Harland Gunn likely to start

The Atlanta Falcons suffered three high-profile injury losses in their catastrophic loss to the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday, and the area that was hardest hit for Mike Smith’s team was the offensive line. Both Joe Hawley and Lamar Holmes have been placed on injured reserve, but in addition to that, long-time stalwart Justin Blalock has been absent from practice after leaving the Minnesota game early.

With Blalock’s continued injury concerns, the Falcons appear to be moving on with the plan to deploy Harland Gunn as the starter at left guard when the team travels to the Big Apple to take on the New York Giants.

Positively, it appears as if Blalock’s injury will not cost him any additional time, but it seems to be the consensus that he will need another week to heal, and that leaves an already battered unit even more short-handed. As of this post, the most likely scenario would be a line of Jake Matthews, Harland Gunn, Peter Konz, Jon Asamoah and Gabe Carimi (from left to right), but while that unit certainly isn’t ideal, it is still likely an upgrade on the majority of work from the 2013 season.

Definitive word on Blalock’s status likely won’t come down until later in the week, but it is time to familiarize ourselves with Harland Gunn as a starting NFL offensive lineman.

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Former Bears G.M. regrets trading Greg Olsen

The Bears don’t lack for weapons in the passing game now, but they could have had even more.

The Panthers are thankful they don’t.

Former Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo admitted that trading Greg Olsen to the Panthers in 2011 was a mistake, during a conversation with the Kap and Haugh Show on 87.7 FM The Game.

Olsen wasn’t a fit for what then-coach Mike Martz wanted to do, but has developed into one of the most reliable pass-catchers in the league.

“It was a mistake to trade him,” Angelo said, via CSNChicago.co, “I understand he wasn’t the ideal fit in the scheme, but we let our best receiver go. Obviously, it was [Jay] Cutler’s favorite receiver at the time, and we let him out the door.

“That’s on me. I understand what the coaches were saying, but you don’t let your best player — one of your better players — out the door. Everything he’s doing hasn’t surprised me. He’s an excellent player, particularly in the passing game. He’s Newton’s favorite target. I’m happy for Greg; he’s not only a great player, but a great kid. Like Matt Forte, [he has] an insatiable work ethic.”

Olsen’s tied for the team lead in catches for the Panthers this season, giving them a proven option alongside rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin and a bunch of question marks.

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Allen Hurns Concerns Steelers DC Dick LeBeau

While the Jacksonville Jaguars are expected to be without wide receivers Marqise Lee and Cecil Shorts Sunday in their home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they’ll still have a few big bodies in rookies Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns for rookie quarterback Blake Bortles to throw to.

While many of you should already know quite a bit about Robinson being as he is Penn State product who was drafted in the second round back in May, it’s Hurns who actually currently leads the Jaguars in receiving yardage with 254 yards through four games.

During his weekly talk with the media Thursday, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau let it be known that Hurns, an undrafted free agent out of Miami, is a receiver that can deliver big plays for the Jaguars.

“They have a lot of big strike plays. Their one receiver (Hurns) is I think second in the league in yards per catch,” said LeBeau. “They’re getting the ball up the field. That’s what we can’t allow.”

The 6-1, 195 pound Hurns is averaging 21.2 yards per catch so far this season and five of his 12 catches have gone for 21 or more yards. When you consider that the Steelers defense has already allowed 14 pass plays of 20 yards or more in their first four games, you can see why Hurns might not be easily contained Sunday.

During his senior year at Miami, Hurns led the Hurricanes in receiving with his 1,162 yards and six touchdowns on 62 receptions in 13 games played. While not a blazer, 96 of Hurns’ 254 receiving yards so far this season have come after the catch.

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Vince Wilfork: Full confidence in Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Given his standing as the New England Patriots' second-longest tenured player, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork's influence in the locker room looms large. He guaranteed that in the wake of an embarrassing 41-14 loss Monday to the Kansas City Chiefs that the team will get better.

"I have full confidence in this team," Wilfork said Thursday after a full-pads practice. "We have a lot of great guys around this locker room that played a lot of football games and know what it takes to win. So I don't think we lack of any type of guys that don't know how to play football. I think it's just making sure we execute at the highest level and hopefully we can get back on track this week."

Wilfork was one of several players who reported that Thursday's practice was viewed as a good one -- physical and spirited.

"A step in the right direction," he said, before repeating the word "execute" and explaining that's what it ultimately comes down to for defenders. "Right now, it's time for us to start playing the way we know how to play as Patriots. We need to step our game up -- all of us.

"There are tons of things that we have no business doing and we should be doing better ... Little things that we've been doing that haven't been right, if we just correct those things, this team will be looking totally different ... It's fixable. We need to fix it and get better, and that's what good football teams do -- fix things and move forward."

Wilfork has seen good things in past weeks as well, but it's not transferring to games.

"The most frustrating thing is that you go out and have good practices and you can't get it together [when it counts]," he said. "We have to continue to believe in what we do, and just do it a little bit better."

Asked about the defense playing more aggressive, Wilfork explained that the team will mix up its game plan weekly.

