Bucs waive third-year RB Mike James

The Bucs have waived third-year running back Mike James, who had been inactive for all three games this season after serving only as a short-yardage back last year. No corresponding addition has been announced yet.

James, 24, was drafted by the Bucs in the sixth round out of Miami in 2013, and of his 332 career rushing yards, 283 came in a four-game stretch his rookie year when starter Doug Martin went down with injury. James rushed 28 times for 158 yards in a loss at Seattle, but had lost that backup role to Charles Sims and Bobby Rainey last season.

James rushed 19 times for 37 yards last year, and was left inactive all three weeks this season. His move doesn't necessarily suggest a new running back coming in, but more likely an addition to offset an injury -- cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Tim Jennings had knee injuries Sunday, though it's unknown if either will be sidelined this week.

Bookmark and Share

Devin Hester Returns To Practice

As the Falcons begin preparations for Sunday’s Week 4 matchup against the Houston Texans, RB Tevin Coleman (ribs), WR Julio Jones (toe/hamstring) and TE Jacob Tamme (concussion) were unable to participate in Wednesday’s practice.

WR Devin Hester (toe) was able to participate in a limited fashion for the first time of the 2015 regular season.

Head coach Dan Quinn provided a number of injury updates prior practice where he displayed optimism when talking about the status of Coleman and Hester.

“RB Tevin Coleman will be out today. We’re getting closer, but we’re still not there yet,” Quinn said. We’re going to hold out WR Julio Jones and WR Jacob Tamme is going through concussion protocol.”

Bookmark and Share

Allen Hurns starts practice week limited

Hurns has been dealing with a thigh injury the last two weeks, but hasn't missed any time. With Allen Robinson likely to draw Colts CB Vontae Davis in coverage, Hurns is on the WR3 map.

RotoGrinders.com Daily Slant: Assuming Allen Robinson draws Vontae Davis (PFFs #2 ranked corner in 2014) in coverage, Hurns would be the benefactor of added looks. Blake Bortles hasn't shown enough to inspire confidence that he can feed the ball to Robinson in tight coverage. Davis didn't act as a shadow CB much in 2014 and could spend time on both Robinson and Hurns, but Robinson is expected to see more of Davis. Hurns is still cheap across the industry and is a very nice high-upside GPP play.

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson still searching for his comfort zone with the Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – The Houston Texans didn’t think wide receiver Andre Johnson was good enough to start for them anymore. The Indianapolis Colts thought differently. That’s why the Colts signed him to a three-year, $21 million contract in the offseason and made him a starter opposite T.Y. Hilton.

But three games, seven receptions, 18 targets and 51 yards later, the Colts are still waiting for the receiver who tormented them during his 12 seasons with the Texans to find his comfort zone. The transition from Houston to Indianapolis hasn’t been a smooth one for Johnson.

“In coming to this team, I knew that we had a lot of guys here that can make plays,” Johnson said. “You just have to wait [for] your time. Your time will come. I’ve had my fair share of being the No. 1 guy, catching eight or nine balls a game. My biggest reason for coming here was to come in and help as much as I can to win games.

“What’s required of me in the first few games, it hasn’t been what’s been most of my career. I’m not upset. I’m here to win.”

This isn’t the first time the Colts have been in this position with a receiver they signed during the offseason. It happened with Hakeem Nicks last season, and to a lesser extent with Darrius Heyward-Bey two years ago.

But this is Andre Johnson, a player with seven 1,000-yard seasons in his career. Johnson has had at least two drops already this season, and his best play – a 37-yard reception against the Titans – was taken away because of a holding penalty called on guard Hugh Thornton.

Hilton and second-year player Donte Moncrief have been the Colts’ best two receivers so far this season.

“I think he’s a great, steady presence as a leader for this offense,” quarterback Andrew Luck said about Johnson. “Just because maybe the catches aren’t where they are normally for a guy like that, doesn’t mean he’s not helping contribute in a big way. I don’t foresee the catches not catching up, in a sense.”

There hasn’t been any moping or complaining out of Johnson.

Need some proof?

Johnson’s reaction Sunday after Moncrief caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Luck to put the Colts up 28-27 in the fourth quarter.

“I told Donte after he caught that touchdown that I jumped like I caught it,” Johnson said. “It’s fun being around these guys, young guys. That makes me enjoy the game a lot more. Makes me feel young.”

Johnson and Luck didn’t spend much extra time together during the offseason, and it’s showing so far. Three of Luck’s NFL-high seven interceptions have come on throws to Johnson.

