Ed Reed is just what Jets need

Ed Reed no longer has the skills to match his reputation as one of the best ball-hawking safeties in the NFL. Not at age 35 and not with all the attendant bumps and bruises that go along with playing 11-plus seasons in the most physically demanding sport on earth.

But given the unique set of circumstances that led to Reed's ouster in Houston, where he fell out of favor -- and out of the starting lineup -- Rex Ryan's decision to sign one of the greatest players he's ever coached was an excellent move.

For a defense whose only weakness is defending the pass -- especially the long pass -- it was a no-brainer for Ryan to bring in Reed, who will cost the Jets next to nothing on the salary cap but who can add invaluable experience to the secondary.

Reed is well past his prime, and was even in decline when he helped the Ravens to the Super Bowl title last season. But the wisdom he can now impart to his younger teammates, and his savvy as a field general can still be valuable to a Jets team that already has overachieved and is looking at a realistic possibility of making the playoffs.

This is a low-risk, high-reward move for Ryan, who saw Reed's greatness when the two were together in Baltimore with Ryan a defensive coach before coming to the Jets in 2009. There's no way Reed will perform to the level he was at back then, when he was in the heart of a Hall of Fame career. But Reed knows Ryan's system inside and out, and he can be a valuable piece of the Jets' secondary. Especially in dealing with its biggest shortcoming.

"We've had some issues playing the deep ball," Ryan said Thursday. "Let them throw it there now."

The Jets have allowed eight passes of 40 or more yards, 29 passes of 20 yards or more, and opposing quarterbacks have a combined 90.7 rating. The Jets also have allowed 251.9 passing yards per game, the ninth worst mark in the league. And their 25.7 points allowed per game ranks 21st overall.

So why not bring in an experienced hand like Reed to shore things up, even if he isn't the dominating player he once was?

He's a guy who still can lull quarterbacks into thinking he's going one way and then force the passer to throw to the wrong side. And while he can't run like he used to, Reed can play a role similar to other quality veterans on the back end of their careers.

The Texans had hoped Reed would be that kind of player, but he was a bad fit from the start in Wade Phillips' defense. He signed a three-year, $15-million deal during the offseason, but missed all of training camp and the first two games because of a hip problem. Once he did get into the lineup, he underachieved along with the rest of the Texans' roster. Houston was 0-7 with Reed in the lineup.

It didn't help matters that he openly criticized the coaching after a 27-24 loss to the Cardinals last Sunday.

"Certain situations, we just got outplayed and outcoached," Reed said. "If you're watching the game, it's not no-brainers . . . Eventually, they're going to figure out what you're doing if you're doing the same old things."

Reed was summarily released, although head coach Gary Kubiak, who returned this week after recovering from a mild stroke, said Reed's comments had nothing to do with the decision.

Ummm. Sure.

Reed was also outspoken during his run with the Ravens, and last year got into a heated exchange with head coach John Harbaugh because Reed believed the practices were too physical. The two eventually cleared the air, and the Ravens went on a late-season run to win the Super Bowl.

Reed was not re-signed because of his contractual demands, and he took the money with the Texans. But once his time there ended, the most logical destination was the one he chose: with the coach who knows him best and the defensive system that helped make him a star.

"[Reed] is another guy that can turn an interception into a touchdown and make big plays, something that we've been missing," veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. "It just speaks for [itself] for what he can bring to the table and what the coaching staff and everybody thought of him. He's a guy that's been a part of this defense for a while, so he knows the defense just as good as anybody else."

A logical choice for the Jets, and a perfect landing spot for Reed.

"Awesome, man. I don't think either one of us was willing to pass this chance up," Reed said of his reunion with Ryan. "It just fit."

Another veteran player for a team and a coach convinced they're ready to make a playoff run.

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Willis McGahee not going far, vows Browns can

Willis McGahee milks mileage out of his comments, if not his carries.

The old rent-a-runner was asked Thursday if — based on his learning in 11 NFL seasons — his latest team has the chemistry to remain in the AFC North hunt.
“Not only do we have the chemistry to stay in the race,” he said. “We have the chemistry to lead the race.”

Spoken like a Hurricane.

The Browns must beat Cincinnati Sunday to improve to 5-5, but that would sink the division-leading Bengals to 6-5.

Old Willis spoke on.

“It’s us against the world,” said the last man standing in the locker room — everyone else had headed for practice. “Nobody thinks the Browns can do it.”
He says they can. So what if he is the face behind the most glaring thing the Browns “can’t do.”

Historically speaking, the Browns could practically be nicknamed “Run One.”

Super backs Marion Motley, Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly all have gotten bronze busted in Canton.

Mike Pruitt launched a car dealership off his popularity as a Browns runner. Greg Pruitt. Mack and Byner. Ben Gay in his dreams. Jamal Lewis in the only 10-win season of the expansion era.

Running backs are big in the good old days of the franchise’s fabric.

On the surface — and maybe below — these are the worst of times for the position. McGahee is averaging 2.6 yards per carry.

In the most recent game, his carries, in yards, went for 4, 3, 1, 2, 4, 2, 2, 4, 0, 2, 2, 0, 7, 0, 3, minus-3, 0, 0 and 0.

Yet, the Browns won. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner thought the running game was one of the reasons.

“I’m not caught up in numbers,” Turner said, saying the running game is serving a purpose. “When we run play-action passes, guys are open down field.”

In other words, enough defenders commit to stop McGahee — when the quarterback fakes a handoff — to skim them away from receivers even though he doesn’t actually have the ball.

“We want to be efficient enough with the run to help with play-action passes,” Turner said. “That’s a lot of what we’re trying to do.”

Turner is being an optimist. He knows full well these aren’t his Dallas days when Emmitt Smith was racking up big numbers on Super Bowl contenders.

But then, these aren’t the 1990s. In Turner’s last year as coordinator of the Cowboys, only two quarterbacks passed for more than 3,500 yards. In 2012, 17 QBs topped 3,500.

Even in the passing storm that has been Turner’s outpost in 2013 — with three different starters at quarterback — the Browns are on pace to pass for 4,158 yards.

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Ed Reed says Patriots and Dolphins also called

Veteran safety Ed Reed was quick to cut a deal with the Jets, but said upon his arrival in New York that the Patriots and Dolphins also touched base over the last 24 hours.

“I don’t think either one of them wanted me in their conference,” Reed said, via Darryl Slater of the Newark Star-Ledger.

While the admiration Patriots coach Bill Belichick has for Reed is well-documented, the Dolphins pursuit seems unusual (or either a PR ploy to make everybody look at something other than Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin).

Reed said he was confident that he could still play at a high level, saying: “I don’t think I’d be here if they [the Jets] didn’t think that,” he said. “I know what I know. I know what I feel and I know what I put into my offseason workout.”

He also took offense at the suggestion he was old and washed up, saying he was unfairly portrayed as having lost a step during his short stint with the Texans.

“When you critique me, you’ve got to critique everybody,” he said. “But it seems that Ed Reed is held to a higher standard – and I created that monster. I’ve been blessed to create that monster. I love it. I’m all for it.”

What he can offer the Jets remains to be seen, but the fact there was a degree of demand — especially within the division — justifies the purchase for the Jets regardless.

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Santana Moss’ Son Encountered One Nice Fan In Philadelphia

Don’t be deceived. Even the nicest looking fans in Philadelphia are merciless, throaty critics who indiscriminately spew a stream of invective at even the most innocent offender. At least that’s the stereotype.