"Sometimes we do it, sometimes we don't, but that's not saying it's wrong or right," he said. "You have to buy into it. We've won a lot of ballgames around here playing a certain way. That's not going to change, trust me on that. So I'm all for what we do around here. We just have to do it better, plain and simple."

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Chase Ford Snags 3 Passes Versus Packers

Vikings tight end Chase Ford produced little Week 5 against the Packers.

Ford hauled in three passes for 31 yards during the contest. He was targeted just four times. Ford is attempting to replace Kyle Rudolph, who has missed the past few games following surgery. While his 31 yards was tied for second on the club Thursday, Ford didn't play a big role in the offense.

Ford will take on the Lions Week 6.


Andre Johnson limited in practice Thursday

After missing Wednesday's session due to an ankle injury, Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson returned to practice as a limited participant on Thursday, per ESPN. Johnson has been nursing an ankle injury since the start of the season and has yet to miss a game.

The Texans have an in-state showdown against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Week 5.

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Jon Beason thinks he'll suit up for Giants vs. Falcons

EAST RUTHERFORD – Giants linebacker Jon Beason has changed shoes more times than he'd care to this season. He likened finding the right cleats to the search for a dress shoe, most of which are far too narrow for him.

Beason always liked his cleats to be air-tight, but after a sesamoid injury in June, which he aggravated in a Week 2 loss to the Cardinals, he knew he would have to re-evaluate his footwear. A process that brings us to this Sunday.

"There will be an adjustment period, but I feel good about it," Beason said.

He feels good because he'll likely be in the lineup Sunday ("Yeah, I think so," was his official answer). The team's captain and middle linebacker will, at the least, rotate in with Jameel McClain in the center of the defense.

"We just bring him along accordingly," said Coughlin, who would not go as far as admitting that Beason would start on Sunday. "He doesn’t take all the snaps the first day he’s back, he takes a few more the second day and we assess that."

Coughlin has said all along that Beason will need to manage pain throughout the season. He opted not to get surgery following his second injury, during Week 2, and submitted to a long season where his threshold will certainly be tested.

"Yeah, you know, you break scar tissue," he said. "We didn't have the surgery so the scarring was actually the repair, if that makes sense. There wasn't as much pain as the first time when it was a soft-tissue injury. You break the scar tissue so I don't have a lot of play in my toe. That is the big hold up. I need by big toe to play football and push off, pivot. You try and compensate for a lack thereof."

In the meantime, he'll try and find the right cleats.

Having Beason in the fold is just another insurance policy against Atlanta's platoon of running backs. Though their offensive line is in a bit of disarray, there's enough firepower there to change the game.

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Earl Little Part of One of the Most Memorable Browns Road Wins

2. Nov. 14, 1999 -- With the clock running in Pittsburgh, Chris Palmer bypasses a timeout and rushes the field goal unit on the field. Except Phil Dawson thought a timeout was going to be called, so he’s standing behind the bench practicing with the net that kickers use. Safety Earl Little runs over and tells Dawson to get on the field. Dawson scrambles as the field goal team lines up frantically. His game-winning kick is en route to the goalpost as time expires, and cuts through a serious gale on the way. The Browns beat Pittsburgh in their first season back. The next day, Little is asked if anyone noticed that Dawson was not on the field. His memorable response: “Nobody but Earl Little.” Cleveland 16, Pittsburgh 15.


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Bucs face big challenge in Jimmy Graham

TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the traits I admire most about Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is his honesty.

Even if something isn't positive, McCoy's not afraid to say it.

"One of our Achilles heels right now is covering the tight end," McCoy said Thursday. "We have to be better at that."

McCoy simply was stating the obvious. The Bucs are coming off a game in which Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller caught 10 passes. Now, the Bucs have to face New Orleans' Jimmy Graham, who just might be the best tight end in the business -- if you even consider him a tight end.

"There are going to be times when we look at (Graham) as a receiver because they do move him around a lot," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "It's not often that he's a point-of-attack blocker. You see that on tape. He's an outstanding tight end with great pass-receiving skills. You've got to respect that and the way they move him around you have to recognize that he's not always at the tight end position. There are times we're going to treat him as a receiver."

The Bucs likely will use a combination of linebackers and defensive backs to try to slow Graham and quarterback Drew Brees. But there is one other way to prevent Graham from getting the ball.

"The (pass) rush can help that," McCoy said. "Somebody has to win early and we can make the quarterback make a bad throw. Or if the tight end is open, somebody is getting his hands up and getting the quarterback off his spot and making him make a bad throw. And, then, on the back end, guys being in the right spot covering the tight end. What better week to do it than this week. No. 9 and No. 80 over the past five years, that's been a huge combo."

McCoy said the key is to put pressure on Brees.

"Drew Brees is a Hall of Famer, but obviously different defenses get to him and rattle him and make him have a bad day," McCoy said. "You have to do that. It's going to start with us in the middle. He's a shorter guy, so we have to get in his face. We have different packages where we'll have taller guys in the middle and try to get our hands up and pressure him.

