Vince Wilfork: Reggie Wayne Is Enemy On Field, Family Off It

FOXBORO, Mass. — Vince Wilfork and Reggie Wayne are among the last of a dying breed: Reminders of the Miami Hurricanes’ glory days.

The two University of Miami products will be enemies Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, but the New England Patriots defensive tackle and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver hold a close bond off the field.

“That’s family,” Wilfork said. “No matter what anybody says — I don’t care what anybody says: coaches, media, whatever it may be, we’re family, and that’s Miami Hurricanes, we always carry a chip on our shoulder no matter what.” Without that chip on both players’ shoulders, it’s possible that this matchup of former Hurricanes wouldn’t have taken place this season.

Both Wilfork and Wayne suffered career-threatening injuries in their 10th and 13th seasons, respectively, in 2013. Wilfork tore his Achilles while Wayne suffered a torn ACL. Both are back, playing at a high level despite their age and recovery.

“It’s good to see him still playing at the rate that he’s playing at,” Wilfork said. “It shows you a lot about what it means — what football means to him. He’s very competitive, I know him personally, so I know we’re gonna get his best. I know he’s gonna be ready to play. It’s always a good feeling, not only just because of the personal relationship that I have with him, but anybody coming off injury that’s coming back, and the guy can play the game still, show that they can play the game. It’s always awesome to see.”

Wilfork and Wayne were never teammates in Miami, but with former Hurricanes from the school’s last Big East dynasty, like Ed Reed, Willis McGahee, Ray Lewis, Kellen Winslow and Jonathan Vilma either retired or still trying to hang on as free agents, it becomes obvious that the days are numbered for Wilfork, Wayne and other active teammates from the school’s last championship run, like Frank Gore, Andre Johnson and Santana Moss.

The list of Miami Hurricanes in the Pro Bowl has dwindled every year since 2009, when they had 11 representatives, to 2013 with just four.

Wilfork and Wayne briefly must forget their bond on Sunday night, however. “He knows between the lines, it’s time, we both have the same mindset,” Wilfork said. “We both want to win, so I’m gonna do everything I can to help my team win, and I’m pretty sure he’s gonna do the same thing. So, between the lines, we’re enemies, but off the field, it’s family. All love.”

Bookmark and Share

Gerald McCoy turns to Warren Sapp for help on double teams

TAMPA, Fla. -- In his role as the second coming of Warren Sapp, Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy faces a lot of double-team blocking.

So who better to turn to than Sapp for advice on how to handle it?

That’s what McCoy did a couple days ago. He went straight to a guy who faced more than his share of double teams.

“It used to frustrate me,’’ McCoy said Thursday. “But then I kind of realized that’s what comes with it. Ninety-nine told me, 'It’s tough sledding down there. When you’re the guy, that’s what you’re going to get. Get used to it. Get over it.'"

That’s solid advice from a Hall of Famer. Like Sapp once was, McCoy is the best player on the Tampa Bay defensive line. The double teams aren’t going away. McCoy said he has to deal with the double teams and find ways to beat them.

“It has to be done in order for me to be effective,’’ McCoy said. “It’s something I have to work on extremely hard, especially if it comes up in practice. That’s the best time to work on it. There are a lot of times when teams max protect and somebody has to win. I’ve got to get better and perfect working against double teams. There are ways to slip double teams. There are ways to align yourself in a better way when you know it’s coming. There are a lot of different things I can do. I’ve just got to keep working at it because if I get it down it will help us a lot.’’

Logic would say that the double teams on McCoy would free up the rest of the defensive line to come up with more sacks. But it hasn’t worked out that way so far.

McCoy leads the Bucs with five sacks. Nobody else has more than two and the Bucs have only 14 sacks as a team. Defensive end Michael Johnson has been slowed by injuries all season and that has hurt the pass rush. But McCoy said the defensive line needs to function better as a unit.

“We’ve got to work better together,’’ McCoy said. “That’s a fact. We definitely do. As for coordinating our rushes, meeting more than just in the meetings that are required. We have to meet as a unit and kind of get a feel for how we want to rush. But we definitely have to work better together.’’

Bookmark and Share

Vince Wilfork and Ray Bourque made a really creepy video

Bookmark and Share

Hope For Travis Benjamin

PR Travis Benjamin is listed behind PR Jordan Poyer on the team's depth chart, but he still represents the Browns biggest threat in the punt return game.

However, Benjamin has had trouble hanging on to the ball and has relegated him to the sidelines. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said he hasn't given up on Benjamin as a punt returner.

"I haven't given up on him," Tabor said. "When the time is right, he'll go."

The Browns are averaging just 3.2 yards a return, but have had trouble hanging on to the ball.

Tabor said he's tried the most guys out since he's been here at punt returner. He said the players discuss the situation. Jim Leonhard handled the return duties against the Bengals, but even he fumbled a punt return which set up the only Bengals score.

"We talk about it. It is the elephant is in the room," Tabor said. "There's no other way to fix it than to keep working at it."

Bookmark and Share

Seantrel Henderson has nothing but good memories as he prepared for return to Miami

Miami — One may think Miami would spark bad memories for Buffalo Bills rookie offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson.

Miami is where everything almost came undone for Henderson, who chose to play for the Hurricanes after being the top recruit in the nation coming out of high school. But a few different injuries and three separate suspensions kept Henderson from living up to the billing. It's why he fell all the way to the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft, where the Bills took a chance on him.

Now Henderson is nine games into his NFL career, and he's started every one of those games. His past seems to be behind him, so there's nothing but good memories when it comes to returning to Miami for a Week 11 game against the Dolphins on Thursday Night Football.

"It feels good to go back and play in the stadium I played in for four years," Henderson said. "I've got a whole lot of memories in this stadium, you know what I'm saying? And the weather, I kind of miss that, too. It's going to be good to go down there and play in 70- or 75-degree weather, whatever it's going to be. I'll see a couple of friends and a couple family members that's down the way."

Henderson's mom, grandmother, uncle and a few of his close friends will be in attendance on Thursday night as he tries to put together a second strong performance against Dolphins star pass rusher Cameron Wake. Even on a short week, Henderson knows after his first battle with Wake that preparation is everything.

"I just go back and watch the film on our game and from all the games afterward and see if he's doing anything different, how he rushing, what type of moves he does, just to make sure I'm on my p's and q's as far as my set and how I approach him and how I can get my hands on him and things like that.

"I have to get ready for him and be up to the challenge."

Henderson has quite a bit more experience to draw on in this start than he did the last time he and Wake faced one another in Week 2. Henderson has settled in nicely for the Bills at right tackle, though he's still had his ups and downs.

"I'm a lot more comfortable now, man, doing this week in and week out, going up against the best ends that's playing ball right now," Henderson said. "It's just getting a little easier and easier because of the fact that I've been playing game after game, getting used to just playing in games and the different situations and things like that."

By the time Henderson steps on the field Thursday night, he'll be quite a bit different than the last time he was playing at Sun Life Stadium.

Bookmark and Share

Linebackers Sean Spence, Williams a split decision for Steelers while Shazier is out

It's been a frustrating year for inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, who has spent much of his rookie season nursing knee and ankle injuries.

However, Shazier's absence has paved the way for Sean Spence and Vince Williams to gain immeasurable experience. Spence started four games before Shazier returned in Week 8 against Indianapolis, but Williams got the nod last Sunday against the New York Jets.

Spence and Williams have split time the past two weeks. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has tried to play to their strengths in hopes they can elevate the performance of a defense that has been mostly up and down all season.