“A lot of people don’t realize how hard that is, to try to build being your first time in a new place,” Johnson said. “It takes a lot of work. It takes time for a guy to feel very comfortable, to make that relationship very comfortable. It’s something we work on every day. Other than that, I’m just here working and trying to get better as a player daily.”

The timing and the comfort level will come around, the Colts say.

“A week ago it was the tight ends you guys were talking about, so we got them involved,” coach Chuck Pagano said, smiling. “So now it’s Andre, so I guess he’ll get eight or nine targets this week.”

Bookmark and Share

Pat O'Donnell misses practice with right knee injury

Punter Pat O’Donnell didn’t practice Wednesday at Halas Hall because of a right knee injury, but special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers didn’t seem overly concerned.

O’Donnell’s injury is not believed to be a serious.

“It’s early,” Rodgers said. “We’ll see where Pat’s at at the end of the week.”

O’Donnell had a very busy day against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, punting 10 times for 477 yards. It included a 72-yarder. O’Donnell also saved a touchdown by helping tackle cornerback Richard Sherman on a trick play during a punt return.

If O’Donnell can’t go in Week 4 against the Oakland Raiders, a free agent will be signed.

“I certainly don’t expect Matt Slauson to punt for us,” Rodgers said. “There’s a couple available veteran guys if we need to get into that. You spend some time in the preseason evaluating some other guys, so that when you get into this situation, you have a short list, a ready list. ‘Hey, if something happens, here’s who we can use.’ If we had to do that, we could. We’ll see where Pat’s at come Sunday.”

Bookmark and Share

Ereck Flowers back at practice

Rookie left tackle Ereck Flowers returned to practice Wednesday as the Giants began preparations in earnest for Sunday's game at the Bills. 

Flowers missed the Giants' win over the Redskins this past Thursday with an ankle injury, but was a limited participant during Wednesday's session. The first round pick injured his ankle in the season opener against the Cowboys, but was able to play through it. He then re-aggravated the injury in Week 2 against the Falcons and was forced to leave the game early. Flowers said he felt better after practice. 

Bookmark and Share

Clinton Portis to be honored as ACC legend

Former tailback Clinton Portis was among 14 former football greats named Tuesday to the 2015 Atlantic Coast Conference Class of Football Legends.

As a true freshman starter at running back in 1999, Portis set a school record with five 100-yard performances, leading the Canes with 838 yards and eight touchdowns on 143 carries – 5.9 yards per carry – in 10 games. His 1,200 yards rushing during the 2001 national championship season was at that time the third-highest single-season rushing yardage total in UM history. He now ranks fifth in all-time career rushing with 2,523 yards.

Portis continued his dominance in the NFL, earning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2002 and amassing 9,923 rushing yards and 75 touchdowns in nine seasons – two with the Broncos and seven with the Washington Redskins.

“It’s a blessing to be recognized as a legend,’’ Portis wrote in an email to the Miami Herald. “...Plenty of people paved the way and inspired me to be the best me I can be. Coaches, teammates, fans, family all played a role in this award, so thanks.’’

Joining Portis in the ’15 ACC Legends class are Pitt running back Tony Dorsett, FSU running back Warrick Dunn, Georgia Tech coach Bobby Ross, Boston College center Dan Koppen, Clemson linebacker Anthony Simmons, Duke running back Chris Douglas, Louisville quarterback Chris Redman, North Carolina offensive lineman Ken Huff, NC State defensive back and return specialist Fred Combs, Syracuse tight end Chris Gedney, Virginia defensive end Patrick Kerney, Virginia Tech defensive end Corey Moore and Wake Forest punter Chuck Ramsey.

All 14 legends will be honored at the ACC Night of Legends on Dec. 4, and during the on-field pregame festivities at the ACC Championship.

Bookmark and Share

Peter O'Brien wants to catch again

Peter O'Brien has told the Diamondbacks that he wants to return to the catcher position.

O'Brien had the yips when trying to throw the ball back to the pitcher earlier this season and eventually moved to the outfield. He doesn't think it will be an issue anymore, though, and he and the D'Backs would both like him to take another crack at things behind the plate. O'Brien would certainly make for a much more interesting prospect if he can stick at catcher.

Bookmark and Share

Jon Jay (Accidentally?) Fakes A Ground Rule Double, Prevents Run

In the eighth inning of the Cardinals’ NL Central-clinching beatdown of the Pirates, there was a very strange play that I have never seen before.

