NFL U Week 6 Matchup Guide

NFL U Matchups 2013 Week 6

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Devin Hester passes Glyn Milburn for Bears kickoff yardage record

One of the most-successful kick returners of all time finally has his hands on his team's franchise record.

With his 28-yard return at the beginning of the second half of the Bears-Giants game on Thursday night, Devin Hester passed Glyn Milburn and his previous record 4,596 return yards in Chicago. Hester already owns the Bears punt-return yards record.

For the record, Hester is No. 43 on the all-time career kick return yardage list. Brian Mitchell, the all-time leader, has 14,014 yards.

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The Most Unstoppable Player in the NFL - NNL Whiteboard

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Sean Spence Can Return To Practice Next Week If Deemed Healthy

Next week is an important one for Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Sean Spence and tight Matt Spaeth as both can begin practicing with the team if deemed healthy enough to do.

Spence, who was placed on the Reserve PUP list at the start the season, can begin playing right away per the rules of PUP, but that's not likely to happen due to all of the time that he's missed. If he is able to resume practicing next week, however, and there's guarantee yet that he will, the Steelers will likely want to slowly acclimate him back into action being as he hasn't practiced since tearing up his knee in the 2012 preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers.

The Steelers don't have to rush their 2012 third-round draft pick along if he's not ready as they will have a three week window starting next week in which he must begin practicing. However, once he does begin practicing, a new three week window will then open at the end of which he must be placed on the active roster or on injured reserve. In other words, they could string this out for several more weeks if he's not quite ready.

When head coach Mike Tomlin meets the media next Tuesday, I suspect he will be asked to update the status of both Spence and Spaeth at that time, so we should have a little more clarity then.

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Jon Beason making immediate impact on new team

Each roster spot is valuable in the NFL.

That’s why the Giants haven’t just brought in new names; they have relied on them.

New York traded for linebacker Jon Beason a week ago, and two days after the deal with the Carolina Panthers, he was playing on special teams for the Giants against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Four days after that – on a short week leading up to Thursday’s game against the Chicago Bears -- Beason was starting at middle linebacker over Mark Herzlich.

He went on to lead the team with 12 tackles (11 solo) in the 27-21 loss at Soldier Field.

Beason assessed the linebacker play in his first defensive outing with the Giants.

 “Far from perfect,” he said after the game. “There are some plays I wished I could have had in that game, but I’m just trying to go out and do my job and play hard. [The loss is] unfortunate, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Acquired in the Giants’ first in-season trade since 1986, Beason, a 2007 first-round draft choice, was a two-time All-Pro selection and a three-time Pro Bowler in Carolina.

With those credentials, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and the Giants coaching staff didn’t hesitate to throw the playbook at him.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a learning curve.

“The terminology is very different,” said Beason, who battled injuries the past two seasons. “I’ve had four coordinators, but it’s pretty complex. I got with coach, we got me coached up, and I try to go out there and do the best I can.”

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Kellen Winslow sits out of practice again because of knee

As Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith rang in his 23rd birthday Thursday by practicing for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, he didn’t have one of his veteran targets.

For the second straight day, tight end Kellen Winslow, who leads the Jets with 17 catches and is tied for the team lead with two touchdown grabs, did not participate in practice because of his surgically repaired right knee, which requires constant pain management.

Winslow, who also has 169 receiving yards this season, has been limited in practice dating back to training camp because the Jets don’t want to overwork the knee. And Winslow did play in Monday night’s win at Atlanta despite being listed as questionable entering the game. But Winslow, who hasn’t spoken to reporters this week, played just 20 snaps in the game after playing 49, 38, 53 and 49 in the first four games. On Monday, Winslow's only catch was a 1-yard touchdown.

“He seemed to make it through the game OK,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “We’ve been putting him on a pitch count (by limiting his practice action). I thought today he would do a little practice. He did not practice.”

Said Smith: “You can tell that he wants to be out there, and he’s giving it all that he’s got. I know he’s dealt with a few injuries, but he’s given us every single thing that he has. That’s probably the thing that frustrates him more, is that he knows his ability. He knows he can do more, but right now he’s a bit limited.”

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One secret to 49er Frank Gore’s continued success

When the 49ers took then University of Miami running back Frank Gore in the third round of the 2005 draft – then coach Mike Nolan believed Gore’s career could be brilliant but brief.

Citing his two knee constructions in college, Nolan never envisioned Gore rushing for back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in Gore’s 7th and 8th years in the league. In truth, no one could predict that for Gore or any other running back.

The secret to Gore’s improbable longevity?


While training in his native Miami for the last two years, Gore hits the mitts with fellow boxers at a local gym. And as this video reflects, he makes it look like he’s a pro. So could boxing be Gore’s next career?

“No,” he said. “It’s different when you are hitting the mitts than when you are fighting, especially with somebody who has been doing it all their life.”

However, Gore is likely to keep up his pugilistic training because its stop-and-start nature readies him for his own sport.

“It’s like three minutes on, 30 seconds rest,” he said. “It’s like football.”

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Ed Reed 'nicked up' MCL vs. San Francisco

Ed Reed says he isn't "near where he wants to be physically," and that he "nicked up" his MCL in Sunday's loss to the 49ers.
That sounds concerning, but Reed has been limited in this week's practices, and appears ready to suit up for Week 6 against the Rams. He just won't be anywhere near 100 percent. With 136 snaps under his belt, Reed has graded out as the No. 35 safety in Pro Football Focus' ratings.

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'Rabbit' followed trail from Glades to NFL

Like many players before him and many who will follow, Travis Benjamin has speed and ability borne from the muck and sugar fields near his home on the south shore of Lake Okeechobee.

Belle Glade is in the western end of Palm Beach County, in Florida, some 44 miles from Palm Beach itself. But Belle Glade and Pahokee, the tiny city next to it, are as far from the glitz and wealth of Worth Avenue as life can be.

The Glades, as the area is known, is home to sugar-cane fields and poverty. At one time the area was known as the AIDS capital of the country. At other times, it has been home to migrants who work in the fields during harvest time.

In the late fall, the cane stalks are burned, and smoke fills the sky. That’s when the locals head to the fields and partake in a right of passage that goes back decades. As the fields burn, the rabbits flee the fire and smoke, and young men chase the rabbits that escape from the burning fields. There they hone the speed, quickness and agility that are the hallmarks of future NFL players.

It sounds corny, but it happens. And the list of NFL players from the Glades is long -- and will continue to be as long as sports is a way out for so many in the area. Those who get out succeed. Those who don’t can be led to the same self-defeating cycle of drugs and crime that capture so many.

“It’s very important,” Benjamin said of the long-held practice of chasing rabbits. “It’s a great tradition.”

Benjamin remembers chasing the way the rabbits ran … stopping, starting, darting back and forth, all at rapid-fire pace. Benjamin says he caught 20 in one day, and he’s seen another gentleman catch 60 or 70.

“It’s nothing to it,” Benjamin said. “And once you go out there and you know the tendencies of what the rabbit's gonna do, and you know when they’re gonna come out, it’s a great feeling.”

It sounds as if he studied video the way the Cleveland Browns study opponents, but Benjamin studied something more important -- those who came before him.

“You catch 'em and sell 'em or catch 'em and eat 'em,” Benjamin said. “They kind of taste like pork chops to me.”

