Lamar Miller aiming for first 1,000-yard season

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (7-7) are on a path towards their sixth consecutive non-playoff season. But one player who is having a consistent season is starting tailback Lamar Miller.

Miami’s third-year tailback already set new career highs for rushing yards (829) and touchdowns (six) this season. Miller is just 171 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season, and that goal is within reach with two games remaining against the Minnesota Vikings (6-8) and New York Jets (3-11).

“You know, it would be great just to reach 1,000 yards,” Miller said. “I just have to continue to do what I do, come to work every day and try to get better.”

Miller has thrived in first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's new scheme. Miami’s spread, quick-hitting offense has allowed Miller to find more creases in the defense and make plays in open space, which are strengths.

This season Miller is doing a much better job of getting to the second level. He's run for a career-high 45 first downs, nearly doubling his previous career best of 26 first downs in 2013. Miller also increased his yards per carry from 4.0 last season to 4.7 this season.

“I think he’s made better decisions running the ball,” Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said. “It’s not always perfect, like the quarterback is not perfect every single time in decision-making. He does a good job, and I think he's done a better job. Less shuffling, less dancing, more running.”

Although Miller has improved in several areas, he mentioned there are still things he must work on to become a complete running back. For example, Miller citied pass protection and catching out of the backfield. Taking on blockers has been a struggle for Miller throughout his career, and he's dropped a few passes this season.

But running is Miller's biggest priority and he's done it well. Perhaps what is most impressive is Miller is approaching 1,000 yards rushing without getting nearly as many carries as other feature tailbacks around the NFL. Miller only received more than 16 carries once in a game this season while constantly rotating with backups Damien Williams and Daniel Thomas. But Miller is making the most of his opportunities.

Miller needs to average 85.5 rushing yards in the final two weeks to reach the 1,000-yard milestone.

“Every time I get the ball, I try to make a big play for this team,” Miller said. “Once I get it, I just try to be decisive, make the right reads and use my vision.”

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Brandon Meriweather has setback after testing out toe

Strong safety Brandon Meriweather was unable to practice in any capacity on Thursday, the day after testing out his injured big toe on Wednesday, and appears unlikely to play Saturday when the Eagles visit FedEx Field.

Meriweather took part in a limited number of position drills on Wednesday, but had a setback, coach Jay Gruden said.

Meriweather on Thursday revealed that he had an MRI exam on the toe the previous afternoon, but said that he didn’t know what results those tests turned up.

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Reggie Wayne might play less in last two games

With the Colts having locked up their division but unlikely to earn a first-round bye, receiver Reggie Wayne "might see less action" during the final two regular-season games, reports the Indianapolis Star. Wayne is playing with a torn triceps.

He played 52 snaps Week 15 after playing 63 the week before. If Wayne's snaps keep dropping, rookie Donte Moncrief and veteran Hakeem Nicks should see more playing time.

Moncrief played 37 snaps and Nicks 21 in last Sunday's win over Houston. The Colts visit Dallas on Sunday as 3-point underdogs.

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Greg Olsen's production speaks for itself

CHARLOTTE – Tight end Greg Olsenicon-article-link won't try to explain his case for Pro Bowl candidacy, but he doesn't have to. His play is doing it for him.

Two weeks ago in Carolina's win at New Orleans, Olsen recorded 10 catches for 72 yards and one touchdown. It was the first 10-catch game of his career and it tied the team record for the most catches in a game by a tight end, previously accomplished just twice in franchise history.

A week later in Carolina's win over Tampa Bay, Olsen had his second 10-catch performance in as many weeks. This time, with backup quarterback Derek Anderson under center, he had 10 receptions for 110 yards.

It marked his third 100-yard receiving effort of the season and fourth since joining Carolina in 2011, which set a record for most career 100-yard receiving games by a tight end.

"It's been fun," Olsen said. "It's nice being out there in a good rhythm; the quarterback trusts you and if you can get open he's going to sit on you and give you a chance – that's fun. It's fun to catch the ball, it's fun to be productive. But most of all, it's fun to contribute and help win the game."

Olsen has been fun to watch. He's one of the most consistent pass-catchers in the league and when the Panthers need a tough completion on third down, he has a knack for getting open to keep the drive alive.

"My approach every week is I am going to be as quarterback-friendly as possible, get open as much as I can so the quarterback can depend on me, so when he throws it there is a good chance we are going to complete it," Olsen said.

After leading the team in catches and receiving yards last season, Olsen is again leading the team with 81 catches and 960 receiving yards, both career highs.

Among NFL tight ends, Olsen ranks first in receptions, second in yards and sixth in touchdowns with six.

The eight-year veteran has never been to a Pro Bowl, and he couldn't be more deserving of the honor this season.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a goal of mine," Olsen said. "Of course it is. It's not something I lobby for. I feel very confident in what I do. I've felt that way for eight years now. If they recognize me, that's great. I feel like throughout the league – but mostly on our team – I have the respect of my guys. To me, that's really all that matters."

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What is Giants safety Antrel Rolle worth?

With the 2014 season ticking down, the question that has been posed to the Giants' key free agents is whether, all things being equal, they would like to re-sign with the team this offseason.

First we heard from defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who expressed his desire to be a "Giant for life" last week. And on Wednesday safety and defensive captain Antrel Rolle boldly declared that he thinks he has three more seasons left of playing at a high level.

A cynic would say that Rolle's statement is nothing more than end-of-the-year posturing from a player positioning himself for a contract. After all, Rolle has seen a notable dropoff in his play this season from the prime of his career, or even last season when he was one of the better safeties in the league.

He is currently ranked 78th out of 87 safeties in the league by Pro Football Focus, with a grade of -8.1, a steep drop from 2013, when he was rated the eighth best safety in the league. The chinks in the armor have been more visible for Rolle this season. He has 74 tackles and only three interceptions and the impact plays that Rolle has built his reputation on have not been there.

Those kind of numbers won't exactly have owners John Mara and Steve Tisch rushing to cut a check. But let's assume that the Giants have some interest in bringing Rolle back. Rolle has a positive history with the organization and is considered one of the leaders in the locker room. The problem is that those intangibles are hardly worth the $7.25 million that

Rolle is currently earning, making him the third-highest paid safety in football.

The problem with determining Rolle's worth is that there are so few players to compare him to. There aren't too many 32-year old starting safeties in the league, and the few that are around have noticeably declined from their prime. For his part, Rolle believes age is nothing but a number. He has also never missed a game as a Giant.

"I have never worried about age. You can put me up against any 32-year-old," Rolle said. "Age has never been a factor to me. These coaches will tell you I don't take days off, even in practice. Other players can take age and use it as whatever they want to use it as, but I know myself."

Based on his peers around the league, there are really only two options the Giants could entertain if they do indeed want to bring Rolle back — overpay him based on his reputation or convince him to take less money and years that are more in line with his age and performance.

The Ceiling: Troy Polamalu / Ed Reed money
Even at his best, Rolle is probably a couple of notches below the elite level that Reed and Polamalu played at for the majority of their careers. But what makes Rolle's situation comparable to these two future Hall of Famers is that both managed to score one final big payday in their 30s, which would be a best-case scenario for the Giants safety.

Reed, at age 35, scored a three-year, $14.875 million contract from the Houston Texans in 2013 after 11 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, with $5 million guaranteed. Polamalu, 33, was actually extended this spring before he could become a free agent this offseason, with the Steelers signing him for two more years at $11.75 million, with $6.75 million guaranteed.

The Reed contract is particularly interesting because, like Rolle, he was coming off of a down year by his standards, ranking 60th in the league among safeties, according to PFF, with a -1.9 grade and four interceptions, a low number for the ball-hawking centerfielder.

Polamalu, on the other hand, had a very good season in 2013. He was the fifth-ranked safety in football, with a PFF grade of 13.3, still playing at the high level that the Steelers had come to expect.

Of course, both contracts should come with a "buyer beware" sticker. As is the case with any contract offered to an NFL player over 30, there is always the chance that the following year could be the one where that player begins to show his age, which is exactly what happened to both Reed and Polamalu.

Reed was cut after seven games with the Texans. He recorded zero interceptions, before latching on with the Jets for the second half of the season and rebounding somewhat, with three picks over the final seven games. Still, at 36, Reed was not re-signed by the Jets and is unofficially retired.

Meanwhile, Polamalu has had his first poor season in years, with zero picks through 12 games, and is the 50th-ranked safety in football.

It is not inconceivable that Rolle could receive a three-year deal in the $4-$6 million range of guaranteed money, especially from some team looking to make a splash this offseason and attach a big name to their secondary. But the Giants would be foolish to overpay Rolle at this level. Even if Rolle were to rebound next season to his 2013 form, there is still a good chance that he won't live up to the back end of that contract and will end up a cap casualty.

The Likely Scenario: Charles Woodson money
In a perfect world, Rolle would be amenable to the kind of short-term deal that Oakland Raiders safety Charles Woodson received this offseason. Woodson is on his second consecutive one-year deal with the Raiders, with a guaranteed salary of $1.15 million, and can reach as high as $2.5 million with incentives.

Woodson is obviously a good deal older than Rolle at 38, but the other safeties around the league that are close to Rolle's age (such as Mike Adams, Danieal Manning, and Jim Leonhard) never played at the level that the Giants safety did at his peak.

Like Reed and Polamalu, Woodson is a future Hall of Famer, and is primarily being paid based off of his past performance. But even if that is the case, Woodson is actually rated higher than Rolle and has the same number of interceptions this season. Adams and Manning are probably more comparable to Rolle in terms of ability at this point, Rolle is a three-time Pro Bowler that will be looking for a much higher base salary than Adams' $965,000 or Manning's $855,000.

Signing Rolle to a one-year deal with a slightly higher base salary than Woodson (think in the $2-3 million range) allows him to save face and still earn a salary commensurate with his reputation and current level of play. The Giants could even add some incentives if Rolle hits certain personal milestones, such as a Pro Bowl appearance.

That contract also allows the Giants to punt on addressing both safety positions this offseason — they will likely be looking for replacements for free safeties Quintin Demps and Stevie Brown — and retain one of the few vocal leaders in the locker room.

Of course, there are a lot of variables that will factor into the decision to keep Rolle, most notably whether coach Tom Coughlin is brought back as coach or if the Giants bring in a new defensive coordinator with a vastly new scheme. But barring a monumental shift in philosophy, the Giants should either bring Rolle back on a one-year contract or completely revamp the safety position.

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Santana Moss laments lack of chemistry with QB

ASHBURN, Va. - Santana Moss has caught just seven passes this year for the Washington Redskins. At age 35, he knows he might not be much in demand once the season is over.