"Really, the big thing is to get him off his spot and it's a rush and coverage combo after that. But we definitely have to get him off his spot. He likes to throw from a certain spot. He has a certain step-up spot he likes. We have to get him off of that and get him uncomfortable."

Frazier was quick to point out the Saints have plenty of other offensive weapons besides Graham.

"You have to make a decision on what you've got to take away," Frazier said. "We have a plan for this week and hopefully we can execute it."

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John Salmons could be a fit at small forward for the New Orleans Pelicans

Over the course of the next 3 ½ weeks, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams and his staff have some things they'll need sort out. The most pressing appears to be finding a starting small forward.

John Salmons, a wily 12-year veteran signed this offseason, could be the answer. But the Pelicans have no plans to anoint him just yet.

Salmons will have to win the job through his performances in training camp and preseason games. And he'll have to beat out Darius Miller and Luke Babbitt for the job.

"We want to get a look at a number of guys in that position," Williams said after Thursday's practice. "I'm still not sure who we are going to go with at that spot. But we have some different options.

"Obviously John is a guy we brought in to play some minutes there, but he can also play the two (shooting guard) and at times he can play as a big ball handler. That's what these preseason games and camp are about. We want to get a good look. But at the same time, I don't want to be getting a good look and sacrificing the continuity of our team. I feel like we need the guys who are going to play out there on the court together so we can get some rhythm."

If none of the three take the reins, the Pelicans could start swingman Tyreke Evans, who is expected to miss most – if not all – of preseason while nursing a strained hamstring.

But it appears Salmons, who was signed for one season at $2 million, will be given a good look.

Salmons, 6 feet 6 and 207 pounds, has been a starter for about half of his NBA career. But he said it isn't necessarily critical that he starts this season.

"I'm just going to come in here and do my job, try to do the best I can," Salmons said. "I'm more focusing on trying to win some games than anything else. But we'll see. That's up to the coaching staff to try and figure that out.

"I look at myself as a basketball player. You get to a point where whatever it is and however you can help this team win that's what you do. Whether that's to start or come off the bench, you just try to help the team win."

While the battle for the starting spot is ongoing, the ultimate winner of the position might not be the best player.

Williams said the staff hopes to find the best fit to mesh with his other starters, preferably a good shooter and defender.

"I know there is a theory to put the best players on the floor," Williams said. "But if you look at the World Champs (San Antonio Spurs), they don't always do that. They usually go with the best fit rather than putting the best players on the floor all the time."

The Pelicans have had neither in recent seasons.

For years the Pelicans struggled to get consistent production from the small forward position. The Pelicans haven't had a small forward average more than 11 points a game since Peja Stojakovic in the 2009-2010 season.

The starter the past 2 ½ seasons, Al-Farouq Aminu, was an offensive liability who never averaged more than 7.3 points per game or shot better than 27.7 percent from the 3-point range.

After Aminu was signed by the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, a void was left.

The 34-year-old Salmons, who has averaged 9.4 points a game for his career and shot 36.6 percent on 3-point attempts, said he didn't sign with the Pelicans simply because of a perceived need at the position.

"That wasn't a factor in why I came here," Salmons said. "I played with coach Williams my rookie year and we have been friends ever since. He is a guy who helped me out a lot my rookie year, spiritually on the court and off the court. I knew other guys on the coaching staff, and just knowing what kind of organization they were trying to run and turn around, I wanted to be apart of."

Indeed, Williams said he took a liking to Salmons early on. Williams was a veteran forward for the Philadelphia 76ers when they obtained Salmons shortly after the San Antonio Spurs selected him in the first round of the 2002 draft.

Williams said Salmons would bring some much needed leadership and toughness to the team.

"He reminds me how old I am getting because he was my rookie in Philly," Williams said. "We just stayed in contact over the years. I love his way. He has developed nicely. He has had a really good career. We never really talk about basketball. We just talk about our families, our faith and different things like that. He is just a solid, solid dude.

"We talked about trying to get him a couple years ago but he was making so much money we couldn't do it at the time. But it just seemed like the appropriate time to bring him in because he can show our guys some things we are trying to teach. And sometimes your best teacher can be another player, especially a seasoned vet."

Salmons can play, too.

Although he wasn't a starter last season when he played in 60 games for the Toronto Raptors and averaged 5.0 points and 2.0 rebounds, Salmons is considered a solid defender and a good shooter. His best season came in 2008-2009 season when he averaged 18.3 points per game for the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings.

"He can shoot the ball," Williams said. "He has great experience. The thing I have always liked about John is you can't rattle him. With John sometimes you have to grab his wrist and check his pulse because that's just his way. He's got a solid demeanor about him and he has experience. He has been on some really good teams and been in really good programs. I just like him as a player."

It's uncertain if Williams likes him enough to be the starting small forward.

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Jon Jay found success staying close to Miami home

Jon Jay didn't need to go far from home to excel at the collegiate level.

Jay attended Christopher Columbus High School in Miami-Dade County, and he won the Florida Class 6A state championship during his senior year in 2003. He decided to play his college baseball at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., just five miles away, where he thrived.