There’s something in the dark muck that produces the sugar cane, because it produces a number of football players greatly out of proportion to the combined populations of around 24,000. Among them are Fred Taylor, Santonio Holmes, Anquan Boldin and Andre Waters. When Inside Sports magazine was founded, one of the stories in one of the first issues was written by Gary Smith and detailed Rickey Jackson and Remuise Johnson, two Belle Glade stars, one of whom made it in the NFL, the other who went on to become a minister in Boynton Beach.

“Playing ball is a high priority for us,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin now has a nickname that takes him back to the Glades. The Browns have had a Flea, an Ice Cube, a Turkey and some Dawgs.

Now they have Travis Benjamin, the Rabbit.

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Greg Olsen returns to practice sans boot

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen practiced Thursday without the walking boot he was seen wearing Wednesday, according to Charlotte Observer beat writer Joe Person. He had missed practice Wednesday with an undisclosed foot/ankle injury. With the walking boot off, it appears Olsen is set to go Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Minnesota Vikings.

Through four games this season, Olsen has caught 21 passes for 273 yards, with one touchdown. He has had a reception of at least 24 yards in every game this season.

Fantasy impact: Olsen is in a lump of tight ends just behind the top tier. After the group that includes (with some variation, sure, and in any order) Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Julius Thomas, Vernon Davis, Jordan Cameron, Rob Gronkowski, and Tony Gonzalez, there is a next group, wherein you'll find Olsen, Antonio Gates, Martellus Bennett, Jermichael Finley, and maybe guys like Coby Fleener, Jared Cook, and the new starter Garrett Graham.

If Olsen is healthy and a go for Sunday, he'll be right in that group. With Gonzalez on a bye, that will have him ranked anywhere from seventh to 14th, and any ranking in there is legitimate and defensible. Most fantasy owners are unlikely to own two from the groups there, so a starting Olsen is probably a fantasy-useful Olsen. That said, someone who stumbled into someone like Graham might want to lean that way, just for the safety.

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Andre Johnson likely to be a game-time decision

The last thing the Texans offense needs right now is something else to go wrong, but they may be facing a Week Six date with the Rams without wide receiver Andre Johnson.

Johnson is suffering from a hamstring injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday and coach Gary Kubiak said that he missed the bulk of Thursday’s session as well. Kubiak went on to say that he thinks Johnson will likely be a game-time decision for the game against the Rams.

While rookie DeAndre Hopkins has had his moments through the first five weeks, the prospect of playing without Johnson has to be a scary one for the Texans. Tight end Owen Daniels is already out and quarterback Matt Schaub’s dismal play of late has been very well documented. Even having a limited Johnson on the field to occupy the attention of the St. Louis defense would be a plus for Houston in a week where they really need things to go as easily as possible for their offense.

Johnson last missed a Texans game in Week 16 of the 2011 season.

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Kenny Kadji impresses in first preseason game, is battling for final roster spot

INDEPENDENCE: Of the 50 or so text messages that Kenny Kadji received following his impressive performance in Tuesday’s preseason opener, his favorite came from his mother, Annie.

“You’re still not that good,” she wrote to him, a loving reminder not to get too impressed with himself after scoring 15 points and grabbing five rebounds in 12½ minutes during the second half of a 99-87 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Kadji is in the hunt for the final roster spot on the Cavs, but coach Mike Brown warned that his scoring outburst in the second half doesn’t necessarily push him ahead of Henry Sims in the battle to be one of the Cavs’ big men. Sims’ final line of four points and a rebound in 6½ minutes is far less impressive, but Sims is a little more of a true center than Kadji, who can play in the middle, but whose game is better suited at power forward.

Brown said that’s the reason Sims was the first off the bench in the competition between Kadji and DeSagana Diop. He needed a center to play alongside rookie Anthony Bennett so he went with Sims, whom Brown says does a lot of the little things well that don’t necessarily show up in a box score. And with a detail-oriented coach like Brown, the little things are more important than a few extra points, since the minutes Sims and Kadji are vying for will be extremely limited barring an injury.

In fact, the need is more at center than power forward, since the Cavs already have Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Anderson Varejao and Earl Clark all capable of playing power forward. Given the injury histories of Andrew Bynum and Varejao, the Cavs ideally would like to carry another center in case injury again inevitably strikes. That’s part of the reason they brought Diop to camp, but Brown didn’t play Diop until the final 3½ minutes of Tuesday’s scrimmage and it was immediately clear why. Diop labored getting up and down the floor, and it’s now apparent the 12-year veteran doesn’t have much of an NBA career left.
Kadji, however, got up 11 shots in a short amount of time (thanks to grabbing the rebound on a couple of his own misses), and he grabbed four offensive rebounds.

“It was a good experience,” Kadji said. “I just wanted to go out there and do what Coach wanted me to do: Bring energy and play hard. I got open a few times and my teammates found me.”

Kadji led the Miami Hurricanes to an ACC title last season and then went undrafted in June, in part because he’s already 25 years old — he’s only seven months younger than Bynum.

Kadji was born in France but spent most of his childhood in Cameroon, Africa. When he moved to the United States for basketball, some of his grades didn’t transfer and he was forced to attend IMG Academy. By the time he was able to choose a college, he began at the University of Florida before transferring to Miami, which forced him to sit out a year. He also received a medical hardship from the NCAA following back surgery during the 2009-10 season.

Add it all up and Kadji is already considerably older than most NBA rookies, which could’ve played a role in him going undrafted.

“The draft was disappointing, obviously,” Kadji said. “Now I have a chance with the Cavaliers. You can’t get any younger. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

Kadji had offers to play overseas, but declined. He played on the Cavs’ summer league team and was eager to accept the invitation to training camp.
“I wanted to take a shot at my dream,” he said.

He presumably isn’t doing this for the money. His father, Gilbert Kadji, heads the group that produces Kadji-Beer. It is not distributed in the U.S., but is wildly popular in Cameroon similar to how Budweiser is viewed by Americans. Gilbert Kadji is reportedly one of the wealthiest men in Cameroon, and the family owns a home in West Palm Beach. His mother, Annie, will attend the Cavs’ preseason game Friday at the Orlando Magic.

Kadji and Sims are believed to be fighting for one roster spot, although the Cavs could conceivably keep both of them at the expense of a third point guard such as Matthew Dellavedova.

“He’s long, he’s athletic, he did some good things [Tuesday] night and he did some good things in [Saturday’s] intrasquad scrimmage, too,” Brown said of Kadji. “With his length athleticism, agility and quickness and all that stuff, if he continues to try to play hard, he can impact the game when he’s out there.”
Injury update

Alonzo Gee (hamstring) was a full participant in practice Wednesday, but Brown said it was a noncontact practice. Tyler Zeller was again a limited participant as he recovers from a strained hip.

Neither Gee nor Zeller played in Tuesday’s preseason game, and it’s too early to tell if either will be available for Friday. But their injuries, along with the absence of Bynum, could postpone any roster cuts until next week simply because the Cavs need the extra practice bodies.

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Travis Benjamin Named AFC Special Teams Player Of The Week

BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Travis Benjamin woke up the Cleveland Browns last Thursday night with a pair of punt returns in the second quarter.