That makes it a fair time to reflect on a good career that might have been even better, if only he could have played with a steady quarterback. And also to defend the first-year coach who made him a bench-warmer.

"I feel like I've been cursed," Moss said with a laugh. "Everywhere I've been, I've had a million quarterbacks, man."

Moss has averaged one quarterback per year, catching passes from 14 QBs since entering the league in 2001. An uninspiring list ranging from Jason Campbell (214) to Brooks Bollinger (2) has contributed to his 729 career receptions for 10,258 yards with the New York Jets and Redskins.

Not bad, but he says he could have had "numbers like the other guys" he feels are on his level if he could've developed some long-term QB chemistry.

"Never had a solid guy that I can really grow with," Moss said.

This year, the Redskins have used three starters: Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. It hasn't mattered which has played as far as Moss' production is concerned: He was pushed low on the depth chart this year when Washington signed DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts to join Pierre Garcon on the receiving corps.

Despite first-year coach Jay Gruden's assurances that the chances would come, Moss didn't catch a pass until Nov. 30. All seven of his catches have come in the last three games.

"It [stinks] when you still can play at this age and you don't get a chance to do that all the time," Moss said. "I've been fortunate these later weeks to be able to go out there and have fun in this sport again."

But Moss isn't venting his frustration specifically toward Gruden or the Redskins in general. He said he wants to be back with the team next season, and he had a message for those who think Gruden is too forthcoming when discussing players' flaws in public.

"First year, man, you've got give him a chance," Moss said. "I've seen worse done in people's first year. But Jay's just a different type of coach. He's one of those guys that he might be misunderstood at times the way he says the things he says in the media, but to me it's just being blunt, it's being real."

Moss said Gruden doesn't say anything to reporters that he hasn't already said to a player.

"He'll actually say that stuff to you in your face," Moss said. "So if you want a coach to lie to you, then go find somewhere else to play because he's not going to lie. I'd rather you be straight up with me . . . If you're a player and you feel his criticism hurts you and affects you as a player, then you're not built for this game."
Gruden repaid the compliment.

"We only have so many balls to go around," Gruden said, "and unfortunately some of the receivers haven't got as many touches as they would like to have seen or that we projected early in the season . . . But Santana, I have been impressed with him all season. He has been a total pro, been a great leader in that receiver room and we are happy he is here."

Moss said he keeps coming back because he wants to win a Super Bowl, but that doesn't appear imminent for a team that went 3-13 last year and is 3-11 this season headed into tomorrow's game against the Eagles. The nonstop losing got the best of Moss when he was ejected from Sunday's loss to the New York Giants for arguing a ruling that overturned a touchdown, which, if nothing else, shows he still has some passion for the game.

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Vince Wilfork ready to tangle with Nick Mangold again

Over his career, Vince Wilfork has remained among the elite group among his peers in terms of interior defensive linemen. The same can be said for New York Jets center Nick Mangold, who entered the league with the Jets in 2006.

With the two banging heads frequently over the years, it has become one of the top on-the-field matchups when these rivals meet every season.

"Yeah, we've been around for a while," Wilfork said. "He's one of the tougher guys in this league. Their offensive line as a whole, the way they play up front is the way the game needs to be played: physical, tough, smart. They don't budge. We try not to budge. It's like an old-fashioned football game when these two teams play. I'm pretty sure it's going to be the same way this week. Hopefully we're ready for them this time around and do a better job in the run game, because that's where it all starts."

Wilfork and Co. hope they do a better job against the run this time around, because even though the Patriots won the first meeting, their performance against the Jets' ground assault left a lot to be desired. New York put up 218 rushing yards and dominated time of possession, 40:54-19:06. Although the Patriots prevailed that Thursday night, 27-25, they can't allow the Jets a similar advantage if they want to avoid the upset.

"We have to do a good job of going in and out of there," Wilfork said. "If we don't, we'll be in trouble. We have our work cut out for us, but at the same time, we always look forward to a challenge, especially up front."

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Andre Johnson passes concussion protocol, will play vs. Ravens

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson said Thursday he passed the NFL’s concussion protocol and will play against the Ravens on Sunday at NRG Stadium. But the team’s leading wide receiver, DeAndre Hopkins, may not be able to go because of an ankle sprain – a decision won’t be made until Sunday morning – and tight end Garrett is again out with same, coach Bill O’Brien reported. But outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus will return after missing the Indianapolis game with back issues.

Johnson missed last Sunday’s 17-10 road loss to the Colts after suffering a concussion during the Texans’ 27-13 win against the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Dec. 7. It was the 12-year veteran’s second concussion in the past two seasons.

“I feel normal,” he said.

He remembers briefly blacking out but was told by center Chris Myers that he didn’t close his eyes after the hit. To Johnson, the helmet-to-helmet contact and his sudden fall weren’t scary. His family members saw it differently.

“It was more scary for other people than it was for me,” said Johnson, who watched a replay of the hit. “I talk about it like nothing happened. Everybody else who saw it said it was a scary moment for them.”

Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith was fined and penalized for the hit. Johnson said he didn’t have an issue with Smith’s tackle, which immediately floored the wideout.

“I felt my arms and stuff tense up,” Johnson said. “I remember everything.”

Johnson was inactive last Sunday, when the Texans lost quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage due to injury.

No. 80′s thoughts while watching two more QBs go down: “Where is the bad luck coming from?”

Johnson welcomed the return of Case Keenum, who’s expected to be the team’s starting quarterback against Baltimore.

“It’s crazy. He was let go and now he’s back,” Johnson said. “It just shows you how things work in this business. Just because a guy is gone at one point doesn’t mean he won’t be back. I’m glad to have him back. He played his college ball here. He’s from Texas. So maybe this is where he belongs.”

The 12-year Texan will face ex-coach Gary Kubiak on Sunday. Johnson wished the Ravens offensive coordinator the best but acknowledged Kubiak is in a different world now.

“I had some of my best years under him,” Johnson said. “I enjoyed the time that I played for him. It’ll be a good chance to catch up with him. I haven’t talked to him since he was here.”

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Ray Lewis brings ‘Coaching Bad’ to Spike in February

Former NFL star Ray Lewis will join anger management specialist Dr. Christian Conte on Spike in Coaching Bad. They’ll work with nine coaches who can’t turn off their angry, profane ways even away from the fields they coach on. Conte is a licensed counselor, author and professional speaker.

Lewis, of course, was famous for his leadership and motivation of the Baltimore Ravens. He rebuilt his image after being implicated in a double murder, and now has an ESPN gig as well as Coaching Bad. Lewis also mentored disgraced former Raven Ray Rice and wait, why did they pick Lewis to host this again? Anyhow, here’s a trailer:

Among the guest speakers lined up for this offering are Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, NBA star Glen “Big Baby” Davis and retired NFL troublemaker Bill Romanowski. Spike has ordered eight one-hour installments of Coaching Bad. If this is a success, look for other Spike shows that riff on the titles of popular dramas. If only someone had thought to repackage TNA Wrestling as Grappling Bad! Or perhaps, Bad Men?

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Frank Gore hopeful to play

Frank Gore continues to work through the NFL’s concussion protocol after suffering the injury Sunday in Seattle and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Thursday he anticipates the running back suiting up Saturday.

It is a short work week for the 49ers as they play Saturday night at home against the San Diego Chargers. Gore, who did not practice Wednesday, was able to go in a limited fashion on Thursday.

Rookie backup Carlos Hyde, though, remained out and Alfonso Smith would get the majority of carries should neither Gore nor Hyde play.

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Eric Winston latest 'next man up' for Bengals

Few teams have played musical chairs as frenetically as the Cincinnati Bengals this season.

And while they’ve hit four sharp notes comparable to the sounds of a shrieking cat, also known as blowout losses, the Bengals’ concerted effort to triumph over injuries has been impressive, and important, overall.

The latest “next man up” example is Eric Winston.

One pressing issue throughout the Bengals’ 24-3 debacle against Cleveland on Nov. 6 was Marshall Newhouse’s magnified inability to help protect quarterback Andy Dalton, partially leading to Dalton’s worst career performance. Newhouse had replaced injured right tackle Andre Smith.

The Bengals are 4-1 since then, the most recent win a 30-0 redemptive victory over the Browns.

While Newhouse has noticeably improved, he’s slid into a backup role.

Clint Boling has started at right tackle since Dec. 7, but the Bengals had also signed Winston that week.

Winston was one of several unsung MVPs, in my opinion, as the Bengals prolonged their stay atop the AFC North.

The 6-foot-7, 302-pound tackle spent six seasons in Houston before a season apiece in Kansas City and Arizona. The 31-year-old didn’t have a home in 2014 until Cincinnati came calling.

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Brandon Linder makes PFF Pro Bowl Roster

The Jacksonville Jaguars are slowly building their roster. They've started rookies at 13 of 22 positions on offense and defense, and as such don't have a lot of players in the national spotlight. With the exception of Sen'Derrick Marks, they might not have a Pro Bowl selection this year.

But according to Pro Football Focus, one young offensive lineman for the Jaguars is having an incredibly good season.

Brandon Linder is the lone Jaguars player on Pro Football Focus' Pro Bowl Roster for 2014. According to their ratings, he's the sixth-best guard out of players who have been in on at least 75% of their respective team's snaps. His pass-blocking, according to PFF, is his strength as he's earned an overall grade of 10.3 this season, fourth-best in the league.

Breakdown: No change here from our earlier Pro Bowl cheat sheet. Yanda has been superb all year in arguably his finest season as a Pro, being one half of a tremendous tandem in Baltimore. As for the three rookies making the list, that just goes to show it’s not just the wide receivers who look like a special group from the 2014 draft class.

Linder is certainly deserving of some recognition, but what about Sen'Derrick Marks? According to PFF's own ratings, he's the fifth-best defensive tackle in the league.

Their reason for not including him, and other interior linemen who may have been deserving, is that they wanted to take some of the guys balloted as defensive ends and slot them there, given how they're used as interior defenders.

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Stephen Morris activated

With Blake Bortles’ status for Thursday’s prime-time game against the Tennessee Titans uncertain, the Jaguars on Wednesday signed quarterback Stephen Morris from their practice squad.

Morris, a rookie free agent from the University of Miami, has spent the entire season on the practice squad. The Jaguars signed him shortly after the 2014 NFL Draft and he has practiced with the Jaguars all season.

He played under Jaguars offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch during the 2011 and 2012 seasons at Miami.

Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft and a starter since Week 4, sustained a mid-foot sprain Sunday against the Ravens. Head Coach Gus Bradley Wednesday said he liked how Bortles has progressed this week and that the Jaguars are leaning toward playing Bortles.