At Miami, the outfielder was a first-team freshman All-American in 2004 and a second-team All-American in '06. In three seasons with his hometown Hurricanes, Jay hit .378/.475/.521. He walked more times (96) than he struck out (93) in his career.

In 2004, Miami reached the quarterfinals of the College World Series and Jay made the All-Tournament team. In '06, the Hurricanes made it back to the quarters.

The Cardinals selected Jay in the second round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft after the conclusion of his junior season at Miami.

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Ryan Braun has procedure to try to fix thumb

Milwaukee Brewers rightfielder Ryan Braun had a cryotherapy procedure performed on his ailing right thumb Thursday morning with hopes of returning to the offensive star he was prior to last year.

Now, Braun and the Brewers will wait to see if it works.

The procedure, in which subzero temperatures were introduced into the damaged nerve at the base of the thumb with a needle, was performed by Dr. Vernon B. Williams at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles. Braun will meet again with Williams on Monday, and if there is no adverse reaction to the treatment, he will swing a bat to test his pain tolerance.

Braun's thumb began bothering him early in the 2013 season, and his production soon waned. Combined with the season-ending suspension he received for his PED involvement with the Biogenesis clinic, Braun was limited to 61 games of action in '13, batting .298 with nine home runs and 38 RBI.

With an extended period of five months of rest, the hope was that Braun's thumb would be much improved this year and he'd again be one of the top offensive forces in the league. But it was evident as early as spring training that the thumb had not healed, and as the season wore on, it only got worse.

Much like the Brewers' offense in general, Braun's productivity declined dramatically in the second half. After batting .298 with 11 home runs and 52 runs batted in over 73 games before the break, he slipped to .226, eight homers and 29 RBI in 62 games afterward.

When the sagging Brewers needed him most, Braun was particularly woeful in September, hitting .210 with one homer, five RBI and .603 OPS. He led the club with 81 RBI but that was more an indictment of other players than an accomplishment.

Braun finished with a .266 batting average and 19 home runs, career lows for a full season. His .324 on-base percentage and .453 slugging percentage also were far below his norm. Braun walked only 41 times and struck out 113 times.

It was a far cry from the offensive superstar who averaged 34 home runs and 107 RBI while batting .313 over a six-year period from 2007-'12.

Braun said the ailing thumb prevented him from gripping the bat properly, resulting in greatly diminished results.

"When you can't use your top hand as a baseball player, it drastically alters everything that you do," Braun said recently. "I've tried to adjust; I've tried to find a way to deal with it the best I could. At times, I've been OK. But, for the most part, it's been really difficult, really challenging and very frustrating."

Braun and the Brewers explored many possible remedies for the issue before settling on cryotherapy, a minimally invasive technique. There is no track record of this kind of procedure being performed on a baseball player's thumb, but at this stage and considering other less attractive options, Braun and the Brewers decided to give it a try.

"The doctor said it went well," Gord Ash said Thursday afternoon. "He'll have a follow-up with the doctor and we'll see how he responds."

The Brewers certainly have a vested interest in fixing Braun's thumb issue. In 2016, a five-year, $105 million contract extension kicks in, a huge investment made by the club on the basis that he would continue to be the offensive force he was when the deal was done in 2011.

Braun expressed hope and optimism beforehand that the procedure would do enough good to allow him to grip the bat properly again.

"I don't feel like I need to be at 100% to be one of the best players in the game, but I've got to be at 80-90%," he said. "I have to be able to use my top hand in my swing to feel like I can do the things I'm used to doing and capable of doing."

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Gil Brandt: Seantrel Henderson & Allen Hurns Top 2 Rookies To Outplay their 2014 Draft Position

1. Bills OT Sentreal Henderson, Round 7 (237 overall)
Henderson slid to the seventh round because of off-the-field issues, not because of talent. The Bills took him and he outplayed second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio for the starting right tackle job. Credit Cordy Glenn for taking Henderson under his wing and helping him stay clean. Henderson didn't play well in Sunday's loss at Houston, but he played very well in the first three games. He could easily play left tackle if something ever happened to Glenn. I had him going in the first round, 15th overall, in my 2014 draft do-over.

2. Jaguars WR Allen Hurns, undrafted
Hurns is probably the player in the 2014 draft class who has surprised scouts the most. I had him listed on my priority free agent list after the draft but only 16th among the wide receivers. He has 12 catches for 254 yards and three touchdown, and is second in the NFL in average yards per catch (21.2). Done all over, he could be a third-round pick.

See the rest of the rankings here

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D.J. Williams Talks About Dyme Lyfe Movement

(CBS) The Bears (2-2) face the Panthers (2-2) on the road Sunday. Here’s what is on my mind heading into the matchup.

First impression
A Dyme Lyfe started in 2009 for Bears linebacker D. J. Williams and a few then-teammates on the Denver Broncos. Think of it as a lifestyle of random acts of kindness.

“Dyme is actually an acronym for Do you motivate and emanate?” Williams said. “We try to get people to be themselves, be positive, be who you are and push that out in the world.”

Williams started a clothing line of the same name and printed up some shirts for teammates last week with a Bears twist on the “Be A Monster” theme prevalent in the organization. It’s tied into several charity endeavors Williams is involved with, including “Homeicon1 Team Closet.”