Wednesday he was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Benjamin returned a punt 57 yards to set up a field goal before taking a 79-yard return the distance as he dodges Bills defenders en route to the end zone in the Browns’ 37-24 win over Buffalo.

Benjamin broke Eric Metcalf’s franchise record for punt return yardage in a game set in Oct. of 1993 with 179 punt return yards.

Benjamin is second in the league with both an average of 15.1 yards per punt return and 256 total punt-return yards. He is also the only NFL player with two 50-yard punt returns in a contest this season.

Benjamin is the second Browns player in the young season to win AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Punter Spencer Lanning earned the honor in Week 3. This is the second AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award for Benjamin, who also won in Week 14 in 2012.

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Brian Hartline: Dolphins waiting for RB to step up

We knew Brian Hartline was a skilled receiver. We didn't realize he was good at punting as well.

When asked by Terrell Davis on NFL Network's "NFL AM" on Wednesday whether or not he thought Dolphins teammate Lamar Miller was a 25-carry-per-game running back, Hartline kicked it to the coaches.

"Luckily, at this point in my career, I don't have to make those decisions," Hartline said.

That isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the most talented running back on the roster. After five weeks, the Dolphins seemingly are at the same place they were during training camp.

"I would say our coaches are really wanting one of the guys to step up," Hartline continued. "You want someone to take the bull by the reins, and the coaches feel like that hasn't happened yet. So, until that happens, we are going to see multiple guys coming out of the backfield."

Miller carried the ball just seven times for 15 yards in Sunday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and he hasn't carried it more than 14 times in a game this season.

The running back hasn't made the leap this year, but it hasn't all been on him. The porous offensive line has failed to do its job, which likely is why the Dolphins sit in the bottom five of the league in rushing attempts (95).

The Dolphins rarely have run the ball 25 times in a game as a team this year, let alone one player. It's not a great sign that we've reached Week 6, and Miller hasn't done enough for his teammates to declare him "the man."

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Giants say Jon Beason 'ready to contribute'

The New York Giants won't waste any time finding out if linebacker Jon Beason, acquired in a trade with the Carolina Panthers last Friday, can help them. The Giants expect Beason to be a significant part of their defense Thursday night when they face the Chicago Bears.

Head coach Tom Coughlin said earlier this week that Beason is "ready to contribute."

How will defensive coordinator Perry Fewell use the seven-year veteran?

"We are going to incorporate him in our defense this week. We have certain packages that he will be involved in," Fewell said. "He’s only been with us a couple of days, but we felt like it was important to get him involved as soon as possible."

Fewell said the Giants will use Beason as a middle linebacker. That is the position he played until last season, when he was moved to the weak side by Carolina to make room for Luke Kuechly. Beason, 28, was a Pro Bowler from 2008-2010 before injuries, most notably a knee injury that required micro-fracture surgery, took their toll. He has appeared in only eight games the past three seasons.

Beason is looking forward to the opportunity.

"I’m in the playbook heavy. It’s different terminology, but I’ve played football in this league for a long time, so I feel pretty comfortable about it," he said.

What Beason can still offer in terms of play-making ability is debatable. The Panthers had clearly decided the answer was not much, first moving him outside in favor of Kuechly, then pushing him to the bench in favor of former Giant Chase Blackburn and finally trading him to the Giants for a late-round pick.

James Dator, editor of SB Nation's Panthers web site, Cat Scratch Reader, told us recently that "it's clear he's not the same player" Beason was before achilles tendon and knee injuries.

Spencer Paysinger, the only Giants' linebacker to play nearly every down so far this season, has been wearing the radio in his helmet and calling the defensive signals. It isn't clear if he will continue to do so, or if that role will transition to Beason as his comfort with the defensive scheme increases.

"Some of it he can handle. Some of it he can’t. He’ll grow with the system," Fewell said.

The Giants have not had a true top-tier middle linebacker since the heyday of Antonio Pierce. They have made due with players like Jonathan Goff, Blackburn, Greg Jones, Dan Connor and Mark Herzlich.

This, incidentally, would appear to bring an end to Herzlich's hopes of ever establishing himself as the Giants' middle linebacker. In the last two seasons he has lost that job to Blackburn, Connor and now Beason.

Does Beason have enough left to be a difference maker in the middle of the Giants' defense? The only thing we know for sure is that we begin to get the answer Thursday night.

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Belichick on the trouble with Jimmy Graham

FOXBOROUGH – The problem with New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, whom the Patriots will see this Sunday in their Week 6 matchup, is that his sheer size and athleticism make him a matchup problem all over the field, says Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Graham stands 6-7, weighs 265 pounds and ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in 2010. He's caught 37 passes for 593 yards and six touchdowns this season. The big tight end has seen the gamut of coverages, but he's still difficult to deal with. Whether defenses treat him like a tight end or a receiver, he's found ways to be successful.

"Treat him like whatever you want, but he is what he is," Belichick said. "He's big, he's fast, very athletic. Excellent ball skills, especially down the field. He can go up and rebound the ball away from pretty much anybody. They throw him a lot of jump-ball type plays. But he's quick, he's a big target. He's definitely a tough guy to cover.

"Everybody's tried everything. Tried to jam him at the line, linebackers on him, safeties on him, double cover him. Each team kinda got their own matchups, but he's seen a lot of different coverages. Man, zone, in and out, short and deep, jammed at the line of coverage. He's seen all of that."

Because of his receiving ability, it's conceivable he could draw the coverage of cornerbacks, which he has seen before, Belichick said.

"He's been matched up differently on different plays," Belichick said. "A lot of times he's split out. He's not always in the normal tight end position. Sometimes he's extended in a receiver type of look, so yeah he's [seen] corners."

The Patriots don't have a player in the secondary who comes close to Graham in size. Aqib Talib, who is 6-1, seems like a logical matchup. But the Patriots' closest defender in height is 6-3 linebacker Jamie Collins, who was a safety in college.

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Willis McGahee wants Broncos reunion -- in the playoffs

BEREA, Ohio – Cleveland Browns tailback Willis McGahee bears no grudge against the Denver Broncos for releasing him in June, but he'd sure love to see his old team again.

In January.

McGahee, 31, is fueled by a vision he wants his young teammates to buy into: the postseason. The Browns are a surprising 3-2, tied atop the AFC North with the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens.

"Who says we can't go play Denver?'' McGahee told USA TODAY Sports Wednesday. "I'm not jumping the gun. But it could happen. We're here to shake things up.

"Why not the Browns? If we take care of business, the path is set. It's time for a new beginning -- a new (AFC) face out there.''

Released by the Broncos over concerns about his ability to rebound fully from a torn medial collateral ligament and a compound fracture of his right leg suffered in November, McGahee has shaken off rust as he rounds back into shape. A two-time Pro Bowl player who was on the street for three months, he has rushed for more than 1,000 yards four times.

He sees in the surprising Browns (3-2) glimmers of the 2011 Broncos, who went on a magic ride, led by quarterback Tim Tebow. After rallying to make the playoffs, Denver beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild-card round before losing to the New England Patriots.

"When I first got to Denver, they were the same way as this team -- a young team, the offensive line was together for a few years, and it clicked,'' McGahee said. "I didn't know how good this defense was until I got here.''