Those Philadelphians (Philadelphites? Philadelphonics?) picked a fight with Clinton Portis’ mom.

They forced one of their own to plead for an end to the booing.

They booed my grandma for taking too long to write a $2.00 check for milk at the checkout counter. Okay that last one didn’t happen, but you see where I’m going with this.

Eagles fans are tough to please. They can be  intimidating for visiting fans. But according to Santana Moss, there’s at least one good guy at Lincoln Financial Field.

“My first game that I let my parents come to an away game was in Philly back in ’05, and my son was there,” Moss said. “At the time he probably was 5 years old. I heard the story when I got home – then we beat Philly that night.

“This guy yells, ‘Redskins suck!’ and my 5-year-old says, ‘No, the Eagles suck!’ And the guy was like, ‘Man, you know what? I’m going to let that slide because I like your dad.’

“The whole area died laughing. I was like, man, my 5-year-old could have got my mom and my folks in some trouble that game. But the guy — I’m glad whoever that guy was, he respected my family and respected my son enough to give him that credit. But I know most Philly fans ain’t that easy with opposing team fans.”

Moss said although he doesn’t like being insulted during the game, he respects the effort by the heels of the NFC East.

“I don’t know who’s worse, Philly or New York,” Moss said. “They both have fans that really come to the game to make sure that you know they’re at the game. To me I think that’s great fans. You want to make sure that the opposing team doesn’t like you.”

Don’t be deceived. Even the nicest looking fans in Philadelphia are merciless, throaty critics who indiscriminately spew a stream of invective at even the most innocent offender. At least that’s the stereotype.

Those Philadelphians (Philadelphites? Philadelphonics?) picked a fight with Clinton Portis’ mom.

They forced one of their own to plead for an end to the booing.

They booed my grandma for taking too long to write a $2.00 check for milk at the checkout counter. Okay that last one didn’t happen, but you see where I’m going with this.

Eagles fans are tough to please. They can be  intimidating for visiting fans. But according to Santana Moss, there’s at least one good guy at Lincoln Financial Field.

“My first game that I let my parents come to an away game was in Philly back in ’05, and my son was there,” Moss said. “At the time he probably was 5 years old. I heard the story when I got home – then we beat Philly that night.

“This guy yells, ‘Redskins suck!’ and my 5-year-old says, ‘No, the Eagles suck!’ And the guy was like, ‘Man, you know what? I’m going to let that slide because I like your dad.’

“The whole area died laughing. I was like, man, my 5-year-old could have got my mom and my folks in some trouble that game. But the guy — I’m glad whoever that guy was, he respected my family and respected my son enough to give him that credit. But I know most Philly fans ain’t that easy with opposing team fans.”

Moss said although he doesn’t like being insulted during the game, he respects the effort by the heels of the NFC East.

“I don’t know who’s worse, Philly or New York,” Moss said. “They both have fans that really come to the game to make sure that you know they’re at the game. To me I think that’s great fans. You want to make sure that the opposing team doesn’t like you.”

Defensive end Kedric Golston has spent all eight years of his pro career in Washington. He said he’s seen Philadelphia fans throw eggs at the team bus.

“It’s a hostile environment to play in,” Golston said. “They don’t know what Southern Hospitality is.”

The hate doesn’t bother him.

“You want to play in environments like that,” he said. “Whether they’re booing you or screaming your name, it’s all an adrenaline rush.”

Also worth noting for you cat owners. No matter how venomous the denizens of Philadelphia may appear on Sundays, we owe them our gratitude for bringing us one of the most vital inventions in the history of animal care.

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Source: Jets showing interest in Ed Reed

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets are interested in free-agent safety Ed Reed, a league source told ESPN.com Wednesday night.

Their level of interest wasn't immediately known, but it appears to be more than cursory. The New England Patriots have been mentioned as another suitor.

The future Hall of Famer, released Tuesday by the Houston Texans, cleared waivers Wednesday afternoon. Two hours before he hit the open market, Rex Ryan sounded intrigued by Reed, whom he once coached in Baltimore. Ryan acknowledged that he discussed Reed with general manager John Idzik, but he stopped short of saying they planned to pursue him.

"I could say absolutely, yes, I'd like him on our team," said Ryan, who tried to camouflage his interest by mentioning several other former players he'd like to have back but couldn't.

By early evening, however, the Jets had reached out to Reed, the source said.

Ryan and Reed spent seven seasons together with the Baltimore Ravens, from 2002 to 2008. Two years ago, Ryan called him the greatest safety in history.

On Wednesday, Ryan suggested the decision was out of his hands.

"The big picture of right now, the current football team, I'm probably not the right guy to make all those decisions," Ryan said. "I think sometimes there's a comfort level in knowing guys, without question, guys that certainly played well for you. ... I'd like those guys, without question."

The Jets' current starters at safety are Dawan Landry, who played alongside Reed from 2006 to 2010 in Baltimore, and Antonio Allen. Ryan praised Allen, saying he "has a chance to be really good." The third safety is Jaiquawn Jarrett. The trio has combined for only two interceptions.

Rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said he'd welcome Reed.

"I don't have any say in that, but most definitely, as long as he could come in and contribute," he said.

Tight end Kellen Winslow, who played with Reed at the University of Miami, believes he still can be an impact player at age 35.

"Please. Are you kidding me? He's the best I've ever seen do it at safety," Winslow said. "He's going to land somewhere and wreak havoc. I'd love to have him here. He's the ultimate leader. In our defense, he'd be able to gamble all he wants. He's a great asset, a smart player."

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Bryant McKinnie: Bullying 'exaggerated'

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins have been the biggest NFL story for the past week following the controversy involving teammates Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.

Incognito is suspended indefinitely after Martin left the team and claimed he was harassed and bullied by Incognito. The NFL also is conducting a full investigation.

But at least one veteran in Miami's locker room -- starting left tackle Bryant McKinnie -- feels the story has become bigger than necessary.

"Things could probably have been a little exaggerated with that whole situation," McKinnie said candidly on Wednesday. "You heard one side of the story and now you're starting to hear the other side. So give it time before you make a decision on who's right or who's wrong and let it go from there."

When asked if other Dolphins players agree with McKinnie's point of view, he responded, "They might. I can't speak for everybody."

McKinnie was among the many veterans in Miami's locker room who came to the support of Incognito last week. There hasn't been the same sentiment for Martin, who left the team on Oct. 28 and hasn't returned. The national media attention and scrutiny has caused a huge distraction for Miami, which has lost five of its past six games.

McKinnie, who said he wasn't upset at Martin, believed Martin could have handled the situation differently.

"If he had some emotional issues, he should've took that up with somebody upstairs and maybe we wouldn't have this situation right now," McKinnie said. "It could have been a more professional way to handle it instead of walking out on your team, because that's what you did at the end of the day."

McKinnie played on three teams throughout his 12-year career and won a Super Bowl title last season with the Baltimore Ravens. McKinnie only joined the Dolphins three weeks ago following a trade with the Ravens. However, McKinnie was not afraid to offer plenty of strong views on the Incognito-Martin saga.

"You have to remember this is an NFL locker room at the end of the day. Guys are going to joke around. This is an aggressive environment," McKinnie said. "You're going to joke around and play and say things. But you're not being serious. This is just an aggressive environment. You say things. You joke. All locker rooms are very similar.

"If you was in Baltimore with me and Ray Rice, or to listen to him Vonta Leach talk to each other, the way they talk to each other, that could have easily been this situation. Somebody could have just got fed up and did the same thing. It's not that serious. You know what I mean?"

