Greg Olsen finds end-zone in Week 8

Greg Olsen had three catches for 21 yards and a touchdown in Thursday night's win over the Bucs.
Olsen has been dealing with a foot injury the last three weeks and still isn't full healthy. He was targeted just four times in the passing game, but managed to score on a wide open one-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Olsen will be a low-end TE1 in Week 9 against the Falcons.

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Bryant McKinnie Says He Only Parties During Offseason

Now that Bryant McKinnie is a Miami Dolphin many are questioning his commitment to the team as opposed to the South Beach party scene. McKinnie has been known in the past to frequent the Miami nightlife, but according to the offensive lineman, there’s stipulations to his party personality. The Miami Herald reports that McKinnie addressed his infamous partying ways to the media.

“That’s when I’m off. See, that’s Big Mac in the offseason. Bryant McKinnie is the person who comes to work and handles his business. That is what you’ll get right now.”

That’s all fine and well, but there have been more than one occasion where McKinnie was out during the regular and his partying ways got the best of him. Most recently it was a party bus incident with his former Ravens teammate Jacoby Jones. McKinnie’s new boss, Joe Philbin, is well aware of the off-field issues that surround his new star offensive lineman, and he addressed it as well.

“I don’t mandate what people do outside the building. I enjoy my free time when I have free time. We expect him to be a professional, just like we’d expect anyone.”

No doubt McKinnie realizes that he will be under close scrutiny from everyone, not just the Miami Dolphins, so all anyone can do is wait to see if this speeding train can find the brakes or if there will be a train wreck in the near future.

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Brandon Meriweather's ban reduced

Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather's suspension for illegal hits in Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears was reduced to one game without pay Wednesday from the two-game ban he received earlier this week.

Meriweather's appeal was heard Wednesday by hearing officer Ted Cottrell. He will now be forced to sit out the Redskins' game Sunday against the Denver Broncos.

Meriweather was flagged twice for personal fouls in the Redskins' 45-41 win over the Bears. He was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Alshon Jeffery at the end of a 28-yard catch late in the third quarter. Late in the fourth quarter, Meriweather launched into receiver Brandon Marshall after he dropped a pass in the end zone.

It's not the first time the NFL has punished Meriweather. He was fined $42,000 for two hits in a Week 2 loss at Green Bay. And he was fined $50,000 for a hit in 2010 with New England and accrued $45,000 in fines a year later with Chicago.

Earlier Wednesday, Meriweather's teammates fired back at comments from the Chicago Bears, with Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall saying he has no respect for tight end Martellus Bennett.

Bennett said on his radio show on WSCR-670 in Chicago on Monday, "I still want to punch him in the face."

Bears receiver Brandon Marshall said after Sunday's game that the NFL should consider banning Meriweather from the league.

"I don't know [Bennett] personally, but he had a chance to say whatever he wanted to during the game, after the game -- and the kid didn't open his mouth," Hall said. "No respect for a guy who wants to take a shot after the fact. No respect for a guy like that."

"Guys like that, maybe he needs to get suspended or taken out of the game completely. ... I understand big hits. That's part of our game," Marshall said Sunday. "But when you have a guy that does it week in and week out, that's when it becomes a problem."

Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson scoffed at the idea that Meriweather should be kicked out of the league. He and Hall both pointed to safety Reed Doughty, who took a vicious hit while diving for an onside kick and suffered a concussion.

"Brandon Marshall would be kicked out of the league for pushing off every time he gets to the top of the route," Wilson said. "Every time a receiver comes in and cracks on a safety, he should be kicked out of the league for hitting him. The guy that hit Reed Doughty on the kickoff -- I could hear it from the sideline ... no one says anything about punching [that player] in the face. It has nothing to do with anybody having a vendetta against anyone. We're just out there trying to play football the best way we know how.

"Let the league decide what they do. Let the refs throw the flag, and let's just play the game. ... It's football. You signed up for this."

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Jon Beason making a difference at MLB for Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Getting middle linebacker Jon Beason in a trade with the Carolina Panthers this month has been a steal for the New York Giants.

The seven-year veteran has led the Giants (1-6) in tackles in his two starts, and he has helped the defense turn things around.

In the past six quarters against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, the defense has given up three points. The Vikings' touchdown Monday night came on a punt return.

Beason, acquired for a late-round draft pick in 2014, was a question mark coming here. He played in five games in 2011 and '12 because of injuries and he had lost his starting job earlier this season. Many speculated he either had lost a step or was damaged good.

Beason said his problem with Carolina this season was moving out of the middle to the outside linebacker.

"Sometimes the spin on things publically doesn't mean that's what is going on," Beason said Wednesday after being one of the last players off the practice field after the practice for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. "You like to keep some things in-house and sometimes the outside perception is different than what is actually going.

Beason had microfracture surgery on his right knee last October and was still limited early this season. He took medication to reduce the swelling and didn't start feeling well until after the second game of the season, his last start before being benched.

"Maybe they were a little too fast to act," Beason said about the Panthers. "I feel good now and I can play like I am capable, even though I know I can be that much faster, that much stronger and in better shape."

His statistics are impressive. He had 12 tackles against the Bears and added nine more in the 23-7 win over the Vikings, a game New York held Adrian Peterson to 28 yards rushing on 13 carries.

Teammates and coaches have said Beason has been invaluable, making plays, lining up the defense before snaps and providing the calming influence one would expect from a three-time Pro Bowl player.

"The dude works, no matter whether it's a practice or in the weight room. The dude is a hard worker," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said.

Veteran cornerback Terrell Thomas said Beason, who replaced Mark Herzlich as the starter, brings a tremendous knowledge of the game that allows him to
recognize offenses and adjust quickly.

"He's a pro. He's a pro's pro," Giants coach Tom Coughlin added. "He's excited. He loves the game, he loves the competition. He's physical. When you listen to him you know there's confidence there. He is bright eyed, he's energetic. He's done a very nice job in a short amount of time."

Safety Antrel Rolle knew Beason before the trade and he said the 28-year-old former Miami product is on top of his game.

"He knows how to play the game," Rolle said. "It has never been about money. It's never been about fans. It's never been about any of those things. He loves the game from the bottom of his heart and I knew that."

Before the season, Beason restructured a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension that he signed in 2011. His contract runs out this year.

"This is where I want to be," Beason said. "Next year will be eight years for me and they say you are getting up there in age. I want to retire a Giant."

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Travis Benjamin to see time on kickoffs

While Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski said Wednesday, Oct. 23, that RB Fozzy Whittaker will serve as the team's new kickoff return man, he added that WR Travis Benjamin will also see opportunities on kickoffs.

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Ed Reed wants to be tested

HOUSTON -- Last season quarterbacks targeted Ed Reed 38 times and he allowed a passer rating of 87.1, according to Pro Football Focus. In 2011, they did so 37 times and he allowed a passer rating of 41.8. In 2010, the season Reed started on the physically unable to perform list after having hip surgery, Reed was targeted 30 times and he gave up a passer rating of 71.5 and allowed four touchdowns.

This year?

Reed has played in five games and been targeted three times.

He wants that to change.

"I don’t think none of them are going to test me," Reed said. "I hope so. I’m looking forward to it. I want them to test me. That way I can really showcase the question marks that everybody’s putting up."

Those question marks come form those wondering how effective Reed can be anymore. He's battled two injuries, but he says his health is fine right now.

"My grade scale tends to be a little bit higher, but that’s fine by me," Reed said. "Overall, I think Sunday was probably my worst one since I’ve been here, though it wasn’t that bad. I’m not getting the ball thrown my way. It tends to be, ‘Where’s Ed? Where’s Ed?’ Where is the ball going?