“We have a lot of shoes and clothes as pro athletesicon1,” Williams said. “We asked guys on the team to clean out their closet.”

Williams asked Brandon Marshall and Tim Jennings to pitch in, and just between the three of them they came up with 500 items, some of which were donated to 15 kids in Chicago on Monday.

“The big vision of it is to have a bin in every locker room in every pro sport,” Williams said. “If we do that, we think we can help out a lot of people. Just imagine if everybody in the world did one favor for somebody else, how great things would be.”

More on Williams’ “Dyme Lyfe” will air in Sunday’s audio version of Joniak’s Journal on the Bears-Panthers pregame show airing at 10:10 a.m. on News Radio 780 and 105.9 FM, WBBM.

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Antrel Rolle attributes Prince Amukamara's breakout season to ... sex?

EAST RUTHERFORD -- Maybe you think Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara is having his best season because he's growing up in the NFL, and four years into his career, he has the confidence and the belief that he can be a true impact player.

But fellow defensive back Antrel Rolle has another reason: sex.

Amukamara, a devout Christian who said he had abstained from premarital sex, was married earlier this year. Rolle said that he doesn't think Amukamara's breakout season is a coincidence.

"There are a lot of things different about Prince. For one, he's married, so he's (enjoying some things that he wasn't experiencing before he's married). For a man, that could definitely help him out. For a man ... I'm just being honest ... it's helping him out. He walks around with a little more swagger, which is something that we need, which is something that we love," Rolle said.

"Prince is a guy that keeps everyone upbeat. He's a funny guy, but when he goes out there playing, you definitely see him being more aggressive, capitalizing on his opportunities and he's accepting challenges. He's winning those challenges."

In four games, Amukamara already has set a career high with two interceptions. He's on pace for 100 tackles.

Of course, there is more to Amukamara's growth than his sex life. The Nebraska product has progressed every year. He showed signs in 2013 of becoming one of the league's better cornerbacks.

"Prince is a young man who's improved year in and year out," coach Tom Coughlin said last week. "And he's improved this past year to this point."

The physical cornerback is coming into his own as a 1-A option opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Is it a coincidence that it comes just months after tying the knot? Not in Rolle's eyes.

"I think it all ties into one another, as far as him getting married, being able to [have sex]," Rolle said. "He's just developing more as a man and accepting challenges and being the dominant player that we need him to be that we know he's capable of."

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Stay the course with Greg Olsen

Even though Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin continues to emerge as quarterback Cam Newton's favorite target, tight end Greg Olsen should remain a big enough part of the passing game to start across the board in Fantasy.

So what if he was shut down Week 4 at Baltimore? The Ravens have allowed the fewest Fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. It was par for the course. He was the No. 6 tight end in standard CBSSports.com leagues prior to that game, ranking ahead of notables Niles Paul, Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce.

Olsen isn't going to score a touchdown every game, but a tight end who consistently contributes five catches for 60 yards (except when he's facing the Ravens) is going to score enough that you won't be able to justify sitting him in Fantasy unless you just have an embarrassment of riches at the position.

And in that case, make a trade.

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Travis Benjamin vows to 'showcase my skills' versus the Titans

BEREA, Ohio – Browns coach Mike Pettine isn't ready to replace Travis Benjamin as the team's primary punt returner.

After a tentative start, Benjamin plans to reward the coach's confidence in him.

"It's all got to do with me," Benjamin said of his early struggles. "I'm going to showcase my skills coming into the Tennessee game and put our special teams in the top rank where they're supposed to be."

The offense has flourished despite getting little field-position help from the special teams. Benjamin has returned just three punts for two yards while calling for five fair catches.

In the club's 23-21 loss to Ravens, the University of Miami product opted not to catch a fourth-quarter punt that bounced outside the 20 and rolled to 7 – flipping the field-position battle in the game's final two series.

No longer the primary kickoff returner, Benjamin admitted he was struggling a bit with his confidence. He muffed a first-quarter punt against the Ravens.
"There are plays out there where the adjustment is, 'I can make that play,' instead of 'I see this (defender) coming scot-free (so I'll) fair catch.' I have to be confident in making the first person miss all the time on special teams."

Both Pettine and Benjamin downplayed the impact of last year's season-ending knee injury. He's caught four passes for 69 yards, including a 43-yarder to set up the first touchdown versus Baltimore.

"He's playing very well," Pettine said of Benjamin in the pass game. "I think just about every week he's gotten behind the opponents' secondary, so I don't know if I would say the knee is necessarily a big factor there. I think it's just too early to panic in that situation."

Benjamin said it could take just one big return to get him in a groove again.

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Eric Winston Works Out For Falcons

The tradition known as Tryout Tuesday went double digits in Atlanta this week, with 10 players coming to town for a kicking of the tires.

Only one of them got hired, so far.

With multiple injuries on the offensive line, tackles Cameron Bradfield and NFLPA president Eric Winston (pictured) had workouts, along with guards Uche Nwaneri, Leroy Harris, and Adam Replogle.  Bradfield was signed.