McGahee insists he isn't bitter that he might have lost his best chance to win a Super Bowl ring when he was dumped by the Broncos, given the way Peyton Manning is tearing up defenses with 20 touchdown passes and only one interception.

"Denver did what they had to do, and I don't have any grudge,'' McGahee said. "I texted Peyton when he threw all those touchdowns (seven against Baltimore) and said, 'Good job! Congratulations!' I've learned through the years never to hold a grudge. This is a new chapter in my life, helping another team.''

Many believed the Browns were waving a white flag on the season when they traded running back Trent Richardson for a 2014 first-round pick. That's when the Browns signed McGahee, off the couch, to fill the void.

"People thought it was over," McGahee said. "No, we're fighting for the guys inside this locker room. Once guys got a taste of three straight victories, the sky's the limit. People thought we weren't going to do too much this year because we're young. But guys are playing with heart, character and style.

"I'll be happy with us getting to the postseason -- just to get a taste in these guys' mouths.''

Unsung quarterback Brian Hoyer was supposed to play the part of Tebow in this storybook, but the hometown hero, who led the team to two straight wins, suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament last Thursday against the Buffalo Bills.

Brandon Weeden, who had lost the starting job, replaced Hoyer and led the Browns to a 37-24 victory. But is Weeden good enough to lead the Browns to the playoffs?

"Oh, yeah," McGahee said. "He completed some balls in that game that were big. He was the starter before. I don't know what happened before I came here. But from what I've seen – he's the guy.

"Sometimes when you're on that sideline and you watch another person succeed, it humbles you and makes you want to work harder.''

McGahee has rushed for 127 yards and a touchdown on 49 carries for the Browns, including 72 yards and a touchdown against the Bills. If offensive coordinator Norv Turner wants to take some of the pressure off Weeden, the Browns will need McGahee to flirt with the 1,000-yard mark again.

"I'm up for the challenge – if I touch the ball enough, I will get it,'' McGahee said. "Norv told me, 'We're going to run the ball now.' That's all I needed to hear."

McGahee said hall of Fame running back Jim Brown encouraged him when the two spoke a couple of weeks ago: "He's just really happy to see Cleveland doing good things again," McGahee said.

In his nine years with Buffalo, Baltimore and Denver, McGahee rushed for 8,067 yards and 63 touchdowns. It's been an amazing career for a back who tore his left anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

"I want to play four more years,'' McGahee said. "That would be 15 years for a guy who was supposed to never play football again."

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Newly-acquired MLB Jon Beason may be key to Big Blue's future

Giants fans get their first look at newly-acquired linebacker Jon Beason tonight against the Bears in Chicago.

Last Friday, the still-winless Giants obtained Beason from the Carolina Panthers for a conditional late-round pick in an effort to upgrade their linebacking corps. It’s a low-risk gamble for general manager Jerry Reese.

If Beason, 28, returns to form, the Giants have a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker on their roster and a possible anchor to their defense. If not, they’re out a late-round draft pick. Big deal.

The Giants are going against a Bears team that has transformed itself from a defense-first team into an offensive juggernaut. The former Monsters of the Midway are averaging 29.0 points per game (fourth in the NFL) under new coach Marc Trestman, who replaced the popular and successful Lovie Smith.

Quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receivers Brandon Marshall (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) and Alshon Jeffery (6-foot-3, 216 pounds) spearhead the offense. Running back Matt Forte keeps the chains moving and tight end Martellus Bennett is a key contributor.

The Giants’ banged-up secondary is facing a daunting challenge. The unit will be without starting cornerback Corey Webster and top reserves Jayron Hosley and Aaron Ross, who is on the injured reserve list.

Can the Giants finally get into the win column tonight? Does Beason have anything left? We’d like to know what you think.

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Kenny Kadji, Henry Sims battling for big spot on Cavaliers' roster

INDEPENDENCE: Kenny Kadji had the better stat line, but that doesn't necessarily mean he has pulled ahead of Henry Sims in competition for the final "big" spot on the roster.

Kadji had 15 points and five rebounds in 12 1/2 minutes Tuesday, while Sims had 4 points and a rebound in 6 1/2 minutes, but Cavs coach Mike Brown turned to Sims first and didn't play Kadji until the second half.

Brown said not to read too much into his decision to go to Sims first, he just needed a center in the game to play alongside Anthony Bennett and Tyler Zeller was unavailable. Sims is more of a natural center than Kadji, but Brown thought Kadji could play center despite being more of a power forward.

Where does all of this leave DeSagana Diop? Behind. That was obvious when Brown played him for the game's final 3 1/2 minutes, yet that was all it took for Diop to look exhausted. It doesn't look as if he has much of an NBA career left.

If the Cavs fall in love with both Kadji and Sims, they could keep both of them -- likely at the expense of a third point guard like Matthew Dellavedova. It's probably more realistic to think Sims and Kadji are battling for one spot on the roster.

As for Kadji, he said he received more than 50 text messages following Tuesday's game. His favorite, he said, came from his mother, Annie.

"You're still not very good," she told him. Now that's motherly love.

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New Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason could start vs. Panthers

For new Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason, playing in the 4-3 scheme is like riding a bicycle. If you played in one, you can play in them all.

“It’s all the same,” he said today, “just different terminology.”

As a result, Beason, a three-time Pro Bowler, said “it’s possible” he may start on Thursday night against the Bears. Giants starting middle linebacker Mark Herzlich is nursing a toe injury and was limited in practice today.

"We're going to incorporate him in our defense this week," Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. "We have certain packages that he'll be involved in. Obviously, he has only been with us for a couple of days but we felt like it was important to get him involved as soon as possible."

One hurdle for Beason is that the middle linebacker usually calls the defense. But Beason, who was acquired from Carolina last Friday for a conditional late-round pick, doesn’t feel that’ll be a problem.

“I’m in the playbook heavy,” he said. “It’s different terminology but I’ve played football in this league for a long time so I feel pretty comfortable. I have a vet out there in (outside linebacker) Spencer (Paysinger) who has been doing it. With the both of us together, it’s definitely something I want to do.”

Fewell said he was impressed with Beason's in-line quickness and knowledge of the 4-3 alignment.

Beason, 28, was a perennial Pro Bowler (2008-2010) before he tore his Achilles in the season-opener in 2011 and missed the rest of the season. Then, he underwent mirco fracture surgery on his knee and had a torn labrum repaired last October.

In Carolina, he was switched to outside linebacker with the emergence of Luke Kuechly last season. He started the first two games for the Panthers this season but lost his job to former Giant Chase Blackburn amid talk he has lost a step.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “It’s been a long time.”

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Kellen Winslow not happy despite Jets victory

Geno Smith said Kellen Winslow was expressing frustration on the sideline during Monday night's win at Atlanta.
Winslow played behind Jeff Cumberland, seeing one target and playing just 19-of-46 snaps. When approached by reporters after the game for comment, he said the following: "I don't think that would be a good choice." It's not a good look for Winslow with the Jets at 3-2 and turning into one of the league's bigger surprises. He should be happy he has a job considering the chronic knee issues he comes with.

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Greg Olsen wearing protective boot

Carolina Panthers Greg Olsen left the team's locker room wearing a protective boot on his left foot Monday and sporting a visible limp. There likely won't be any additional information regarding the severity of his injury or his status until the Panthers return to practice Wednesday.