For Shazier, he's trying to salvage something from a disappointing season. If nothing else, he's had a chance to watch and learn.

“It helps me a lot watching all three (inside linebackers),” Shazier said. “I can use all their styles to learn. With all of us rotating, it's going to make us better.”

Again, Spence and Williams are likely to split duty when the Steelers face the Tennessee Titans (2-7) at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday
“I think we are learning to play together and understanding our roles,” Spence said. “Right now, we're trying to execute better.”

Admittedly, Williams isn't exactly sure of his role in the defense. It is, however, much different than it was in 2013.

“It's directly opposite of what I did last year,” said Williams, who played sparingly until Shazier went down against Baltimore two weeks ago. “Last year, I was coming out on nickel packages and third downs. Now, I'm playing exclusively on nickel packages.

“They ask me to go in, and I go in. That's pretty much the way it goes. I go in mostly on nickel packages, but the rhyme and reason for that I couldn't say.”

Williams and Spence have become situational players. Spence plays primarily in the base defense, and Williams is used largely in the nickel, meaning he's trusted more in pass coverage and blitz packages.

“I don't know if my role has evolved,” said Spence, who has 31 tackles and three quarterback pressures. “Sometimes, you don't understand your role until you get the game plan.

“Right now, I'm just focusing on stopping the run. I have improved on my tackling and I'm recognizing plays better.”

So far, both linebackers are convinced that splitting duty hasn't affected their overall performance. They played reasonably well in a 20-13 road loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, but more is expected against Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

“We have to execute no matter the circumstance,” Spence said. “I think the coaches are trying to get two good players on the field. Vince practices hard, and it's hard to keep a player like that off the field.”

Mettenberger is the Titans' third starting quarterback this season. So, Spence and Williams have only limited information on a rookie quarterback slated to make his third start ahead of former No. 1 pick Jake Locker and Charlie Whitehurst.

“(Mettenberger) stands in the pocket, and he doesn't run away from pressure,” Spence said. “He can make all the throws, and he does a pretty good job of reading coverages. We have to not beat ourselves, especially against a young quarterback.”

Williams isn't trying to complicate his role. He lines up inside, then goes headhunting.

But Williams and Spence had problems containing Jets quarterback Michael Vick. They allowed the 36-year-old quarterback to scramble for two first downs to set up the Jets' first touchdown.

“I went through the entire offseason working on nickel formations,” Williams said. “I was already acclimated to it, so I felt like I was trying to improve my overall game. I can still play aggressively and strike people from the nickel formation. It's part of being a complete linebacker.”

In Mettenberger, the Steelers face an immobile quarterback with a strong, accurate arm. Clearly, he's a stark contrast to Vick.

“We have to understand what he's capable of doing,” Williams said. “He's a strong-arm guy who can make all the throws. Regardless of his background, you have to be aware of what he can do.”

Bookmark and Share

Colts/Patriots Means Something A Little Extra To Reggie Wayne

INDIANAPOLIS – One day, long after the cleats of No. 87 are stored away, Reggie Wayneicon-article-link could take pen to paper and write a New York Times best seller on the Colts/Patriots rivalry.

Another chapter will be written this weekend with Wayne once again playing a lead role in a rivalry that has shaped nearly every AFC race for the last dozen years.

Past history with Wayne and the Patriots indicates Sunday means a little more to the 14-year veteran, not to mention the current ramifications of this week’s contest.

“A lot of the guys on the team don’t really know the history with these two franchises as far as when we always play each other,” Wayne said on his weekly radio show on WNDE.

“What makes this game so important is this game could easily have playoff implications at the end of the year as far as home field, things like that. It’s a big game because it’s the next game, but for me there’s always a little added something to it.”

During the Colts bye week, Wayne “relaxed, recharged and rejuvenated” his 35-year old body knowing what was coming this week (he turns 36 on Monday).

In his early film study of the Patriots, Wayne sees similar Belichick tendencies with some particular impressive players now at the back end of the defense.

“I think this is the best secondary they’ve had in a long time,” Wayne says. “So they are able to do different things with their linebackers and defensive line up front than they normally do.

“(Belichick’s) going to have something different. He’s not going to be the typical coach Belichick you watch on film throughout the year in this game plan and it’s up to us to be able to find out what it is, figure it out and figure it out fast.”

Belichick and Wayne are two of the few mainstays throughout the bulk of this historic matchup.

Reports had the Patriots trying to pursue Wayne during the 2012 free agency process.

On a Wednesday conference call with Indianapolis media, Belichick called Wayne “one of the best route runners maybe ever in the game.”

The Patriots head coach, who always speaks highly of Wayne, detailed earlier this week what exactly he likes about the Colts wide receiver’s game.

“He’s still really good at everything,” Belichick said of Wayne. “[He’s] obviously a real smart and experienced guy; knows how to set up routes, make all of his routes look the same, does a great job of releasing and then at the top of his routes being able to create separation at just the right time when the quarterback is ready to throw.

“He’s been a key guy for them in critical situations and third down-type situations. I’m sure that there’s a lot of confidence that he’s going to be open and he usually is. Excellent hands; made a lot of tough catches. They move him around. He plays a decent amount in the slot, but also out on the perimeter where we saw him for so many years in their former offensive system. But he’s probably a little more in the slot now with [Hakeem] Nicks and [T.Y.] Hilton outside. But they move all those guys around so finding him is a problem. He’s still a very dangerous receiver, clutch player and a guy who really, when they need a play, they’re not afraid to go to him and he’ll deliver for them.”

Belichick has seen first hand Wayne thriving in those clutch situations.

Back in 2009, Wayne’s one-yard touchdown catch with 13 seconds remaining gave the Colts a 35-34 victory over New England.

Following that 17-point comeback in the Colts last win over the Patriots, Peyton Manning said it was Wayne who called that slant route instead of a fade.

Wayne had 10 catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns on that Sunday Night which also happens to be the last time the Colts have played host to the Patriots.

As Wayne looks back on his previous 15 Colts/Patriots matchups, he wants this rivalry to swing back to Indy’s side with the stretch run of the 2014 season beginning at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“We need to get that win-loss situation taken care of,” Wayne says of his 5-10 mark against the Patriots.

“We need to start winning some of these games against them. Let’s make sure we get that done this week.”

Bookmark and Share

Can Shane Larkin Swipe Starting Point Guard Gig from Jose Calderon?

As expected, the New York Knicks are going through growing pains in the early stages of the 2014-15 NBA season, as they try to establish the triangle offense and a consistent defensive system.

The Knicks will be hoping that their struggles—at least on the offensive end—can be attributed to the absence of Jose Calderon at point guard. He was their major offseason acquisition and part of the reason they were comfortable with letting go of Tyson Chandler and his expiring $14 million contract.

Shane Larkin has been starting in place of Calderon, and while he's shown serious flashes of being effective on both ends, his overall production has been so-so in comparison with what the rest of the league is putting out at point guard.

For a young player, who is effectively playing in his second rookie season after an injury-plagued first year with the Dallas Mavericks, Larkin has been great. This is especially so considering the role he's been thrust into. But in terms of giving New York the best chance to win, time is running out for him to prove himself as the worthy starter over Calderon.

As the superior shooter and passer, Calderon is the better fit in the triangle offense. Larkin's speed makes him more effective as a fast-break player, and he could actually be more useful to the team as a spark plug off the bench, bringing energy and athleticism in a group featuring fellow youngsters Tim Hardaway Jr. and Cleanthony Early.

Still, there is a case to be made for continuing to start Larkin, at least until he loses the job.