Bortles’ game status is expected to be decided a couple of hours before kickoff Thursday. He was listed as questionable on the team’s final injury report of the week Wednesday.

If he can’t play, backup Chad Henne will start.

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Jimmy Graham is No. 2 tight end in NFL Pro Bowl fan ballot

Fans have put New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham in position to make his third NFL Pro Bowl.

Graham was behind only Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots among tight ends in the fan portion of the balloting that ended Monday.

Fans count for one-third of the total that determines Pro Bowl selections. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes on Friday. The team will be announced on Dec. 23.

Graham was the only Saints player in the top two at any position in the fan balloting, according to figures released by the NFL on Wednesday. Graham collected 413,366 votes to 601,093 for Gronkowski. 

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For Vikings' Chase Ford, Miami game a homecoming

Teddy Bridgewater headlines the Vikings' homecoming crew, but that does not necessarily make the quarterback more popular in Miami than cornerback Xavier Rhodes or tight end Chase Ford.

Rhodes, a Miamian, and Ford, a former Hurricane, have been deluged with ticket requests for Sunday's Dolphins-Vikings game at Sun Life Stadium.

Minnesota (6-8) is out of playoff contention, and the Dolphins (7-7) have all but been eliminated. But the game holds plenty of meaning for Ford.

"It's good to go back and play in Miami," he said Wednesday. "Being in Miami, I rooted for the Dolphins while I was there. It'll be good to get back down there and see some old teammates.

"I will say this: I'm looking forward to the sun and the warmer weather.

It'll be a nice change-up."

Ford has secured a reserve tight end job in Minnesota after bouncing among three NFL practice squads. He played two seasons at the University of Miami after two years of junior college in his native Texas.

He made seven starts among 21 games for the Hurricanes and played in the 2011 Sun Bowl. However, the Hurricanes struggled, compiling a 13-12 record during Ford's stay, which included the firing of coach Randy Shannon.

"It was a good experience," he said. "I just wish we would have come out with more wins and did better for Shan while we were there. It was fun while I was there, though, I will say that."

Rhodes went to Miami's Norland High School and was a star running back and wide receiver before playing at Florida State.

"Ticket requests? Too many," he said. "Everybody can't get one. I can give you a crazy number, but I'm not going to give them that many."

Rhodes thrived Sunday in his one-on-one matchup against Detroit's uber-physical receiver Calvin Johnson, who had only four receptions for 53 yards.

Now comes speedy Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace, who is 70 receiving yards shy of 1,000 in his debut season at Miami. His 73 catches are the third-most by any first-year Dolphin.

"You've just got to stay in front of him the whole time," Rhodes said. "You can't let him get on top of you. He's a guy that can blow the top off a defense. Just keep him close to you."

Close like Calvin?

"That I really don't know," said Rhodes, revealing nothing. "Coaches ain't said nothing to me about that."

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Frank Gore sits out

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Eliminated from the playoff race with two games remaining in the season, the San Francisco 49ers' injury report looked especially bloated Wednesday afternoon with 17 players listed, including nine who did not practice in advance of Saturday's prime time home game against the San Diego Chargers.

And with their top two tailbacks, starter Frank Gore and rookie backup Carlos Hyde, among the observers, it is easy to see why the Niners signed running back Phillip Tanner earlier in the day. Tanner spent the first three years of his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys.

Tight end Garrett Celek (ankle) was placed on season-ending injured reserve in the corresponding roster move, giving the Niners 15 players on IR. Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Niners had just five players in IR in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and nine players on the list last season.

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Allen Bailey returns to Chiefs practice after concussion

Two key players who missed the Chiefs’ last game while recovering from concussions might be on track to play this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Cornerback Phillip Gaines and defensive end Allen Bailey were full participants in Wednesday’s practice. This marks the first time in two weeks Bailey, who suffered his concussion Nov. 30 against Denver, has practiced.

Gaines, meanwhile, suffered his second concussion of the season in practice Dec. 10. He was a limited participant in practice two days later but did not play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

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Andre Johnson back on practice field Wednesday

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson has taken a step forward toward his goal of playing Sunday against Baltimore by practicing Wednesday.

He missed the Week 15 game against Indianapolis with a concussion.

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Reggie Wayne Talks What It Was Like To Break The Colts Franchise Record

INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayneicon-article-link’s final radio show of the 2014 regular season took place on Tuesday night.

Wayne fielded several questions on game No. 209 and breaking a pair of historic Colts franchise records.

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

On playing the most games in Colts history and having the most wins as well:
“It’s definitely humbling. Like you said, there’s so many great players that have been through this organization so it’s definitely humbling. I appreciate it and I appreciate all the support from the fans. They make it easy for me when I’m out there playing.”

On what the post game locker room was like after the game:
“By the time I got in the locker room, everyone was waiting on me and that’s when I got my brothers, my teammates, who want to be funny and do the “Reg-gie” chant. They made a big deal about it and I’m grateful for those guys. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. That’s my brothers, man. I love them to death. I’d do anything for him. Just to be a part of the whole speech coach Pagano gave and Mr. Irsay gave, it was humbling. It really was.”

On if he felt more comfortable physically against the Texans:
“I felt good. I finally got rid of that ugly brace. I talked my way to get rid of that so I was able to be me a little bit. I was able to get out there, get in the flow of the game. Andrew (Luck) threw me a couple of passes and I was able to catch them. Hopefully we can do more of that.

“I had to get clearance and consult the doctors to make sure it was the right decision (to take off the brace) and they ok’d it. That was like a breath of fresh air. Playing with that, it was definitely uncomfortable. It’s not receiver friendly. That’s why you don’t see many receivers wearing them. Just to get rid of it, I’m excited and now I can go out there and be the 87 that everyone knows.”

On winning another division title:
“It never gets old. They all have their own different feeling to them. I enjoy them all just like it’s my first time doing it.\

“It is (our first goal). We have that stepping stone and to win that division is that first box you can check off. You win the division, you are guaranteed to be in the playoffs. You are guaranteed to have a home game. That’s what you want. That’s what we fight for. We’ve conquered that first step and hopefully we can ride that journey and move on from that first step.”

On the next goal:
“If you still have room to move up into the seeding chart, you want to definitely do that. And you still want to finish off the season strong. We’ve been blessed to have conquer the division but we still have a couple of games left where you want to win those games. You want to win, so you have that feeling rolling into the playoffs.”

On the possibility of resting down the stretch:
“They pay me to play, man. The game is fun. Yeah, we understand there’s a lot of things that can happen during the game but you want to play as much as you can. Me personally, I can’t speak for anyone else, I enjoy the game. I love playing the game. So to go out there and play and compete, that means a lot to me. That’s what I want to do. At the end of the day, that’s not my decision to be made. I have to follow orders. I guess I just have to answer to the higher calling. If they tell me I’m going to sit down, there’s nothing I can do about that. But if it was up to me, I would want to go out there and play.

“Our offense, we haven’t started the last couple of games how we want to so we should want to play. We should want to go out there and kind of work out the kinks that we’ve been missing on.”

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Olivier Vernon Named Dolphins 2014 Walter Payton Man Of The Year Nominee

Olivier Vernon has been getting more and more recognition for his play at defensive end. He now has earned accolades for his work off the field.

Vernon has been announced as the Dolphins’ 2014 nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, presented by Nationwide.

The award, named after the late Hall of Fame running back of the Chicago Bears, is given annually to the player who best exemplifies a commitment to philanthropy and community involvement.

“I didn’t even know I was going to get that,” Vernon said Wednesday. “It’s a great thing. I want to thank all my teammates as far as trying to get me out there and helping me out with my camps and participating. Just giving back to the community is a big thing. I love just giving back to home. My home is in my backyard right now, so I’m just glad I had the opportunity to do that.”

The list of 32 Man of the Year nominees will be pared down to three finalists in January and the winner will be announced in Arizona, the site of Super Bowl XLIX, during the fourth annual NFL Honors awards show, a two-hour prime-time special Saturday, Jan. 31, from 9-11 p.m. ET on NBC.

Vernon and the other 31 team nominees will receive a $1,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice. The three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation, and the winner will receive an additional $20,000 donation in his name.

The Dolphins have had three winners of the award: Dwight Stephenson in 1985, Dan Marino in 1998 and Jason Taylor in 2007.

Vernon, a third-year player from the University of Miami, has been actively involved in community activities for a long time, even before he joined the Dolphins.

“I’ve always done stuff when I was back at UM with (Coach Randy) Shannon or when I was in high school doing things for the community,” Vernon said. It’s just something else that’s natural. I was always trying to give back as much as I can.”

Vernon lately has been particularly passionate about helping to grow youth football in South Florida and has been heavily involved with the Dolphins Academy, which he attended as a youth, often running camps and clinics.

Vernon’s community work also has included working with local schools in team laser tag; distributing book bags to kids in need at Dave & Buster’s; walking in support of WalkAbout Autism; reading to kids at a local library; and donating a block of tickets for every home game to various charities through his participation in an All Community Team.

This past summer, Vernon spoke to 400 middle school students at a team summit at Florida International University. included a short explanation on how each team came up with its nominee, and this what was written about Vernon:

How has your nominee put the needs of members in the community ahead of their own?

“Olivier is a South Florida native and is constantly serving in various capacities to make his community better. In the offseason, he schedules vacations and leisure around his community events. He wants to make sure he gives back to the kids of his community. Olivier also volunteered his time to be part of the Dolphins’ first Heads Up Football Mom’s Clinic in July. He demonstrated the importance of proper equipment fitting and answered questions from a crowd of almost 300 women.”

What is your nominee’s next initiative?

“Olivier is very active in the South Florida community and is a consistent participant in our player events on Mondays. He will have his annual football camp in May and again be very involved in helping us teach and train youth football players in South Florida.”

When did your nominee start supporting this cause?

“He started almost immediately when he was drafted to the Dolphins. He started his football camps last year and has been working with our youth football department for the three years he has been with the organization.”

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Mike Pettine calls Bernie Kosar's criticism of Browns 'dramatic' and he 'couldn't be further from the truth'

BEREA, Ohio -- Coach Mike Pettine called Bernie Kosar's criticism of the Browns' front office this week way off base and unfounded.

In an interview on The Mike Trivisonno Show on WTAM 1100, Kosar said that Johnny Manziel and any other quarterback the Browns start will fail because of the losing culture at the top of the organization.

He said it's "somewhat of a tough spot for Johnny given this team and given this organization. It's just a complete recipe for a disaster.