Martin will meet with NFL on Friday to discuss his issues with Miami, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. The Dolphins (4-5) will host the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

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Calais Campbell is still on the rise

Most defensive ends who were as productive as Calais Campbell in 2012 would reflect proudly upon the havoc they wrought.

Despite missing three gamesicon1 to injury, Campbell finished second on the Cardinals with 6 ½ sacks, knocked down seven passes, led the team with 14 quarterback hits and blocked the sixth field-goal attempt of his career.

But when Campbell looked back, all he could think of was the opportunities he missed. In his eyes, he should have finished with at least 10 sacks, and the seven pass deflections were four fewer than he had in 2011.

“Finishing,” Campbell said, when asked what he wanted to improve upon this season. “I told myself I want to be dominant. My goal is to affect every gameicon1, make a play that helps us win. So far, I’ve been doing a fairly good job of that.”

Campbell leads the team’s defensive linemen in tackles with 40, is tied for second on the team in sacks, has deflected two passes, forced a fumble and recovered two of them.

Campbell, in his sixth season, has never made a Pro Bowl, but those who closely follow the NFL have known for some time how good he is.

ProFootballFocus.com, which analyzes every play and player in the NFL, has graded Campbell as the fourth-best 3-4 defensive end this season.

The Texans’ J.J. Watt is regarded as the best. Here’s how the website evaluated Watt and Campbell in Sunday’s game between the Cardinals and Texans.

“Yesterday’s matchup between these two had the air of two of the game’s best going back and forth in a game of one-upmanship, one setting the target and the other going out here to match that impact.”

Campbell didn’t record a sack in the game, but he spent a considerable amount of time on the Texans’ side of the ball. He’s been doing that for several weeks now. In the past five games, Campbell has recorded 25 tackles, 3½ sacks, five tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble and 12 quarterback pressures.

“The NFL is about matchups,” said Jaguars coach Gus Bradley, whose team hosts the Cardinals on Sunday, “and he’s a guy who creates matchup issues. He’s big, he’s strong and he’s really active. He gets off the ball and he’s very disruptive.”

Campbell, 27, is just entering his prime. At 6 feet 8, 300 pounds, he’s playing with better leverage, staying low enough that offensive linemen can’t drive him.
This off-season, he concentrated on using his hands better, something coach Bruce Arians and defensive-line coaches Brentson Buckner and Tom Pratt have emphasized.

“He was on the ground a little bit too much for me,” Arians said of his evaluation of Campbell in previous seasons. “He is using his hands so much better and shedding blockers and keeping people off of him.”

Campbell has improved as a pass rusher, too. He’s strong enough to push guards back, and when he is stymied, he’s developed some countermoves. Against the Texans, he used a spin move to his advantage.

“He’s a guy who plays every play,” Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said, “works hard, chases the run down from behind. We have some work cut out for us.”

A second-round draft pick in 2008, Campbell developed quickly enough that the team could allow Antonio Smith to depart through free agency a year later.
Before last season, Campbell signed a five-year, $55 million contract, $31 million of which is guaranteed. For that money, the Cardinals are counting on Campbell to be among the better 3-4 defense ends.

So far, so good.

“I do want to be considered one of the best,” Campbell said. “Everybody wants to leave a legacy when they’re done playing, and what people think of you is a big part of your legacy. But, really, I feel like winning games is the Number 1 thing. My mind-set has always been: ‘How can I affect the game and make sure we win it?’ ”

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Ed Reed Goes Unclaimed on Waivers, Becomes Free Agent

Ed Reed is now available, and NFL teams can do a little wheeling and dealing to sign the veteran safety. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Reed has passed through waivers, which means the 35-year-old is now a free agent.

The Houston Texans placed Reed on waivers Tuesday despite the fact he is in the first year of a three-year deal signed in the offseason. It’s important that Reed is now a free agent, of course, as any team claiming him on waivers would have had to pay him the rest of his contract. Now that he’s free agent, teams are obviously able to negotiate with him and his camp.

Reed was once one of the best safeties in the game, but age is starting to catch up to him, and he’s not the player he once was. With the Texans struggling and Reed’s play slipping, they were forced to eat money to part ways with him as they continue the season with an eye toward the future.

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Warren Sapp Accused by Former Teammates of Being a Bully

Hall of Fame defensive lineman Warren Sapp has been called a lot of things. It's time to add bully to the list. At least, that's what some former Buccaneers players are stating.

Per the Tampa Bay Times, former players Keyshawn Johnson and Chidi Ahanotu came forward voicing frustrations about the way Sapp treated them, and others on the Bucs, during his tenure in Tampa Bay.

"Richie Incognito tormenting and bullying of his teammate reminds me of what our beloved Warren Sapp did to his teammates and the staff," said Ahanotu.

"Tyoka Jackson, Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson, Marcus Jones and I {Anahotu} all confronted Sapp and had physical altercations and varying degrees with Sapp. Virtually nothing was off limits to Sapp's verbal attacks and belittling of his teammates and front office staff."

Ahanotu went on to add that the bullying increased until he stood up for himself and called Sapp out in the locker room. Once he showed backbone, Sapp didn't bother him again.

Sapp denied the rumors, claiming that Anahotu and others had ample time to bring this information to the public, but decided to wait until the defensive lineman was inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor. He didn't stop there, and even went so far as blasting Incognito on local radio, accusing him of being a 'dirtbag.'

The fact that multiple players have come forward addressing Sapp's antics leads me to believe that he and Incognito may not be so different. However, I question the validity of Sapp belittling front office staff. Is one player exempt from punishment if he plays at an All-Pro level on the field? Is winning so important that a bully is allowed free reign over his teammates and staff?

I understand players not wanting to create a scene and get coaches involved, but why wouldn't front office personnel contact upper management about Sapp's bullying? Was bullying in the locker room common, and if so, how many other untold stories are waiting to be shared?

This story won't affect Tampa Bay's play this season. Sapp and those accusing him are all retired. That is what makes the Incognito-Martin ordeal different. This information is coming out right now as it's happening, and it's affecting everyone connected to the situation.

This story emphasizes that there is -- and has been -- a serious problem with player bullying in the league for some time. It's disappointing that professional athletes -- role models in the community, by choice or not -- are engaging in acts of verbal and physical harassment for their own enjoyment.

If nothing else, this story stresses the importance of getting rid of acts of bullying in our schools. No one deserves to be treated differently because of their size, weight, social status, ethnicity, or athletic ability, or lack thereof. If bullies see that their acts of aggression are tolerated in professional sports, what's to stop them from becoming the next Warren Sapp or Richie Incognito?

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Colts struggling to fill void left by Wayne's absence

At 5-9, 178 pounds with sub-4.4 second 40-yard speed, T.Y. Hilton has the look and skill set of the prototypical NFL slot receiver. Summon the image of Wes Welker, if you will.

So interim Indianapolis Colts coach Bruce Arians raised some eyebrows last season when he was asked if Hilton has what it takes to be a No. 1 receiver.

“I think a solid No. 1,” Arians responded. “I do, which is surprising, because when we drafted him we thought he was just a kick returner.”

Arians, now head coach at Arizona, spoke on the eve of the 10th game of Hilton’s rookie season. The Colts will play the 10th game of the 2013 season Thursday night in an AFC South showdown at Tennessee.

T.Y. Hilton is their No. 1 receiver.

