. In the previous two games before Tuesday, Babbitt had combined to make 1-of-10 shots from the field for five points. But he enjoyed a good start against the Rockets, making his first three shots, including all two 3-point attempts, in the first half.

''As a player, you always want more minutes,'' Babbitt said. "But I’m used to playing sporadic minutes. It’s something I’ve done a lot in my career. So I’ll be ready whatever minutes are available. I’m not really concerned. It’s a long preseason and it’s a long season.'' 

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Jon Jay feels ecstasy of a GIF-able catch


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Alex Cora no longer candidate for Rangers manager job

Torey Lovullo and Alex Cora, two of the eight individuals who interviewed for the Rangers' vacant manager position, have confirmed that they are no longer candidates, per Evan Grant.

Mike Maddux and Steve Buechele, who also interviewed for the position, are also expected not to make the final cut.

That leaves four possible choices -- Tim Bogar, Jeff Banister, Kevin Cash, and Joe McEwing.

Evan says in the blog post linked above that Banister "appears to be gaining momentum," with the Rangers talking to people around the league about Banister over the past week.

My guess is that Bogar, Banister and Cash end up being the finalists, with Bogar ultimately named the manager, though that is just a guess.

Bogar, of course, was the Rangers' bench coach in 2014 until Ron Washington resigned, at which point he took over as interim manager for the final few weeks of the season.  The Rangers played well under his watch, and he's generally been considered the favorite.

Banister is the bench coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he has worked under manager Clint Hurdle, the Rangers' former hitting coach, and someone who has ties to Jon Daniels and Thad Levine dating back to JD and Levine's days in Colorado.

Cash was a journeyman catcher who spent a lot of time in both the majors and minors, including spending the 2011 season with the Round Rock Express, before becoming Terry Francona's bullpen coach in Cleveland in 2014.

McEwing is the third base coach for the Chicago White Sox.

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