Also getting workouts on the defensive side of the ball were linebackers Zach Diles and Moise Fokou and defensive backs Chris Clemons, M.D. Jennings, and Kimario McFadden.  None were signed.

The Falcons put a pair of starting offensive lineman on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday (center Joe Hawley and tackle Lamar Holmes); safety William Moore has been placed on IR with the one-per-club designation to return.

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Lamar Miller Talks About Playing In London

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Reggie Wayne: 'Deepest we've ever been at receiver'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Look at the top-10 receiving leaders in the NFL and there's a noticeable absence by the Indianapolis Colts despite them leading the league in passing yards and points a game.


Nope. Reggie Wayne is 13th.


No, again. Wayne is tied for 14th.


You guessed it, nope. Wayne is 16th.

Average yards per reception?

Not even close. They don't even have a player ranked in the top 40.

The only category the Colts have a player ranked in the top 10 is receptions of at least 20 yards, as Wayne is tied for eighth with five.

They're fine with that because quarterback Andrew Luck doesn't rely on one player when it comes to passing the ball.

He prefers to spread it around.

The Colts have nine players who have at least six receptions through the first four games of the season. They're so deep that Da'Rick Rogers, who was released following his arrest earlier this week, was a healthy inactive those four games after starting three games last season.

"Like I tell everybody, this is the deepest we've ever been at receiver," Wayne said. "We've always had three and a possible. We've always had an average spade hand. It's better now. We have four to five guys we can plug in there at any time. We're loaded in there. Everybody always feels like I'm outta of my mind when I say that. No matter who is in there, you can plug guys in there at any position and they can get it done. We have to take advantage of that."

The breakdown of pass distribution through four games goes like this:

Receivers: 65 receptions, 3 touchdowns

Tight ends: 27 receptions, 6 touchdowns

Running backs: 25 receptions, 4 touchdowns

Luck's ability to not key in on one receiver over and over again makes it tough for opposing defenses. Focus on stopping Wayne and Luck will find T.Y. Hilton. Lock in on Wayne and Hilton and the quarterback has tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. The Colts enjoy running play-action where Luck hits running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson out of the backfield. Bradshaw already has a career-high four touchdown receptions this season.

"That's something that we have in our arsenal that a lot of teams don't have," Wayne said. "Like I've been saying, you go into each game asking defenses to pick their poison. You can't just focus on one or two guys. We've got, as they say, a plethora of guys that can go out and make things happen. Knock on wood, keep everybody healthy and we'll take that any time of day."

Luck is 60-of-80 throwing for 763 yards, eight touchdowns and only one interception in the past two games. He's completed passes to nine different players in those two games.

"He's doing a great job of taking what the defense is giving him and not getting greedy, so to speak, and spreading the ball around," coach Chuck Pagano said. "They've got to make a decision defensively who they want to identify like we do as game-wreckers and take those guys away, but it's going to open it up obviously for somebody else either in the run game or the pass game."

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Jon Beason a no-go for Giants on Wednesday

A nagging foot/toe injury has Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason on the pre-practice injury report for Wednesday, the New York Daily News has reported.

Beason has been inactive for the last two games. He was scratched after being deemed doubtful for the Week 4 game at Washington.

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Ray Lewis Almost Drafted By Packers

It's debatable whether there would be a street named after him around Lambeau Field, or perhaps a huge statue of his likeness erected there instead, but Ray Lewis came literally a few moments away from being a Green Bay Packer, and, we can only imagine, therefore a Packer legend.

Lewis was on the phone with the Packers' front office at the time the Baltimore Ravens were selecting in 1996, one spot ahead of Green Bay. It was about to be the moment the Packers thought would be the culmination of months spent working on the undersized linebacker out of the University of Miami, a charge led in the field by scout John Dorsey. They were fairly certain they had him, and then in a moment, a novice -- and soon to be legendary -- general manager swooped in and made the pick with the Ravens deep into their allotted time, at selection No. 26 of the 1996 draft.

Ozzie Newsome nabbed Lewis, who would become the singular face and identity of the Ravens franchise, leading it to two Super Bowls, including an improbable charge to a Lombardi Trophy in 2012 after returning from a near season-ending injury and announcing his retirement.

We can only wonder how different the AFC and NFC might have been had Ron Wolf gone ahead and traded up a few spots to make sure he got his man. Ray Lewis: Green Bay Packer. Sounds strange to hear, yet how fitting might it have been. As much as he personifies the Ravens -- a franchise trying to emerge from its move to Baltimore from Cleveland at the time -- how great a fit would he have been with one of the league's iconic franchises, roaming sideline to sideline where the likes of Ray Nitschke once did. It was closer to happening than almost anyone would think.

'Not my finest moment'

"We had his agent on the phone as I recall it, and we had Ray Lewis on the phone," Wolf said, still unable to recount the situation all these years later without stopping several times to verbally rebuke himself. "I think there was less than a minute to go. We already had his name in; our guy standing there at the [draft table in New York] was on the phone with his name in.