That it’s probably temporary and it comes by default — due to a season-ending knee injury to longstanding No. 1 Reggie Wayne — in no way diminishes Hilton’s qualifications or performance. In the two games since Wayne went down, Hilton has caught 14 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns.

Those are regal numbers arriving at record pace. Project them over a 16-game season and you have 112 receptions for 2,008 yards and 24 touchdowns.
The problem is that Hilton prospers alone.

Quarterback Andrew Luck’s passer rating when throwing to Hilton over those two games is 152.1 (158.3 is a “perfect” rating). Luck’s rating while throwing to the other receivers and tight end Coby Fleener is 52.6. Therein lie many of the offense’s difficulties during the 27-24 escape at Houston and the 38-8 splattering by St. Louis.

For all Hilton’s high achievement and the increase in passes to the running backs, the void opened by Wayne’s absence still gapes. The Colts are getting precious little from Darrius Heyward-Bey, Griff Whalen and LaVon Brazill, and not much more from Fleener.

“Losing a guy like Reggie, you can’t replace a guy like that, not only his leadership qualities but his production, obviously, on the field,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Guys have been pressed into action and they’ve got to respond.

“We’re seeing glimpses of what those guys can do, but they got to step up even further. They’ve got to raise their level of play.”

Heyward-Bey is the Colts’ 2013 version of their rent-a-receiver of a year ago, Donnie Avery. Both brought impressive speed. Both have proven to be inconsistent and uninspired. Heyward-Bey’s numbers since Wayne was lost are 12 targets, four catches, 41 yards, no touchdowns.

Whalen is an undrafted free agent who last year missed his entire rookie season with a broken foot. Brazill is a talented second-year player who has yet to make a dent. His unreliability caused the Colts to remove him from the return game last year and to favor Whalen this year. Whalen has played 87 snaps the past two games, Brazill 48.

Whalen and Brazill, who was suspended for the first four games this year for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, not only had played a mere handful of game snaps before Wayne’s injury, they were getting few practice reps. They have been asked to come a long way fast, as has Da’Rick Rogers, a rookie signed from the practice to the active roster this week.

As Whalen pointed out, the receivers aren’t the only ones scrambling to make adjustments. Receivers coach Charlie Williams has to cope. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has to devise a game plan. Luck has to figure out how his new principals run routes, where they are going to be and when, and where to put the football.

“It takes a little time just to get into the game flow,” Whalen said. “We’ve been practicing all year but to do it in games, get the call, execute it under the time crunch when the bullets are flying, it’s a little different.”

Colts safety Antoine Bethea stressed that everyone has to step up when a player like Wayne goes down. Defensive end Cory Redding echoed Bethea. Redding said defense and special teams have to grab some slack.

They haven’t done that. The defense has struggled, special teams have struggled, everyone has struggled, none more than the offensive line.

The Colts yielded a single touchdown longer than 40 yards over their first seven games. They have given up six the past two games: passes of 62, 41, 57 and 81 yards, a punt return of 98 yards and a 45-yard fumble return after a strip-sack. A receiving group critically thin in experience and achievement can’t begin to cover that.

As Hilton said, “There is no replacing Reggie. We can get that out there right now,” but someone beside Hilton had better begin contributing. Hilton already is seeing the coverage roll his way.

“It’s been much different,” he said. “You know they’re going to start trying to take me out of the game. I know they’re going to start doubling me, tripling me, trying to take me out.

“Guys have got to step up and make plays.”

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Jon Beason feels snubbed that Giants flexed out of primetime game

The Giants vs. Packers was supposed to be a primetime game. Then the Giants decided to start the season 0-6 and the Packers lost Aaron Rodgers. Not surprisingly, NBC dropped the matchup from their Sunday night schedule in favor of the much sexier Chiefs vs. Broncos.

Giants linebacker Jon Beason still feels snubbed. He wanted to play with the world and his peers concentrating on their game.

“Yeah [I feel snubbed}," Beason said on Wednesday. “Anytime you get flexed out of primetime, it’s a bad thing. Everyone wants to play primetime games. At the same time, you look at it – they’re taking you off for Broncos-Chiefs, undefeated, division game. So you understand.”

Just because Beason understands doesn’t mean he has to be happy about it. He’d still rather be the Sunday night game rather than the 4:25 pm (ET) FOX national broadcast.

Wide receiver Victor Cruz doesn’t care. In fact, he didn’t even realize the Giants-Packers was supposed to be a night game.

“I didn’t even know that until you said it,” Cruz said. “I could care less. We just need to play the game in front of us, win the games in front of us and we’ll get more primetime games after that.”

The Giants have one primetime game remaining – in Washington on Sunday, December 1. Of course, that too can change in the coming weeks if the Giants and/or Redskins fall out of contention.

There is also the possibility that the Giants add more primetime dates if they keep winning. If they’re in the hunt late in the season, it’s possible their games against the Seahawks or Lions in Weeks 15 and 16 get flexed to the primetime slot. That sounds better to Beason.

“We’re hoping,” he said “to do that later on in the season and get that [primetime] game back.”

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Shane Larkin has a target date for his NBA debut — maybe

Shane Larkin will be heading home this weekend. Home to Miami, where he went to college. And home to Orlando, where he grew up.

What the Dallas Mavericks’ rookie point guard won’t be doing is suiting up for the Mavericks. But that day is not far off, he said Wednesday.

Fate – in the form of a broken ankle – has delayed the start to his NBA career. But Larkin has a game plan now for getting it under way. Asked if he had a target date yet for his first game, Larkin said: “Um, my target and their (the Mavericks&rsquoWinking target are probably different. We got a couple practices next week. I would like to play the 20th against Houston. That’s when I’d like to play.”

Whether it’s then or Nov. 22 against Utah or sometime thereafter, it’s coming soon. And though Larkin has only gone through a couple of full practice sessions since getting clearance to do as much as he can handle on his surgically repaired right ankle, he’s already done enough to catch at least one person’s eye.

Dirk Nowitzki said he can already see signs of why the Mavericks acquired Larkin, who was the 18th overall pick in the June draft.\

“It (our depth) is only going to get better when we get Shane back,” Nowitzki said. “His speed is fun to watch in practice. He’s so quick off the dribble, pushing the ball. I think he’s going to help us tremendously in the backcourt.”

Larkin figures to ease the burden on rookie Gal Mekel, who along with Wayne Ellington are the only healthy backup options in the backcourt right now. Any injury would leave the Mavericks in a bind.

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Ed Reed's potential landing spots include Patriots, Jets

Now that the Houston Texans are cutting ties with Ed Reed, the veteran safety will take just over $400,000 in remaining salary to the waiver wire.
He will end up collecting $5 million in guarantees for his seven games in Houston.

The playoff picture

In the competitive disadvantage stage of his career, Reed is no sure bet to be claimed this week. In fact, it's quite possible that he's played his last NFL game.

If Reed does manage to latch on with a playoff contender, though, here is a list of potential landing spots:

1. New England Patriots: Reed and Patriots coach Bill Belichick have long formed a mutual admiration society, and the Patriots could use the depth with Steve Gregory injured.

2. New York Jets: Rex Ryan has a soft spot for his former Ravens stars, as evidenced by his reluctance to part with a declining Bart Scott. The Jets like starter Antonio Allen, but he's been a liability in coverage at times.

3. Indianapolis Colts: Reed has referred to Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who recruited him to the University of Miami, as a father figure. With LaRon Landry and Antoine Bethea locked in as starters, there's no obvious role for Reed in Indy's secondary.