With a runner on first, Pirate Chris Stewart hit a blast to left-center. Cardinals left fielder Jon Jay motioned that he had it, and proceeded to miss the catch. The ball bounced off the warning track, the fence, and dropped into Jay’s glove. But instead of immediately throwing the ball back, Jay motioned like it had bounced over the fence for a ground rule double.

And Jay’s trickery worked! The Pirates runner who could easily have scored was held up at third.

Faking a ground rule double in that situation is an extremely strange decision. There is no signage, overhanging seats, or other out-of-play obstacles that the ball could have bounced off: it seems pretty obvious that the only thing it hit was the fence, and that it shouldn’t have tricked anybody. And the Cardinals were up 9-0 at the time; why is Jay resorting to trickery instead of just getting the ball back to the infield as fast as possible?

Is it possible that Jon Jay wasn’t out to trick anybody, but actually thought it was a ground rule double? After he misses the catch, Jay sort of slams into the fence and isn’t looking up immediately. Maybe he thought the ball really did hit off of something, or that somehow a lightning fast teammate in the bullpen threw the ball back over the fence?

After the champagne celebration ends, hopefully a reporter asks Jay about the play.

Bookmark and Share

Rams Promote Brandon McGee

After an uneventful, confusing, and sometimes hard-to-watch three-year marriage, the St. Louis Rams finally did the inevitable on Tuesday and released running back Isaiah Pead, their third of three second-round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft (50th overall). In a transaction that truly had the Rams’ mark of trying to justify their draft picks stamped on it, cornerback Brandon McGee (a 2013 fifth-rounder) was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster to take Pead’s place. As previously reported, former New Orleans wide receiver Nick Toon was signed to the practice squad to take McGee’s place.

McGee gives the Rams a fifth corner on the active roster, which is a nice asset to have considering that Marcus Roberson is the only legitimate cornerback the Rams had behind injury-prone Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson (Lamarcus Joyner can contribute as the team’s nickelback, but realistically is too small to play the outside at just 5-foot-8 and 184 pounds).  It looked like McGee, whose initial two-year Rams tenure was marred by injuries, was no longer in the team’s plans when they released him at the final cutdown this year. After Week 1, however, he was brought back to the practice squad and now evidently has improved to the point where he earned back a spot on the active roster. If healthy, McGee can be a solid special teams contributor and is a guy that the Rams can plug in if they suffer another injury in the defensive backfield.

Bookmark and Share

TD Streak Extended - 8 TDs Scored

EIGHT #‎proCane TDs were scored in Week 3 of the NFL!

#‎Colts RB Frank Gore (2), WR Phillip Dorsett (1), #‎Panthers TE Greg Olsen (2), #‎Jags WR Allen Hurns (1), #‎Browns WR Travis Benjamin (1), #‎Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham (1).

Frank Gore's first TD extended the streak to 9 straight weeks a #proCane has scored a TD in the #‎NFL.

Phillip Dorsett scored his first ever NFL TD, and Frank Gore scored his first TD as a Colt.

Bookmark and Share

Sean Spence Could Continue To Share Time

Should Ryan Shazier miss future time with his “shoulder weakness,” Mike Tomlin indicated Sean Spence and Vince Williams will continue to rotate at Mack linebacker.

“We’re going to continue utilize both of those guys in replacing Ryan. Both have played for us in the past. Both are capable of playing good, above the line ball. Both guys are high energy guys, good communicators, we’re comfortable with our depth at our position,” he told the media during today’s press conference.

Based on my snap count, Spence out-snapped Williams 41-11 in Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams. Williams played only two series with Spence picking up the rest. Unlike last year, the team did not play Spence in just base and Williams in nickel.

As Tomlin alluded to, the Steelers’ greatest depth might be at inside linebacker and it would be foolish not to rotate that kind of talent in. But based on what happened yesterday, it seems clear that Spence is much more “the guy” than Williams.

Bookmark and Share

Frank Gore Moving Up The Record Charts

With the Colts leading the Titans 28–27, having already dug out of a 13-point hole and needing desperately to avoid falling to 0–3, Andrew Luck handed the ball off to Frank Gore at midfield. Gore rushed for 25 yards, his longest play from scrimmage of the young season. A Tennessee penalty tacked onto the end of the run put Indianapolis in the red zone, and Gore ended the drive with a six-yard touchdown run.