While in an ideal world the Knicks would be playing the best starting five possible, regardless of age or experience, the fact of the matter is that they aren't particularly close to their final form right now and the focus should be on building for the future. That means weighing how important it really is to give minutes to the likes of Calderon and Pablo Prigioni (both of whom are nearing the end of their careers) when Larkin is more likely to have a future in New York.

The experience Larkin could get starting this season, going through the ups and downs and getting used to playing with the long-term keepers—namely Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert—could be more valuable to the Knicks than the handful of extra wins Calderon and his veteran presence can provide.

Besides, this wouldn't necessarily mean a greatly diminished role for Calderon. Coming off the bench, he could help out the likes of Hardaway and Early with the offense and provide a bit more balance between the starters and the second unit. It's not like the Knicks have the greatest depth at the moment.

We know that Derek Fisher is still in the process of feeling out this team and finding the best rotation possible, and it's likely that will continue for a while even when Calderon and Andrea Bargnani return. A situation where Larkin continues to get starting experience but Calderon takes over in crunch time could work, so long as Larkin isn't actively hurting the team.

Given the low expectations for this season and the understanding that this is a work in progress, the Knicks have plenty of flexibility here and a decision doesn't have to be final.

Considering both sides, for the moment it is probably best to go with Calderon as the starter when he returns, barring an unlikely breakout from Larkin. The playoffs are still a realistic target, and as long as that is the case and you have both players and fans to keep happy, going with the best starting five possible is the best move.

Larkin should still get a fair amount of playing time off the bench and may actually showcase more against lesser competition as he continues to become comfortable in the NBA.

The pressures of running the point for a team getting accustomed to a new offense shouldn't rest on the shoulders of a young player, at least not this early in the season. That's what Calderon was brought here to do.

According to the NY Post, Phil Jackson has had the following to say about Calderon and the Knicks' offense:

We’re missing a lead guard of the quality of Jose who has the composure and ability to settle a team down, gve them organization of the offense with some savvy.

The Knicks' early problems don't necessarily stem exclusively from Larkin but with the team averaging a league-worst 91.1 points per game. Something has to change and the addition of a point guard of Calderon's calibre could be that change.

Bookmark and Share

Santana Moss: Redskins ‘Got These Cats Dry Snitching’ to Media

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Santana Moss says the Redskins locker room has a “dry snitching” problem. And it needs to stop.

Moss, making his weekly radio appearance on 106.7 The Fan’s “Chad Dukes vs. The World” on Tuesday, said he wasn’t as surprised as many that DeSean Jackson was the one to stand up in a team meeting and address the Redskins’ “divide and conquer” mentality. Although, Moss also thinks the purpose for Jackson’s speech was misconstrued.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize what DeSean was trying to say,” Moss said. “Basically, what he was saying is that regardless of whatever whose opinion, if you express your opinion, then you’re expressing your opinion and that’s where it should stop. He was kind of ticked off because whatever was said got out to the media, and people were saying things that maybe you and someone was talking about, or someone else was talking.”

“That’s got to stop, man,” he added. “You got these cats dry snitching and telling media in-house business.”

“Dry snitching,” according to Urban Dictionary, is to indirectly tell secrets or offenses to a person of authority or any person meant to be kept away from a secret or offense, sometimes inadvertently. If the telling of secrets or offenses is purposeful, minute details are usually left out as not to appear to be directly telling.

“They gonna find out a lot of stuff,” Moss went on to say of media. “They gonna ask a lot of questions, so if you’re one of the guys they talk to, you can tell ‘em a lot. But stuff that’s kept in-house, kept in that meeting room, in that locker room, you can’t go out and leak that out to sources or whoever.”

Asked to clarify what he meant, Moss drew a comparison of sharing personal information with a significant other, only to hear about it form someone else in the street the next day.

“When we express ourself [sic] in that locker room, that’s where it stops,” he said. “When you have some reporter come to you telling you something that they heard about what went on in the locker room, then you’re looking at them crazy, and you’re kind of spaced out wondering who’s around you that’s just taking your information and going elsewhere.”

Later in the interview, Moss would maintain the Redskins have no problems with media, a chord that’s been recited by multiple playersicon1 in the last week or so. “We have no problem with the media coming in and doing their job,” he said. “I know myself, personally, if they ask anything of me, I give ‘em what they want and I get out of dodge.

“But when it comes down to how we do things, I feel like they should let us do what we do. That’s our locker room.”

But then Moss was asked if he’s irritated at all with media’s apparent fixation with one player.

“I’ve been irritated with it, I mean to be honest with,” he answered. “It has to be tough on Robert. And that’s why I say, at the end of the day, you have to look at his standpoint, when it comes down to it’s always about him, regardless if it ain’t about him. It’s always about him. But at the same time, being the player that he is and how he came in, it comes with the territory. So my hat’s off to him.”

Bookmark and Share

Reggie Wayne says this Patriots secondary is the best he’s seen in Foxboro

FOXBORO – In 14 NFL seasons, Reggie Wayne has played against the Patriots 11 times in the regular season and three times in the playoffs. He’s matched up against all three defenses that won Super Bowls.

Wayne has run routes around players like Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Rodney Harrison and most recently Aqib Talib – some of the best players the Patriots secondary has seen.  But in the wide receiver’s opinion, the best Patriots secondary belongs to this year’s squad.

“This secondary here, in my 14 years playing New England, is probably the best complete secondary,” Wayne said on Wednesday. “I think it allows them to do more things up front with their front seven games, that they probably haven’t done in the past years. They’re talented. They’re ball-hungry. It gives them a little bit of where they can be risk-takers with blitzes and things of that nature.”

The additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have certainly changed the complexity of the Patriots defense. The secondary will need to be on point come Sunday against a dangerous Indianapolis Colts offense.

The defensive backs have done more than just open things up for the defensive line. According to Julian Edelman, the group is making the Patriots wide receivers better as well.

“They always try to beat us up at practice. We should have officials out there I feel,” Edelman said with a smirk on his face. “Our corners, all our guys, from Malcolm [Butler] to [Revis], Browner, [Kyle] Arrington, you’ve got Dax [Swanson]. Everyone on the squad is working their tail off. Go steel vs. steel and that’s how you sharpen tools.”

Bookmark and Share

5 questions with Bernie Kosar about NFL quarterbacks

CLEVELAND, Ohio – In light of the publication of Sports Illustrated's "NFL QB: The Greatest Position in Sports," we check with Bernie Kosar on his view of quarterbacks, from those who played when he was growing up to ones competing today.

Kosar broke into the league in 1985 with the Browns and played 12 years with three teams. He won a championship ring with Dallas in XXVIII in 1994.

Who was your favorite quarterback to watch when you were growing up?
"Being from Youngstown I was obviously a Brian Sipe guy. Then my second-grade teacher was Sister Veronica. Well, I thought it was Daryle Lamonica's mom. So (Oakland Raiders') Daryle Lamonica and (Minnesota Vikings') Fran Tarkenton when I was real little. The sister had a big influence."

Is there a quarterback of any era who stands out as the all-time greatest in your mind?
"I'm not trying to play the fence on this, and I would have answered it a different way five years ago when my era was fresher, but the guys who played the biggest in big games – Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana. But guys today, especially after watching these guys – Aaron Rodgers, (Ben) Roethlisberger. What Tom Brady is doing with minimal weapons around him – it's amazing what guys are doing today. I know the rules are different. ... But there are a lot of impressive quarterbacks today."