Fantasy Analysis:
Another reporter saw Olsen walking with a limp after Carolina's Week 5 loss to Arizona. It's been another slow and steady season for the seventh-year tight end. He is ranked around 12th in most formats at his position. Through four games, he's caught at least four passes for 54 yards in each contest. There's nothing flashy to his game, but he can still contribute reliable production week in and week out. If he plays in Week 6, he should be in your starting lineup assuming you don't have a better option.

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Video: Travis Benjamin on the art of returning punts

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BEREA, Ohio -- Travis Benjamin set a Cleveland Browns single-game record for punt returns with 179 yards in seven attempts during Thursday night's game against the Bills.

Benjamin's longest return of the night was for 79 yards and a touchdown.  He also ran 57 yards on another.

On the season, Benjamin ranks second in the NFL in punt returns with 256 yards in 17 attempts.  Dexter McCluster leads with 285 yards in 21 attempts for the Chiefs.

"Once I get on the level where they compare me to Devin Hester, I'll feel like I'm the best," Benjamin said after practice Monday.

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VIDEO: Matt Bosher Horse Tackle & Hits Jets Staff

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NFLU TD Streak Extended to 16 Weeks

Current Streak (Week 7 2012 – Present) Totals: 16 Weeks & 52 Total TDs

Week 5, 2013
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. Houston Texans; 1-yard TD run)
Willis McGahee, Cleveland Browns (1TD vs. Buffalo Bills; 1-yard TD run)
Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns (1TD vs. Buffalo Bills; 79-yard Punt Return for TD)
Kellen Winslow Jr., New York Jets (1 TD vs. Atlanta Falcons; 1-yard TD reception)

Week 4, 2013
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. St. Louis Rams; 34-yard TD run)
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (1TD vs. Jacksonville Jaguars; 5-yard TD reception)
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins 49ers (1 TD vs. New Orleans Saints; 5-yard TD run)
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (2 TDs vs. Miami Dolphins; 27-yard TD reception; 43-yard TD reception)

Week 3, 2013
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (2 TDs vs. Arizona Cardinals; 16-yard TD reception, 7-yard TD reception)

Week 2, 2013
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 56-yard TD reception)
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (1 TD vs. Buffalo Bills; 13-yard TD reception)
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins 49ers (1 TD vs. Indianapolis Colts; 10-yard TD run)
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TDs vs. Green Bay Packers; 9-yard TD reception)

Week 1, 2013
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (1TD vs. Oakland Raiders; 12-yard TD reception)
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Atlanta Falcons; 7-yard TD reception)
Kellen Winslow Jr., New York Jets (1 TD vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 7-yard TD reception)
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. Green Bay Packers; 1-yard TD run)
Leonard Hankerson, Washington Redskins (2 TDs vs. Philadelphia Eagles; 10-yard TD reception; 24-yard TD reception)

Week 17, 2012
Jon Vilma, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Carolina Panthers; 18-yard INT return for TD) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Carolina Panthers; 19-yard TD reception)

Week 16, 2012
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TD vs. Philadelphia Eagles; 22-yard TD reception) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (1 TD vs. Kansas City Chiefs; 7-yard TD reception)

Week 15, 2012
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (1 TD vs. Indianapolis Colts; 3-yard TD reception) Leonard Hankerson, Washington Redskins (2 TDs vs. Cleveland Browns; 54-yard TD reception; 2-yard TD reception) Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns (1 TD vs. Washington Redskins; 69-yard TD reception)

Week 14, 2012
Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns (1 TD vs. Kansas City Chiefs; 93-yard punt return for TD) Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (1 TD vs. Atlanta Falcons; 25-yard TD reception) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (1 TD vs. Tennessee Titans; 4-yard TD reception) Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. Miami Dolphins; 1-yard TD run)

Week 13, 2012
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (1 TD vs. Kansas City Chiefs; 47-yard TD reception) Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. St. Louis Rams; 1-yard TD run)

Week 12, 2012
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TD vs. Dallas Cowboys; 6-yard TD reception) Thanksgiving Day Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. New Orleans Saints; 6-yard TD reception)

Week 11, 2012
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TD vs. Philadelphia Eagles; 61-yard TD reception) Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (1 TD vs. Jacksonville Jaguars; 48-yard TD reception) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Oakland Raiders; 1-yard TD reception)

Week 10, 2012
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (2 TDs vs. Atlanta Falcons; 29-yard TD reception; 14-yard TD reception) Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (2 TDs vs. Denver Broncos; 4-yard TD reception; 5-yard TD reception) Colin McCarthy, Tennessee Titans (1 TD vs. Miami Dolphins; 49-yard interception return for TD) Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. St. Louis Rams; 20-yard TD run)

Week 9, 2012
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (1 TD vs. Miami Dolphins; 9-yard TD reception)

Week 8, 2012
Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins (1 TD vs. New York Jets; Punt block recovery in end zone) Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TD vs. Pittsburgh Steelers; 2-yard TD reception) Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (1 TD vs. New Orleans Saints; 1-yard TD run) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Denver Broncos; 18-yard TD reception)

Week 7, 2012
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TD vs. New York Giants; 26-yard TD reception)

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Frank Gore trying to build running game back up

Wearing a gray San Francisco 49ers hoodie, soft-spoken running back Frank Gore walked around team headquarters with a familiar smile and strut Thursday.

Gore is in good spirits again, and so are the 49ers (2-2) entering Sunday night's game against the Houston Texans (2-2) at Candlestick Park. Gore gashed St. Louis for 153 yards on 20 carries in San Francisco's 35-11 rout of the Rams last week to snap a two-game losing skid and a rare running funk.

"We got back to being us," Gore said.

While much of the attention had been on quarterback Colin Kaepernick this season, San Francisco struggled to get the ground game going behind Gore.

Gore ran for just 144 yards the first three weeks combined, his worst start to a season since becoming the team's featured back in 2006. Questions started to bubble up about whether the 30-year-old running back, who has had surgeries on both knees going back to his college days at Miami, was wearing down.

Instead, San Francisco gave Gore as many carries against St. Louis as he had the previous two weeks. All he did was run for more yards than he had since Dec. 14, 2009, when he racked up 167 against Arizona on Monday Night Football.

"We know he's capable of that, he knows he's capable of that and our offensive line knows he's capable of that," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "No question that everybody's inspired by what he does. Nobody does it like Frank Gore."

Perhaps no player has contributed to San Francisco's success more than Gore the past three seasons.

With Gore anchoring a power running game, the 49ers have been among the NFL's top rushing teams since Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman revamped the unit after taking control in 2011. During Harbaugh's tenure, San Francisco is 9-0 when Gore runs for at least 100 yards.

Gore was fifth in the NFC with 1,214 yards rushing and his 4.7-yard average ranked sixth in the NFL last season to help carry San Francisco to the Super Bowl, where the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens. Gore also was the league leader in rushing (319 yards) and rushing touchdowns (4) in the postseason.

This year had been a different story until last week.

San Francisco still ranks ninth in yards rushing (524) mainly because of the 140 yards Kaepernick has gained on scrambles. But the running game has shown little depth so far.