In the midst of that 25-yard run, Gore moved up to 19th on the all-time rushing list, passing Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson. With the touchdown, he passed Corey Dillon and slid into 18th.

Of the 17 players above Gore on the list, 13 are Hall of Famers (and LaDainian Tomlinson is a shoo-in for Canton when his time comes). Gore trails Edgerrin James by 999 yards, but with Fred Taylor and Steve Jackson well within range, the 32-year-old veteran is placing himself almost exclusively among Hall of Famers.

That’s not to say Gore has now had a better career than Simpson, who led the league in rushing four times in a five-year span from 1972–76. Simpson also has better yards/game and yards/carry rates than Gore, whose raw total is boosted by virtue of playing a 16-game schedule.

Here’s a comparison between them:
Frank Gore
O.J. Simpson

So Simpson had a more prolific NFL career (not mention that Heisman trophy at USC). But with Gore still playing, and not just chasing a ring with Luck and the Colts but contributing to the cause, he is moving up the leaderboard into some select company.

Bookmark and Share

Andre Johnson continues to tumble down Colts' WR depth chart

Colts wide receiver Andre Johnson did not have a reception and spent most of the fourth quarter on the sideline in Sunday's win over Tennessee, the Indianapolis Star reports. He had one pass thrown his way on a reception that was negated by a penalty.

Johnson has seven receptions in three games, as he's nowhere close to living up to the three-year, $21 million contract he signed in free agency. It also looks like he may have fallen to No. 3 or No. 4 on the depth chart, as both Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett figured prominently in Indy's fourth-quarter comeback.

Bookmark and Share

Antrel Rolle has his best game as a Bear

The Bears secondary has been struggling this year. Most of their struggles came from their corners, but even their safeties have done little to stand out. Antrel Rolle stood out more on Sunday and recorded his best statistical day as a Bear. The veteran recorded seven solo tackles and three assists.

Fantasy Impact: Rolle has not lived up to his IDP pre-draft value. This mostly has to do with teams attacking the Bears' corners on the outside. Rolle finally had a decent day as a fantasy player, but he needs to be even better. No one can take his leadership skills for granted, but those skills do not always translate to fantasy points. I expect Rolle to continue to get better as the season progresses; making him the only secondary option from the Bears' worth considering in IDP leagues.

Bookmark and Share

Shane Larkin responds to Phil Jackson critiques

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Knicks president Phil Jackson criticized former players Shane Larkin and Andrea Bargnani in an ESPN.com series chronicling Jackson's first season as Knicks president.

On Monday, both players, now with the Brooklyn Nets, responded.

Larkin, about whom Jackson said had “tiny hands," said: “I was going to palm a ball and put it on Instagram for him, but I felt like that wasn’t the right move. I never met a man so concerned with another man’s hands, but it’s all good. I don’t have [anything] but love for Phil Jackson and the whole organization. They’re good, but I’m a Brooklyn Net, and that’s all I want to talk about.”

Bargnani, whom Jackson called a "big tease," said: “I’m gonna say the answer I said a few weeks ago when I was with the [Italian] national team: Right now I’m focused on the Nets training camp. I don’t want this to be a distraction. I want to focus on what’s next for me, not what’s in the past. Last year was a hard season because of the record, we all know the record and for me personally I had many injuries. It was very frustrating because there wasn’t an outlet for me when I was injured.”

The two former Knicks each signed a two-year deal with the Nets this past offseason.

“He's old school," Larkin said of Jackson. "He's blatant about what he says, and he knows what he wants, and obviously he has the jewelry to say what he's got to say. So he's proven that he's a great leader, and if that's what he feels about me, that's what he feels about me. I'm not on his team [any] more, so he [doesn’t] have to worry about it.

Bargnani had said he would respond to the criticism, but declined to on Monday.

“I don’t like to talk about other people in the media,” he said. “I’m focused on the training camp and the Nets. I can talk about myself as a player and about how much I love basketball, how it’s my passion, it’s my life. I can talk about my work ethic and what I do. So, that’s it."

Both Larkin and Bargnani are looking forward to fresh starts with the Nets. Larkin is hoping to thrive in their pick-and-roll offense the way he did in college at Miami. Over the past four seasons, Bargnani has missed 175 games because of injury.

Bookmark and Share

Greg Olsen catches eight passes for 134 yards, two TDs

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen reeled in eight catches off of 11 targets for 134 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's win over New Orleans.