The Sports Illustrated book breaks QBs into various types – strong arms, scramblers, for instance. How would you define yourself?
"I obviously would have loved these rules. Not to take away from anybody, but the throws -- throwing the ball up the seams, in the post, deep -- now the ability (is there) to go up and catch the ball without the fear, 'cause you're not allowed to hit a defenseless receiver. You have guys who confidently can go up for the ball without fear of getting decapitated. Ronnie Lott would have been suspended every week (if he were playing today). The game is still physical, but there was a level of physicality and violence that made receivers have that demon in your head telling you to be aware when you went over the middle."

Are there any current quarterbacks who could have played decades ago, with Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath, or with guys before them?
"These guys would do good in any era. They would adjust their games around them. The accuracy of Aaron Rodgers' throws the other night – he throws 50 yards on a dime. (Rodgers went 18-27 for 315 yards and six touchdown passes in a 55-14 win over Chicago on Monday, Nov. 10.) Matthew Stafford getting hit when he throws, basically throwing underhanded, a Kent Tekulve fastball. These guys are really creative in how they come up with plays. They could play in any era and be extremely successful, that's for sure. I really believe that."

What's the future for the position look like – will we see more receivers breaking routes and adjusting in the middle of plays to defenses?
"Some of the old stereotypes have broken down. I love watching Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson play, even Drew Brees. ... I think these guys are introspectively honest with what they do good, and more important what they don't do good. I really see a creative resourcefulness in quarterbacks today. ... Years ago, grade-school (kids) threw it five, six times a day. High school, 10 times a game. Now grade-school through high-school kids are spreading out throwing the ball from birth almost. More kids are gaining experience. That's why I think it doesn't take as long to transition from high school to college and college to the pros. ... now you see spread-throwing offenses in Pee Wee; that never happened before."

Bookmark and Share

Devin Hester held out of Falcons' practice

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons receivers Devin Hester (ankle) and Harry Douglas were held out of Wednesday's practice due to lingering ankle and foot injuries.

Both players initially suffered the injuries in a Week 3 win against Tampa Bay. Hester hasn't missed any game action while Douglas returned two games ago after missing four consecutive games with a deep bruise in his left foot.

"We anticipate that Devin will be out on the practice field in a limited basis tomorrow," Falcons coach Mike Smith said.

Bookmark and Share

NFL and USAA name Jimmy Graham a nominee for the Salute to Service award

New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham has been nominated for the fourth annual Salute to Service Award, the NFL and USAA announced Wednesday.

Teams nominated players, coaches, personnel and alumni who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community. A list of the 2014 Salute to Service Award nominees is below.

Graham’s parents both served in the military for 15 years and his guardian Becky Vinson served in the United States Navy. He lived on Fort Bragg, North Carolina for seven years as a child.

Graham was one of three NFL players to travel on a weeklong tour throughout the Middle East to visit U.S. troops at military bases last March.

Graham, Miami Dolphins kicker Brandon Fields and Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon participated in the NFL’s USO offseason traveling program to visit service members.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” said Graham. “I developed many relationships on that trip that I still keep in touch with. It made me proud as an American to see it up close. To see everything they have done it makes you appreciate the little things you have so much more.”

Graham stayed in the troops quarters, ate meals, played sports and shared stories with the American heroes.

One night during his trip, Graham walked out of his living quarters to go to the bathroom in another building.  It was 3 a.m. and helicopters were flying over his head and troops were walking by in full gear ready for duty. He met a solider that just returned from a 10-hour shift ready for bed – the solider was 19 years old.

“Seeing that was something I won’t forget and don’t want to forget because of how much I appreciate what they do,” said Graham. “The moments I shared with the them, the stories that I heard and smiles that I saw from the troops is something that I will never forget.”

Graham and other Saints players participated in a Pro vs. G.I. Joe event at the team’s training facility last week. The Saints players visited with troops, signed autographs and played “Call of th Duty” with the group.

Finalists for the Salute to Service Award presented by USAA will be announced in January, and the winner will be recognized at the “4th Annual NFL Honors” awards show in Arizona on NBC on Saturday, Jan. 31, the night before Super Bowl XLIX.

Baltimore Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh was last year’s award winner. USAA, a leading provider of insurance and other services to U.S. military members, veterans and their families, contributed $25,000 in his honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches.

Harbaugh will serve on the award panel and vote for this year's winner. Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was the 2012 winner, and the inaugural winner in 2011 was Tennessee Titans late owner K.S. “Bud” Adams, a World War II veteran.

Fans everywhere can join USAA in honoring military by visiting

The Salute to Service Award is part of the NFL and USAA’s year-long commitment to recognize and honor the military community. Culminating in November with the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign, for every point scored during the NFL’s 32 designated Salute to Service games, the league donates $100 to each of its three core, military non-profit partners – the Pat Tillman Foundation, USO and Wounded Warrior Project® – for a total of $300 per point.

To find out more about the NFL’s Salute to Service campaign or to read teams’ Salute to Service award nominations, visit


Arizona Cardinals - Larry Fitzgerald Jr. (WR)
Atlanta Falcons - Joe Hawley (C)
Baltimore Ravens - Morgan Cox  (LS)
Buffalo Bills - Doug Marrone (Head Coach)
Carolina Panthers - Ron Rivera (Head Coach)
Chicago Bears - Jared Allen  (DE)
Cincinnati Bengals - John Sawyer (VP/Board Member)
Cleveland Browns - Alex Mack (C)
Dallas Cowboys - Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Denver Broncos - Ben Garland (G)
Green Bay Packers - Tom Bakken (Assistant Equipment Manager)
Houston Texans - J.J. Watt (DE)
Indianapolis Colts - Pat McAfee (P)
Jacksonville Jaguars - Roy Miller (DT)
Kansas City Chiefs - Derrick Johnson (LB)
Miami Dolphins - Lousaka Polite (Former FB)
Minnesota Vikings - Jeff Locke (P)
New Orleans Saints - Jimmy Graham (TE)
New York Giants - Tom Coughlin (Head Coach)
New York Jets - Robert Wood Johnson IV (Owner)
Oakland Raiders - Oakland Raiders Foundation
Philadelphia Eagles - Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders
Pittsburgh Steelers - Troy Polamalu (S)
St. Louis Rams - Jeff Fisher (Head Coach)
San Diego Chargers - Nick Hardwick (C)
Seattle Seahawks - Dan Quinn (Defensive Coordinator)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Vincent Jackson (WR)
Washington Redskins - Darrel Young (FB)

Bookmark and Share

LeBron James Calls James Jones Greatest Shooters

The Cleveland Cavaliers have barely dusted off veteran sharp shooter James Jones this season but teammate LeBron James believes he is one of the greatest shooters in the world:

Jones has only played in one game this season, logging three minutes. LeBron has long believed that Jones should get more time, going back to their days together on the Miami Heat. Yet still Jones sits there in his warmup gear while the team tries to find their groove.

It could be that coach David Blatt is holding the veteran back while the rest of the team figures out a rhythm with James or that he wants to keep his legs rested. The coach also has to take more things into account than just Jones’ great shooting. Jones is a wiry thin wing player that can be easily taken advantage of on defense. His ability to create off the dribble or stop ball penetration is minimal.

Whether LeBron James goes to Blatt to try to get playing time for “one of the greatest shooters on the world” is another question. It is obvious that James believes in Jones but how far does that belief extend.

LeBron has been playing a ton of minutes. Maybe giving Jones a little bit of burn could reduce that stress on James. However Jones is far less effective if James was off the court. LeBron is the team’s primary facilitator, while Kyrie Irving is the team’s primary ball handler. Jones, like Mike Miller, benefit from getting to stand around the 3 point line in catch and shoot mode while James penetrates.