Backup Kendall Hunter, coming back from a torn Achilles tendon that ended his season last year, has just 80 yards rushing through four games. And LaMichael James, who missed time with a knee injury, had three carries for no yards against St. Louis.

"The more we stay on the field, the more we can utilize those weapons," Roman said about Hunter and James. "So it's definitely a function of how many plays you're running, how many opportunities you have during a game and try to forecast that when you're putting a plan together."

Gore has made it clear he wants more running plays. He suggested that the 49ers had become too reliant on passing after a home loss to Indianapolis in Week 3, when he was held to 12 yards on three carries in the second half.

The team's longtime workhorse in the backfield said getting "back to basics" against St. Louis showed that the power running game, while not as flashy, is still San Francisco's winning formula.

"Just call plays and let us go out there man on man and let the best man win," Gore said.

That challenge is not getting any easier this week.

Houston is anchored by reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt. The Texans are 10th against the run, allowing 113.2 yards per game, with Watt moving all over to keep linemen guessing.

"Other than the Super Bowl," 49ers guard Alex Boone said, "I'd say this is a (tougher) test."

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Clinton Portis on practice and Dan Snyder

I’ve written several times about the terrific roast of Joe Gibbs at Landsdowne a few weeks ago, the one held to raise money for the D.C. College Access Program.

Here’s yet another post on the event. This one, to me, shows that it’s easier to tell hilarious stories about the distant past than the recent past, because what might seem hilarious 30 years later seems bit uncomfortable after only six or seven years.

Clinton Portis was the only player from the Gibbs II era who spoke at the event, although at least one other — Derrick Dockery — was in the crowd. And while Portis was quite funny throughout, he also seemed to confirm many of the stories that were long whispered about his practice habits.

“I just always thought Coach Gibbs was a yes man, and the reason I always thought he was a yes man is every time I walked up to coach he would get this smile on his face and he would already be shaking his head,” Portis quipped. “So I would be like, yeah, I got him, I’m gonna get out of practice today. I would be walking up, like, what can I tell him, what hurt me today that he can’t really figure out?

“Coach, I’ve got a headache. I’m like all right, he says yes to everything I ask….So I remember talking to coach, and I was buying into everything he said. When he called me about the trade, to bring me here and help out, he wanted me to be his running back, I was so excited, I remember seeing him in his hotel. I came, I had lunch with him — man, this is going to be great. And we went through the practice schedule, and the first thing he said was, this is not gonna be like Denver, we hit around here.

“I was like yeah, we hit too. [But] I didn’t know we was gonna wear pads. The day before we left for a game, we were in full pads, practicing. I was like maybe this ain’t for me. That’s what he used to tell me, this is real football.

“I asked about having an indoor facility. I told him when I first got here we needed turf fields. All this stuff that I had requests for, and he would shake his head and he would say, you’ve got to go talk to Dan down the hall about that. It was so often….

“I skip to the Cincinnati incident in preseason, and I really felt like I shouldn’t be in this game. And then I had gave him all week the reasons I shouldn’t be playing – coach, man, the season’s coming up, I’m poised to have a big season, I’m looking forward to it.

“Yeah, Clinton, but we’ve got to see you in action out here.”

“I remember getting out and stretching, Coach Al Saunders, I told him, coach, I just don’t feel right, my hamstring’s tight. Coach Gibbs was standing right there, I said, coach, c’mon, don’t make me play.

“We’re not gonna give you the ball, Clinton.”

“Third play of the game, we throw an interception, I chase it down, my shoulder come out….”

“So many times that I went into Coach Gibbs’s office with a story, and he was all for it when it was just me and him. ALL for it. Every time I went into his office, I left feeling like it was gonna be okay. [Derrick Dockery] would send me in – CP, go see if coach want us to be in pads today. I’d go upstairs, coach, don’t nobody want to be in pads. This is just from me and Dock’s conversation, I’m speaking for the whole team. Me and Dock decided we didn’t want to be in pads, I’d go up to coach, [and it] don’t look like we’re gonna be in pads. So I’d go down, Dock would be like, hey, what’d he say?

“He said alright, we’re not gonna be in pads.”

“Then we’d look at the board: full pads. So I would have to go and do something on my own: first play, twist my ankle.”

There was lots of laughter throughout this. Including from Gibbs. But it seemed to confirm a whole lot of stories. Gibbs himself spoke at length about Portis during his speech, and also drew laughter.

“Let me say this, out of all the players I coached, I don’t think ANYBODY, EVER, would do the things Clinton would do,” Gibbs said to guffaws. “I would be out at practice, man, I’m fired up, we’re at practice, going as hard as we can. When I came [back], I’d been out 11 years. I got ‘em back in pads, and Clinton had been in Denver, where they practiced in pajamas.

“So I would be out and I would hear behind me a little voice going, coaaaach. Who is that? I would turn around, and it’d be Clinton, and he’d go, why do we have these on? And I would go, what? And he goes, these, and would point to the shoulder pads. I go, Clinton, because that’s what we play in, okay?”

But lest there be any doubt, both men were saying this all in good fun, and closed with strong words of praise for the other.

“Clinton knows football,” Gibbs said. “I will say this: I can honestly say this, [if] I told John [Riggins] that we had a play he was gonna have to block in and I called it, he would call timeout. John wanted the football. Let me have the football. So we had to go to the one back because of John, we had nobody else. This guy [Portis] without the ball was as unselfish as anybody I’ve ever coached. This guy would hammer you as a back. And I always appreciated one thing about Clinton: from Monday to Saturday he would halfway drive you crazy, ok? But on Sunday, when we got dressed, and you looked into his eyes, this guy was ready to go. He was unselfish without the ball, and he would hammer people, and those quarterbacks loved him on pass protection. So anyway, Clinton, thank you for that, I appreciate it man.”

And here’s Portis.

“So many situations I could give you for a roast, but tonight I would rather take the toast route and share my appreciation for Coach Gibbs, and just being thankful for coach,” the running back said. “He was like the pops that I never had. I think he gave me the opportunity to come here and lead an organization that I was clueless about, and to learn the history of all the guys in front of me. To even come close to Riggo’s record, to be able to chase him and being able to sit on a stage with him tonight, none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Coach Gibbs.”

“Thanks for the trade,” Portis concluded. “I know I’d still be running wild if I would have stayed in Denver, but thanks for bringing me here.”

Like I said, there were peals of laughter throughout all of this. Still seemed interesting.

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Greg Olsen goes for 79 yards in Week 5

Greg Olsen caught five passes for 79 yards in the Panthers' Week 5 loss to the Cardinals.
Another solid, if unspectacular performance out of Olsen, who through four games is on pace for 84 receptions, 1,092 yards, and four touchdowns. Hopefully for Olsen's owners, the scoring will pick up, because the catches and yardage numbers are rock solid. He'll be a low-end TE1 in Week 6 against Minnesota.

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Returns on Travis Benjamin trending up

One of the best returners in Cleveland Browns history left the team in the offseason.

As it turns out, the Browns may be using a faster, more elusive punt returner -- and in the end he may turn out to be just as good and maybe better than Josh Cribbs. Travis Benjamin has more quickness and pure speed than Cribbs, and when he gets any room to maneuver he is a threat.