Coming into Sunday's game, Olsen had a combined seven receptions for 81 yards, totals he easily surpassed in Week 3. Olsen lined up tight and flexed out on Sunday, catching both of his touchdowns on 11-yard crosses and nabbing some downfield passes as well. Not surprisingly, Carolina's formerly mediocre passing attack rebounded as a result.

Through three weeks Olsen leads the Panthers with 28 targets and, given the absence of bonafide threats on the outside, should remain the focal point of Carolina's passing offense.

Bookmark and Share

Duke Johnson gets 10 touches in Week 3

Duke Johnson managed three yards on four carries, but caught 6-of-7 targets for 32 yards in the Browns' Week 3 loss to the Raiders.

The Browns didn't target Johnson once in their first two games of the season. He finally got active in the passing game in this one, due in large part to catch-up mode. Johnson has yet to threaten Isaiah Crowell's early-down job, but does have some fantasy value as an RB3/flex. Johnson will be a low-end flex option in PPR when the Browns head to San Diego for Week 4.

Bookmark and Share

Phillip Dorsett hauls in first career TD in Week 3 win

Colts wide receiver Phillip Dorsett caught two of his three targets for 43 yards and his first career touchdown in Sunday's win over the Titans.

Dorsett flashed his big-play ability in hauling in a 35-yard catch from quarterback Andrew Luck for a fourth-quarter score. The 2015 first-rounder will continue to be integrated into the offense, although the Colts have a lot of mouths to feed with T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Andre Johnson around.

Bookmark and Share

Travis Benjamin says he let team down

Travis Benjamin, the hero one week earlier when he was on the receiving end of two long touchdown passes from Johnny Manziel, took blame when the Browns couldn’t follow with a victory over the Raiders on Sept. 27.

The Browns rallied from down 27-10 just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it 27-20 with 6 minutes, 28 seconds to play on a four-yard touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Benjamin. It was Benjamin’s fourth touchdown catch of the season — already a career best with 13 games left.

The Browns’ defense forced the Raiders to punt without making a first down. FirstEnergy Stadium was rocking. Benjamin was standing near the Browns’ 40 and the fans were looking for another dynamic punt return from the speedster who returned one 78 yards for a touchdown last week.

The punt from the Raiders’ Marquette King hung in the air. Benjamin waved his arm to signal a fair catch. And then he muffed it. The ball hit him in the hands and bounced away. The Raiders recovered, and even though the Browns got another chance on a drive starting at their 2 with 2:26 left, Benjamin believes his muff was the critical play in the game.

“I feel like I let my team down, and that is one thing I don’t want to do,” Benjamin said. “We have to take advantage of every opportunity. Every time we get the ball, we have to punch it in. The good enough thing was that the defense got us the ball back, and we had another opportunity to score.”

Benjamin said he might have been bumped while trying to catch the ball. The only player near him was Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert. It is difficult to see on replay whether Gilbert touched Benjamin.

The reprieve ended with McCown being intercepted by Charles Woodson on the Oakland 12 with 38 seconds to play.

Bookmark and Share

Seahawks call Jimmy Graham's number in win over Bears

SEATTLE -- Jimmy Graham won't have to worry about addressing reports that he's frustrated and unhappy this week.

The Seattle Seahawks tight end gave the offense a much-needed boost, finishing with seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown in the team's 26-0 victory over the Chicago Bears.

After Seattle's Week 2 loss to the Packers, Graham was left to answer questions about why he only had one catch on two targets. But offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Russell Wilson got Graham going early in this one, dialing up his number on the first play of the game.

In the third quarter, Graham showed why he's such a valuable weapon. He made a catch near the Bears' 10-yard line, broke a tackle, pin-balled through defenders and got in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown.

As Graham has pointed out, the Seahawks are a run-first offense. But when they are sputtering (two field goals on six first-half possessions) on that side of the ball, calling on Graham is a smart solution. He is one of the biggest matchup problems in the league, can pick up yards after the catch and has shown the ability to make contested catches.

There's a fine line between forcing him the ball and letting Graham make plays within the framework of the scheme. But clearly, giving him opportunities can add a new element to the Seahawks offense. This was the kind of performance Seahawks fans envisioned when the team acquired Graham from the Saints this offseason.

Bookmark and Share

Allen Hurns scores 59-yard TD in Week 3 defeat

Allen Hurns caught 2-of-4 targets for 70 yards and one touchdown in the Jaguars' Week 3 loss to the Patriots.