"I’m still focused. I’m still able to do the things that I know I can do, that I’ve been doing. It’s just a matter of getting opportunities and taking advantage of those opportunities. But at the same time, I can’t be lackadaisical. So when it’s time for me to make any play, whether it’s a tackle, fumble recovery, anything that it might be. Definitely will see a change."

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Sam Shields: Shooting down the stars

Water covers 75 percent of the Earth’s surface. Sam Shields covers the rest.

While that has been applied to the likes of Charles Woodson, we felt it’s time to move it over to the Packers best cover corner in 2013.

In the past four weeks, the Packers have faced three of the NFL’s top receivers. All were blanketed by Sam Shields and held as a non-factor.

Shields has allowed only nine receptions on 20 targeted passes in the last four games. These numbers are even more exceptional looking at who he was matched up against. A.J. Green, Torrey Smith and Josh Gordon have totaled 1,698 yards and eight touchdowns this year.

Smith and Green are first and third in the NFL in receiving yards. Gordon was averaging more than 100 yards per game before he was put on Shields island.
Shields has come a long way since entering the NFL as a free agent. Ted Thompson sniped Sam Shield’s potential and made him a big acquisition during the 2010 Super Bowl run. Since then, his play has been skittish. It wasn’t until the Packers refused to sign him to a long-term contract this offseason that he reached his high ceiling.

Now, upon playing the greatest football of his career, the schedule won’t get much easier. Brandon Marshall is coming up twice with DeSean Jackson, Megatron, and Dez Bryant down the road as well. Should Shields keep up his elite performance, he will be due a monster pay-day this offseason.

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Leonard Hankerson misses practice with foot injury

Washington Redskins wide receiver Leonard Hankerson missed Wednesday’s practice while nursing a foot injury suffered earlier this week.

Coach Mike Shanahan said that the third-year wideout hurt his foot while playing with his children on Tuesday. Hankerson stood on the sideline and caught passes from an assistant coach during the warmup portion of Wednesday’s practice.

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Orlando Franklin not practicing

The USA Today’s Lindsay Jones reports that both Champ Bailey and Orlando Franklin were unsurprisingly only observers at practice today, and Franklin is out indefinitely with both knee and ankle injuries. Veteran offseason signing Louis Vasquez moved from G to T to replace Franklin, and he played well against Indy.

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Jon Beason wants to remain a Giant for life

Middle linebacker Jon Beason and the Giants appear to be a marriage made in football heaven, and the three-time Pro Bowler seems ready to make it official.

Beason, who was acquired in a trade with the Carolina earlier this month, said he wants to end his career with the Giants and then remain with the organization in a coaching or administrative capacity.

“I don’t plan on going anywhere, ever. Ever,” Beason said today. “I was talking to (special assistant for player development/assistant coach) Jessie Armstead. I was, ‘Man, when I’m done (playing), I want a job like you.

“Whatever it is you do, you’re still wearing the uniform. Thus far, the city has been real cool. It’s a great group of guys. They’ve welcomed me like I was a draft pick here. I’m happy. I want to be contributing.”

In two starts, Beason, who played with safety Antrel Rolle at Miami and remains good friends with him, has 21 tackles, including 16 solo. If he has lost a step after several major surgeries, it’s not apparent to the untrained eye.

Beason, only 28, is earning $1 million this season. The five-year, $50-million contract that included $25 million in guarantees that he signed before the 2011 season voids after this year and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

That Rolle is a Giant has made Beason feel even more at home. Beason recalled that Rolle was his host when he went on his official visit to the University of Miami and the pair immediately sparked a friendship.

"Antrel was like my big brother at the 'U' the first two years I was there," said Beason, who was recruited as an athlete/safety. "He was one of those guys who reached out to me. Even throughout my college and professional career, we stayed close."

Beason said Rolle was one of the first people he called when he learned of the possible trade to the Giants.

"I told him, 'I'm coming up there and hopefully we can get this thing right,'" Beason said.

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Jimmy Graham doesn’t practice Wednesday

The Saints were optimistic heading into the bye that tight end Jimmy Graham’s ankle would be healed in time for him to play in Week Eight against the Bills, but Wednesday’s practice went off without Graham on the field.

Graham was held out of practice and coach Sean Payton said on a conference call with Buffalo reporters that the team is going to evaluate things on a daily basis for the rest of the week.

“Each day we’ll just take a peek on how he’s progressing and be smart about it,” Payton said, via Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News.

Graham’s an important enough piece of the offense that the team probably won’t risk him if they think there’s too great a risk of aggravating the injury at this point in Graham’s recovery. He’s also an important enough piece that he could probably miss practice all week and still play if his ankle is feeling well enough.

Either way, we’re not likely to have definitive word on Graham’s status until Friday at the earliest.

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Vince Wilfork has successful surgery

New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork underwent a successful procedure Tuesday to repair a torn right Achilles' tendon he sustained in the team's most recent game.

Wilfork's wife, Bianca, tweeted the news while displaying a photo of her husband resting comfortably with his right foot in a cast.

The Patriots have yet to publicly disclose the nature of Wilfork's injury, which occurred during the first quarter of New England's 30-23 victory at Atlanta this past Sunday. Head coach Bill Belichick did admit on Monday that the valued veteran would likely be out for an extended period, however.

New England is expected to place Wilfork, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who has missed only three games over the previous six seasons, on injured reserve in the coming days.

Wilfork had totaled nine tackles through the season's first four games.

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Hurricanes to honor Vinny Testaverde on Saturda

With the Miami Hurricanes currently undefeated and ranked in the Top-10, it’s hard for ‘Canes fans not to reminisce about the good ol’ days of the 80s, when they brought the “swag” that took over the college football universe.

On Saturday, before their home game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons inside Sunlife Stadium, the program will pay homage to one of the stars that helped build that legacy.

1986 Heisman Trophy winner, QB Vinny Testaverde, will be honored at the game on Saturday. Testaverde, who will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame at the end of this calendar year, will also receive a National Football Foundation On-Campus Salute before the game, which is customary for any player getting ready to receive a Hall induction.

Testaverde will also be the honory team captain for the Hurricanes on Saturday.

During his career at Miami, the former consensus First Team All-American was 23-3 as a starter and led the ‘Canes to three bowl berths.

The former star has already been inducted into the Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.

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Jason Fox practices

With Riley Reiff and Corey Hilliard both banged up, the Detroit Lions are lacking depth at the offensive tackle position. That's why, from a timing standpoint, it was good that Jason Fox returned to practice on Wednesday. He has been out for most of the season because of various injuries, but he was back at practice and got No. 1 reps (along with LaAdrian Waddle) at offensive tackle. Hopefully that's a sign that he will be able to play this week.

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'Old-man' McGahee chasing new life with Browns

BEREA — Willis McGahee is a playful old cuss, the kind who would dive off a cliff just to prove he still has it.

It’s hard to tell, though, whether he actually believes himself when he says, as if there were ever any doubt, that he has 100-yard games left in him.

Nobody his age has 100-yard games left in him. Running backs his age are ex-running backs.

That’s an exaggeration, but not by much.

Even the best backs soon turn into castoffs.

Prime examples well familiar to the men who run the Browns offense that needs a strong game out of McGahee on Sunday at Kansas City:

• Jamal Lewis gave the Browns an expansion-era best 1,304 rushing yards at age 28 in 2007. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski didn’t get nearly as much from him in 2008. Lewis couldn’t find work after he turned 30.

• LaDainian Tomlinson had eight straight 1,000-yard seasons before he turned 30 in 2009, when he gave Norv Turner’s Chargers 730 yards at a measly 3.3 per carry. Tomlinson spent the next year with the Jets, then was gone.

• Frank Gore, who is having a nice year for the 49ers at age 30, should be nervous. The average age of the other nine backs in the current top 10, based on 2013 rushing yards, is 24.8.