"And then of course we heard that Baltimore selects Ray Lewis, linebacker from the University of Miami. And that was not my finest moment. There is a period when you're going through the draft process and you're in that draft mode so to speak. There is a real tension there. There's a tightness there. It's all the things that make it so exciting. And you have to keep above board at all times, and kind of like the saying goes, 'You've got to keep your game face on.' "

There is a certain agony in Wolf's voice as he reaches back to the 1996 draft. Missing out on Lewis sent him into a brief spiral. "The air went out of the room," is how Dorsey, now the Chiefs general manager, recalls the aftermath in the Green Bay war room. Wolf is still not at peace with letting Lewis slip away, and at this point, long retired and revered as one of the best evaluators of his time, I guess he never will be.

"With about a minute to go [with the Ravens on the clock], I kind of breathed a sigh of relief," Wolf said, as the Packers war room started to build with excitement that Lewis was going to fall right to them. "It was not my finest hour after that. There were so many things I could have done differently. I've played it back and forth in my mind so many times, what I should have done and didn't do.

"The end result is we win the Super Bowl that year, but it was not my finest time with the Packers. As one gets older you have a chance to review the things you did over the course of your career that were idiotic and stupid, and this is one of those things."
'Ozzie is Ozzie'

You almost feel bad each time a follow-up question arises on the topic, like you are making someone pick at an old wound that won't heal, but the magnitude of what Wolf was so close to achieving -- and what it might have meant to the resurgent Packers franchise (Ray Lewis playing with Reggie White and Brett Favre, for example) -- is impossible to ignore. The Packers, given their unique ownership structure in Green Bay, by design had a large war-room contingent. There were executive committee members assembled, board members, and a large cast of scouts and coaches as well. It was no secret they were locked in on Lewis at this point. Wolf was by no means the only distraught party when Newsome made his prescient selection.

As Wolf and Dorsey recall it, director of pro personnel Ted Thompson -- now the Packers' longtime GM who has won a Super Bowl of his own in that position -- was instructed to get Lewis on the phone early. "At that time the clock is counting down and you say, 'Let's just get him on the phone,'" Dorsey said. "It looks like by all indications he's going be it. And Ron asked Ted to go get Ray Lewis on the phone so we got him on the phone and the room is getting all excited. We're going to get Ray Lewis ..."

This is where, of course, there are regrets all around. This is where so many men wish time could stop for an instant. Wolf, Dorsey, Thompson, another young Packers personnel assistant at the time named John Schneider, who would go on to build Seattle into a Super Bowl-winner, and pro personnel assistant Reggie McKenzie (now Oakland's GM) all were in Green Bay's personnel department at the time. "Reggie and I were on the pro side," Schneider said. "So we weren't really involved at the time. But we were in the room. It's funny, you would hear so many people say, 'He's too small.' But man, what a player."

From time to time, some of them wonder if maybe they could have done something a little different in that room, pushed harder and sooner for Wolf to trade up. Anything.

"I was probably a little bit young to the system, and how to work the system, and how to help orchestrate a trade," Dorsey said. "My job at the time was trying to present the facts of the player to the general manager and do my best to convince him this guy was a pretty good player … And, my God, we had him on the phone and we're all thinking we've got him. No one expected Ozzie to pull the trigger and when you did your research, he wasn't going to take a linebacker. But Ozzie is Ozzie and he's going to pick a good player, and Ozzie saw Ray Lewis."

In the meantime, Newsome, about to orchestrate one of the signature drafts in modern NFL history, was merely taking his time. Lewis was the pick, but patience was the rule.

"I don't recall getting any calls that made us seriously consider trading the pick," Newsome said. "I think we used a lot of the clock because that's just what we did back then -- just waiting to see if something happens. I think Ron and I talked about it years later, but I wasn't aware of how much the Packers loved Ray at the time."

'I should have traded up'

What Newsome was focused on was filling out a depleted roster and trying to reinvent the Cleveland Browns in Baltimore. Truth be told, he had his eye on another inside linebacker the Ravens had rated higher than Lewis -- Reggie Brown from Texas A&M. But he went off the board at pick No. 17 to the Detroit Lions. Even back then, Newsome adopted his now tried-and-true edict of taking the best player regardless of position, unless there was a tie of sorts in the grade, so as pick No. 26 approached and Lewis lingered, the decision was coming into focus.

"Ray was the next-highest graded player on our board," Newsome said, "and it was a position of need for us. We needed young inside linebackers who could play now. We were in salary-cap hell, and we were going to have to depend on young players."

Wolf is still angry for not moving up a few spots, for not assuming Newsome would see all of the same traits in Lewis -- athleticism, superb football intellect, innate playmaking ability, the willingness to play much bigger and stronger than his frame would dictate -- that the Packers fell in love with. "I should've traded up," Wolf said. He wasn't one to go crazy with mock drafts, and didn't recall having a particular sense on what the Ravens might do one pick before him. "I was not a guy who spent a lot of time on the phone wondering what everybody else was doing," Wolf said. "I had enough problems figuring out what I was going to do."