Benjamin only returns punts -- he’s too frail to return kickoffs -- but Thursday night in the win over Buffalo he had a 79-yard return for a touchdown and a 57-yard return. Total, he set a team record with 179 yards in returns (the previous record was held by Eric Metcalf, who returned two punts for TDs in a win over Pittsburgh in October 1993).

“Fabulous,” coach Rob Chudzinski said after the game.

“Fastest man on the field,” tight end Jordan Cameron said.

All he needs is room to get going. And Bills punter Shawn Powell gave Benjamin room plenty of times. His kicks were long -- 45.5 yards -- but they were low, and he kept outkicking the coverage (sort of like I did with my wife). To the point that Buffalo released Powell the day after the game.

“It’s only a matter of time in this league before you get exposed,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said.

Benjamin has room to grow. He goes through games where he has trouble catching the ball, or does little on returns. He’s also so small that there is a constant risk of being injured.

Too, on the 59-yard return he let Powell shove him out of bounds. The cardinal sin for a returner is being stopped by the punter. Benjamin let it happen on the first, but on the second he ran through the tackle.

The key to any success is consistency, and Benjamin had a strong preseason but averaged just 7.7 yards per return in the first four games.

He provides hope with this game.

Letting Cribbs go was the right decision by the new Browns regime -- even though it was disappointing for the fans, it was time.

Counting on Benjamin was a risk. A year ago he looked small and injury prone and too inconsistent to play on offense. There’s a lot of guys who try to rely on pure speed who don’t succeed in football.

But Benjamin made a statement about his value against the Bills.

He just needs to continue what he started.

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Reggie ayne goes for 65 yards, 2-point conversion

Reggie Wayne caught six balls for 65 yards and a two-point conversion in the Colts' Week 5 win over Seattle.

The Colts are now 4-1, with their lone loss coming against the Dolphins. Wayne shook off two early-game drops to make plays in Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond III's coverage, mostly avoiding LCB Richard Sherman. The Colts' leader in targets and one of the top route runners in football, Wayne has been a stable, consistent WR2 through five weeks. He'll be a borderline WR1 play against the Chargers' weak secondary and pass rush in Week 6.

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Two-minute drill: Chat with Kellen Winslow

How much of an impact has your father had on your career?
Kellen Winslow: A lot, but it's mostly self-driven. I've been wanting to do this since I was 5 years old. It's self-motivated. He used to have to tell me to stop watching football. I used to watch his highlights all the time, the Chargers' highlights. He'd be like, 'Read a book or something, stop watching that.' But I knew what I wanted to do. Ever since I could remember, that's what I've been wanting to do. That's why I work so hard at it. It's expected from me. I want to do a lot more in this game. I don't know how much longer I have, but I want to give it my all until I'm done.

There had to be pressure on you, being the son of Kellen Winslow:
KW: My first year playing in high school, I had to ... there were certain expectations for me, but that was my first year playing. But after that, it was just my motivation. I wanted to be better than him.

You're a cycling enthusiast. Why are you so passionate about cycling? Did you start after your motorcycle crash in 2005?
KW: I do it every day, even Sunday on home games. I have to do it in order to be able to run. It's just what I have to do. In the offseason, I do it because I don't run in the offseason. My (surgically repaired) knee just won't allow me to, so that's all I do. I'm able to still play because of cycling. Yeah, definitely, it's because of the motorcycle accident and the staph infection. I actually started in 2009, and I haven't gone off since. Those three or four years I didn't find cycling, it was a real struggle. It still is a struggle, but it's easier for me to be able to run now because of cycling.

You ever look back at the motorcycle accident and say to yourself, 'What was I thinking?'
KW: Of course. How do I put this? I guess everything happens for a reason. I could say a lot of things, but my career has gone the way it's gone because of my drive. I could've easily stopped playing after the accident immediately. Ninety-nine percent would've quit right there. The doctor told me I'd never play again. That motivated me to get back to what I love. I was 22, in Cleveland, bored. Nobody knew, except me, about the bike. I am who I am because of that. It made me a better man. I'm not the same player, but it made me a smarter player. I had staph infection on top of that, and I had to overcome that also. That can end careers also. It's been tough, man.

On Monday night, you'll be on the same field as Tony Gonzalez, arguably the greatest tight end in history. Is there competition in the tight end fraternity?
KW: I haven't had the career he's had. He's been playing so long. I don't know how he does it. He's got those two Pro Bowl receivers over there. He's got a Pro Bowl running back and he's got a Pro Bowl quarterback. It's tough, man. If I'm trying to match him, it's tough. It's fun, though. It's competition and I love it. (Antonio) Gates, (Jason) Witten, Gonzalez, I try to compete with those guys as much as I can and make the best out of my situation.

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In Wayne’s world, work ethic catches on inside Colts locker room

INDIANAPOLIS — Each afternoon at training camp, Reggie Wayne trots over to the JUGS machine, sheds the pads and begins his post-practice magic show.

Teammates watch in awe seeing a 13-year veteran still spending this much time day after day, catching ball after blazing ball in the scorching summer heat. They’re even more impressed as Wayne hauls in the mechanical fastballs with one hand or two, inches off the turf, near his head or coming straight into his chest. Few, if any, touch the ground.

It doesn’t take the players long to figure out why Wayne makes spectacular plays look so routine on game days. He’s already done it thousands of times on the practice field.

“He’s always been that guy,” Redskins receiver and college teammate Santana Moss said. “When we first came in as freshmen, Reggie Wayne, we knew, was our guy. He started right off the bat. We always said he could catch a BB in the dark. The best hands I’ve ever seen.”

While some might debate where Wayne belongs among today’s greats, there’s no quibbling with Moss’ broader point.

Wayne has been one of the game’s best receivers for at least a decade and, at age 34, the six-time Pro Bowler shows no signs of slowing down. He’s Andrew Luck’s favorite target, still the Colts’ leader in the clubhouse, and needs only 10 more receptions to become the ninth member of the NFL’s 1,000-catch club. It could happen Sunday against Seattle with a big performance.

But Wayne’s value to the Colts cannot be measured in numbers alone.

Inside the locker room, teammates universally describe him as a pro’s pro, the guy willing to sacrifice anything to win. This summer, Luck dubbed Wayne the team’s “real” president. Just this week, longtime teammate and close friend Antoine Bethea acknowledged younger players would be “fools” not to learn from Wayne.

Wayne is so beloved in the Indianapolis community that if he’s not the city’s favorite Reggie, he’s certainly No. 2 behind former Pacers star Reggie Miller.

And Wayne is so committed to this team and this city, he turned down a bigger payday and a chance to team up with an old college pal, Houston’s Andre Johnson. Instead, he chose to help restore the luster to a Colts team that had gone 2-14, cut Peyton Manning and seemed miles away from Super Bowl contention. Somehow, he helped the Colts make a historic turnaround and get right back to the playoffs.

“Reggie showed us how to work. He showed us how to be professionals, sort of how to play football at a high level,” Luck said. “(He) always made sure we were on the right path. He’s not the most talkative guy, but if he had something to say, he’d say it and everybody listened. He commanded everybody’s respect, I think also demanded it in return. We would be nowhere without him. I really believe that.”

Never afraid to show outward emotions, Wayne wore red, white and blue shoes for the 2011 season opener — a tribute to America on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He risked a league fine by wearing orange gloves, the color of leukemia awareness, after longtime friend and Colts coach Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer. He fought through the grief of his brother’s death in September 2006 by simply asking teammates to pray for his family.