McGahee is part of a run of October birthdays for key Browns. That alone should be enough to make him nervous.

Brian Hoyer turned 28 the day he should have been starting against the Detroit Lions. He was awaiting knee surgery. Brandon Weeden turned 30 the next day. He was benched a week later.

McGahee turned 32 on Monday.

Being a playful cuss, he rolled with the punch when someone asked him if he is out to make a statement for old-guy ball carriers?

Does he relate to other backs who have done well this close to Medicare?

“I don’t even know,” McGahee said before Thursday’s practice. “Who was? Can you tell me? If you wouldn’t even know, how would I?”

If one searches around, one can find a handful of old running backs who have had decent to very good years. Some examples:

• Franco Harris was 33 when he gave the Steelers the last of his 1,000-yard seasons, in 1983.

• Walter Payton was 31 when he ran for 1,551 yards on a 1985 Bears team that won a Super Bowl. He turned 32 before the next season, when he ran for 1,333 yards.

• Emmitt Smith was 31 when he ran for 1,203 yards (4.1 yards a carry) in 2000. His last 1,000-yard year came the next year when he was 32 (1,021 yards, 3.9 average).

• Tiki Barber turned 31 five months before the 2006 season, when he ran for 1,662 yards (5.1 average). He retired before he turned 32.

• Fred Taylor gave the Jaguars 1,202 yards (5.1 average) in 2007. Three weeks before he turned 32, he contributed to a win over Pittsburgh in a playoff game.
Even for the most durable backs, though, the wall is never on the far horizon. Curtis Martin, for example, had a career year (1,697 yards, 12 TDs) for the 2004 Jets, at age 31. At 32, he regressed to 735 yards at 3.3 per carry.

McGahee has been a good but not great back in his career, landing in the next echelon behind the backs listed above. He has rushed for 8,300 yards.
The Browns claimed him off the scrap heap after trading Trent Richardson. His 32nd birthday celebration did not include gifts wrapped in his 2013 stats sheet, which reads: 70 carries, 203 yards, 2.9 average, one TD.

The Browns need him to be more than those numbers indicate, insofar as the weakness in Kansas City’s defense is against the run.

McGahee talks as if he can deliver.

“I’m making the right reads,” he said. “I think I’m doing pretty good. You look at the numbers, and ...”

He would love to make them look better. He says he doesn’t worry about how other running backs have fared, young or old.

“I don’t try to pattern my game after anybody,” he said. “I portray Willis McGahee.

“I would love to come out and bust that 90-yarder, but that doesn’t happen to me. I’m a big guy. I’m a guy who, as the game goes on, I get better and better.”

It remains to be seen how the insertion of Jason Campbell into the No. 1 quarterback role will change the running game.

“When we’re down 14-0 or something like that, there’s not going to be a run game,” McGahee said, alluding to the score after one quarter at Green Bay. “If we come out and do what we’re supposed to do, we’ve got a chance.”

The last time the Browns won, against Buffalo, the old man ran 26 times. He only gained 72 yards, but it was a win, and, to hear him tell it, he could see 100 from there.

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Santana Moss’ Pointers From Manning

After Sunday’s 45-point outburst, the Washington Redskins offense had it’s best showing since last season’s stuffing of the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.

There was an old saying that used to float around NFL circles that if you could hold your opponents to 17 points or less than you’d be almost guaranteed victory. Ehh that saying is more applicable than ever in this “modern” NFL of spread formations and no-huddle offense. Holding your opponent to 17 points should be a victory of its own.

If you hold the Denver Broncos to 17 points then the league should just go ahead and give you two wins. As a team they already have 35 offensive touchdowns. Let me repeat that so the Internet world can fully grasp what I just said. Through seven games the Denver Broncos have score 35 offensive touchdowns.

Thanks to the guy who created italics for helping my cause.

The nucleus of their offense is of course 12-time Pro Bowler Peyton Manning. Manning is one of those players universally respected with a legion of followers who are continually in awe of his legendary preparation skills. Entering the team facility at an hour where even the overnight janitorial staff is not seen, Manning devises plans, equipped with countless audibles, that he then disseminates to his offense when they get their days started. Whether it’s learning from mistakes or building on successes, Manning makes sure to build a unique rapport with each weapon.

Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss admitted his open respect for Manning and said that he’s not only trying to build a similar connection with Robert Griffin III, but instill similar preparation skills in the sophomore as well.

“To be honest I’ve always liked Peyton,” Moss said. “I have a good close friend in Reggie Wayne that I played ball with in college and I remember ever since I was with the Jets I would call him and ask him how things [were] and be like ‘How is it so simple and easy’ and then you hear about his stories of how he studies and how he gets everybody around him to get practice reps week in and week out.”

Moss’ never say die attitude and play far beyond his diminutive frame has endeared him to Redskins fans ever since the day he made the Cowboys realize that football is a 60 minute game.

Never in his first seven seasons in Washington, D.C. though did he have a quarterback like RGIII. So when the rookie came to town last April, he made sure to stick to him like glue, making sure to build a strong rapport and preached to never become complacent just because it worked in the past.

“That’s the only way you can get better,” Moss asserted. “That’s some of the things I try to do with Robert. When we don’t do something right or even when we do do something right, I want another rep in or two just so he can have that confidence in me and I can have that confidence in him.”

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Meet the Mavs: Shane Larkin

Shane Larkin
Age: 21 | Position: PG | Salary: $1,536,960

Role for Mavs in 2013-14: Larkin will compete with fellow rookie Gal Mekel for minutes as the Mavs’ third point guard. Mekel has a head start since Larkin has yet to be cleared to practice with the team.

It’s possible that Larkin could spend much of his time playing for the Texas Legends, the Mavs’ D-League affiliate. The Dallas brass must determine whether Larkin would benefit more from starting in the D-League or getting limited minutes in the NBA. He can make that an easy decision by proving he’s ready to make a significant contribution as a rookie.

What happened this summer?: After twice trading down, the Mavs selected Larkin with the 18th overall pick in the draft. Larkin suffered a broken ankle in the Mavs summer league team’s final practice before leaving for Las Vegas, an injury that required surgery to repair. The Mavs hope he will be fully cleared by the beginning of the regular season, but there’s no doubt that the injury has delayed his development.

What does the future hold?: Coach Rick Carlisle has compared Larkin to J.J. Barea, the pick-and-roll-running sparkplug who played a critical role as a part-time starter on the Mavs’ 2011 title team. Larkin, who has elite speed, quickness and leaping ability, aims a little higher. He compares himself to Denver’s Ty Lawson, another sub-6-foot point guard who was an ACC player of the year. Lawson has established himself as one of the West’s best point guards, and Larkin believes he has that type of potential. He’s under contract with the Mavs for four seasons, the last two of which are team options.

Bottom line: Larkin will get his chance to prove he can play a key role, but the rookie might have to be patient.

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DeMarcus Van Dyke Works Out For Lions

ALLEN PARK -- The Detroit Lions have worked out defensive backs DeMarcus Van Dyke, Curtis Marsh, Kip Edwards and DeQuan Menzie, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The club could be in the market for a DB, but more likely is doing advance work should someone be needed later.

The most interesting prospect of the bunch is Van Dyke, a corner who blazed a 4.28-second 40-yard dash at the 2011 combine. The Miami star was selected in the third round by the Raiders and played in 14 games that year, starting four, but was released before the 2012 season.

Pittsburgh picked up the 6-1, 187-pounder, but Van Dyke was slowed by a shoulder injury in 2012, then was waived/injured this August after suffering a severe hamstring injury during training camp.