In his last stop in Cleveland LeBron had Damon Jones, who thought he was the greatest shooter on the planet. In Miami, and now here in Cleveland, he has James Jones who he is declaring as a great shooter. Could this lead to more playing time for Jones?

Bookmark and Share

Allen Hurns Dealing with Concussion

Hurns was officially diagnosed with a concussion Tuesday, and an update on his status will be released Monday.

Hurns will have some time to recover from his head injury with the Jaguars on bye in Week 11, and it remains to be seen if he will miss any further action. However, fantasy owners will likely have to wait until next week to find out exactly where he stands health-wise.

Bookmark and Share

Despite PI penalty, Saints' Jimmy Graham keeps gaining steam

METAIRIE, La. -- Not to be lost in all the hubbub over Jimmy Graham's offensive pass interference penalty is that the New Orleans Saints tight end appears to be almost all the way back from his shoulder injury.

Though Graham still had the shoulder wrapped in ice following the Saints' 27-24 overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers, he certainly showed no ill effects on the field, playing 59 snaps and catching 10 passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns. (It would have been more if his 47-yard Hail Mary TD had counted).

Quarterback Drew Brees certainly has the ultimate trust in Graham, for better and for worse. He tried to fire a pass to Graham in triple coverage at the end of the first half, which led to an interception. But then he later hit Graham on a spectacular 11-yard TD pass on third-and-6 after spinning away from a sure sack on a heavy blitz.

“Brees got some serious pressure, and we've been able the last five years to really have this connection. And more times than not, when he gets in trouble he just finds me and throws it up,” Graham said. “I always tell him, throw it up, I'll be the only one that catches it.”

Graham now ranks among the top 10 pass-catchers in the NFL with 56 receptions and 7 touchdown catches. His 594 receiving yards are just outside the top 20.

Among his other standout traits, Graham has continued to flash his toughness while playing through the shoulder injury that never sidelined him for a full game. He did the same thing last year while playing through a significant foot injury.

Graham admitted last week that he knows his toughness has been questioned from people outside of the Saints organization -- like when Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett called him soft and overrated after their playoff meeting.

"I think last year the M.O. was the if you jam me or you bump me off the line I couldn't play well," Graham told The Times-Picayune's Larry Holder. "So that was a big emphasis for me to be more physical."

UPDATED: Graham admitted to Pro Football Talk on Monday after seeing the video of his pass interference penalty that there was "a slight push off" -- and "a lot of acting."

"You know it's a great job on his part, kind of knowing the situation," Graham said. "As I'm running down the field I'm telling myself don't push off and don't do this and don't do that and just go up and get it. ...I have my hands out just to feel where people are since I'm looking up at a ball. ...

"Apparently I'm a lot stronger than I think I am. He went flying."

Bookmark and Share

Bernie Beer to be released in cans

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Bernie Beer, which was released on draft in May, will roll out in cans Wednesday morning, with a couple of twists.

Joel Sandrey of Hop View Brewing Co. in Madison said the former Browns quarterback personally will sign 100 to 150 cans before they roll out for distribution.

"Bernie is going to hand-sign those cans, and they are going to be randomly put in the canning," Sandrey said. "So if you come across an autograph, that is a hand-signed Bernie Kosar autograph."

Sandrey said, in addition to the autograph touch reminiscent of a Willy Wonka golden ticket, the canned beer will be slightly different than what the draft initially tasted like.

"We're really, really thrilled with the final product," he said. "We used the draft release to get some feedback from consumers. This (canned) beer is slightly different; we made a little tweak to it. People tried it and thought it was a little on the sweet side. So it's still a brown ale, but we pulled back on the malts and we pumped up the hops just a bit."

So the finished product will be "slightly less sweet and have a bright, clean, dry finish," he said.

Ed Thompkins, wine and beer buyer for Heinen's, said the effort to get Bernie Beer crafted, produced and distributed is about pride and collaboration.

"It's partly a Cleveland thing. John Lane (owner of the Winking Lizard) said 'You guys really have to bump up the hops'," Thompkins said.

"It shows the competency of Joel and his team," he added. "We're giving them (brewers) a road map to get to the destination, and they've been able to do it."

The beer will be available Thursday, Nov. 13, at Acme Fresh Market, which is scheduled to host Kosar from 6 to 8 p.m. at its store at 3875 Massillon Road in Green. Six-packs of the 12-ounce cans will retail for $9.99. The beer will be available at all Acme locations beginning Friday, according to a news release from the store.

All Heinen's locations will begin selling the beer beginning Thursday, Nov. 20, Thompkins said.

Early next week it goes to Columbus, said Darren Wyville of Vintage Wine Distributor, which is handling distribution, and then in mid-December he said it will be shipped to other retail locations throughout Ohio.

Bookmark and Share

Redskins sort out WR roles with Leonard Hankerson's return

ASHBURN, Va. -- Leonard Hankerson isn’t sure what to expect, and that’s not surprising. The Redskins aren’t sure exactly what’s going to happen either now that they have another receiver in the rotation.

Hankerson will play his first game this season on Sunday, after missing the first nine thanks to ACL surgery last December. Now that he’s back, the Redskins have seven receivers (unless they opt to release one of them to make room for nose tackle Barry Cofield’s return this week).

And that means someone will get less playing time. Clearly it won’t be any of the top three wideouts -- DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts. It's hard to imagine much changing with how they've been used and how many targets they receive. If Hankerson is comfortable in the offense, he provides the Redskins a receiver who can run routes from various positions and, at 6-foot-2, he's also their tallest. His blocking isn’t bad, either.

It could be -- and should be, if he’s right -- that Hankerson plays ahead of Santana Moss and even Ryan Grant. It’s hard to see how Aldrick Robinson would be active with Hankerson around if he couldn’t be without him on the roster.

“It’s a tough deal,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “The receiving room is very full, and they’re all very good. Santana can be productive in a lot of offenses. Same with Aldrick, and now you throw Leonard into the mix, and he’s another one [who] is a big receiver that has great hands and runs good routes. So, how we are going to use him, I don’t know yet.”

Hankerson isn’t worried about that just yet.

“I’ll do what I can to help the team, whatever it is -- whether it’s just standing on the sidelines or dressed,” he said.

Of course, a player in his spot wants to play as much as possible. Hankerson is in the final year of his contract. He needs to show the rest of the NFL that he’s healthy and can still play. But considering he’s played in 30 NFL games and missed 27, Hankerson won’t be in line for a big deal anyway. He has 81 career receptions and six touchdowns.

“That’s all individual stuff,” he said. “I’m not really caring about something individual. It’s all about wins and losses.”

Bookmark and Share

Calais Campbell: ‘We Know How Important Each Game Is’

The Arizona Cardinals trailed the St. Louis Rams 14-10 through three quarters on Sunday, and then, well, then the fourth quarter happened.

Arizona outscored St. Louis 21-0 in the final quarter to win 31-14 and improve to 8-1. It was just the second time all season that the Cardinals won by more than 10 points. Average margin of victory entering Sunday? 8.1 points.

What makes this team so good when it matters most?

“We’re confident,” Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We know that the game is won or lost in the fourth quarter. Everything that happens before then, you just got to put yourself in position to have a chance to win the game. We always perform well in the fourth quarter. We take pride in performing well in the fourth quarter.”

The Cardinals certainly did that on Sunday, as backup quarterback Drew Stanton threw a go-ahead, 48-yard touchdown pass to John Brown midway through the quarter to give Arizona a 17-14 lead. The Cardinals added two defensive touchdowns – a 30-yard pick-six by Patrick Peterson and a 14-yard fumble return by Antonio Cromartie – to ice the game.