4. New Orleans Saints: Rookie Kenny Vaccaro is dealing with a concussion, so there's no long-term need at safety. Reed does have roots in Louisiana, however, and the team showed cursory interest in the offseason.

5. Dallas Cowboys: Jeff Heath has been an abject disaster as a fill-in for injured rookie J.J. Wilcox the past two weeks. Reed would be a temporary Band-Aid, but how would he take his second demotion of the season once Wilcox is healthy again?

6. Baltimore Ravens: John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome have moved on, drafting Matt Elam as Reed's replacement. ProFootballTalk confirms the Ravens will not claim Reed on waivers.

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After being 'weeded out,' Winslow back in

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Tight end Kellen Winslow, who practiced Monday for the first time in more than a month, acknowledged he was unhappy with his playing time before his four-game suspension took effect. Winslow said he was "weeded out" of the game plan in the Week 5 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

"Stuff goes on behind the scenes that ... look, they knew I was going to get suspended," Winslow said of the New York Jets. "Sometimes you just kind of get weeded out or whatever. I knew I wasn't going to take the appeal if I got suspended. My knee was hurting, I'm weeded out of the game plan ... it was just a frustrating time."

Because the Jets knew of the pending suspension, they chose to give fellow tight end Jeff Cumberland a bigger role in that particular game plan, according to Winslow.

Winslow's chronic knee pain flared up in the days leading up to the Monday night game in Atlanta, causing him to miss four practices that week. He caught a 1-yard touchdown pass in the game, but he played only 19 snaps -- the first time he played fewer snaps than Cumberland. Afterward, Winslow declined an interview, saying it wouldn't be a smart move to speak to reporters.

Four days later, the suspension became public.

Winslow said he feels well-rested and fresh after spending five weeks at his home in California. He returned to the Jets briefly last week, but the team received a six-day break for the bye week, so he returned to the West Coast.

"I went home to San Diego and cycled a little bit and ate Mexican food," said Winslow, a cycling enthusiast.

For what it's worth, Winslow said he still hasn't been notified by the NFL Players' Association as to which performance-enhancing substance caused his positive test. He claimed it may have been an allergy medication. He said his goal is to help the team any way possible.

"He was missed," quarterback Geno Smith said.

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Ed Reed out in Houston

Ed Reed’s stint in Houston was a short one.

Reed, the veteran safety who signed with the Texans this season, will be released today, according to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

The news makes a lot of sense, as Reed has been a disappointment on the field and is expressing frustration off the field. Reed’s playing time has been in decline, and on Sunday he said the Texans were out-coached in their loss to the Cardinals, which couldn’t have endeared him to the coaching staff.

Although Reed was once a great safety, at age 35 he’s not the player now that he was in his prime with the Ravens.

Like all players who are released after the trade deadline, Reed is subject to waivers. It will be interesting to see whether the Ravens put in a claim for him, but considering that they didn’t show much interest in keeping him in the offseason, they may not have much interest in bringing him back now.

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Nate Webster's sentence reduced

Former Cincinnati Bengal and convicted sex offender Nathaniel “Nate” Webster was in court Tuesday getting his 12-year prison sentence reduced to 10 years.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Ralph Winkler did as a higher court ordered in September and cut Webster’s prison sentence by two years.

Webster, 35, was convicted in April 2012 of four counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. He had sex with a 15-year-old babysitter who lived in his Symmes Township neighborhood. Webster, who was 31 when he had sex with the girl, and her family were also friends.

Her family repeatedly confronted Webster about their suspicions that he was having sex with their daughter, but Webster always denied it. The girl, though, told jurors she and Webster had sex several times at his home and in his car.

Two months ago, the Cincinnati-based Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals overturned one of the four charges of which Webster was convicted, noting that prosecutors didn’t prove that charge even though a jury found him guilty of it.

Webster signed a five-year, $11.3 million contract with the Bengals in 2004 but was released when injuries limited his playing time.

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Antrel Rolle recalls sleepless nights during team's 0-6 start

Antrel Rolle still remembers the dark days early in the season when the Giants staggered to an 0-6 start and what could go wrong did go wrong. Doubt was their constant companion. The team played scared and lacked swagger.

Three games and three victories later, the Giants (3-6) have revived a season that was on life support and proved what the power of positive thinking can do.

“It’s night and day,” Rolle said Tuesday afternoon on WFAN when asked about the confidence level in the Giants locker room these days. “It’s not like we lacked confidence before. But 0-6 can do a lot to you. It can really, really break your spirit if you let it.

“I know a couple of times it broke my spirit and I find myself extremely strong. I found myself many, many nights up at two, three o’clock in the morning asking myself what has gone wrong? I didn’t have an answer.

“But this team has stayed confident but more importantly, we stayed together and believed in ourselves. That’s where you see us winning the last three games.”

The brash and outspoken Rolle, who has led the charge on the field as well, has also learned to take a more measured approach to the season. Earlier, he said the Giants could win 12 games in a roll among other things. Those statements just made him look foolish.

Given the bait once again, he didn’t take it. Asked if the Giants can win the division, Rolle said, “One game at a time.”

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Jonathan Vilma's 'Celebrity Servers Charity Dinner' brings out the Saint in all of us

Coming off a great win against the Dallas Cowboys the day before, the New Orleans Saints and the Who Dat Nation were in ebullient spirits, especially at the “Celebrity Servers Charity Dinner” on Monday, Nov. 11. A benefit for the Jonathan Vilma Foundation, the star linebacker and his teammates, as well as a few local celebrities, traded their uniforms and work attire for aprons to wait on tables to raise money.

The evening started with a reception in The Shops at Canal Place, where guests could get up close to players such as Vilma, Pierre Thomas, Ramon Humber, Thomas Morstead, and former Saints player Steve Gleason (with whom they took photographs). The players also autographed footballs and aprons, which were sold at the event and proceeds went to the foundation.

The evening then moved to Morton’s, The Steakhouse, where fans enjoyed a four-course wine-pairing meal and could bid on items in the silent and live auctions. Those waiting tables, in addition to Vilma, Humber, Morstead and Thomas were New Orleans Saints co-owner Rita Benson LeBlanc, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, Saints players Jimmy Graham, Roman Harper, Will Smith, Malcolm Jenkins, Will Herring, Cameron Jordan, Charles Brown and Robert Meachem, along with special guests former Saints player Michael Lewis, Mark Romig (who was the event’s live auctioneer and is the Saints' home-game PA announcer) and WVUE/Channel 8 Jennifer Hale, who served as the night’s emcee.

As of the next morning, the event had raised $180,000 for the foundation. Vilma established the foundation (working through the Giving Back Fund) after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. As Vilma’s parents are from Haiti, and family members remain, he is committed to assisting in the long-term rebuilding efforts. In 2011, the foundation partnered with Artists for Peace and Justice to create the first free, secondary school in Port-au-Prince. Since then, through foundation grants, the school has expanded and a third wing is under construction.

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Team Calais fan giveaway support United Way

PHOENIX -- He’s known for crushing people on the football field but this morning Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell is showing off his softer side in an attempt to get volunteers.

Campbell announced a fan giveaway in conjunction with his involvement with United Way TEAM NFL. He is competing against other NFL players to see who can recruit the most volunteers to help mentor and tutor teenagers in an attempt to diminish the high school dropout rate.

"It's a competition and I don’t like losing at anything," said the gentle giant. His goal? 3,000 volunteers.