"You can't put these kids (the quarterbacks) in these spots. It's almost abuse. If you're going to keep running it the way we're running it, we may as well do nothing (to fix the quarterback situation), because you'll kill two more kids coming in here. It'll fail. It does not matter right now.''

He added: "We've had a headache. I've had a headache for 15 years with this and it's not stopping. It's getting worse."

Pettine stressed that he's been a longtime fan of Kosar's but that his remarks "could be further from the truth.''

 "I think that's a little dramatic,'' he said. "I know I've talked about that before.  Sometimes guys will make comments that are a little bit over the top.

"I have a lot of respect for Bernie.  He was one of my favorite guys growing up - heck of a quarterback - and he's entitled to his opinion.  But being here on the inside of it and seeing what we're building and the interaction we have between Jimmy Haslam and Ray Farmer and Alec Scheiner and myself, that the commitment is all there for us to be successful.''

Pettine acknowledged that the track record hasn't been good, but that the current regime is committed to turning things around. From his opening press conference, Pettine has talked about changing the culture.

"Obstacles are being removed for us to be successful and I'm very encouraged about the future here - very encouraged,''And I'd be the last one to tell you that the odds are stacked against us to be successful because of management.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  We're in a society of instant gratification. Everybody wants it to happen now.  As much as we want that to happen, it is a process.''

Pettine had the Browns all alone in first place in the AFC North at 6-3 until they've lost four of their last five.

"When you build a house, you have to build it from the foundation,'' he said. "You have to build it the right way, make sure it's rock solid and we're in the middle of that.  So I get that people are going to have their opinions and say what they say. A lot more of that happens when you've lost three in a row. I didn't hear a lot of that when we'd just gotten our seventh win, so [if] we want that stuff to go away, it's still a bottom line business.  You've got to win games.''

Pettine stressed that the Browns must be successful in the final two games to eradicate the "losing culture'' mantra.

"I think that's critical,'' he said. "Just momentum in the offseason is critical. How we started the year, a lot of people won't remember that. We'll be remembered by our last game, our last performance or our last month or our last two months.

"As far as the culture change part of it, that's something consciously and subconsciously, we've been working on doing here since the end of January a year ago, just to come in and implement a system. When you have the culture of losing that's been here when it's been only four or five wins a year going back however many years, that's a difficult thing to overcome because it's a mentality.

"When you get stuck in a rut like we're in now it's easy to fall back into an old habit. That's what I've been saying. We need to fight our way out of it. Right now, we've gotten ourselves in a mode where we've been failing more than we should."

Kosar said during the interview: "You can take out Brian, you can take out Johnny Manziel's name and you can plug in (Tim) Couch.....(Derek)  Anderson, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy...the names change, but the way we do things as a culture above them is still the same and yeah he wasn't ready, but the team's not ready. December is when teams have to play good.''

He  said the Browns set the bar too high for Manziel by the way they praised him all week.

"They've been talking so positively like 'this is the savior' and that's what bad organizations do,'' he said. "They set these quarterback controversies up and it kind of takes the heat off of them and it gives everybody a little glimmer of hope. ...The organization and the players and coaches actually thought he was going to do good. I know they believed he was going to do good.''

He said he's been hearing the same refrain since 1999 about the 21 quarterbacks who have started a game since then.

"I'm 51,'' he said. "At this pace, I'm going to die by 60 and for the last 25 years of my life, all I'm going to talk about is, 'Who do you think the quarterback should be?' That's all we talk about. And you can't fix it until you fix it above it.'

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Antrel Rolle wants to stay with NY Giants

Antrel Rolle knows exactly how he wants this to go.

For the last five years, he’s been the Giants’ versatile safety, a steady piece of the Big Blue defense, never missing a game. He’s developed close relationships with several teammates, become a mentor to some, a brother to others.

These things matter to Rolle, and they are part of why he wants to be a Giant next season.

“I wanna be with JPP (Jason Pierre-Paul) and (Odell) Beckham, and I can’t wait to see (Victor) Cruz come back,” a wistful Rolle said Wednesday. “These are all my boys, these are my brothers who I love to share the battlefield with. . . . DRC (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), he’s someone that I helped bring here. He always tells me I ain’t going nowhere.

“I have a great thing going now.”

It’s a great thing that could be nearing its end, however. Rolle is down to the final two games of his five-year contract, and he’ll take the field against the Rams in St. Louis on Sunday knowing that his Giants career could be ticking down.

The future is unpredictable for all players, especially 32-year-old safeties coming off shaky years, and even Rolle admits that 2014 has hardly been his best. One year after putting together his finest season as a Giant with a career-high six interceptions, he’s dropped several picks and occasionally appeared out of position or made undisciplined plays.

Still, Rolle continues to battle on a team struggling for relevance at 5-9.

“Is this my best season? No, it’s not my best season,” Rolle said. “But am I playing ball? Yes, I’m definitely playing ball. I’m not giving up touchdowns. I’m not giving up huge plays. I’m playing what I’m supposed to be playing. I’m playing multiple roles. I just go out there and do what I can do.”

Rolle believes he can still do plenty. Aging safeties are hardly commodities during the offseason, but Rolle believes he can be an anomaly. He has at least three years left, he says.

“I feel good,” he said. “I feel like I can still go out there and definitely be one of the best safeties in this league, and just go out here and just play ball and just let everything unfold for itself. So who knows. Maybe at 13 (years in the league) I’ll say two more. I’m just going with the flow and whatever my body tells me at this point.”

Why can’t he keep going, he asks. He hasn’t missed a game as a Giant the last five years and feels “amazing,” aside from some occasional foot soreness.

“I never worry about age. . . . Performance is everything,” he said. “God willing, I’ve been able to stay healthy, I’ve been able to go out there and contribute each and every game, and be the player they expect me to be.

“Talk to me in a couple years,” he added. “But I’ve always been honest with myself: The day I feel like my performance is not the same because of anything physical or athleticism, no one will have to sit me down. I’ll sit myself down. I’ve always been brutally honest with myself and others.”

And right now, Rolle sees no reason to walk away, and plenty of reasons to find a way back to the Giants next year. Rolle didn’t talk salary on Wednesday, but he did make it clear that he feels at home with a franchise that he believes can rise from the ashes next season.

“It’d be great to stay here with these guys and build something,” he said. “I feel like next year, God willing, we keep everyone healthy, we have a great chance. I have a great thing going right now.”

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Alex Cora on Castillo: 'He's not a prima donna'

Alex Cora, who played 14 seasons in the big leagues, including four with the Red Sox, on Wednesday gave a strong endorsement to Rusney Castillo, the Cuban outfielder who is playing for Cora in Puerto Rico as he prepares for his first spring training with the Red Sox.

“I think he’s going to be an everyday player next season, no doubt about it," Cora said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “He’s going to play, and play well."

Cora’s impressions extend beyond Castillo’s skill set.

“When you have a high-profile import, usually they show up, they play, they leave," Cora said. “They don’t mingle, they could care less about teammates. With Rusney, it’s the total opposite. He’s been like an independent league pitcher who really cares about winning. He pays attention to the game, he wants to win. He’s doing everything possible to help us win games."

Cora, whose playing career ended when he was released by the Cardinals in spring training 2012, is in his first season of managing Caguas, his hometown team in the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, the winter league on the island. He also has served as GM for the past three seasons, and after Castillo signed with the Red Sox in August, Cora texted Sox GM Ben Cherington, offering Caguas as a place where Castillo could get some playing time. Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, like Castillo a native of Cuba, had come to Puerto Rico in 2012 and played for Mayaguez in preparation for his first season, so Cora expected Cherington would be looking to place Castillo as well.

When Castillo injured his thumb while playing in the Arizona Fall League, Cora thought the Red Sox might elect to shut down the center fielder, and told Cherington he would understand if they did. But satisfied that the thumb had healed, Cherington opted to have Castillo go to Puerto Rico, where he has been for nearly three weeks. In his first seven games, Castillo is batting .320 (8-for-25) with a home run, stolen base and a walk. Cora has had him batting leadoff and playing center field.

“Defensively, he's been very impressive in center field," Cora said. “His instincts are great, the jumps he gets. He’s very light on his feet. Luis Matos, who played center field for Baltimore, is my hitting coach and outfield instructor, and he’s very impressed. Luis was a good outfielder.

“Offensively, he's still learning, still working on a few things. It's tough to come here midway through it. The range of stuff he’s facing goes from north to south. There are guys throwing 95 and guys throwing 82 with sinkers and sliders. But he adjusts. I really like [that] he hasn't tried to pull the ball. The only ball he tried to pull was a breaking ball that he hit for a home run to left-center. He’s been strong to the right-center gap. Of his eight hits, six have been up the middle. That’s the sign of a good hitter not trying to do too much.

“He’ll rub a few people the wrong way when he’s running from home to first. It looks like he’s not running fast. He doesn't get out of the box clean; his finish doesn't let him do that, so a lot of people may think he’s dogging to first. But first to third, second to the plate, whoa, this kid can run."

The Red Sox signed Castillo to a six-year, $72 million contract last August, so they have a pretty good feel for his on-field tools. Their knowledge of him otherwise is by necessity limited, given the prohibition on major league scouts working in Cuba. They should be heartened to hear of the positive impression Castillo has made on Cora, who also works for ESPN’s "Baseball Tonight" as an analyst, in how he approaches his job and his teammates, and how he conducts himself off the field.

“He’s more advanced than what people think," Cora said, "not only on the field but off the field. He’s a very organized kid, a family kid. He understands the whole process. Most of the time when you bring in somebody like him, he needs a driver, he needs someone who will follow him around. He needs an entourage with him.

“It’s the other way around with him. When we get imports, we put them at first in a hotel near the ballpark until they learn to drive around here. After that they usually rent a place in San Juan, about a half hour from here. Rusney, the first thing he wanted to know was, how do I get here, how do I get there, without needing anybody. He learned in two days how to get from his apartment to the ballpark, his apartment to other stadiums. He is here in an apartment with his wife.

“He’s not a prima donna. He’s just like the other guys. He shows up on time, he works out, and off the field I’m very impressed with the way he acts and who he is," said Cora.

Cora does not know Puig personally, but is well aware of the polarizing opinions that Puig has inspired in his short time with the Dodgers, some dazzled by his skills but turned off by the way he handles himself. One of Cora’s coaches, Miguel Negron, was still playing for Mayaguez when Puig joined the team.

“Miguel told us the other day that they are total opposites," Cora said. “Yasiel came down here, Miguel said he was tough, he didn't know how to act, it was all about him. This kid [Castillo] shows up and plays. That’s it."