The Cardinals are 15-3 in their last 18 games dating back to last season, with the only losses coming to Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver – two of which were on the road. When exactly did this fourth-quarter dominance come about?

“It was right around halfway through last year,” Campbell said. “Once we bought into our coaches’ game plan and what they were trying to do with us, I think we started playing so much better. Last year, missing the playoffs, I think, really is the reason we’re playing great now. We know how important each game is. Every game is so critical to making the playoffs this year. We’ve played every game like it was a championship game.”

Given Carson Palmer’s knee injury, it’s a good thing they have. Palmer exited the game Sunday with a non-contact knee injury, which was later diagnosed as a torn ACL. He will miss the rest of the season.

“It was shocking,” Campbell said. “You’re scared for him, hoping it wasn’t too serious. But then you find the news out (Monday) that it is very serious. That’s a tough blow. Carson’s our leader. He’s the guy that we bought into. But in football, stuff like this happens. As sad as it is, you kind of got to move forward. We have a guy in Drew Stanton we’re very confident in. We know that he can get the job done. We’ll make sure as a defense we’ll try to get short fields for him and let him go to work.”

Stanton, 30, is 46-of-93 (49.5 percent) for 614 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in four games this season. The Cardinals have a two-game lead over Seattle (6-3) and a thee-game lead over San Francisco (5-4) in the NFC West, meaning they’re still the favorites to win the division.

Whether Stanton can actually lead the Cardinals to the Super Bowl remains to be seen, but having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs would certainly help. The Super Bowl, by the way, is in Glendale this season.

And if you think the Cardinals haven’t been talking about that, you had better think again.

“Yeah, we’ve been discussing it all year,” Campbell said. “That was our motivation, our goal. This whole year we’ve been discussing (it and) just making sure we do whatever’s required now to set us up to reach our goal and play in the Super Bowl. (Playing it in our home stadium would make) it that much more special.”

Bookmark and Share

Michael Irvin believes Jaguars rookie Allen Hurns living up to the No. 88 playmaker reputation

LONDON – The Playmaker is raving about the Jaguars' newest playmaker.

Former Cowboys and Hurricanes receiver Michael Irvin, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007, believes Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns is living up to the standard he set wearing No. 88.

Hurns, an undrafted rookie out of Miami, has 29 catches for 466 yards and has scored five of the team's 16 touchdowns this season. Hurns will try to continue his success against Irvin's former team when the Jaguars (1-8) face Dallas (6-3) at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Irvin is in London this week with the Cowboys.

"He's an 88-clubber now," Irvin said. "I told Allen, it takes something special to earn an opportunity to come into the 88 club. I told all the guys in the league, 'If you're not a bad man, go to your coach and say, make sure you don't give me 88. Because, if you can't carry that number, don't put it on.' I'm so proud of what I'm seeing out of Allen Hurns right now."

Hurns made an immediate impact, catching two touchdowns with 110 yards in the season opener at Philadelphia on Sept. 7. That got Irvin's attention.

"When you come into the league the way he came in, you have to make a mark early," Irvin said. "You have to make those plays. He wasn't a top draft choice. He made his mark that first game blowing them away. Now, he's getting an opportunity and making the most of those opportunities. I love Allen Hurns."

Irvin's comments brought out a big smile in Hurns after Friday's practice.

"It means a lot, especially coming from one of the greatest to ever do it," Hurns said. "I had that mindset at Miami to live up to the expectations, because they paved the way. I had to follow them. To hear that praise from him is special."

Bookmark and Share

Lamar Miller Plans To Play Thursday

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald relays that Miller says his shoulder feels "good" and that the running back plans to play Thursday against the Bills.

That said, Miller's Week 11 status is worth monitoring, given that the Dolphins added LaMichael James to their backfield mix Monday. After being limited this past Sunday, seeing just 11 snaps, it's not hard to imagine Miller -- who was limited at Monday's walk-through -- remaining in a Thursday RB timeshare in the Dolphins' short week, assuming he suits up.

Bookmark and Share

Jaguars' Hurns diagnosed with concussion

Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns diagnosed with a concussion and did not return to the game against the Cowboys.

Hurns was sandwiched between two defenders when going for a catch in the third quarter, taking a hit to the helmet from linebacker Anthony Hitchens. He stayed down on the ground to get treatment before walking off the field.cond quarter with injured ribs and was questionable to return.

Bookmark and Share

Greg Olsen nets career-high 119 yards in MNF loss

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen caught six passes for a career-high 119 yards in Monday's loss at Philadelphia, his second 100-yard effort this season. Olsen tied for the team lead with seven targets.

Olsen remains on pace to set a career high in receiving yardage. He'll play the Falcons in Week 11 looking for his first touchdown since Week 6.

Bookmark and Share

Leonard Hankerson aims to earn spot in crowded receiver rotation

Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson went through his first practice as a member of the 53-man roster Monday after spending the past three weeks waiting for his activation from the physically unable to perform list. Now, he will try to earn a spot in the rotation for Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Coach Jay Gruden said he doesn’t yet know how the team will use the fourth-year wide receiver. But Hankerson, who spent the offseason, preseason and first six weeks of the regular season rehabbing after surgery to repair a torn ACL, said he’s ready to help in any way possible.

“Everybody brings a whole lot to the table, but I just go out there and, I feel like I run good routes, I get open,” Hankerson said. “I do a whole lot of good things. But it’s just about helping the team out and doing whatever I can do at the time, whenever my number is called to make a play.”

The Redskins activated Hankerson from the PUP list last Tuesday, the day players departed for their bye-week getaways. Hankerson had practiced the previous three weeks, but was not permitted to play. Now, he faces the possibility of suiting up Sunday in what will represent his first game since Nov. 17, 2013.
However, Hankerson first must carve out a role for himself in what is already a crowded receiving unit.

DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are the starters, and Andre Roberts joins them as the slot receiver in many of the team’s frequently-used three-receiver sets. Rookie Ryan Grant has played sparingly in each of this season’s games, and 14th-year veteran Santana Moss has dressed for the last four games while receiving only a handful of snaps. Aldrick Robinson dressed for the first five games but has been inactive for the last four.

Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay have hardly used receivers beyond Jackson, Garcon and Roberts (Grant has five catches on 10 targets and Robinson one on three. Moss has no targets).

Because of needs at other positions, Redskins coaches find it hard to justify keeping six wide receivers, especially if none outside of Grant regularly play on special teams units.

The 6-foot-2, 211-pound Hankerson boasts great size and versatility. In his three NFL seasons, he has lined up at all three receiver positions depending on the situation. But he does not have extensive special teams experience, which hurts his case.

“It’s a tough deal,” Gruden said. “The wide receiving room is very full and they’re all very good, actually, I think. The guys that aren’t playing or aren’t really producing are still excellent wideouts. I think Santana could be very productive in a lot of offenses. Same with Aldrick. Now you throw Leonard in the mix and he’s another one that’s a big receiver that has great hands and runs good routes. So how we’re going to use him, I don’t know yet. It’s better to have too many than not enough, I guess. But I’m sure it’s frustrating for those guys who aren’t getting the touches, and sometimes it’s frustrating for the guys who are playing who aren’t getting enough touches. We’ve just got to continue to go about our business and focus on winning games and not so much worry about the touches. The touches will come for everybody. But we just have to manage it the best way we can, and we don’t know how that’s going to be yet.”

Hankerson, who is in the last year of his contract, said he understands the challenging decision his coaches face. He added that competing in a crowded receiving unit also doesn’t faze him.