Campbell has already recruited 563 fans. He teamed up with the Arizona Cardinals to give fans who join TEAM CALAIS the opportunity to win a number of unique prizes.
• 1,000 volunteers -- autographed Calais Campbell jersey
• 1,500 volunteers -- lunch with Calais and a few of his teammates at the Arizona Cardinals facility
• 2,000 volunteers --  visit from Calais to your work or child's school from Calais
• 2,500 volunteers -- volunteer alongside Calais at a United Way event
• 3,000 volunteers -- a day with Calais at your home to put him to work, walking the dogs, watching your kids, manning the barbecue
• 4,000 volunteers -- a VIP experience at an Arizona Cardinals home game including tickets for four and a meet-and-greet with Calais following the game.

One lucky TEAM CALAIS volunteer will be chosen when each milestone is reached. Fans who join TEAM CALAIS have the chance to win more than once.
Take the pledge and enter to win at www.unitedway.org/teamcalais.

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Ryan Braun expected to move to RF

The Milwaukee Brewers want to move OF Ryan Braun to right field to protect themselves if OF Khris Davis fails in left field. It's generally easier to find left fielders than right fielders.

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Mike James has fractured ankle

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially lost running back Doug Martin for the rest of the season this week when they placed him on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

Martin’s replacement is now injured as well.

Mike James left Monday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins on the Buccaneers’ opening possession after going down with an ankle injury. James had to be carted off the field and was replaced by Bobby Rainey and Brian Leonard.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, X-rays revealed a fractured ankle for James. The full extent of the injury is not yet known and James is going through further testing to determine the damage. Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano confirmed the injury in his post-game press conference.

James had been impressive in his last two games before the injury. James carried 28 times for 158 yards as Tampa Bay rushed for 205 yards in total against the Seattle Seahawks last week. James had already carried five times for 41 yards on the Buccaneers’ opening drive before doing down with the injury.

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Kellen Winslow believes he was ‘weeded out’ before suspension

New York Jets tight end Kellen Winslow, before missing the last four weeks for a PED suspension, has expressed frustration in seeing his playing time diminish.

Now, according to ESPN, Winslow says he was “weeded out” of the offenses game plan during the Jets’ Week 5 win against the Atlanta Falcons, the last game Winslow played:

Stuff goes on behind the scenes that … look, they knew I was going to get suspended. Sometimes you just kind of get weeded out or whatever. I knew I wasn’t going to take the appeal if I got suspended. My knee was hurting, I’m weeded out of the game plan … it was just a frustrating time.

Winslow believes the Jets knew of his suspension, and gave tight end Jeff Cumberland more of an opportunity in the Atlanta game because of it.

On the other hand, maybe it had more to do with Winslow missing four practices leading up to the Monday night game with chronic knee pain.

Winslow caught a touchdown in the game, but only played 19 snaps, the first time Winslow played fewer snaps than Cumberland. After the game, Winslow decline an interview, believing it wouldn’t be a smart move.

The suspension became public four days later.

Winslow, who practiced with the team for the first time in over a month, says that he feels fresh and well-rested after spending the past five weeks at his home in California.

“I went home to San Diego and cycled a little bit and ate Mexican food,” said Winslow.

Winslow says he has not been notified by the NFL Players’ Association as to which performance-enhancing drug he tested positive for. He believes it was his allergy medicine, but did not appeal the suspension.

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Jimmy Graham adjusting to limited role

METAIRIE, La. -- Tight end Jimmy Graham played a limited role in the New Orleans Saints' 49-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, appearing in only 33 of 83 snaps. However, both Graham and coach Sean Payton indicated afterward that it was more of a pre-determined game plan to limit his snaps, rather than any indication of an injury setback.

Graham has been managing the pain of a partially-torn plantar fascia in his left foot since Week 6. He also suffered an unspecified elbow injury during Week 9. And he was limited throughout practice last week.

Graham was in and out of the lineup steadily throughout the night against the Cowboys. And when he was on the sideline, he was always in "ready position," waiting to hop back on the field. He never showed any signs of discomfort.

His limited role was noteworthy, though, because he had played 56 snaps the week before in a 26-20 loss to the New York Jets.

"They just want to make sure that they're handling me the right way," Graham said after catching five passes for 59 yards against the Cowboys. "They really look to limit me at times. You know, I've got some issues. But you know, everyone does. So it's gonna be like that from week to week.

"You know me, personally obviously I want to be in on every play. But now it's kind of changing gears and getting used to sitting out for five to six plays and then going in and staying fresh and making sure you stay warm. That's not something I'm used to."

The most surprising thing about the way Graham was used against the Cowboys was how rarely he played when the Saints were in the red zone -- where he presents such a threat as a big, physical target. Graham leads the NFL with 10 touchdown receptions this season. And in his first game back from the foot injury two weeks ago, he played almost exclusively in the red zone.

Without getting into any specific details, Payton said Monday that Graham's role was "just predicated on the game plan and the work week."

It's likely Graham will see more red-zone snaps going forward as his specific game plan continues to evolve in future weeks.

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Antrel Rolle's misplay turns into a big play

One of the biggest plays of the Giants game on Sunday was actually a mistake by the defense. But it was one in which they were able to recover and keep the Raiders out of the end zone.

On second-and-3 from the Giants’ 6 in the third quarter, the Raiders were driving towards a touchdown that would have given them a two-possession lead. The Raiders started out with Terrelle Pryor under center with two backs behind him: fullback Marcel Reece and running back Rashad Jennings. The Giants were in a straight 4-3 look with Antrel Rolle at safety but pinching up because they were close to the goal line.

Reece went in motion to the Raiders’ right, which allowed linebacker Keith Rivers to step up to the line of scrimmage. Antrel Rolle was supposed to follow Reece across the formation to cover him, but he got stuck. Uh-oh.

“I put myself in a bad situation,” Rolle said. “It was a miscommunication on my part.”

Rolle was stuck in the middle of the field with his guy going wide. So what did he do? He called for Jacquian Williams, the other outside linebacker, to cover Reece. After initially stepping up to the line of scrimmage, he did. Middle linebacker Jon Beason then had to shift to his left to take Williams’ place. And Rolle, well, he became the middle linebacker.

"There was nothing else left for me to do but go out there and make the play,” Rolle said. “When all else fails, see ball and go get ball. That’s my mentality.”
That’s what happened. Beason filled in the right side of the Raiders offense (where Williams would have been) and Rolle came up to tackle Jennings.

“My job, my fill, was to put the ball back to ‘Trel who, on the motion, became the mike backer behind the shade,” Beason said. “He’s a big physical safety, he made the play, it was huge.”

It wasn’t a thunderous hit, but Rolle played it very well, sliding behind Jason Pierre-Paul, watching the ball, and wrapping Jennings up around the ankles until help could arrive to finally get him to the turf.

At the 1.

Just shy of a touchdown.

It gave the Raiders first-and-goal at the 1, but they eventually settled for a field goal and a 20-14 lead that the Giants were able to overcome.

“It’s not always going to be perfect,” Rolle said. “You’re not always going to be in the right place at the right time. You have to play beyond the Xs and Os, and we did a great job of adjusting today.”

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Leonard Hankerson encouraged by recent play

Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson is coming off of two of the most productive performances of his career, but he said that nothing has changed about his approach.

In his past two games, Hankerson has recorded 10 catches for 116 yards while serving as the secondary wide receiver opposite No. 1 wideout Pierre Garcon.