With the Jaguars getting stomped 30-3 in the third quarter, Hurns ran a pretty simple route down the right seam and got behind Malcolm Butler for a 59-yard touchdown when Butler tried jumping the route. It was the lone highlight of the day for the Jaguars. Hurns will remain on the WR4 radar Week 4 against the Colts.

Bookmark and Share

Travis Benjamin, the hero one week earlier when he was on the receiving end of two long touchdown passes from Johnny Manziel, took blame when the Browns couldn’t follow with a victory over the Raiders on Sept. 27. The Browns rallied from down 27-10 just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter to make it 27-20 with 6 minutes, 28 seconds to play on a four-yard touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Benjamin. It was Benjamin’s fourth touchdown catch of the season — already a career best with 13 games left. Michael Allen Blair Browns-Raiders photo gallery The Browns’ defense forced the Raiders to punt without making a first down. FirstEnergy Stadium was rocking. Benjamin was standing near the Browns’ 40 and the fans were looking for another dynamic punt return from the speedster who returned one 78 yards for a touchdown last week. The punt from the Raiders’ Marquette King hung in the air. Benjamin waved his arm to signal a fair catch. And then he muffed it. The ball hit him in the hands and bounced away. The Raiders recovered, and even though the Browns got another chance on a drive starting at their 2 with 2:26 left, Benjamin believes his muff was the critical play in the game. “I feel like I let my team down, and that is one thing I don’t want to do,” Benjamin said. “We have to take advantage of every opportunity. Every time we get the ball, we have to punch it in. The good enough thing was that the defense got us the ball back, and we had another opportunity to score.” Benjamin said he might have been bumped while trying to catch the ball. The only player near him was Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert. It is difficult to see on replay whether Gilbert touched Benjamin. The reprieve ended with McCown being intercepted by Charles Woodson on the Oakland 12 with 38 seconds to play.

Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin caught just four of his 10 targets for 45 yards and lost a fumble, but scored his fifth touchdown of the season in Sunday's loss to Oakland.

Benjamin proved that he could deliver regardless of who was playing quarterback, as he caught a touchdown pass from Josh McCown after picking up three receiving scores courtesy of Johnny Manziel in the season's first two weeks.

While this performance wasn't quite as impressive as his three-touchdown showing against the Titans last week, Benjamin continues to make owners very happy.

Bookmark and Share

Third TD’s a charm for Greg Olsen

It took Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen three catches in the end zone to get his first touchdown of the season, and his second-quarter spike told his frustration in that statistic.

Olsen had been in the end zone twice this season just to have them called back, including once earlier in Sunday’s 27-22 victory New Orleans. So when he crossed the goal line and there were no yellow flags on the field, Olsen did something he typically doesn’t do: He celebrated.

Usually Olsen is the guy who jeers celebrations. It’s his job to score touchdowns, so when he scores there should be nothing to celebrate.

His typical line is, “OK, we get it.” After his spike, he heard it from his teammates.

“OK, we get it,” center Ryan Kalil said he and his teammates teased Olsen after the touchdown.

Olsen took the jokes in stride.

“I’m not a big spiker or celebrator,” Olsen said. “That’s not really my thing. That one felt good.”

Sunday against the Saints, Olsen had his biggest game of the season as he continues to get more involved in the passing game as the year goes on.

Olsen led all receivers with eight catches on 11 targets for 134 yards and two touchdowns, after games of one catch for 11 yards and six catches for 70 yards.

Quarterback Cam Newton didn’t get warm with Olsen until the second quarter, with the Panthers already down 10-0. They connected on a 27-yard pass to get across midfield, but the Panthers were backed up 10 yards on the next play when Olsen was called for holding.

Then Carolina worked inside the New Orleans 5 before Newton found Olsen for a 4-yard touchdown. But Richie Brockel was called for offensive pass interference and Carolina was moved back.

It was the second time a penalty negated an Olsen touchdown this season – the other came against Jacksonville in Week 1, when Olsen was called for a push.
No matter. Olsen and Newton connected two plays later for an 11-yard touchdown. Then came the spike.

“Touchdowns are hard to come by,” Olsen said. “You can’t give those away.”

The Saints’ defense entered the game trying to take away Carolina’s rushing game. That meant loading the box with eight men and playing a lot of man-to-man pass coverage.

The Panthers took advantage after getting the ball back just before the two-minute warning.

From the Carolina 19, Olsen faked his usual out-breaking route, but instead ran down the seam, where Newton hit him for a 52-yard catch and run.