And he fought back tears when his hometown of New Orleans was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, then throughout Pagano’s battle.

“The things he does, like the orange gloves, it just shows that he’s human, that he’s just like everybody else,” Bethea said.

Off the field, he is like everyone else. On it, few can compare. Wayne’s resume looks like this:
—Two Super Bowl appearances and one ring;
—204 consecutive games played since 2001;
—One of six NFL players with four 100-catch seasons;
—Part of the second-most prolific passing tandem in league history, with 779 receptions for 10,602 yards and 67 TDs from Peyton Manning, second only to

Manning and Marvin Harrsion;
—130 regular-season wins, fourth on the Colts list behind Manning (142), John Unitas and Jeff Saturday (132).
—About to join the likes of Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez, Tim Brown, Cris Carter and Harrison in the 1,000-catch club, with a chance to finish his career with Harrison as the most prolific receiving teammates in league history;
—A chance to crack the top 10 in yards receiving and the top 15 in touchdown catches.

What does it mean to a workaholic like Wayne?

“That I’ve been playing a long time. It means I’m doing my job. I just want to be able to do my job,” he said. “When it’s all said and done, I want to be where I’m supposed to be, get there on time, and help this ball club win games. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do since I first got here.”

But Wayne stills finds ways to have fun — with a message.

One year, he showed up at training camp in a cement truck and kept a custom-made construction helmet inside his locker to symbolize what the Colts needed to do to reach the Super Bowl.

Last year, he drove to training camp with members of the National Guard, signifying the need for the Colts to stick together like brothers in arms.

This year, he arrived on Indiana University Health’s LifeLine helicopter along with Matt Sercer, a Colts fan who climbed out months after doctors told him he may never walk again after severely injuring his leg and foot in a farming accident. Wayne said Sercer’s improbable recovery should inspire the Colts to dream big.

There’s no real secret to his success, though.

“His work ethic, his passion for the game, his love for football, team first, self second, none of that has changed,” said Pagano who was on the University of Miami staff when Moss and Wayne arrived as freshman. “Since I’ve known Reggie (Wayne), he’s been that same guy. The only thing that’s changed is his level of play. He’s just gotten better over the years. It’s not by chance. It’s by choice.”

Harrison used to say, “They pay you to practice, you play the games for free.” It’s a motto Wayne took to heart and has continued to pass down.

A year ago, when the Colts were one of the youngest teams in the NFL, the JUGS machine was a lonely place after practice.

But day by day as Wayne continued to catch passes, the number of young receivers watching and participating increased. By the end of camp, they were all waiting for Wayne to finish so they could take a turn. Now, they’re just waiting to see Wayne take his place among the league’s all-time greats.

“I’ve been around a lot of great players, but he’s got to be front and center,” four-time Super Bowl winner Adam Vinatieri said. “He never takes a day off. He never misses a practice. He’s a guy you can always count on for 100 percent effort every single day of his life.”

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Rocky McIntosh Fined $15,750

Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz was clamoring for a penalty when Jon Bostic hit Kris Durham in the back after Durham recovered an onside kick to clinch the Lions’ 40-32 win over the Chicago Bears last week.

Officials never threw a flag on the play, and on Friday the NFL confirmed it did not fine Bostic for that hit or Bears safety Major Wright for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Calvin Johnson that offended some Lions.

“We talk a lot about player safety and things like that and he’s laying prone on the ground, is giving himself up and takes a helmet right to the back and we don’t any call there,” Schwartz said Sunday of Bostic’s hit on Durham. “It’s a little hypocritical to talk about player safety when we allow that to not get called. But Kris toughed it out and he had to hold onto that ball and he did.”

Lions linebacker Rocky McIntosh was fined $15,750 for his horse-collar tackle on Devin Hester on a second-quarter punt return.

McIntosh was previously fined $7,875 for a personal foul in the preseason.

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Sam Shields ready to lead Packers' secondary

GREEN BAY, Wis. – At some point during the Green Bay Packers’ most recent game, the Week 3 loss at Cincinnati, cornerback Sam Shields went to the coaches and asked to match up against the Bengals' star receiver, A.J. Green.

The way Shields has played, it didn’t take much to convince Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt to go along with the plan.

“I said, ‘You feel good about it?’” Whitt recalled on Friday. “He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Go ahead and match him.’ It really wasn’t our part doing it.”

By halftime, Shields already had intercepted a pass intended for Green. Playing one-on-one press man coverage, Shields read an out route and stepped in front of Green to pick off quarterback Andy Dalton’s pass, which was thrown too far inside.

Although Green caught a 20-yard touchdown pass against Shields in the third quarter, the coaches were pleased with Shields’ coverage of one of the premier receivers in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, Shields allowed Green to catch four passes for 46 yards and the one touchdown in seven targets.

That game may have signaled a changing of the guard at cornerback for the Packers.

They already had made one philosophical switch this season, when they decided to no longer line up Tramon Williams against the opposition’s best receiver game in and game out. Rather, Whitt and defensive coordinator Dom Capers were going to let Shields and Williams patrol their sides of the field.

Halfway through the third game, they went back to their old coverage plans, but with Shields, not Williams, as the lock-down defender.

“It means a lot,” Shields said. “It’s something that gave the coaches confidence in me.”

The Packers have carved out a new role for Williams, too. In the nickel package, he has moved inside to cover the slot receiver, a defensive role formerly held by Charles Woodson. But it means the Packers’ highest-paid cornerback (Williams will make $6.5 million this year in salary and bonuses) is no longer the cornerstone of their pass coverage.

Ever the consummate professional, Williams had nothing but praise for the 25-year-old Shields.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who are capable of getting the job done,” Williams said. “If you’re asking me if I feel badly about it, no, because I know those guys will get the job done. It actually works better for the defense, and it shows the growth in the defense. My pride? I don’t have any pride behind it.”

Just because Shields has played well does not mean all is right with the Packers’ pass defense. Through Week 4, the Packers ranked 28th out of 32 teams in passing yards allowed per game.

And with perhaps the NFL’s most dangerous receiver, Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions, next up on the schedule, there’s reason to wonder if anyone on the Packers, including Shields, can slow him down.

“To say you’re going to just take one guy and match him up out there and take Calvin Johnson the whole day, you’ve got to mix it up because all these guys are too good,” Capers said. “Every week, you play against a guy like a Green or a Calvin Johnson. Those type of receivers, I don’t care what you do, if you do the same thing on them all the time, they’re going to get you some. They’re just too talented.”

It should help that the Packers will have starting safety Morgan Burnett for the first time this season. Burnett, who missed the first three games with a hamstring injury, would likely be the one Capers would use to double-team Johnson.

Williams, in his new slot position, is likely to see Johnson, too. Johnson has five of his 21 receptions this season from the slot position, according to Pro Football Focus.

But this could be another statement game for Shields, who is playing this season under the one-year, $2.023 million tender he signed as a restricted free agent. Shields’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had discussions with the Packers about a long-term deal over the summer. The way Shields has played so far, his price might have gone up since then.

“If I keep playing how I’ve been playing, I’ll just let my play speak for itself,” Shields said.

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