Menzie already was with the Lions once, after being claimed off waivers in May, but the former fifth-round pick was released during training camp. At 5-11, 202 pounds, he can play corner or safety.

Marsh, a former third-rounder out of Utah State, has played in 24 games the past three seasons for the Eagles and Bengals. The 6-1, 197-pound corner played two games this season for Cincinnati but was cut earlier this month.

Edwards is a 6-1, 193-pound cornerback who went undrafted out of Missouri this year. He was picked up by the Buffalo Bills, but cut during training camp.

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Martellus Bennett: I want to punch ‘scumbag’ Brandon Meriweather in the face

Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather has been one of the most notorious head-hunters in the NFL since he entered the league in 2007. Almost every rule that has been put into place over the past several years to protect receivers prevents Meriweather from playing the only way he knows how. And for that, Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett hates him.

Meriweather received a two-game suspension from the NFL on Monday after he was flagged twice for unnecessary roughness for illegally hitting both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. He was also fined $42,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy earlier this season. During his weekly appearance on 670 The Score in Chicago, Bennett went off on Meriweather.

“The scumbag,” Bennett said, via Sarah Kogod of DC Sports Bog. “What it comes down to, at the end of the day, the players have got to look out for the players. There’s a way to go out there and be a beast when you hit people, and have nobody want to come across the middle. But then there’s a way not to do it, where you’re deliberately hitting guys [high]…

“Then it just becomes wrong. It’s not ignorance, because he knows what he’s doing, or guys know what they’re doing. Some guys are making these attacks on other guys.”

Prior to those comments, the host joked with Bennett that he should consider Sunday’s game a victory because didn’t get illegally clobbered by Meriweather.

“Oh, I still want to punch him in the face,” Bennett replied.

Meriweather has been blasted by current and former players for the way he plays the game. He’s dangerous and has hit with intent to injure on more than one occasion. If he does it again after returning from suspension, the NFL is going to have to consider an unprecedented penalty.

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Bryant McKinnie to be Dolphins' new left tackle?

The Miami Herald expects the Dolphins to install Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, shifting Jonathan Martin to the right side.

That would send RT Tyson Clabo to the bench. The Dolphins have remained coy, but McKinnie was spending time at left tackle in Tuesday's practice. Speaking to ESPN's James Walker, McKinnie said the blindside was "all he knows." We'd suspect that's where he'll end up, if not in Week 8, then Week 9.

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Brandon Marshall: Kick Brandon Meriweather out of the NFL

Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather will be suspended for the next two games for head-hunting hits in Washington's win over Chicago, which is, of course, pending appeal.

However, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall thinks the NFL should inact a stiffer punishment for Meriweather, who's notorious for targeting offensive players in the head.

“Guys like that really don't understand that there is life after football,” Marshall said, via the Chicago Tribune. “I respect the league trying to better our game and guys like that, maybe he needs to get suspended or taken out of the game completely. I understand. I get it. I was one of those guys. I played defense growing up. I was a headhunter. Even sometimes on the offensive side, I played that way. But with rules in place, you've gotta respect it."

Throughout his career, Meriweather has received fine after fine. Earlier this year, the NFL docked Meriweather $42,000 for hits to the head in the Green Bay game. Meriweather wound up sustaining a concussion in that contest too.

For Marshall, he wants to know when the NFL will draw the line.

"I am not venting or anything. I understand big hits, that is part of our game," he said. "But when you have a guy that does it week in and week out, that's when it becomes a problem. That is the only reason I am talking about it.”

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Mike James assumes role as Buccaneers' lead back

RB Mike James, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With the announcement that Doug Martin is done for the season, James will assume the role as lead back for the Buccaneers. In fact, he is the only viable back for Tampa Bay, so he immediately projects to get the ball 15-20 times per game. He is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield, so look for him to get plenty of targets as well. James will be the starter for the balance of the season, and is deserving of the top pick on this week's waiver wire.

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Dolphins who attended UM react to NCAA penalties

DAVIE – Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon, who attended the University of Miami, said Tuesday he thought UM losing three scholarships a year for the next three years was a bit too harsh of a penalty.

Vernon, who served a six-game suspension in 2011 for his role in the scandal, said he thinks UM’s self-imposed penalties should have sufficed. But he also understood the NCAA had to do something.

“I don’t think they should have (received any additional penalty),” Vernon said, “but they were under that scrutiny for a while so they had to do something.”

Vernon, however, said Tuesday’s announcement was palatable.

“I think it was better than what was expected,” he said. “You only got a few scholarships taken away for three years. So that’s better than what was expected was going to come down on us. I’m happy for those guys.”

Running back Lamar Miller, a former UM player, said, “losing three scholarships later on will be a big factor, but right now it really doesn’t matter.”

Miller said he thinks the self-imposed bowl ban was successful judging from Tuesday’s announcement.

“I thought it was going to be a bowl ban, too,” he said, “but the last two years they didn’t go to a bowl game.”

Miller played with the cloud of NCAA sanctions and scrutiny hanging over his head in his junior season, and possible sanctions were one of the factors that made him enter the draft a year early.

“I think it’s a relief for (the players),” he said. “When I was there we really didn’t know much about it until after the season.

“Everyone wants to play in a bowl game. That’s what you work hard for the entire season. Now it gives (the players) more motivation to want to go to a BCS bowl because we haven’t been there for a while now. I think they will be more motivated and hungry to go get it.”

Recently-acquired offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie also said the end of the bowl ban is a good thing.

“I’m glad they get to go to a bowl game because they’ve had a good season so far,” he said. “I’m glad it is behind them and they can move forward now. I’m happy for them.”

That seems to be the bottom-line thought of all the Dolphins that are former ’Canes.

“It’s done with,” Vernon said. “It’s finally overwith, behind, so now those guys can move forward and play for something.”

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Chuck Pagano: I hate losing anyone, but Reggie Wayne really stings

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had a close relationship with receiver Reggie Wayne since Pagano was a University of Miami assistant and Wayne was a Hurricanes player, and Pagano got a little emotional when describing his feeling about losing Wayne to a severe knee injury.

Pagano reflected on the way Wayne wore orange gloves to show his support during Pagano’s battle with leukemia last year, and now Pagano said he’s going to be the one supporting Wayne as he tries to get back to health.

“I think everybody has heard by now and knows that Reggie suffered an ACL tear. He’ll be lost for the season,” Pagano said. “We hate to lose anybody, but this one stings. See, you just don’t replace guys like 87. Again, we hate to lose anybody, but he’ll be back. I know how he’s wired. I know what his DNA is. I know how he is as a man. Everybody is going to say no way, but after the conversation I just had with him, just wait and see. So, we’ll all put on the gloves for Reggie and we’ll help him get through this and get him back.”

Although Wayne won’t play until 2014, Pagano said he wants Wayne to continue to be a team leader.

“He’s going to be there. He’ll miss, he’s going to have to go have something done surgically but I told him whether it’s on a stretcher, wheelchair, if we have to carry him in and out, he’ll be there every step of the way,” Pagano said.

Pagano said he tells young players that if they want to have a long career, Wayne is the man they should emulate.

“He’s a pro through and through,” Pagano said. “It’s easy for those young guys because I told them just get in his hip pocket and follow and do exactly what he does on a daily basis. You want to stick around for a long time? You want to be productive? You want to write your own legacy? You want to be a guy in the National Football League and not an also-ran, not just a guy that collects a paycheck and stuck around for a couple years. You want to be a guy? Then just do exactly what Reggie does. From a leadership standpoint, mentoring standpoint, all those kind of things, it’s off the charts. He’s not the only one. We got a locker room full of guys like that. So, that’s why it’s so important. In talking to him, he’ll be away and have to get that thing fixed, but he’s going to be with us every step of the way and he’s got to be right next to us.”