“That particular route was something that he brought up ... and sure enough (they) gave us what (we) wanted,” Newton said. “It is just him making a play and getting a lot of YAC (yards after catch) afterward.”

Olsen had 100 receiving yards by halftime, and he capped it off in the third quarter with his second touchdown of the day, an 11-yarder that gave the Panthers their first lead, at 17-16.

There would be no spike on that touchdown despite the spike in his statistical production.

“I don’t get overly wrapped up in catches and fantasy football. That’s not the way I view the tight end position,” Olsen said. “I take a lot of pride in impacting the game with or without the ball. That’s something that only a few guys in the league can do.

“The balls are going to come. When they come, make the plays, maximize the plays and that’s what we try to do. There are a lot of other ways a tight end can impact the game when he’s not just running routes. That’s what we do around here.

“Plays are going to come your way. Today was a key example of that. At the end of the year, it’ll all even out.”

Bookmark and Share

Lamar Miller totals 65 yards versus Bills

Lamar Miller rushed seven times for 38 yards in Miami's Week 3 loss to the Bills, catching 3-of-3 targets for an additional 27 yards.

Miller averaged 5.4 yards per carry, but formerly run-committed OC Bill Lazor continued his early-season abandonment of the running game. The low point came early in the fourth quarter, where Miller set the Dolphins up with 1st-and-goal from the two with an eight-yard run. Lazor then proceeded to dial up four passes, all of which fell incomplete. It was a baffling sequence on a baffling day. We know Miller is going to get a bigger role at some point, but it's hard to know when the light might switch on for the poorly-coached Dolphins. He'll be a low-end RB2 for next week's London matchup with the Jets' stout run defense.

Bookmark and Share

Leonard Hankerson catches three passes for 45 yards

Falcons wide receiver Leonard Hankerson caught three passes off of six targets for 45 yards in Sunday's win over Dallas.

Through three weeks it has been Hankerson, not Roddy White, that has served as the second option in Atlanta's passing offense. Hankerson's 20 targets, 12 catches and 138 receiving yards all rank second on the team. Hankerson has never topped 38 catches in a season, but offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan clearly saw enough from him during their time together in Washington to bring him to Atlanta. Expect that rapport to pay dividends in terms of his role in the offense.

Bookmark and Share

Denzel Perryman earning stripes, larger role

MINNEAPOLIS — The Chargers had five kickoffs Sunday.

Three were returned.

On the first, inside linebacker Denzel Perryman shed a block from a Bengals tight end and tackled returner Adam Jones at the 24-yard line. On the second, Perryman had the angle on Jones, who tried to juke past him but fell when his right knee buckled at the 19. On the third, Perryman squared his shoulders and stuffed him at the 25.

Perryman. Perryman. Perryman.

Chargers coaches have noted the trend.

The rookie second-round pick played only two defensive snaps Sunday in Cincinnati. Still, he finished the game with five credited solo tackles, tied for second most on the team. All five came in special teams coverage. His production is expected to lead to greater opportunity on defense, one that could come as early as Sunday against the Vikings.

The 21-year-old didn't see the field on defense in Week 1.

His two reps in Week 2 came in a goal-to-go situation when the Bengals were inside the Chargers’ 5-yard line during the second quarter. Perryman shot a run gap to help mop up a tackle that defensive lineman Darius Philon made behind the line of scrimmage.

Rep division at inside linebacker has been fairly concentrated over the season's first two games.

Manti Te’o has played all 113 defensive snaps, the man in the middle of the base, nickel and dime defenses, relaying calls from the sideline to the huddle. Donald Butler has taken the second-most snaps at 90.

Perryman, Kavell Conner and rookie Nick Dzubnar round out the depth chart.

Peryman is the only reserve to have seen time defensively.

“He’s somebody we’ve got to find a way to keep building on it,” defensive coordinator John Pagano said. “All those guys, to me, are so interchangeable, to be able to do different things with them in different packages without giving the game plan.

“We’ve got to find roles for those guys. Football players like that, it’s great to have as your backups because as you know, it makes everyone better.”
Perryman missed some time this offseason.

In the spring, a hamstring injury limited his activity during organized team activities. A second, unrelated injury surfaced in training camp and sidelined him for the Aug. 22 exhibition game in Arizona.

The former thumper at Miami is working himself into the defensive fold.

It’s not his first time.

“My first year (at Miami), I started off at special teams,” Perryman said. “I got massaged in with play time. I knew coming into the league I would have to play special teams. I’m just doing what I can until my number gets called. Last week, I had a pretty good week. This week, I’m just trying to be consistent with my play.”