Hankerson recorded five catches for 55 yards with a long of 23 against San Diego. On Thursday against Minnesota, he had five catches for 61 yards with a long of 29.

“I just be out there doing my job,” Hankerson said on Monday. “Working hard every day at practice, being in the meeting room, listening to the coaches and what they’re saying. Like I said, just doing my job.”

Hankerson played 34 of the 75 offensive snaps against San Diego, and his productivity earned him more playing time the next game as he took 42 of the 79 snaps against Minnesota. Hankerson initially saw playing time fluctuate as he, Josh Morgan and Aldrick Robinson vied for time at the ‘Z’ receiver position. Hankerson said consistency in his approach has been the only key to his increased playing time and production.

“You do everything right. You go to practice, work hard and things practice. You just put the work in and everything happens out there,” Hankerson said. “I don’t really set any goal. I just go out there, make plays for the team, do my job and try to help my team come out on top. If you’re making plays, and you’re out there on the field, it always feels good to help your team out.”

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In defeat, Andre Johnson shines with 2 scores

He only finished with 37 receiving yards, but Andre Johnson still managed to produce a pair of “wow” moments during Sunday’s loss at Arizona.

With 5:55 left in the opening quarter, Johnson pulled down a 7-yard Case Keenum pass and tapped both feet in bounds on the right sideline for a score. With 4:34 remaining in regulation, he went up and reeled in a deflection off Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, again bringing both feet down in bounds for a score.

“Those were two of the best catches I’ve ever seen in my life,” Keenum said. “Those were incredible. I can’t even describe it. You have to watch it to see how awesome those catches are.”

Interim head coach Wade Phillips took it a step further.

“How terrific is he?” Phillips said. “He can make fantastic plays. That’s why he’s going to be a Hall of Famer one of these days. He’s such a tremendous competitor, not just ability, but he’s a great competitor. I’m glad we’ve got him on our team.”

For Johnson, though, it was just a matter of taking advantage of a pair of chances Keenum gave him.

“I always just try to make the best of my opportunities,” Johnson said. “He gave me an opportunity with the ball. I was able to make the plays on them.”

All touchdowns are reviewed with instant replay, and the officials took a little extra time making sure Johnson’s feet were in bounds. Whether or not he scored was never in question for Johnson.

“I knew my feet were in,” Johnson said. “That’s something I work on a lot, keeping my feet inbounds when I make catches. I never had any doubt about it.”

On the day, Johnson was targeted 12 times by Keenum, and he came down with five receptions. His longest was a 14-yarder early in the second quarter, and that drive would result in a Keenum to Ryan Griffin 2-yard scoring strike. Johnson was covered by third-year cornerback Patrick Peterson, who was highly complimentary of the Texans’ pass-catcher.

“The thing all great receivers have in common is the will to get the ball,” Peterson said. “Having great body control, strong hands, and field awareness, as you saw today.”

For Johnson, though, the two scores weren’t enough to overcome the sting of the team’s seventh consecutive loss. And despite falling to 2-7, Johnson was focused on helping the team get back in the win column.

“We put ourselves in this position,” Johnson said. “There’s no reason to sit around and whine about it. Nothing we can do about it now. We just have to look forward to the games ahead and try to win as many as we can.”

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Jimmy Graham only played 33 snaps

Jimmy Graham (foot, elbow) played on just 33 snaps in Sunday night's win over the Cowboys.
A week after playing on nearly 77 percent of the snaps, Graham was back down around the 40 percent mark. He even sat out some red-zone opportunities, constantly shuttling on and off the field. Graham still ended up with five catches for 59 yards, but it's impossible to say when/if he'll be back to full strength. Plantar fascia injuries can be managed, but are often painful and only truly heal with rest. All that said, a 50 percent healthy Graham is still a top-three fantasy tight end weekly.

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Wade Phillips downplays comments from Ed Reed

Because coach Gary Kubiak went home early today, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips – the interim coach – met with the media.

Phillips was asked about free safety Ed Reed’s comment that the Texans were outplayed and outcoached in Sunday’s 27-24 loss at Arizona.

“Everybody has their own feelings about what’s happening,” Phillips said. “They have their own ideas about what’s happening or didn’t happen. We try to keep everything in house. That’s our policy here. That’s what we try to do, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Asked why Reed didn’t keep his opinion “in house,” Phillips said, “I really don’t have an answer for that question. Like I said, a lot of people have opinions about what should or shouldn’t be done and those kinds of things.”

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Andre Johnson with incredible TD catch (GIF)

It’s no secret that Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is one of the best in the game. That still doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy it every time that he shows off that ability, like he did just moments ago in the game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Texans were down 27-17 with time winding down in the fourth quarter. At the Cardinals five-yard line, the Texans decided to utilize the growing chemistry between new QB Case Keenum and Johnson.

Being so close to the end zone, they decided to call a jump ball to Johnson, which he turned into one of the more amazing plays of the day thus far:


It is absolutely insane sometimes how easy Johnson makes plays like these look. He was able to literally just rip the ball away from the defender who had tremendous coverage on him.

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Texans release Tavares Gooden

The Texans released veteran linebacker Tavares Gooden on Friday and added cornerback Josh Victorian to the active roster.

Gooden, 29, was selected by Baltimore in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft. He played in just one game for the Texans this season and did not record a tackle. Gooden’s played for the Ravens, San Francisco and the Texans during his six-year career.

Victorian, 25, is a Louisiana Tech product. He played four games for Pittsburgh in 2012.

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Sean Spence remains upbeat

PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers shut down Sean Spence for the rest of the season Wednesday when they decided against putting the inside linebacker on their 53-man roster.

But his abbreviated time spent practicing with the team left Spence confident that he will play again after suffering a devastating knee injury in the Steelers’ final preseason game of 2012.

“I have a sense of comfort from practicing with the guys and competing against them I’ll be able to do it again,” Spence said.

Spence remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list as he recovers from several torn knee ligaments and nerve damage that was also a result of a dislocated kneecap.

He was allowed to practice for a three-week period as the Steelers evaluated Spence and even during that period the former Miami (Fla.) standout had a setback.

He broke his finger, limiting the amount of work he got in practice, but Spence said he “should be ready to go” when the Steelers start offseason practice in the spring.

He remains confident that he will be able to help the Steelers at some point even though Spence still have plenty of work ahead him as he works his way back.

“This has always been my dream to make it in the NFL and to come to an organization like this that has the caliber of great defenses, great linebackers,” Spence said. I don’t need things from outside to come in and motivate me.”

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Leonard Hankerson: Back-to-Back Solid Games

Hankerson caught five passes for 61 yards on five targets in Thursday's 34-27 loss to the Vikings.

That makes two solid games in a row for Hankerson, who caught five passes for 55 yards against the Chargers last week. He had just four total receptions in the previous three games, as he was rather quiet from Weeks 2-8. Despite the inconsistent production, Hankerson's targets have actually been fairly steady, with no fewer than three and no more than seven in any game. Both Hankerson and Santana Moss appear to have limited upside, so long as Pierre Garcon and TE Jordan Reed stay healthy.

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Sean Payton: Vilma 'one of the all-timers'

METARIE, La. -- Coach Sean Payton on Thursday raved about linebacker Jonathan Vilma and what he has meant to the New Orleans Saints' organization both on and off the field, while also explaining why the team made the tough decision to place Vilma on season-ending injured reserve.