A torn ACL is a tough injury to rehabilitate from, and Wayne, who will turn 35 next month, may never get back the same kind of speed and explosiveness he once had. But Pagano says he’s certain that he’ll be coaching Wayne again next season.

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The impact of Jon Beason

What's amazing is that Beason was only available in trade because he'd lost his starting outside linebacker job in Carolina to Giants castoff Chase Blackburn. After two games in New York you can make a legitimate case that Beason is the best defensive player on the team. Justin Tuck called him a "godsend" and spoke of Beason's impressive football knowledge and ability to direct traffic and get guys positioned on defense before the snap. Beason also plays fast and finds his way to the ball quickly. He looks like a very good middle linebacker, and it may be that he needed to be in the middle instead of on the outside where Carolina was using him. The extent of the upgrade he represents over what the Giants had been using at linebacker prior to his arrival speaks ill of the decision not to prioritize the position in the offseason.

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Report: Brandon Meriweather appeal will be Wednesday

The NFL suspended Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather for two games on Monday for repeated violations of rules governing hits to the head and neck of defenseless receivers and, as expected, the safety has decided to appeal the penalty.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that the appeal will be heard on Wendesday by either Ted Cottrell or Matt Birk, the officers appointed by the NFL and NFLPA to hear appeals of discipline meted out for on-field behavior.

If Meriweather’s suspension is upheld, it will break from the recent trend for safeties disciplined for similar infractions. Ed Reed was suspended last year and Dashon Goldson was suspended earlier this year, but both players wound up getting their bans overturned on appeal. Both players were suspended for one game initially and wound up being fined for their misdeeds instead.

With Meriweather suspended for two games, there’s a chance he could still wind up sitting out a game with a successful appeal. Cottrell or Birk would have the right to cut the suspension in half in addition to overturning it completely or upholding it.

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Olivier Vernon (3.5 sacks) surprising team leader

DAVIE —— Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon had no idea who was leading the team in sacks when he was told Tuesday afternoon.
It's Vernon, with 3.5. He's barely ahead of defensive tackle Randy Starks (3.0 sacks) and end Cam Wake (2.5 sacks).

"I didn't even know that," said Vernon, a second-year player. "I'm just trying to keep grinding it out and do things my coaches ask for."

Vernon started slowly this season, struggling against the run and pass. But his play has improved greatly the last three weeks, which, coincidentally, has been when Wake, the two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, has been slowed due to a knee injury.

Nowadays, Vernon is good against the pass and a better than average against the run. The latter is a sign of hard work. Vernon was almost exclusively a pass-rushing specialist last season, when he totaled 3.5 sacks.

"From last year to this year, I feel like I've improved much more, especially in the run game," he said. "That's one thing I didn't have that many [plays] last year because I was coming in as a specialist. This year, I knew I was going to have to take on some more roles and I've been trying to grind it out every day and show up on Sundays."

Vernon is now part of a developing defensive end rotation that also includes Derrick Shelby and rookie Dion Jordan. Vernon's contribution will be needed even more this week when the Dolphins travel to New England to take on quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and that dangerous Patriots passing game.

Vernon will be ready.

"I felt like coming into the season I prepared well during the offseason, worked on a lot of things I had to improve on," he said. "It might not have shown stat-wise at the beginning of the season, but play for play, I felt like I was much better than last year."

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Darryl Sharpton steps in for Brian Cushing

HOUSTON -- When Darryl Sharpton is healthy, he's a very solid inside linebacker.

That's the issue, though. When Sharpton is healthy.

He's been through a slew of injuries in his NFL career which have led to limited action in his previous three seasons. He played in seven games, starting six last year, but began the 2012 season on the physically unable to perform list and ended it on injured reserve. He played in eight games and started none in 2011; he played 12 games and started six in 2010.

Last season Sharpton started next to Bradie James when Brian Cushing went out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. This season, he'll start alongside Joe Mays as Cushing recovers from a torn LCL and broken fibula. Cushing will have surgery this week.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak indicated a decision hadn't been reached yet when asked if it would be Sharpton or Mays who took over as the three-down inside linebacker.

Coming into this season, Sharpton felt confident that his body would cooperate. He also worried about jinxing himself. The tough luck struck again and he was inactive at the start of the season in San Diego.

Since then, Sharpton's been active each week, but he hasn't been injury free.

"The thing about Sharpton is Sharpton hasn’t practiced in two weeks," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He’s played in both games, but he has not practiced. He’s been bothered by a foot, so we have to continue to work to get him healthy."

There will be a dropoff without Cushing. He's one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL and one of the best players period in run defense. His emotional impact on the Texans' defense is immeasurable.

But if Sharpton can get healthy during this bye week and then stay healthy, it would help dull the sting just a little bit.

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Antrel Rolle says he'll appeal any fine for hit to Jerome Simpson's head

In other Antrel Rolle news, the Giants safety said his hit on wide receiver Jerome Simpson last night was “absolutely not a penalty” and he will appeal any fines that the NFL levies against him for the play.

The play happened with a little less than two minutes left in the first half and Rolle came across the field and leveled Simpson. Flags flew.

“It absolutely was not a penalty,” Rolle said on WFAN. “Once I got home and I watched the game again last night, I saw that I hit him with my shoulder blade and he actually ducked into the hit because I was pretty high.”

That is true, but the league has been clear that the responsibility for avoiding contact with a defenseless players head lies solely on the hitting player no matter how much the player ducks, as Simpson clearly did. And while we commonly hear the phrase "helmet to hemlet contact" in terms of penalties - and there was none of that on this play - any contact with the head area of a receiver is flaggable. And usually fineable.

“I’m definitely going to appeal it, that goes without a doubt,” Rolle said of the virtually inevitable fine. “If I felt I was in the wrong I wouldn’t appeal it, but I know I wasn’t in the wrong. Whatever. Things like that don’t really bother me. I’ve been called for them before. I’ve won some, I’ve lost some, but it’s never going to stop my performance, it’s never going to slow me down as a player.”

In fact, Rolle said he’ll continue to play that way.

“I try to avoid any head-on collisions and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of doing that,” he said. “But throughout the course of the game, I’m playing a Cover-2 and those are just my reads … I’m trying to not allow him to catch the ball. If they have to call me for that 100 out of 100 times, they’re just going to have to call me for it 100 out of 100 times because I’m not going to allow the opponent to catch the ball under any means. I am trying to play smart and play within the rules.”

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Confession Questioned in Slaying of NFL's Sean Taylor

SeanTaylor copy
Police coerced a videotaped confession from the man accused of killing Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor, defense attorneys told a Miami court Monday.

Eric Rivera, 23, is charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary in the November 2007 killing of Taylor, 24, who was a Pro Bowl safety for the Redskins and a standout college player at the University of Miami.

Defense attorney Janese Caruther said his client was "ambushed" by a team of investigators who had little evidence and needed someone to take the fall in the high-profile case.

"The detectives were under such pressure to close this investigation, that they forced my client to confess to this crime," Caruther said.

But Assistant State Attorney Ray Araujo told the 12 jurors and four alternates during opening statements that Rivera voluntarily spoke with detectives without an attorney about how he shot Taylor while he and four friends attempted to burglarize the football star's Miami-area home.

Araujo said Rivera, who has pleaded not guilty, drew diagrams of the house for investigators and told them he tossed the gun into the Florida Everglades. Araujo showed the jury casts of what he said are Rivera's footprints from the crime scene.

"He describes in detail the plan, how they carried it out, who was involved, everything," Araujo said. "This defendant confessed to the murder of Sean Taylor, that he committed it."

Taylor's girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, testified Monday in Miami to describe the night Taylor was shot in their home, feet away from their infant daughter.