“It’s been like that for me forever; since I was at Miami,” he said. “We brought in five, six receivers at one time. In college, most everybody played, but here, I mean, you’ve got to work for it. But we’re all competitive against each other and we’re going to push each other. … We’re all going to go out there and work hard. We’ve got a talented group. It’s got to be the best receiving corps in the league, and it’s about putting it together.”

Bookmark and Share

Bill Belichick: Reggie Wayne Still Really Good At Everything

Q: Reggie Wayne has been a bit banged up, but what continues to make him an effective player at this point in his career?
BB: Yeah, he’s still really good at everything. [He’s] obviously a real smart and experienced guy; knows how to set up routes, make all of his routes look the same, does a great job of releasing and then at the top of his routes being able to create separation at just the right time when the quarterback is ready to throw. He’s been a key guy for them in critical situations and third down-type situations. I’m sure that there’s a lot of confidence that he’s going to be open and he usually is. Excellent hands; made a lot of tough catches. They move him around. He plays a decent amount in the slot, but also out on the perimeter where we saw him for so many years in their former offensive system. But he’s probably a little more in the slot now with [Hakeem] Nicks and [T.Y.] Hilton outside. But they move all those guys around so finding him is a problem. He’s still a very dangerous receiver, clutch player and a guy who really, when they need a play, they’re not afraid to go to him and he’ll deliver for them.

Bookmark and Share

Mike Rumph named coach for All-American game

American Heritage coach Mike Rumph will be on the sideline as part of the coaching staff for the 2015 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Rumph was named one of the eight coaches on the East squad, which will include his star quarterback Torrance Gibson and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, for the Jan. 3 game at the Alamodome.

Rumph, who was also named an assistant coach last year when Heritage running back Sony Michel was selected as an Army All-American, will be part of a staff led by Philadelphia (Pa.) St. Joseph Prep coach Gabe Infante. The East team's defensive coordinator last year, Rumph said he anticipates he'll either serve that role again or coach the defensive backs.

"To be selected as one of 16 coaches in the nation is definitely an honor," Rumph said.

Rumph said he was impressed by San Antonio's commitment to the all-star game during his appearance last year. "They laid out the red carpet for the All-Americans," he said.

The other East assistant coaches are McEachern (Ga.) High's Kyle Hockman, Miami Westminster Christian's Sedrick Irvin, St. Joseph's (Pa.) Kyle Hockman, Xavier (Ohio) High's Steve Specht and North Gwinnett (Ga.) High's Bob Sphire.

Rumph, a former University of Miami standout defensive back who played six seasons in the NFL, is in his second season at Heritage. Last fall, he led the Patriots to a 14-1 record and the Class 5A state championship – the first in program history. The Patriots are 6-3 this season.

Bookmark and Share

Reggie Wayne: A Few More Yards to Gain for Colts

Just 511 receiving yards, that’s the amount separating Colts’ 14-year veteran Reggie Wayne from becoming the all-time leading receiver in Indianapolis (also Baltimore) Colts’ Franchise History. Currently, Wayne stands #2 on the Colts’ all-time career receiving yards list at 14,070 career receiving yards. Of course, #1 is being held by Colts’ future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, who is on top with 14,580 career receiving yards, playing all 13 of his seasons in horseshoe blue.

To topple Harrison on the Colts’ all-time receiving mountain, Wayne will need to average 73 receiving yards per game in the next 7 games left of this season. A task that is hardly insurmountable given QB Andrew Luck and the Colts’ prolific passing offense.

For Wayne, it’s been about consistency and longevity. While some of his wide receiver contemporaries like Randy Moss and Chad Johnson may have had more dominant individual seasons, as well as off-the-field flare-ups, it’s Wayne that’s just been consistently consistent throughout his 14 seasons with the Colts. There’s something to be said for that. As it stands, he’s one of last few wide receivers of his era still playing, other than the Baltimore Ravens’ Steve Smith.

Wayne has always taken a workmanlike approach to the game of football, even showing up to Colts’ training camp in the past with a construction hardhat. He may not have made the off-the-field noise as some of his past wide receiver contemporaries, rather he saved it all for the field. Where it really matters, to the tune of 1,048 receptions for 14,070 receiving yards and 82 touchdowns. He currently sits 8th on the NFL’s all-time career receiving yards list.

For the first 8 seasons of his NFL career, he was often overshadowed on his own team by the aforementioned Marvin Harrison. Unlike Harrison though, Wayne has taken an active leadership approach with the Indianapolis Colts, particularly with T.Y. Hilton and the offense’s younger players:

“He’s always there, no matter what,” Hilton says of Wayne. “Andrew (Luck) trusts him, and we all trust him. He’s been here the longest and he knows the ropes. He knows pretty much every defense. He’s a great guy.”

“For me to be here now, playing with Reggie … the things I can learn from him and grow … I call him my big brother. He’s always there for me, always looking after me. Whenever I get a chance, I make sure to ask him any question that I have. With Andrew, me and Reggie, we have that same aspect that we can be good like they were. So that’s what we look forward to.”

It’s a stark contrast to the comments made by Reggie Wayne in a sit-down with Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks in February of 2010, regarding his lack of a personal relationship with the elder Marvin Harrison:

“Our lockers were next to each other and we very seldom talked then. It’s not like we were text message buddies in eight years. So I kind of figured it’d be that way. You’ve just got to understand his character. I think that’s just him,” said Wayne, who once played in No. 88’s shadow. “He’s to himself. He has a lonely soul. He’s anti-social. That’s what makes him. If you saw him talking to the media all of a sudden, that’s an imposter. That’s not him. He’ll keep the same makeup that he’s had since day one, and I guess that’s what works for him.”

In fact, one could make a strong argument of whether Reggie Wayne has been more instrumental in Indianapolis Colts’ history than his former legendary receiving counterpart, #88. However, that’s really neither for here nor there.

Quite frankly, it’s easy to forget that the Indianapolis Colts almost lost Reggie Wayne to the New England Patriots in March of 2012, as the team was initially more interested in re-signing the younger Pierre Garcon as a free agent, who left for greener pastures more money to the Washington Redskins.

From a leadership and production standpoint, it would have been a critical blow to QB Andrew Luck and the Colts’ budding young offense these past few seasons.

While he may have lost a step coming back from ACL surgery this season, he’s still the offense’s security blanket, the reliable set of hands that Luck can target on crucial 3rd downs and key moments of the game. He’s both one of the Indianapolis Colts and NFL’s all-time receiving greats.

For Wayne, simply put, what’s a few more yards in a renowned career that is already littered with them?

Bookmark and Share

49ers find success feeding ball to Frank Gore

NEW ORLEANS -- It is no secret the San Francisco 49ers have more success when they feed the ball to workhorse running back Frank Gore, as they did early and often in their eventual 27-24 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

The question, then, is why does it take the Niners so long to figure this out?

“Today was a must win,” said Gore, who had 57 of his 81 rushing yards in the first half, including a 4-yard rushing touchdown that was his first score on the ground since Week 2. He had 23 carries.

“The way we played, with me running the ball a lot, showed that’s the way we can rush the ball. As long as we can establish the running game and stay on the field, we’ll be fine.”

The 49ers’ 144 rushing yards were a season high on the road.

And, per ESPN Stats & Information, the Niners’ 5.4 rush efficiency marked the first time this season they had a positive rating. They are 20-3-1 (.854) under coach Jim Harbaugh when they post a positive rush efficiency (the NFL average is a .509 winning percentage in such situations), 21-12 (.636) when the rush offense has a negative efficiency (the NFL average then is a .492 winning percentage).