Payton said Vilma, 31, didn’t suffer any setbacks while playing 12 snaps last Sunday against the New York Jets. But the coach said it became evident that Vilma wasn’t far enough along in his recovery from a summer knee surgery to make the necessary impact on the rest of the season.

“That being said, the process that allowed him to go to IR, our decision to do that and then to kind of see if he could get better quick enough to play, I don’t regret. Especially with a player like Jon Vilma,” Payton said -- later adding, “Bring me as many Jon Vilmas as you can.”

Here’s more from Payton on Vilma:

On the decision: “The feeling on both of our parts was that what he’s used to and accustomed to playing, at a certain speed and a certain level and certainly what we’ve seen, still wasn’t there. But he’s progressing. ... It was more of just an overall knowing we’ve got eight weeks left in the season, and is he going to be able to progress enough to where he’s comfortable and we’re comfortable enough with his progress? ... But make no mistake about it -- this was something I’m sure was difficult for him to hear. There are some players that you almost have to pull off the field.”

On Vilma’s future prospects: “I know this -- I know he has made no long-term decisions. ... It is progressing. It is getting better, and that’s encouraging. That’s why I know for certain that there’s no finality or any decisions being made today. There doesn’t need to be.”

On Vilma’s approach to his rehab: “No. 1, I know he was real pleased with the surgery and the way it went. We were as well. I was encouraged with his recovery. He’s going to work (tirelessly) in anything he does. He’s so meticulous in preparation. So the same that you see in regards to a player that studies football was the same approach he took to rehabbing his knee.”

On what Vilma has meant to the Saints since he arrived in 2008: “He has been one of the all-timers as a coach, now, as far as a standup guy, a guy that prepares and a guy that takes everything he has done in the film room and brings it to the field. I’ve said this before. He has been what Drew (Brees) has been to our offense to our defense. You’re always going to go the extra mile with a player like that.”

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Bucs fans will relive days of Warren Sapp

Warren Sapp should skip through the Dolphins' stretching line Monday night. One last time, he should kick the pylon out of the northeast corner of the end zone. He should flip his helmet from his toe into his hands and place it on his head. Arms by his side, he should prance and dance and rev Raymond James Stadium into delirium.

For good measure, the former defensive tackle should plant another quarterback or two.

Images of Sapp during his nine seasons in Tampa Bay will flash on the Jumbotron. For a few minutes, fans will remember the dominant defense, the division titles, the Super Bowl XXXVII championship.

During a halftime ceremony, Sapp will receive his ring from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, completing his enshrinement that commenced with a ceremony in Canton, Ohio, in August.

Then the Bucs will unveil his name and retired No. 99 on the east side of RJS, joining Lee Roy Selmon, John McKay, Jimmie Giles and Paul Gruber in the Ring of Honor.

"Bryan (Glazer) just told me I get three minutes (to speak)," Sapp, 40, said Wednesday of the Bucs' co-chairman. "Then I realized we've got a football game to play. People don't come to the football game for halftime. That's okay. I've never been at halftime before."

Sapp was never 0-8 before, either. He was 0-5 and 1-8 in 1996, the first season under coach Tony Dungy. The Bucs won five of their last seven games and didn't look back until the end of the next decade.

In his job as an NFL Network analyst, Sapp has been critical of the Bucs under coach Greg Schiano.

"It's black and white," Sapp said. "At the end of the day, they don't ask you, 'Oh, how did the game go? What were you on third down?' They ask you, 'Did you win or did you not?' And it's that black and white.

"Just like I was sitting there talking to (Schiano) at lunch: This isn't personal. These are just the facts."

Sapp's criticisms include Tampa Bay's use of cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

"Darrelle Revis is a lock-down corner. Gerald McCoy needs to be swapped from side to side and find a one-on-one for him the same way they did for me," Sapp said. "These aren't facts that are in dispute. That's why I don't think I'm having a problem coming back here and seeing my guys or walking in this place.

"This is personal for me. I love this place with everything I know and love. I want to see it excel. I can live on through this place if they're playing good football. I don't want it that way, but I'm not going to look at it and turn a blind eye. I've always looked at it and called a spade a spade, and that's what I will do."

As I wrote in August, Sapp can still be self-centered, crude and cruel. The brashness and bravado that served him well as a player isn't always as useful once there are no more games to play.

But this night is not about debating his character or other aspects of his life.

On Monday night, Sapp is being honored for his feats on the field. He was an entertainer, and he saw RJS as his stage.

"The boys are calling and telling me, 'We'll be there,' " Sapp said. "That's going to be the most fun part, sitting around on that Sunday afternoon watching football and telling lines. That's the best. Simeon (Rice) is coming. Somebody gave him coordinates from Mars, so we're good. We got the boys."

You can peel back the curtain to the NFL after Monday night. Be careful because it's a little like sausage. You might not want to see how it's made. You can talk about bullies and concussions and coaching burnout for the rest of the year. You can hold up your Fire Schiano signs and mock MRSA.

SAPP 99 is going to hang around for awhile.

"I don't care where it goes," he said, "just so long as it sits up there for awhile."

Don't like it? As he once told Packers coach Mike Sherman, "If you're so tough, put a jersey on."

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Vince Wilfork gives back to kids

Vince Wilfork might not be stuffing runs, or taking on double teams on Sundays. But that doesn’t mean he’s still not contributing.

The Patriots defensive lineman, who still offers his input during film sessions, also maintains his presence in the community as he rehabilitates from the season-ending torn Achilles tendon he suffered in Week 4 against Atlanta.

To that end, Wilfork is teaming up with Eastern Bank for the second consecutive year to promote a holiday Toys for Tots collection campaign in partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves Toys for Tots program.

Last week, Wilfork passed along some of his thoughts on the campaign as well as his legacy.

“Even though I am now not able to make a physical impact on the field doesn’t mean I can’t continue to make an impact in the community,” Wilfork said via email. “The Vince Wilfork Foundation is in its 10th year of service and it will continue long after my career. I think of the foundation as my legacy — football has been the driving force to allow my wife and I to change the lives of those in need.

“I will always stay involved with fans through charity,” he added. “I’ve been lucky to never have a season-ending injury in my professional career and I have just shifted positions to focus on recovery and doing as much as I can as a leader in my community.

“Giving back is so important but there is nothing better than seeing my fans team up with me and help me with a cause. Strength in numbers. I thought of the idea of having fans tweet at me (@wilfork75) when they drop off at a Eastern Bank branch so I can see each and every fan on my team this holiday season. It always makes my day to see people get out in the community and make a difference. I have the best fans in the world. My injury is temporary but giving back is permanent.”

The campaign is already underway, as all 98 Eastern Bank retail offices are serving as official toy drop off locations. The public is encouraged to donate new, unwrapped toys at any Eastern Bank branch through Saturday, Dec. 14, or go to toysfortots.org/easternbank to make a donation online.

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Autograph session with Texans center Chris Myers set for Nov. 12

An autograph session with Houston Texans center Chris Myers will take place at the Academy Sports & Outdoors from 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12.

According to a news release from Academy Sports & Outdoors, "Fans will have the opportunity to receive an autograph from Chris Myers. Autograph passes will be handed out two hours prior to the start of the event. There will be a limit of one autograph pass per person and fans must be present to receive the pass. An autograph pass doesn’t guarantee an autograph and only acts as a placeholder in line. Player and time may be subject to change."

Admission is free, and tickets are not required.

Academy Sports & Outdoors is at 7600 Westheimer Road, Houston.

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