Garcia, the niece of actor Andy Garcia, recounted the night of the shooting, testifying that Taylor woke her up and told her to call police because he heard a noise. Taylor grabbed a machete by the bed when an intruder kicked open the bedroom door, according to Garcia.

"I heard a really loud noise, very similar to a gunshot, and I screamed. I got up and I saw Sean laying faced down, surrounded by blood," she testified.

Taylor was shot in the upper thigh, which severed his femoral artery. He died the next day from blood lose. Garcia said she never saw the shooter.

Prosecutor Araujo told jurors, "Sean Taylor, defending himself, defending his family, defending his home, is shot by this defendant."

In addition to the alleged confession, Araujo said trial evidence will show cellphones belonging to the suspects were tracked near Taylor's house.

Araujo said investigators zeroed in on Rivera and the others because some in the group had been to Taylor's home before, once for a birthday party for his sister in which Taylor was seen giving her $10,000 cash. The suspects, Araujo said, thought there was a great deal of cash in Taylor's house.

One of the other four suspects has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary charges and could testify against Rivera. The other three are scheduled to go on trial at a later date.

Because Rivera was 17 at the time of the crime, his maximum possible sentence if convicted is life in prison rather than the death penalty.

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Is Jimmy Graham just scratching the

Jimmy Graham may have emerged as the best tight end in football, but the 6-7, 265-pounder is still figuring out the nuances of the game.

“Every day I’m growing and every day I’m learning,” Graham told NFP. “I still feel like there’s a lot I can learn and a lot I can get better at.”

Now that the former University of Miami (Fla.) basketball player, who played just one season of college football, understands how to watch film, the fourth-year NFL star said he finally recognizes holes in the defense and more quickly realizes when he has one-on-one matchups.

“I feel light years ahead of where I was two, three years ago,” Graham said.

And his 2013 season may end up being ahead of every tight end in the history of the NFL. Even after getting held without a catch in Week 6 against the Patriots, he’s on pace for 1,581 yards, which would shatter the NFL single-season yardage record for a tight end. (Rob Gronkowski holds that mark of 1,327 yards set in 2011.)

After Week 5 Graham tied an NFL record for consecutive 100-yard receiving games for a tight end (4). He was the Offensive Player of the Month for September, the first tight end to receive such an award since the NFL began handing it out in 1986.

Graham attributes his spectacular 2013 performance to not only his continuing understanding of the game but also that he had an entire offseason to work with quarterback Drew Brees.

The previous offseason they missed time together because Brees, a free agent, was holding out. The NFL lockout occurred the year before, preventing workouts before the season.

“(This) was the first offseason where me and Drew really had the time and the chance to get all that work in,” he said. “I feel like me and him are on the same heartbeat right now. He definitely expects me to be certain places and knows I’m going to be there. There are certain situations he knows where I’m one-on-one, and he just throws it up to me. He has a lot of trust, a lot of faith in me.”

In addition to his synchronization with Brees, Graham cited another reason for his hot start. He was much healthier. That, of course, was before he hurt his left foot in Week 6. Preliminary reports indicate the injury is not serious.

That wasn’t the case last year when Graham battled right ankle and left wrist injuries and was limited to nine starts. The latter injury required offseason surgery and may explain his drop in production to 85 catches for 982 yards and nine touchdowns.

Sure, those were impressive numbers, but they represented a major decline from his breakout 2011 season when he had 99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns. According to Stats, Inc., Graham led the league in 2012 with 13 dropped passes, a likely byproduct of his ailing wrist preventing him from properly catching the ball.

“Last year was a rough one for me,” Graham said.

This year the Saints have deployed him all over the field, a versatility that was on display as he burned the Bears for 135 yards on 10 catches during a 26-18 victory in Week 5.

“He’s a tough guy to stop,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “They use him as a wide receiver out on the perimeter. They use him inside.”

As a result, defenses are forced to be just as creative in how they try and contain him. The Bears threw the kitchen sink at him, rotating defenders, mixing coverages, using double teams and trying to jam him at the line of scrimmage.

“They were putting guys everywhere and making sure I wouldn’t get off the ball clean,” Graham said. “Every one on their secondary and every linebacker at some point had me.”

If there’s a particular route where Graham has had success, it may be the sluggo (also known as the slant-and-go). With opposing defenses so geared to stop the short route, Graham can set them up before torching them on a long go pattern.

“A lot of corners and safeties are just hungry for that big hit or to break up that slant,” Graham said. “Drew believes no matter what the defense is that I’m going to catch it.”

Although the Patriots held Graham without a catch in Week 6, they shadowed him with Aqib Talib, one of the game’s best cover cornerbacks, a treatment usually reserved for a team’s No. 1 wide receiver.

There’s the rub.

Graham is in the last year of his contract, and rumors have swirled that his agent, Jimmy Sexton, will ask for wide receiver — not tight end — money, which could approach $10 million a year — a major increase from Gronkowsi’s six-year, $54 million deal, the richest tight end contract in history.

But that’s a story for the upcoming offseason. For now Graham is just enjoying the benefits of the past offseason, his first one in years with Brees and one that brought him another step closer to fulfilling his limitless potential.

“He’s still hungry to learn,” Saints wide receiver Marques Colston said. “He’s only going to continue to get better.”

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Clinton Portis: “I Don’t Hang My Head When I Look Back At My Career”

Clinton Portis the newest member of the of the ACC  Digital Network talks with The Drive about Nevin Shapiro and his dealing with the University of Miami.  We first ask him if Clinton new Nevin.

“No I didn’t meet Nevin until after I came back to Miami.  I was already in the NFL”

Next we talk about the in state rival Florida State and Jameis Winston.

“When you look at this kid and how he’s stepping in and leading this team and how the team is rallying around him it’s a beautiful thing”

“Hands down I think Florida State is the best team in the country”

We also get into the concussions that Clinton sustained over his career.  Suffering 10 concussions over his career he is greatly interested in the process of coming back from concussions.

“When you are playing it was always you’re just dinged up”

Back in the day you’d stand on the sidelines for a little bit and maybe you couldn’t see for a minute then they’d ask you ‘you ready to go back in’ and you would”

We close by talking about the Hurricane teams that Clinton played on.

“Hands down the team I played on was the best collegeicon1 team ever with Vince Wilfork, Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne…”

“What Butch Davis was building there was something special with the 98 recruiting class”

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Baltimore Trades Bryant McKinnie to Miami

The Dolphins have a load of problems on the offensive line.  Coincidentally, the Ravens have a load they were looking to unload.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports that the Ravens have shipped left tackle Bryant McKinnie to the Dolphins.

McKinnie has not played since the Ravens traded for Eugene Monroe.  On Sunday against the Steelers, McKinnie was inactive.

McKinnie, the seventh overall pick in the 2002 draft, has had an up-and-down career, with arguably more down than up.  He anchored the left side of the offensive line through the 2010 season, but he contributed to a major distraction with his role in the 2005 Love Boat fiasco (again, more down than up).  Three years later, he was arrested in Miami on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence.  The incident resulted in a four-game suspension.

But the Vikings kept him, until he showed up after the lockout reportedly north of four bills.  Minnesota promptly cut him, the Ravens signed him, and he did fairly well in 2011.  Last year, McKinnie was meh for much of the year, but he got it together in the postseason.

He became a free agent, later re-signed the team, but presumably fell out of favor after a party bus incident last month that resulted in receiver Jacoby Jones reportedly being gashed in the head by a giant champagne bottle wielded by a woman know as Sweet Pea.

It became obvious that McKinnie was out once the Ravens acquired Monroe.  The fact that the Ravens were able to actually trade him shows just how desperate the Dolphins, who have allowed 26 sacks in seven games, have become.