“Our mindset was, 'We’ve got to win,'” said quarterback Colin Kaepernick. “And to do that we had to get the running game going. Our offensive line was doing great blocking and they were running great and we just stuck with it.”

The 49ers’ record improved to 38-7-1 when Gore has at least 20 carries in a game. Gore also eclipsed Eddie George and Tiki Barber for 24th on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 10,520 career yards. Thomas Jones (10,591 yards) and Jamal Lewis (10,607) are next on the list.

Bookmark and Share

Sean Spence Had Specific Package Roles Sunday Against Jets

Being as Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier has missed quite a few games so far this season with injuries, the team has had to use Sean Spence and Vince Williams in games in order to replace him. During his press conference last Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin wouldn’t reveal his strategy when it comes to using Spence and Williams with Shazier sidelined, but thanks to what we observed Sunday in the loss to the New York Jets, we now have a pretty good idea as to what he and the rest of the coaching staff thinks about both of those players.

According to our defensive charting of the Jets game that Alex Kozora compiled, Spence played exclusively in the Steelers base defense alongside Lawrence Timmons, while Williams played exclusively in the nickel.

When Spence was in the game, he played more of a mack linebacker role while Williams played more as a buck when he was on the field. This rotation certainly makes sense as it allows Timmons to play either the mack or buck role. It also allows the defense to best maximize what Spence and Williams each do best.

We should get a pretty good idea Tuesday from head coach Mike Tomlin as to whether or not Shazier will make back this week for the upcoming game against the Tennessee Titans. If Shazier’s unable to shake his ankle injury this week, I think we can expect Spence and Williams to continue to split his snaps against the Titans based on personnel groupings.

If, however, Shazier is able to return this week for the Titans game, it will be interesting to see if they allow him to play every snap being as he’s missed so much playing time this season.

Bookmark and Share

Any Chance Ed Reed Comes Back To Ravens?

No chance. The difference between Reed and the Brett Keisel and James Harrison pickups is those Steelers defenders still showed flashes they could play last season. In 2013, Reed was nowhere close to being the ball hawk who struck fear into quarterbacks for more than a decade. Remember when he misplayed the ball on Joe Flacco 's 66-yard touchdown bomb in Baltimore last year? It says a lot that the Houston Texans decided to part ways with Reed 10 weeks into the season after giving him $6 million guaranteed. As I've written previously, Reed should come back to the Ravens. But it should only be to sign a one-day contract with the team so he can retire as a Raven.

Reed will go down as one of the more underrated leaders in Ravens history. Ray Lewis was the face of the franchise and did his pregame schtick in the huddle for all of the cameras to see each week. But Reed was an influential leader behind the scenes. Many in that locker room considered him their big brother. That being said, the Ravens shouldn't bring him back in any kind of mentor/coaching capacity. Reed is too much of a loose cannon. While he'll go down as one of the top three players to ever suit up for the Ravens, he'll also be remembered as one of the biggest headaches in franchise history. In his last three years with the Ravens, Reed publicly called out Flacco for being rattled in a playoff game, refused to show up for a mandatory minicamp (and then taunted team officials via Twitter about it) and was among the dissenting voices when coach John Harbaugh announced the team was going to have a full-contact practice during the bye week in 2012. The Ravens will undoubtedly put Reed in their Ring of Honor. They just don't want him anywhere near their locker room on a daily basis.

Bookmark and Share

Payton dissects Jimmy Graham's improving game

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham has long been a matchup nightmare for opponents, but head coach Sean Payton says Graham's game is continuing to evolve and improve.

Graham's release at the beginning of a play has been a point of emphasis lately, especially with the opposition game-planning specifically for him.

"Each week, it's a different way that someone is going to try and reroute him at the line of scrimmage," Payton said. "He's handling that well. He's doing a good job in the run game. I think that balance is important with him being on the field."

Refining techniques for the battle at the line of scrimmage is especially key going into Sunday's showdown with the San Francisco 49ers. When these two team met last season, the 49ers defense successfully got its hands on both Graham and former Saints running back Darren Sproles, effectively re-routing them.

"That was one of the things they were able to do," Payton said. "It is just what smart defenses try to do, disrupt the passing game. The success Jimmy has had, it comes with that attention. Now it becomes important for us to look at ways to formationally eliminate it."

Graham and the Saints have also drilled strategies for getting a better release when their offensive formation can't help him make a clean break.    

Graham has been tweaking the little things, and Payton says it makes a big difference on the field.

"In the framework of certain routes, you work on detail," Payton said. "He's done a good job with that. He's high pointing balls well."

Graham's height is a huge bonus in the receiving game especially, and his 6'7" frame does dictate how the Saints use him in specific plays.

"The catching radius he has is bigger, so there are some areas on third down, or particularly in the red zone, that you try to take advantage of that," Payton said. "That combination, with his ability to run, all of it factors into his position. Certainly there are certain schemes or plays that play more of a factor in it."

Graham has been nursing a shoulder injury for several weeks, but he did practice fully all this week and is probable for Sunday's game.

At 4-4, the Saints and 49ers each share the same record heading into Sunday's showdown inside the Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson Supports Both Texans QB's

Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson has come out and said he supports both Texans’ quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Coach Bill O’Brien this week named Mallett as the starter over Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick has been the starter for the first nine games, going 4-5.  He has 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.  However after a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, O’Brien had figured it was time for a change during the Texans bye week.

Andre Johnson though said per the Houston Chronicle that he thinks highly of both quarterbacks.

I support both of them. Both of them are my teammates.  Whoever’s out there, Mallett or Fitz, I’ll give it my best to get open.  I feel comfortable with both guys.
What else do you expect the guy to say?  Sure his numbers are down.  He has 48 receptions for 563 yards but just one touchdown through the first nine games this season.  Last season through the first nine games, Johnson had 62 receptions for 698 yards and five touchdowns, although the five touchdowns came in the eighth and ninth games.

Johnson though is going to play it close to the vest.  He certainly doesn’t want to alienate either quarterback since there is always the chance that the Texans could go back to Fitzpatrick if Mallett shows he can’t get the job done.

Johnson is getting the targets.  He’s been targeted 82 times.  Its not like Fitzpatrick wasn’t looking for him.  So I guess we’ll find out if Fitzpatrick was the big problem and Mallett’s the answer here quickly.

Bookmark and Share

Antrel Rolle: Giants' loss 'worse than embarrassing'

Getting blown out in Seattle isn't necessarily embarrassing.

But getting blown out in Seattle and surrendering a Seahawks franchise record of 350 rushing yards and four Marshawn Lynch rushing touchdowns?

"I think it's a little bit worse than embarrassing," Giants captain Rolle said after the loss Sunday, per

The Giants do not have the talent to compete with a team like Seattle at the moment. Yes, Odell Beckham continues to be fantastic and will develop into a top-10 wide receiver in this league. Yes, the Giants played well enough to go into the half with a lead.

That being said, the way they were gashed on Sunday will certainly make an impression on some of the team's decision-makers. This is the second year in a row in which the Giants have looked soft at spots along their defense. The once dominant, physical nature of their Super Bowl winning defense is a thing of the past.

Now, the team is 3-6 and staring down another losing season. Tom Coughlin will have the Giants believing that they can finish the season 10-6 even though it's not realistic. He'll inevitably be the first person most people point their fingers at when wondering how the team got to a place where they missed the playoffs five times in six seasons.

But what about the years leading up to this? Who will take the blame for assembling a defense that was just good enough to get steamrolled in Seattle?

Bookmark and Share