Cora, whose Criollos de Caguas are in first place with a 20-10 record, gave his players credit for being so accepting when Castillo first arrived. But he was just as impressed by Castillo’s response.

“He clicked with the guys," Cora said. “Yeah, they're a great group of guys, but he’s not just another import. He’s a guy making $72 million. They opened their arms, but he was willing to jell with them. That’s the sign of a good guy and a good teammate."

Cora says that when he looks down the dugout bench, he sees Castillo either talking to a younger teammate or asking questions of a veteran.

"Besides the physical tools, he gets it," Cora said. “He gets baseball. It’s his passion. It’s what he lives. [Sox fans] will love him. It’s 24 hours, 7 days a week, nonstop baseball for him. He’ll be OK there."

The benefit of playing winter ball for someone like Castillo goes beyond gaining repetitions at the plate and in the field. It’s also about learning to function in a structured environment, developing a routine, learning all the little things that go into being a big-leaguer, including interacting with clubhouse attendants. Caguas is the continuation of a process that began for Castillo in the Gulf Coast Rookie League with Lazaro Gutierrez, the Sox player development coordinator who played with Cora on a 1996 University of Miami team that made it to the finals of the College World Series.

“He’s learned how to tip," Cora said with a laugh. “There are a lot of happy people around here."

The one area where Castillo still needs to play catch-up is in his mastery of English. His use of the language is still very limited.

“He needs to get better and he knows it," Cora said. “The way it looks, [Dustin] Pedroia needs to learn Spanish."

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Andre Johnson 'feeling a lot better' after missing Week 15

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, who was unable to play in Week 15 against the Colts due to a concussion, said he is doing good and feeling a lot better, according to

"Yeah, I feel like I'll be out there," Johnson said Tuesday.

Johnson, who took a helmet-to-helmet blow in Week 14, was unable to return to the game and has been sidelined for the last week after failing to receive medical clearance.

Coach Bill O'Brien said Monday he believes Johnson will be able to play.

"It looks like we will have Andre Johnson back for Sunday."

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Bernie Kosar blasts the Browns' front office

Johnny Manziel’s first start was a nightmare for Browns fans, and the rookie managed just 80 passing yards in an embarrassing 30-0 loss to the Bengals. Former Browns great Bernie Kosar doesn’t believe that Manziel should be blamed for the defeat, though. In a radio appearance on WTAM 1100, Kosar blasted the Browns front office being “uneducated” and fostering a culture in which the team can’t possibly succeed.

“When you have a front office that’s really uneducated – and I’m not talking about just the coach, way above him that deserves this – they don’t know how to lead and organize and set a culture to play winning NFL football…. This is a recipe for disaster, because when everybody’s talking about everything else other than their job…. It makes me want to throw up.”

Kosar said he doesn’t hold Browns head coach Mike Pettine or any of the Browns’ quarterbacks accountable for the team’s failures, and believes that the Browns’ culture needs to change before any young players can thrive.

“The issue is systemically, from a culture at Berea, they’ve got to get it together because I don’t know anyone who can be consistently successful in winning within this culture and within this organization right now. You just can’t play football like this…. You can’t put these kids in these spots. It’s almost abuse.”

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Santana Moss, Unaware of Ejection, Tried to Take Field Against Giants in Second Half

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Santana Moss expounded upon the events preceding his first-half ejection from Sunday’s loss to the Giants, in a radio interviewicon1 on Tuesday.

Moss was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, and tossed from the gameicon1, after arguing with referees for ruling Robert Griffin III had momentarily lost possession of the ball as he dove across the end zone, causing the Redskins to miss out on a touchdown as time expired in the first half.

Washington would head into halftime with a 10-7 leadicon1, as opposed to a 17-7 lead (presuming the PAT attempt would have been a success).

In the moment, Moss was furious; he would lose control of his emotions, and scream in the face of referee Jeff Triplette. He would also slap away the hand of another official trying to restrain him. The latter action would necessitate Moss to be ejected from the game.

Immediately after the fact, Moss was unaware he had even been disqualified from competing in the remainder of the game, he told 106.7 The Fan’s Chad Dukes.
“Now, remember we’re on the radio, so try to keep it like PG-13. Can you take us through what you said to the refs?” Dukes asked.

“I can’t do that, because we’re on the radio,” Moss joked.

“Maybe like a brief summary?” Dukes pressed. “What was the essence of what you said: You guys are doing a great job, I just need some clarity?“

“That was a freaking good job,” Moss jokingly recalled. “Nah, man, it was all kind of f-bombs. I was in the moment. I really was. And like I said, I just felt like we had a chance to do some big things. You go up big in someone’s home, you can’t worry about records when it comes to our division games. Giants are a good team, regardless of what their record is. And any other team that we play in our division is gonna be like that. So when you’re up big in their home, and they gave you all they had this first half, and we were able to stand still and knock back with them, it was a dagger.”

“I went into the locker room not even knowing I was kicked out,” Moss added. “And I’m walking back out, and [Leonard] Hankerson said, ‘Hey, you know you’ve been tossed out?’ I was like, ‘Did they tell you that?’ I was hoping he was lying. But in the back of my head I was like, ‘What I did can’t get me tossed.'”

There’s reason to believe Moss in this instance, in that he could have been oblivious to having been thrown out. After the non-touchdown ruling, time had already expired, and the entire Redskins team was en route to the visiting locker room.

Still, the fact remains, the rule which negated Griffin’s touchdown halted a potentially pivotal momentum swing for the Redskins, a team which had lost its five previous games. The thirst for victory undoubtedly played a role in Moss’s outburst.

Some, like Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, have argued the rule is more disruptive than it is beneficial, and needs to be changed before it affects “a game of significance.”

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Andre Johnson named Man of the Year finalist

Andre Johnson was named a finalist for the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year award for his outstanding community service and excellence on the field.

On Tuesday morning, the NFL announced the 32 players nominated by each team. As a nominee, Johnson will receive a $1,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of his choice. This year’s winner will be announced during the “Fourth Annual NFL Honors” awards show on Saturday, January 31 and will receive an additional $20,000 donation to a charity in his name.

The two-time All-pro recently spent $16,266 during his annual Toys “R” Us holiday shopping spree, giving 11 children selected by Child Protective Services 80 seconds to fill their bins with as many toys as possible. For Thanksgiving, he gave out turkeys to families in need in Houston’s Fifth Ward. Those two events, plus a third he hosts in the Miami area, are his favorite events each year.

“Back home, we call it the Andre Johnson Community Day,” Johnson said on Tuesday’s Verizon Players show on Texans Radio. “I just have a big barbeque for the neighborhood I grew up in. We have a lot of rides, bounce houses, and a big picnic where everybody just comes out and has fun. I get to see a lot of people I went to elementary school with and it’s pretty fun. It’s right across the street from my elementary school, the same park I grew up playing on.”

Johnson gives back to the community year-round, serving as a positive role model and helping to empower at-risk youth through the Andre Johnson Charitable Foundation.

The overall winner of the Walter Payton award will be selected by a panel of judges, including Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, Connie Payton, Frank Gifford, Anthony Munoz, and the 2013 winner Charles Tillman.

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Calais Campbell named Arizona Cardinals' nominee for Walter Payton award

Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell will represent the organization this year as a nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

The NFL each year recognizes a player from each team who is an outstanding community contributor and elite on the field.

Each nominee will receive a minimum of a $1,000 nomination from the NFL Foundation to their selected charities while finalists can receive up to $50,000 toward their causes.

Campbell's charity, the Charles Richard Campbell Foundation -- named after his late father -- exists to bestow scholarships and aid on Phoenix families and children in need. The organization has fed more than 300 families while donating more than $15,000 to 12 area non-profits since being created four years ago. Campbell says he hopes to one day open a community center to further empower families and children.

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Frank Gore doesn’t practice Tuesday

Two of the 49ers’ three tailbacks are hurting as the club enters the homestretch of its season.

Veteran Frank Gore, who suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss at Seattle, did not practice Tuesday as he goes through the league-mandated protocol, per Matt Maiocco of

Furthermore, rookie Carlos Hyde (back/ankle) wasn’t spotted on the field at the outset of practice, Maiocco said. The 49ers (7-7) host the Chargers on Saturday night at Levi’s Stadium.

If Gore and/or Hyde are out, veteran Alfonso Smith would likely be in line for more work. The club also has first-year back Kendall Gaskins on the practice squad.

The 49ers seemed to have enviable tailback depth entering 2014. However, that depth has been slowly chipped away. First, fourth-year pro Kendall Hunter suffered a season-ending ACL tear in July. Then, third-year back LaMichael James was released in September. Later, Marcus Lattimore ended his two-season comeback from serious knee injuries.

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Antrel Rolle: ‘The Sky’s The Limit’ For Giants’ Defense

NEW YORK (WFAN) — The Giants won their second consecutive game on Sunday, beating the Redskins with relative ease.

Big Blue is now 5-9 and will miss the playoffs for the third straight season.

Some would say that there’s not much to play for in the final weeks of the season. But don’t tell that to Antrel Rolle, who joined WFAN co-host Evan Roberts in his weekly spot on Tuesday. The Giants’ defensive leader made it clear that these final two games are important, regardless of the standings.

“My personal goals have always been team goals,” Rolle told Roberts. “We try to go out there and be the best that we can possibly be on each and every occasion, as a team. And for the last two weeks I think we’ve been doing that. Defensively, in the first half (against Washington) we didn’t play our best defense and we still held them to 10 points.

“That just shows that the sky’s the limit for us.”

It’s too little, too late for the G-Men this season. But the three-time Pro Bowler is impressed with what he’s seen over the past two weeks and is excited about what it means for 2015. He’s also determined to finish the season strong.

“We’re finally starting to get the chemistry together,” Rolle said. “We’re finally starting to understand how each other plays, with all the injuries and having guys rotate in and out on a weekly basis … That’s the name of the game, is to finish. It doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish … Right now all we can do at this point is just fight.”

New York will take on the Rams at Edward Jones Dome on Sunday before concluding its season against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium.

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Shane Larkin, a second thought as Knicks chase star free agents, trying to find his own way

BOSTON – Shane Larkin is still learning how to play in the NBA, but if there’s one thing he can already do at an elite level, it’s get steals.

Tony Allen, John Wall, Mario Chalmers and Elfrid Payton are the only guards who’ve played as much as Larkin this season and stolen the ball on a higher percentage of opponents’ possessions when on the court.

I ask Larkin the key to getting so getting so many steals.

“Fast and short,” interjects Knicks rookie Cleanthony Early, one locker over.

After playfully chiding Early for interrupting the interview, Larkin insists the simple assessment is inaccurate.