And now he goes to back to Miami, where he went to college and where his 2008 arrest occurred.  What could go wrong?

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Reggie Wayne tears ACL, will miss rest of Colts' season

Sunday night's emphatic victory over the Denver Broncos came with a steep price tag for the Indianapolis Colts.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Reggie Wayne tore his ACL along with his meniscus, according to a source who spoke with the player. The 34-year-old's season is over.

Wayne suffered a non-contact injury to his right knee during the fourth quarter of Indy's 39-33 win over Denver. The Colts' worst fears were realized, and coach Chuck Pagano said the loss "stings" when he confirmed the news Monday.

Stripping Wayne from the passing attack leaves the Colts without their most reliable target. He leads the team in receptions (38) and yards (503) and has been an anchor for young quarterback Andrew Luck. T.Y. Hilton is an ascendant talent, and Darrius Heyward-Bey played a larger role against Denver, but the other wideouts on the roster are just LaVon Brazill and David Reed.

Good teams find a way to overcome injuries and, if we learned anything Sunday night, it's that Indy is a good -- if not a great -- force in the AFC South.

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Devin Hester ties NFL record with 19th TD

Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears has tied Hall of Famer Deion Sanders' NFL record with his 19th return for a touchdown.

Hester has brought back a punt 81 yards for a score in the second quarter against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. It is Hester's 13th punt return for a TD, extending his own record in that category.

He also has returned five kickoffs and one missed field goal for touchdowns.

Hester had not scored on a return in nearly two years, since Nov. 13, 2011.

The Redskins have allowed a punt return for a touchdown in two consecutive games, and against Oakland in Week 4 surrendered a TD on the return of a blocked punt.

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Jimmy Graham likely questionable this

New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham is likely questionable for the game this Sunday against Buf-falo, although his lower leg injury is not expected to be a lingering problem, a source said Monday.

Graham was injured at the end of the Saints loss at New England on Oct. 13. The Saints had a bye this week. However, it’s unclear if that was enough time for Graham to get healthy enough for the next game against the Bills. Graham had 37 receptions for 593 yards and six touchdowns this season.

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Darryl Sharpton to start in place of injured Brian Cushing

Darryl Sharpton will replace Brian Cushing at inside linebacker in the Texans’ starting lineup.

Sharpton will start next to Joe Mays.

Cushing will have surgery later this week and is done for the season. He suffered a broken fibula and torn LCL in his left leg in Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Chiefs.

The Texans will look for veteran depth on the inside. They have veteran Tim Dobbins, but he’s missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, and they don’t know when he’ll be ready. They also have Mike Mohamed, another undrafted rookie, providing depth.

General manager Rick Smith and pro personnel director Brian Gardner will be looking at veteran free agents to play on the inside.

Sharpton, who has always played well when he’s healthy, hasn’t practiced for the last two weeks because of injuries. He spends a lot of time nicked up, as coach Gary Kubiak likes to say.

Because rookie Willie Jefferson was placed on waivers, the coaches have moved another undrafted rookie free agent, Justin Tuggle, to the strong side to back up Brooks Reed. Tuggle played outside and inside linebacker in camp and developed well enough to convince the coaches to keep him.

Veteran Bryan Braman plays behind starter Whitney Mercilus on the weak side.

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Jonathan Vilma returns to practice

METAIRIE, La. -- Jonathan Vilma has returned to practice with the New Orleans Saints, the first step in a possible return to game action from the club's injured reserve list.

Vilma's status was posted on the NFL's transaction wire Monday evening.

Now in his 10th season, the 31-year-old Vilma had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in August. Vilma was placed on injured reserve to start the regular season, but designated for return, allowing him to remain with New Orleans and possibly return after eight weeks without consuming a spot on the active roster. Each team gets one such designation.

Vilma has had multiple knee surgeries and missed five games in each of the past two seasons. The Saints, who closed Monday's practice to media, have not said when they might activate Vilma.

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Frank Gore moving up the all-time lists

San Francisco running back Frank Gore has surpassed former 49ers running back Roger Craig for 4th all-time in team history in career touchdowns with 67.

Gore surpassed Craig at the 7:25 mark of the third quarter on a 1-yard jaunt that put the 49ers up 24-0 over the Tennessee Titans.  He also scored earlier in the game – also on a 1-yard run.

Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, of course, holds the all-time team record with 187 career touchdowns, and the all-time NFL career touchdown record with 207.  Fellow wide receiver Terrell Owens is second in 49ers history with 83, and Hall of Famer Joe Perry is third with 80.

Frank Gore is in his 9th season with the San Francisco 49ers and is already the team’s all-time leading rusher with 9,316 yards.  He sits second on the all-time team list behind Perry for rushing touchdowns, who had 68.

Gore has surpassed the 1000 yard rushing mark in 6 of his 8 seasons as a professional, and appears to be on his way to another such season.

The University of Miami product has been elected to the Pro Bowl 4 times and is third on the active career rushing yards list behind Steven Jackson (10,212) and Adrian Peterson (9,332).

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CP Mic'd Up | Clinton Portis Celebrates On Sideline After Miami

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Brandon Meriweather suspended

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather was suspended for two games Monday after yet another Sunday marked by personal fouls. It will also cost him $141,176 -- in addition to costing the Redskins their starter.

Meriweather was flagged twice for personal fouls in Sunday's 45-41 win over the Chicago Bears. He was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Alshon Jeffery at the end of a 28-yard catch late in the third quarter. Late in the fourth quarter, Meriweather launched into receiver Brandon Marshall after he dropped a pass in the end zone.

If Meriweather appeals, as expected, there is precedent for winning an appeal. Tampa Bay safety Dashon Goldson had his one-game suspension overturned earlier this season after a helmet-to-helmet hit, though he was still fined $100,000. Last season, Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed won his appeal and his one-game suspension was reduced to a $50,000 fine.

After Sunday's game, Marshall said of Meriweather, "I respect the league trying to better our game. Guys like that, maybe he needs to get suspended or taken out of the game completely."

It's not the first time the NFL has punished Meriweather. He was fined $42,000 for two hits in a Week 2 loss at Green Bay. And he was fined $50,000 for a hit in 2010 with New England and accrued $45,000 in fines a year later with Chicago.

Meriweather said Sunday, "No matter what I do I feel I'll be in the wrong. If I hit you in the shoulder and slipped up, they still say it's head to head. If I hit them too low, I think somebody just got flagged for hitting somebody too low. It all depends on who's watching. I don't think we can be right.

"I think they're trying to be safe and I think the only way to be safe is to do what they're doing. But at the same time this is tackle football. A job of a safety is to instill fear and you can't do that with pulling up."

The Redskins play at Denver and then host San Diego in the next two weeks, meaning a team already thin at safety must play quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers without their starter.

Washington's other starting safety, Reed Doughty, exited Sunday's win with a concussion. They have no proven starter behind Doughty and Meriweather, and have been forced to often play three corners and one safety.

The Redskins can get a roster exemption until Meriweather returns.

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Jimmy Graham negotiations

Graham will become the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, and the Saints won't have a problem giving Graham that distinction.

I've confirmed the Saints sent their latest contract offer to Graham's camp two months ago, before he opened the season with monstrous numbers. Notice the use of "latest contract offer." The team has indeed been actively pursing a new deal for their best offensive weapon, but it takes two parties for negotiations to commence.

For now, Graham is content on playing under the terms of the final year of his rookie contract, which will pay him $1.323 million this season.

I wasn't made privy to the new terms discussed at the bargaining table, but my guess is the offer exceeded the contract signed by New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski two years ago, which was a six-year deal reportedly maxing out at $54 million.

Graham's contract situation is reminiscent of the way talks began between the Saints and Drew Brees nearly two years ago before Brees ultimately received his lucrative extension.