Perryman made two tackles Sunday in punt coverage.

On one, the returner ran out of bounds, but they call count the same.

His six special teams tackles on the season easily lead the NFL. Rams wide receiver Bradley Marquez has four; he’s the only other player with more than three.
Perryman is the first Charger to total five or more special teams tackles in a game since Mike Tolbert had six in 2011.

Looking ahead, Pagano would rather not overload the rookie on defense.

But gradually, his reps will increase. That playing time, similar to Chris Watt as a rookie last year when rotating at right guard with Johnnie Troutman, ultimately could prepare Perryman to handle a larger role in the event of injury. Watt wound up being called upon to start in November.

"It’s something we emphasize to college free agents and draft picks or players from other teams,” coach Mike McCoy said. “We stress the importance of special teams, and he bought into that. He’s done an outstanding job, whether it’s the preseason games that he played in or the first two games, of his attitude and the way we want him to play it.

“And then, him having the tackles he had (Sunday), we give him a lot of the credit to the success we had covering things, him making the tackles that he did. I’m very happy with the way he’s playing in the kicking game."

Bookmark and Share

Travis Benjamin says he's fastest player in the league, hopes to be a Brown forever

BEREA, Ohio -- The photo told the story.

Travis Benjamin, right before halftime, is hurdling over Tennessee punter Brett Kern on his way to the end zone, just one of the 11 Titans special teamers he left in his wake. Benjamin was rewarded for his effort on Wednesday when he was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Week.

"It's a blessing," Benjamin said on Wednesday after practice. "I think it's my third one since I've been here. So just a compliment to me and appreciate those 10 guys on the punt return blocking for me and leading my way home."

Benjamin returned that punt 78 yards for a touchdown in Sunday's win over the Titans and totaled 154 return yards, the third-most in a single game for a Brown. He is now tied for second for the most punt-return touchdowns in franchise history. It's a sharp turnaround for a player who briefly lost the job a season ago on a team that had to resort to designated punt catcher Jim Leonhard.

"I didn't get to practice well (last season)," Benjamin said, "because being hurt, being out, missing those reps, missing those practices that I was out. But this year I'm ready to go."

Benjamin missed most of 2013 with a torn ACL, suffered during a kick return in a loss to Kansas City. Benjamin returned last season and appeared in all 16 games. He managed 8.5 yards per return with a long of just 37.

"I feel way different (this year)," Benjamin said. "I feel faster. I feel like it's no relapse into what I have to do. I feel so much faster this year.

"I did mostly running (in the off-season) because last year I was rehabbing, so this year I got a chance to run more."

Benjamin appears to have taken a step forward as a receiver, too, a year after catching 18 passes. He's one-third of the way to that total and has matched his 2014 touchdown total with three already this season.

"I always felt like I can change the game each and every time on the field," Benjamin said when asked if he knew he had it in him to be a big-play receiver. "I can be that playmaker that can take over a game because my speed and my ability to get open."

Benjamin said that, even though it's been four years since he last ran the 40-yard dash, he believes his time would be "probably 4.2 (seconds), low 4.3."
Is he the fastest player in the league?

"I would say so," Benjamin said. "You've never seen a player just put speed on tape each and every time."

Benjamin's timing for his scorching start couldn't be better. He's in the final year of his 4-year, $2.577 million rookie contract. If he continues playing well, he stands to get a hefty raise to his $660,000 base salary.

"Hopefully we can keep it going for the long run," Benjamin said, "and I'll be a Brown forever."

Bookmark and Share

Brewers shut down OF Ryan Braun due to lingering back injury

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun (back) was shut down by the Brewers on Sunday due to a lack of progress in his rehab, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports.

Braun did get a start Saturday, but it was a rough outing where he went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. It's a safe move long-term for the Brewers, as they aren't going to allow a marquee player risk his 2016 season for a lost year.

This will wrap up a strong season for the right fielder, in which he went .285/.356/.498 with 25 home runs and 24 steals. He's slated to undergo surgery on his back in the coming weeks.

Bookmark and Share

Danny Valencia considered day to day

Athletics third baseman Danny Valencia is considered day to day after taking a pitch off of the elbow Sunday, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Valencia was hit on the elbow pad by a pitch, causing him to leave the game after logging just one at-bat. X-rays returned negative and Valencia told reporters he's fine, but the team is considering him day to day nonetheless.

Bookmark and Share