“It’s more than that, because there’s a lot of short, fast guys who don’t get steals,” said Larkin, 22, the Knicks’ youngest player. “It’s anticipation, seeing things happening before they happen.”

Larkin sure does that.

In the last six months, Larkin has been traded and had the third-year team option on his rookie contract declined, sending his career into a bit of chaos.
Overwhelming? Nah. Larkin saw it all coming.

The Mavericks acquired Larkin, the No. 18 pick in 2013, in a draft-night trade. An injury-riddled rookie year put him on the outside looking in at Dallas’ rotation this season. He understood the Mavericks were trying to win now around Dirk Nowitzki – “Dirk deserves that,” Larkin said – and predicted a trade. Dallas dealt him to the Knicks in June.

In New York, he realized the Knicks were trying to maximize 2015 cap space. So, he also understood why they called him into an office just before the season to tell him they were declining his option for the 2015-16 season.

Now, Larkin will become an unrestricted free agent this summer – a rare predicament/opportunity for a player with his résumé and a crucial moment for the Knicks, who’ve long struggled to develop and keep young talent.

Larkin’s production – 5.4 points, 2.3 assists, 1.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 23.0 minutes per game – is modest, but he’s beginning to make good on the potential he showed before the draft. The 5-foot-11 point guard jumped 44 inches at the combine, the fifth-best mark in the DraftExpress database. He also had the fastest sprint time among players drafted in his class.

No doubt, Larkin, who turned pro following his sophomore season at Miami and is the son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, has talent. His upside makes New York’s decision to decline his option all the more suspect.

The Knicks’ motivations are clear. They want to pursue big-time free agents next summer, pitching Carmelo Anthony’s star power, Phil Jackson’s winning pedigree and New York’s market share. By declining Larkin’s option and presumably renouncing him, they’ll gain $1,150,227 in cap room. If they renounce all their free agents, they could create more than $22 million in cap space.

Depending where the salary cap actually lands, declining Larkin’s option could make the difference between New York being able to offer someone a max contract. If that proves to be the case and the Knicks land a big free agent, the move will be a huge success.

But it’s risky to cast aside a promising young player on a cheap contract just for the chance of signing a star, especially when dropping the young player isn’t even guaranteed to increase the odds of nabbing the star. What if the Knicks would have had enough cap room to sign their top target with Larking remaining on the roster?

It’s not as if the Knicks can afford to keep throwing away young talent. That’s what got them into their current mess.

Make no mistake: Larkin is hardly an elite prospect. But he’s a former top-20 pick under the age of 24, a combination that shows his potential. Sure, there are 68 such players in the league, making the distinction far from unique. But Larkin is the Knicks’ only one.

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Jimmy Graham breaks two-game slump

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was once again a big part of the offense Monday night in Chicago. After catching three passes for 25 yards over his previous two games, Graham caught five passes for a team-high 87 yards in the easy win.

Graham tied for the team lead with seven targets. However, he was unable to come down with a contested end-zone fade late in the third quarter.

Graham looked spry, pulling in catches for 29 and 22 yards and trying to hurdle safety Brock Vereen in the fourth quarter. Graham will try to end his three-game scoreless streak Week 16 against the Falcons.

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Andre Johnson likely to play vs. Ravens

“I think he feels better today,” head coach Bill O’Brien said Monday. “Looks like we would have Andre Johnson back for Sunday.”

On December 7, Johnson suffered a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit in Jacksonville. After failing to clear the league’s concussion protocol, Johnson was inactive in Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Colts.

The twelve-year veteran All-Pro receiver is currently four catches from becoming the tenth player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions. If he does so against the Ravens in Week 16, he’ll become the second fastest player to reach the milestone, accomplishing it in his 168th game.

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Eric Winston Gets Work Versus Browns, Draws Compliments

When stalwart right tackle Andre Smith went down for the year with a triceps tear, fear began to cloud the Cincinnati Bengals. It wasn't the best year for Smith, but there is mounting evidence over his six years as a pro that he can be one of the best right tackles in football. And, not to single any single player out, but Marshall Newhouse's play in brief spells throughout 2014 wasn't instilling much confidence going forward.

In very un-Bengal-like fashion, the team sprung to make a somewhat splashy signing to address an important position as the push to the playoffs continued. Some were surprised that longtime veteran Eric Winston was still unemployed so late into the season, but the Bengals scooped him up and added him to the roster.

Unfortunately for Newhouse, the team started to be a bit obvious with their concerns with him as a starter as well, starting left guard Clint Boling at right tackle the past two games. With the Boling move, the team inserted Mike Pollak at left guard in an effort to try to find and play the five best linemen, somewhat disregarding position. This might be changing going forward.

On Sunday against the Browns, Bengals fans got their first extensive glimpse at Winston on the field. In fact, Winston was in on 45% of the offensive snaps, lining up for 33 plays. Most of his work was in the second half, and though the Bengals had a solid lead when he entered, the contest was far from over. There were also some "jumbo" packages with an extra tackle, where the Bengals lined Newhouse up next to Winston.

He did account for one illegal formation penalty, but Winston also helped the team's outstanding, 244-yard rushing performance. Many of Giovani Bernard's 79 rushing yards came in the second half, as well as some nice work from backup, Rex Burkhead.

Winston's play didn't go unnoticed, either, with Marvin Lewis praising him in Monday's press conference:

Obviously, it plays to Winston's work ethic and character to not only be in good shape so late in the year, but also to be able to contribute at a pretty high level. He might not be Smith, but Winston will provide veteran leadership and stability at a position that looked bleak just a few short weeks ago.

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Reggie Wayne Sets Colts Franchise Mark For Games Played, Wins

INDIANAPOLIS – In typical kneel down situations, substitutions are rare.

But this wasn’t your normal situation, and Reggie Wayneicon-article-link isn’t your average NFL player.

With just one final snap left in the Colts AFC South clinching win on Sunday, No. 87 trotted back onto the field.

He retreated behind the victory formation, in a game that was about to go final to give Wayne the Colts franchise record of 142 career wins and 209 career games played.

Those left in Lucas Oil Stadium, a number that far outweighed your typical kneel down scenario, knew what was happening.

“Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie,” was their response.

The fans were thanking No. 87, before he returned the favor a few minutes later.

“Since day one, the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana, they've been the best when it comes to me,” Wayne said after the game.

“I appreciate them and I just want to do everything I can to keep them having a great time, just cheering for the Colts and not just myself, but these guys in the locker room as well. We just want to give it everything we have and whenever they’re out there, being that 12th man as they always do. It goes bigger than us, so I appreciate everything they've done for me.”

On Sunday, Wayne was the final name announced for the Colts and headed back towards his famed corner to acknowledge those fans.

This week was a little different week for Wayne.

In trying to bounce back from a one-catch performance against Cleveland, Wayne practiced on Wednesday, his normal rest day. He played with a slightly different sleeve on his injured left elbow.

Wayne is a pending free agent and, at the age of 36, he doesn’t know whether there will even be a 2015 season.

With all those questions being asked this week, Wayne got back to what has allowed him to pile up such lofty numbers.

“I just basically told myself that if I'm going to go down, I’m going to go down being me,” Wayne said after the Colts 10th victory in 2014.

“If I'm going to go down, I’m going to go down being me. Just give me the cello and I’m going to play the tune.”

Wayne’s song has Jim Irsay saying he's never been closer to a player than Wayne.

An emotional postgame locker room on Sunday had Wayne receive the lone game ball, with the Colts Owner thanking the man his organization drafted back in 2001.

“The Colts organization, Mr. Irsay and his family, they’ve been outstanding just helping me with my career, believing in me and just giving me an opportunity to be a Colt in the beginning. It's humbling and I’m truly grateful,” Wayne said after his 209th career game.

“I just want to continue on. We got a good team and like I told them in there (the locker room), ‘It’s about team. It isn't about me.’ I just want to do everything I possibly can to help this team out so we can achieve the biggest goal.”

Chuck Pagano and Wayne have known each for more than a decade, with their relationship extending well past the football field.

There was a reason Pagano wanted Wayne to get the ovation he deserved on the final play of the Colts playoff-bound victory.

“(Wayne) embodies everything that we talk about,” Pagano says.

“He represents everything that Mr. Irsay talks about: faith, family and football. Resiliency, put the team first, self-sacrificing, what he's sacrificed, what he's given to this organization, what he's given to this city and this community, he is one of the all-timers. He's going to be in the Ring of Honor at some point. He'll be in the Hall of Fame at some point. He's a very, very, special, special player and a special person."

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Bears MLB D.J. Williams done for year with neck injury

A neck injury has landed Bears middle linebacker D.J. Williams on season-ending injured reserve.

Williams, who had recently returned from a concussion, started all but two games this season and finishes it having contributed to 46 tackles. He had no sacks or interceptions, however.

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Bears place LB Darryl Sharpton on IR

CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears have placed linebacker Darryl Sharpton on injured reserve because of a hamstring injury and elevated quarterback David Fales from the practice squad to the active roster.

Sharpton has appeared in 47 games with Houston (2010-13) and Chicago (2014). He had 27 tackles in five games for the Bears.

A sixth-round draft pick by the Bears out of San Jose State, Fales has spent the last 13 weeks on their practice squad.

The moves were announced on Saturday.

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Reggie Wayne stands alone with 209 games, 142 wins

The chorus reverberated from inside the locker room, loud enough for the echoes to bounce around the bottom floor of Lucas Oil Stadium.

"Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie!"

This was a jubilant locker room, one packed with players dancing and shouting and basking in the glow of a well-earned triumph, the very first goal these Indianapolis Colts laid out 144 days ago on a Wednesday night at Anderson University. Nearly four months later, they're division champs, again. Playoff-bound, again. Ten-game winners, again.

But this day belonged to one man and his milestone. Chuck Pagano wanted to make certain of it, so he silenced his troops for a victory speech and gave his only game ball to a 36-year-old receiver who had four catches for all of 24 yards.

"If I had a son," Pagano told his team, "this is the guy I'd want him to be like."

"I don't have to say anything, anything," owner Jim Irsay added. "Because you know what this man means to this organization, this city, this team, to you guys."
His teammates answered: "Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie!"

Four catches for 24 yards in this 17-10 win over the Texans aren't the numbers that matter, not on this day. Sunday was about 209 games played. About 142 wins. About one Reggie Wayne.

"He embodies everything that we talk about," Pagano said. "He represents everything that Mr. Irsay talks about: Faith, family and football. Resiliency, team player, puts the team first, self second. What he's sacrificed, what he's given this organization, what he's given to this city and this community, he's one of the all-timers."