After the Patriots' Tom Brady signed his deal in 2011 that made him the highest-paid quarterback in NFL history, the Saints offered Brees a contract that would have surpassed Brady's. Brees and his agent, Tom Condon, passed on the initial offer.

It took two more seasons, a franchise tag and another four months before Brees and the Saints finally agreed to a then-record five-year, $100 million deal.
In 2011, Peyton Manning received the franchise tag by the Indianapolis Colts. It took Manning another five months to receive a long-term deal. Condon also represents Manning.

Unless something drastically changes, I would anticipate Graham's contract negotiations to play out in the same fashion as Brees and Manning. Why? Graham's agent is Jimmy Sexton, who works for the same firm as Condon -- Creative Artists Agency. 

Graham's camp might not only be looking for him to cash in as the highest-paid tight end in league history but also get a pay scale in line with elite receivers such as Detroit's Calvin Johnson (eight years, $132 million maximum) and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald (eight years, $120 million). Graham leads the league in receiving yards even after last week's game against New England in which he was held without a catch. He's become one of the best skill position players in the NFL.

But the likelihood of Graham getting receiver-type money like Johnson or Fitzgerald is zero. 

How much is Graham seeking? It's not been made public, and the Saints may not even know as Pro Football Talk reported recently that Graham's representatives hadn't made a counterproposal.

At least the Saints knew Brees' asking price.

Here's how I predict the next several months will play out in negotiations between the Saints and Graham:

A new deal won't be reached this season.

The Saints will be forced to use the franchise tag on Graham, at a rate of about $6 million for next season - the average for the league's five highest-paid tight ends. I'm not buying he'll be tagged as a wide receiver.

The two sides eventually will strike a deal during the summer closer to Gronkowski's contract as opposed to the Johnson and Fitzgerald deals.

Saints fans, you should already be battle tested after Brees' contract tussle. Prepare yourself accordingly for another long process with Graham.

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Sean Taylor Murder Trial Finally Begins

SeanTaylor copy
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A videotaped confession by the alleged trigger man in the murder of former University of Miami and NFL star Sean Taylor six years was focus point Monday morning during opening arguments of his trial.

During his opening statement Assistant State Attorney Ray Araujo told the 12 jurors and four alternates that Eric Rivera Jr., 23, voluntarily spoke with detectives without an attorney present about how he shot Taylor while he and four friends attempted to burglarize the football star’s Palmetto Bay home.
Rivera even drew diagrams of the rooms and where everyone was at the time, Araujo said.

“He describes in detail the plan, how they carried it out, who was involved, everything,” Araujo said. “This defendant confessed to the murder of Sean Taylor, that he committed it.”

Rivera’s attorney, Janese Caruthers, countered that Rivera was coerced into the confession. Caruthers said he was “ambushed” by a team of investigators who had little evidence and was looking for someone to take the fall in a high-pressure case.

“They forced him to confess to a crime that he did not commit,” Caruthers said.

Taylor, who was 24 when he died, was a Pro Bowl safety for the Redskins.

Prosecutors say Rivera and four others, all from the Fort Myers area, thought Taylor would be with the Redskins at a game at Tampa Bay the night they broke into his house — but instead he was home with a knee injury.

The prosecution detailed how the hard-hitting 6’2″, 230 pound safety grabbed a machete to try and defend his girlfriend and baby.

“He (Taylor) grabs a machete and tells her to stay in bed,” prosecutor Reid Ruben said. “He walks towards his bedroom door; not knowing who or what was waiting on him on the other side. It’s at that moment, that this defendant, Eric Rivera, gun in his hand, kicks the door open.”

Ruben continued, “and when that happens, Sean Taylor, machete in his hand is standing there and is shot.”

“I heard a really loud noise, gun shots, scream like ‘Ahhhh.’,” testified Taylor’s girlfriend Jackie Garcia who was in the master bedroom with the couple’s child.  “I hid under the covers.”

“Where was your daughter,” asked the prosecutor.

“Next to me,” replied Garcia.

Garcia said she didn’t see Rivera the night of the shooting and tried to get help.

“I ran outside screanming, told them someone was dying, to please hurry,” said Garcia.

Taylor was shot in the upper thigh, which severed his femoral artery. He died the next day from massive blood loss.

Members of Taylor’s family, including his father, Florida City Police Chief Pedro Taylor, took up nearly an entire row in the packed Miami-Dade County courtroom.

In addition to the confession, Araujo said trial evidence will show cellphones belonging to the suspects were tracked near Taylor’s house and along Alligator Alley, the route they allegedly took to and from the crime. Police also found a footprint at Taylor’s home that matched the sneakers Rivera was wearing that night, the prosecutor said.

Araujo said investigators zeroed in on Rivera and the others because some in the group had been to Taylor’s home before, once for a birthday party for his sister in which Taylor was seen giving her $10,000 cash. The Fort Myers group, Araujo said, thought there was a great deal of cash in Taylor’s house.

“They had a plan and they carried it out. This was a burglary that turned into a murder,” the prosecutor said.

One of the other four suspects, Venjah Hunte, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary charges and could testify against Rivera. The other three are scheduled to go on trial later.

Because Rivera was 17 at the time of the crime, his maximum possible sentence if convicted is life in prison rather than the death penalty.

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Lamar Miller totals 47 yards in Week 7

Lamar Miller rushed nine times for 43 yards and caught a four-yard pass in Miami's Week 7 loss to Buffalo.
After giving Miller a heavy majority if Week 5 snaps, the Dolphins emerged from their Week 6 bye using Daniel Thomas as their lead back and Miller essentially as a change of pace. Miller broke off a 30-yard run on an inside zone play during the first half, and was bottled up on his other nine touches. It's probably time to stop hoping the coaching staff will commit to Miller as their running back horse. The rotation is here to stay.

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Eric Winston: Time to bring 'lunch pail back to work'

Offensive line woes hurt the Arizona Cardinals again in their Thursday night 34-22 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked a season-high seven times and was consistently under pressure.

"We did not play very well in this ball game and that's a very good front, but we did not play as well as we've been playing," head coach Bruce Arians said. "Bradley (Sowell) struggled, obviously, with his pressures. Paul (Fanaika) struggled with pressure. Eric (Winston) struggled. The only guy that played really well up front was Lyle (Sendlein)."

Winston, the right tackle, acknowledged his unit's lackluster performance and said the only thing they can do is to work on it in practice.

"When you're in tough situations, it's time to bring your lunch pail back to work and keep working," Winston said. "There's nothing else you can do, there's no other way to go about it. We just got to keep continuing to work hard, we've got to continue to keep trusting what the coaches are telling us, what they're coaching us to do and keep striving for that."

In 2012, the Cardinals allowed 58 sacks, the most allowed in the NFL by a significant margin. The team expected to improve in that area heading into this season, and even more so after trading left tackle Levi Brown after Week Four, but Palmer has already been taken down 20 times.

Winston said the offensive line deserves criticism for their performance, but it still takes the whole team to keep the quarterback upright.

"I've always said protection is an 11-man effort, just like running the ball is," Winston said. "Everyone's got to do their job.

"It's continuing to be an 11-man effort, we're going to take the brunt of it up front because we should and we've got to play better up front."

The first step, according to Winston, is just giving Palmer more time to make plays in the pocket.

"We've got to create a more clean pocket, more of the time, for him, where he can step up and really make some throws," Winston said. "I think for us, we've got to start striving towards that and I think if we strive towards that, the sacks will also come down because he'll be able to get rid of the ball faster."

Arians said the team will give backup linemen Bobby Massie and Earl Watford more of a look in the coming weeks as they try to find a fix to the problem that's been plaguing Arizona.

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