It's been nearly a decade and a half since a wide-eyed rookie out of Miami — dubbed 'Plan B' after he was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft when the Colts originally sought a defensive tackle — first stepped foot on the field with Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison. Hundreds more have worn the horseshoe in the years since. Wayne has remained the constant, a bedrock of stability and production.

Now, he stands alone in franchise lore.

Now, no Colt has played in more games.

Now, no Colt has won more games.

"I remember the first time," Wayne said, looking back on his first game with the Colts. That was on September 23, 2001. That was 4,830 days ago.

"It feels like yesterday, but at the same time, it feels like it's been forever."

Sunday also marked a return to form for the aging wideout. It was a week ago he sat on the team bus as it rolled out of Cleveland's First Energy Stadium, the Colts 25-24 winners, Wayne nonetheless appalled at his afternoon. Enough was enough, he told himself, disgusted after he staggered through nothing short of the worst outing of his professional career.

Eight targets. One catch. Three drops.

That wasn't Reggie Wayne.

"I just basically told myself, if I'm going down, I'm going to go down being me," he said.

Wayne had audibled his trusty routine of late, taking an extra day off during the week to heal his aging body and slipping on an arm brace to safeguard a partially-torn left triceps.

Whatever the cause, his play suffered. And sitting on the team bus in Cleveland after another dismal showing, he knew. Knew that wasn't Reggie Wayne.

"Getting a day of rest and all of that, that was never me," said Wayne, who during one stretch of his career went seven years without missing a single practice. "Playing with that big ol' J.J. Watt brace, that wasn't me. If I'm going to go down, I'm going to go down being me. Just give me the cello and I'm going to play the tune.

"I'm not going to do anything that I'm not used to anymore, so it's Reggie of 2001."

Reggie of 2001? Probably not. But Wayne was Wayne this week, teammates said. Every snap. Every practice. Staying after to catch balls, the sort of solitary slog that kept him in this league for 14 long seasons when the average career spans 3.5.

"He didn't do anything extra, because he's always doing something extra," left tackle Anthony Castonzo said.

"He carries himself in such a way that it doesn't show," offered receiver Hakeem Nicks. "He's a pro and he practices like it every day. He knows what he's capable of doing. We know what he's capable of doing."

He practiced every day this week, swapped the elbow brace for an elbow sleeve and caught four passes on five targets. He also drew two downfield penalties on the defense. Most important, he helped the Colts to their 12th playoff appearance in his 14 seasons here.

Wayne speaks and sounds like he's come to grips with the fact that he's amidst the sunset of his stellar career. Ask him about retirement, he talks family. Ask him if he thought Sunday was his final regular-season home game, he talks team.

"I've been down this road before, playing against the same team on a Thursday night three years ago," Wayne says of the 2011 season in which he nearly left in free agency. "That feeling was going through my head the whole game and I wasn't really able to focus on the game so (today) I just said I'm going to put it in God's hands, play the game the way it's supposed to be played and at the end of the season, we'll see what happens."

When will it happen? Wayne vows he doesn't know, says he'd doesn't have time to sit back and think about what 209 means to him or whether this is it. There's a season to finish. There's a playoff game to ready for.

Not until the season is over, he says, is he able to properly put things into perspective. That's when he packs his car and heads for the sun of South Beach, putting the season behind him and pondering what's next.

"That's when I'm sitting back on I-75 and I'm thinking about what we just achieved, how we can get better," he said before adding one last thing. "And what the future holds."

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Allen Hurns goes 6-70 in Week 15 loss

Allen Hurns caught six passes for 70 yards in the Jaguars' Week 15 loss to the Ravens.

He and Marqise Lee each saw nine targets behind Cecil Shorts' team-high 11 looks. Hurns' biggest catch was a 27-yard grab down the seam in the second half before getting popped at the end of the play by S Will Hill. Hurns is hit-or-miss without a ton of upside in this horrific offense. He's a WR5.

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Devin Hester goes 5-85-1 in Week 15 loss

Devin Hester caught five passes for 85 yards and one touchdown in the Falcons' Week 15 loss to the Steelers.

Hester saw his snaps and usage rise with Julio Jones (hip) inactive. He was targeted six times as the No. 3 receiver, scoring from 17 yards out in the second quarter and then ripping off a 46-yard gain on a screen pass. Even with the fine statistical output, Hester won't be a recommended fantasy play in Week 16.

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Greg Olsen has second straight 10-catch game

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen had 10 catches for the second straight game and finished with a team-high 110 receiving yards during a 19-17 win Week 15 against the Bucs. He was targeted 13 times and his longest catch went 16 yards.

Olsen, who has just one touchdown in his last eight games, has three 100-yard outings in 2014. The Panthers are back in action Week 16 vs. Cleveland.

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Jeremy Shockey's Giants Record Broken

So what records did Odell Beckham Jr. break this time?
This could take a while. His 143 receiving yards against Washington gave him 972 for the season, passing Jeremy Shockey for the most ever by a Giants rookie (Shockey had 894 in 2002). He has 71 receptions after 12 Sunday, which is three shy of Shockey's rookie record in that category. He became the first Giants rookie ever to catch three touchdown passes in a single game. His nine TDs are one shy of the team record for first-year players set by Bill Swiacki in 1948. His 12 catches tied the team record for most in a single game by a wide receiver. Hakeem Nicks and Amani Toomer also did that, and so did Mark Bavaro and Shockey. The team record for receptions in a game is 13 by Tiki Barber. And it was his seventh straight game with at least 90 receiving yards, breaking his own record for NFL rookies and leaving him two shy of the overall record of nine set by Michael Irvin in 1995.

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Santana Moss ejected for arguing

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Redskins receiver Santana Moss was ejected from Sunday's game against the Giants after arguing over a controversial call at the end of the first half.

Moss shouted at official Jeff Triplette as the Redskins walked to their locker room after a ruling cost them a touchdown.

A number of Redskins players and coaches were around the officials; receiver Pierre Garcon had to be pulled away as well.

The play that started the issue was an apparent touchdown run by Robert Griffin III to end the half. But after the replay, officials ruled that Griffin had lost possession of the ball right before crossing the goal line. Griffin regained it, but lost the ball as he hit the ground, resulting in a touchback.

That led to angry protests from the Redskins, including Moss, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and ultimately an ejection. Moss had caught one pass for 18 yards in the first half.

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Frank Gore Injured

SEATTLE -- Injuries to 49ers running backs Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde kept them from returning to Sunday's 17-7 loss to the Seahawks, and by game's end, third-string running back Alfonso Smith was getting his first carries of the season.

Gore left with a concussion, not long after his second-quarter touchdown run gave the 49ers a 7-3 halftime lead. He was injured in front of the 49ers sideline while making a block of Bobby Wagner on a Bruce Miller reception.

Wagner also ended Hyde's day, doing so with a tackle that bent Hyde backward on the first snap after the Seahawks' go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter.

"It looked bad," Hyde said. "I saw the replay and said, 'Ooh, looks like I tore my knee up.' I'm all right, though."

Once Gore went out, the 49ers lost yards on three consecutive plays -- Kaepernick got sacked twice and lost a yard on a run -- and punted with 1:53 left in the half. Gore's 10-yard touchdown run put the 49ers ahead 7-3, as he followed key blocks from Miller, Alex Boone and Asante Cleveland. It was Gore's third rushing touchdown this season and first in five games.

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Reggie Wayne catches four passes in win vs. Texans

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne shared the team lead with four receptions Sunday but managed just 24 yards in his team's 17-10 win over the Texans in Week 15.

Wayne, who is reportedly playing through a triceps injury, has struggled to find big plays over the last four weeks, managing just 70 yards on 12 receptions with no plays longer than 11 yards during his team's last four games, all wins. He'll match up with the Cowboys in Week 16.

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Lamar Miller held under 50 yards in Week 15 loss

Dolphins running back Lamar Miller failed to make much of an impact during Sunday's 41-13 defeat to New England in Week 15.

Miller carried the ball 16 times for 47 yards, averaging 2.9 yards per attempt. He caught just one pass for a gain of 10 yards.

Miller has been held under 60 rushing yards in six of his last seven games. He has 829 yards and six touchdowns on the ground this season. He'll have two games to surpass the 1,000-yard threshold for the first time in his three-year career, starting Week 16 vs. Minnesota and Week 17 vs. N.Y. Jets.

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Brandon Linder is success story on offensive line

One position the Jaguars won’t be looking to address when the offseason begins next month is right guard.

The decision to trade up 12 spots — dealing Nos. 105 and 179 to New England — to draft Brandon Linder 93rd overall has worked out.

Sure, the Jaguars have allowed an NFL-worst 54 sacks entering Sunday’s game at Baltimore, but Linder drew praise this week for his progress.

“He’s probably made the greatest strides [among the linemen],” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “He’s just really strong in there — really stout and has really good poise.”

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch agreed and added: “His jump from Year One to Year Two will be great as well.”

Linder’s speed-bumps were allowing 2 1/2 sacks against Washington in Week 2 and two sacks against Tennessee in Week 6.

He has only one enforced penalty in 733 snaps.

“He’s got a lunchbox mentality. He comes to work every day ready to work,” said Fisch, who was with Linder for two years at Miami. “He’s what you want in an offensive lineman in terms of toughness. There was never a doubt in college that he was going to be a workhorse. There was never a doubt he was going to take every rep.”

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Mike Rumph Wins Back-To-Back State Championships

ORLANDO — During the 2014 high school football season, American Heritage faced many challenging opponents.

The Patriots' schedule, built by coach Mike Rumph, was assembled to win a championship.

It worked to perfection.

Not only did Heritage defeat Tallahassee Godby 38-0 to win the Class 5A state title at the Citrus Bowl on Friday, they became the second school in Broward County history to win back-to-back football championships.

This year title came on the heels of last year's 66-8 demolition of Clay High.

St. Thomas Aquinas was the first Broward team to accomplish the feat when they won in 2007 and '08.

“We played a lot of tough teams and my hat goes off to those teams that made us who we are even in the losses,” Rumph said. “We learned from those games.”

Heritage's domination during this two-year run was impressive. And all 10 of the Patriots' playoff wins over that stretch have come under Rumph. The Patriots have outscored their opponents 472-116 and tied a state record set by FAMU (1977-78) of 104 points scored by a back-to-back state champion.

The points mark was reached with Oren Milstein’s 42-yard field goal with 2:24 remaining in the game.

By then, with a running clock already enforced, the sideline celebration was fully underway.

Sophomore running back Kyshaun Bryan provided the game clincher early in the third quarter for Heritage (12-3), when he scored on a 93-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0.

“We ended coming out of the first half kind of bad, so coming out and scoring kind of set the tone,” Bryan said. “This is a great feeling, a great feeling.”

Bryan, who had rushed for 323 yards in two playoff games leading into Friday’s final, added another 156 yards and two TDs on 16 carries against Godby.

“Kyshaun is the future for us,” Rumph said. “He has waited his turn and we knew he would have a big game coming off an ankle injury.”

Bryan tweaked his ankle later in the third quarter after a 14-yard run and didn’t return.

Heritage senior quarterback Torrance Gibson, an Ohio State commitment, was his usual self in leading his Patriots team.

Though he only completed seven passes on 15 attempts for 138 yards, he was efficient. He also rushed for 48 yards and a third-quarter TD on eight carries.

Two of his completions resulted in touchdowns. The first went seven yards to junior receiver Brandon Johnson, which gave the Patriots a 14-0 lead with 8:53 to play in the first half.

Gibson’s second TD toss of went to junior RB Shad Lowery for six yards early in the final quarter. That score gave Heritage a 35-point lead, setting the running clock into motion

“This feels better than the first one,” Gibson said of winning this year’s state championship.

Defensively Heritage was solid, holding Godby’s run game in check while stuffing the Cougars’ passing attack to 17 yards. Heritage, though, finished with 443 yards of total offense.

Godby (12-3) was poised to score on the game-opening drive, but stalled inside the Heritage 40. The Patriots answered with a 92-yard drive on 13 plays with Bryan scoring on a 13-yard run.

Said Rumph, “This feels awesome and feels so good to win back-to-back championships. I couldn’t feel prouder of these boys.”

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Greg Olsen has another ‘fun’ Sunday

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen wasn’t going to lie to reporters after Carolina’s 19-17 win against Tampa Bay.

These past two weeks have been fun.

A week ago against the Saints, Olsen set a career-high for receptions with 10 in the win. Sunday against the Buccaneers, he matched that record and had 110 receiving yards.

Olsen, in his eighth NFL season, has caught 10 passes each from two different quarterbacks in the past two weeks and been a major offensive catalyst for the Panthers in victories.

“That the quarterback trusts you that you’re going to get open, he’s going to sit on you and give you a chance, that’s fun,” Olsen said. “It’s fun to go out there and catch the ball, it’s fun to go out there and be productive but mostly it’s fun to go out there and contribute and help win the game.”

From start to finish, Olsen was a constant presence in the Panthers’ offense Sunday for the second straight game, as well as the second game this year against Tampa Bay.

He caught eight passes for 83 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 at Tampa Bay, and he replicated that production Sunday with quarterback Derek Anderson again.
“It’s a matchup problem for them,” Anderson said. “When I see him 1-on-1 with a guy I know can’t cover him, I have a lot of confidence in what he’s going to do. I checked some plays to it when they were trying to cover him 1-on-1, and he gets open.”

When the Bucs had two safeties playing high, the middle of the field was open for Anderson to throw strikes to Olsen. Later in the game as the Bucs loaded the middle and played with a single high safety, Anderson hit Olsen on the outside.

Anderson and Olsen have a strong rapport, though both players downplayed that this week when it became evident Anderson would start in place of the injured Cam Newton.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera noted that because Anderson isn’t as willing to take off and run on a pass play like Newton, it gives pass-catchers such as Olsen an opportunity to work to get open.

“My approach is I’m going to try to be as (quarterback) friendly as possible, get open as much as I can and have a quarterback that can depend on me,” Olsen said. “When he throws it there’s a good chance we’re going to complete it.”

Entering the game, Olsen was among the top five tight ends in major receiving categories. His 81 catches for 960 yards lead Carolina’s offense, and his six touchdowns put him in second place on the team.

Olsen broke the team reception record for a tight end, which he set last season at 73, and he’s already eclipsed his career-high for yards in a season.

But there’s the matter of the Pro Bowl, which has eluded Olsen with both Chicago and Carolina. He’s the fifth-leading vote getter at tight end, and this season is his best chance yet to make the all-star event.

Again, Honest Olsen couldn’t tell a lie.

“I’d be lying if I said it’s not a goal of mine. Of course it is,” Olsen said. “But it’s not something I lobby for. It’s not something I go around advocating for. I feel very confident in what I do – I’ve felt that way for eight years now. If they recognize it, that’s great.

“I think around the league, but mostly on our team, I have the respect of my guys and to me, that’s really all that matters. I’m not a guy that’s going to go out there and draw attention. It’s not what I do. I have a job to do and I’m going to try to do it as best I can.”

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Jaguars LB fined for hit on Texans’ Andre Johnson

Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith was fined $22,500 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Andre Johnson in the Texans’ 27-13 victory on Sunday.

After making a catch inside the 5-yard line, Johnson was hit by Smith. Johnson was hit so hard he lost his helmet and suffered a concussion.

Johnson did not play in Sunday’s game at Indianapolis.

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Can't make much of Devin Hester's day

Looking to make up for some lost big-play potential, the Falcons gave return man Devin Hester more of a look on offense with star wide receiver Julio Jones sidelined by a hip injury Week 15 against Pittsburgh, and he delivered five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown, scoring on a 17-yard strike from quarterback Matt Ryan in the second quarter. He nearly had a second touchdown, too, just missing on a 4-yard toss in the third quarter. Of course, that play would have been negated by an offensive pass interference penalty anyway.

That was Hester's only miss on the day, but then, that's kind of the problem. Six target does not a reliable Fantasy option make, especially when the Falcons had two other players, Harry Douglas and Roddy White, with double-digit targets.

Even if Jones doesn't return Week 16 at New Orleans, you can't count on Hester being as efficient with the targets he gets, and considering Jones was a game-time decision for Week 15, there's a good chance Hester goes back to getting just two or three. Outside of deeper leagues, he's not deserving of a waiver claim.

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Saints need Jimmy Graham to bounce back at Chicago

METAIRIE, La. -- After a career-high three dropped passes in last week's 41-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Jimmy Graham has his priorities in order heading into Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears.

When asked what's highest on his list of objectives this week, Graham said, "I like to catch the ball, that's pretty high. I'd like to run-block a little better. And really, probably the highest is just to get a win. I'm just tired of losing."

The Saints (5-8) need Graham to be a huge part of the solution Monday, especially considering the type of game that might play out in some cold, windy and possibly rainy conditions.

New Orleans' game plan could lean heavily on the run game and a short passing game that chews up both yardage and clock -- similar to the game plan that helped the Saints finally win a game at Chicago last year.

Although the weather conditions were much better on that October afternoon, the Saints methodically churned out a 26-18 victory while possessing the ball for 36 minutes and never turning the ball over. Graham had 10 catches for 135 yards.

"I want to play a big role in every game," Graham said when asked if this is the type of game that could require him to play such a role. "But as it unfolds we'll see, depending on weather. We'll be ready rain or cold, doesn't matter. We're gonna go into it and hopefully get a win."

Graham caught just three passes for 25 yards last week in the disaster against Carolina. It was a far cry from the week before when he had zero catches in a 35-32 win at Pittsburgh. In that game, Graham drew so much attention from double teams that it helped allow quarterback Drew Brees to throw touchdown passes to five different receivers, while Mark Ingram ran for 122 yards.

This past week, however, the Saints desperately needed a boost on offense, and Graham couldn't get loose against Carolina's defense. In addition to the three drops, he had three other balls broken up after they hit his hands.

"It was a rough game for all around and we've got to play better ball than that," said Graham, who said he didn't pay much attention to what was happening with the Saints' roster moves or lineup changes.

"I put my head down and come to work every day," Graham said. "It's never fun losing, that's for sure. And as long as I've been here, we've won a lot of games. So it's nothing that I'm gonna get used to. I'm gonna take whatever I need to do, or whatever we need to do collectively, to stop it."

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Colts' Reggie Wayne on playing injured: 'I'm good. Point blank'

INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne will be on the field for his 209th game with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

How effective he’ll be is unknown. Wayne’s dealing with a torn triceps that he doesn’t enjoy talking about.

All that matters to him is that he’ll playing and he’ll be doing his best to help the Colts beat the Houston Texans so that they can wrap up the AFC South for the second straight season.

“If I’m out there playing, then I’m good,” Wayne said. “Point blank.”

End of story.

Wayne originally injured his elbow against the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 19. He missed one game and he told coach Chuck Pagano that he was fine.

“I told him I was good; I could make it work. I’m not going to put myself in no danger,” Wayne said.

Wayne will not only pass Peyton Manning for most games played in franchise history Sunday. He could also pass Manning for most wins in franchise history. Both players have won 141 games with the Colts.

“The only thing I’m worrying about is going out there and competing, and being out there with my teammates and just knowing that we have another home game,” Wayne said. “We know how important defending our turf is and we’ve got a hungry Texans team coming in. That’s all I’ve been focused on; nothing more, nothing less. So yeah, maybe down the road when I’m sitting somewhere chilling, it will start to register then.”

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Greg Olsen Named Panthers Ed Block Courage Award Winner

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tight end Greg Olsen is the Carolina Panthers 2014 Ed Block Courage Award winner, the team announced Friday. The award honors one player from each NFL team that shows courage on and off the field. Olsen was selected for the award in a vote by his teammates.

This season, Olsen has produced the best year of his career, breaking his own Panthers record for receiving yards by a tight end with a team-leading 850. His team-best 71 receptions are two short of his own Panthers record of 73 set in 2013. The performance has come while Olsen and his wife Kara are dealing with tremendous challenges off the field.

Olsen's son, TJ, was born in 2012 with a rare congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a severe underdevelopment of the left side of the heart. Since that time, TJ has had to undergo four separate heart surgeries, including two during the 2014 season.

Throughout portions of the 2014 season, Olsen has had to balance attending practice and meetings with sleeping at the hospital by TJ's side and being a father to his other children, Tate and Talbot, TJ's twin sister. The eight-year NFL veteran did so effectively, being named a team captain for the first time in his career, and emerging as one of the top tight ends in the NFL, ranking among the League leaders in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He has exhibited commitment and durability as well, having played in 123 consecutive games, a streak dating to his rookie year in 2007.

Off the field, Olsen and his family have started the HEARTestYard Initiative with Levine Children's Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, N.C. The program provides services including in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy, free of charge, to families of babies affected by congenital heart disease.

The Ed Block Courage Award is named in honor of Ed Block, the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts who was a pioneer in his profession and a respected humanitarian.

Recent winners of the Panthers' Ed Block Courage award include Ryan Kalil (2013), Thomas Davis (2011) and Jordan Gross (2010).

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