Once Baltimore snatched up Lewis, Wolf concedes, he was reeling. Even if only for a spell, he was off his game. He had an opportunity to trade out of the first round entirely, as well, and wishes he had. Instead Green Bay selected the only other player left that they had graded as a first-rounder, offensive lineman John Michels from USC. Michels was out of the NFL by 1999 after a series of knee issues.

"I had a chance to trade that pick, and I should have done that," Wolf said, bubbling up into another self-inflicted verbal flogging. "It was not my finest hour. I kind of fell apart, because that edge that you have, in that particular moment, I let it get away, because I thought we had Ray Lewis, and I ended up not having Ray Lewis." Maybe it wouldn't sting quite as much had he dealt out of the round -- the Redskins had an intriguing package on the table. "I should have just traded out entirely," Wolf said.

There was a real sting for Dorsey as well, who had spent more time with Lewis than probably anyone else in the Packers organization. Lewis became a prized assignment for him, and while some in the scouting community thought Lewis might amount to more bluster than greatness at the next level, and were blinded by what their stopwatches showed them (Lewis was hardly a blazer), and what the scale presented (he was undersized for sure), Dorsey was convinced he would be an impact player in the NFL.

Serendipity turns sour

As Green Bay became increasingly smitten with Lewis, Wolf dispatched Dorsey to head down to the University of Miami to work Lewis out, and try to gather as much as he could about what made the young man tick, how driven he was, any intangible information he could cull to supplement the numbers and measurements.

"I went down to work him out, and he's like 238 pounds and he runs like a 4.71 [40-yard dash]," Dorsey said, telling the story only a few hours after his mentor, Wolf, had left his two-day visit to Chiefs camp to catch up with his old pupil. "But it was the way he carried himself. He walked on the field and you see this statuesque guy and he had a very good workout. My god, a wonderful workout, and then we sat and talked for a half hour and he tells me a little about his family, his upbringing and why he came to Miami, and I walked away impressed like, 'My God, this guy could be a really good pick.'"

What transpired next, in hindsight, looks like a thunderbolt from the football gods that went unheeded. It still seemed like a sign from above that Dorsey needed to land Ray Lewis if at all possible.

Dorsey headed to the Florida Turnpike after his visit with Lewis and stopped at a roadside area to eat. As he walked through the doors, he saw three young men walk in. Guess who? "I'm going like, 'Hey, Ray, how are you doin'?'" Dorsey said. " 'What a small world meeting you here.'" So they spent another 25 minutes or so together, eating lunch, chatting, and Dorsey is thinking, "I mean, this is divine intervention, baby, striking right down here."

After Lewis left, Dorsey ran to the nearest pay phone (again, this was 1996) to give Wolf an update and share his impromptu, serendipitous lunch date. He was fully on board the Lewis bandwagon by this point, but alas, it wasn't to be. "I'm like, this is awesome, this possibly could happen," Dorsey said, "and then all of a sudden on draft day you watch it unfold and it's, 'My God, this is going to happen,' and then all of a sudden the Wizard of Oz strikes and takes him from us."

Lewis was the second first-ballot Hall of Famer Newsome grabbed in that first round of his first draft in charge of the Ravens, taking hulking left tackle Jonathan Ogden fourth overall, in what will always figure to be the most influential round in that franchise's history. It may never be topped. But had Wolf followed his instinct more closely and been a bit more decisive, it may never have been. That summer, when the Ravens hosted Green Bay for a preseason game at old Memorial Stadium, watching Lewis closely from the pressbox, Dorsey truly knew greatness had slipped away. "You could see as a rookie how those guys already gravitated to him," he said.

Wolf may never allow himself to fully live it down, and Dorsey knows it still pains the mastermind, no matter how many excellent rosters he built. Newsome -- now the dean of NFL general managers -- has been on all sides of it, recalling in 2007 how the Ravens thought they had future All-Pro left tackle Joe Staley all lined up as their pick, only to have the 49ers move up with the Patriots to grab him. It happens. It's part of the business. But some near-misses sting more than others. Some, you never forget.

"You look back at the magnitude of that player," Dorsey said. "I'm sure it still leaves a pit in his stomach."

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Sam Shields' Mom Honored On Rachel Ray

A Packers mom is going to be honored by a TV star Thursday for her work in the community.

Mimi Shields of Sarasota Florida, the mother of Packers cornerback Sam Shields, will be featured on Rachael Ray for her love of giving back.

Mimi says she goes to the store and garage sales, picks up items, fixes them if need be, then delivers them.

“My passion is giving back to the community. I’ve been doing this over 15 years. If you can wear them, your welcome to them man. I can’t say no to people. That’s what I do and I love doin’ it,” said Mimi.

Sam Shields is very proud of his mom and is happy she is getting recognition for her work.

“Its just a great cause for our community and my mom gets the opportunity to show how she treats the community and things like that,” said Sam.

You can watch Rachel Ray on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. on FOX 11.

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Aubrey Huff would like you to know what underwear he wore last night

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Harland Gunn Signed To Active Roster

The Falcons made a number of roster moves today, signing 3 players to their 53 man roster after moving Lamar Holmes, Joe Hawley, and William Moore to injured reserve. You may be familiar with a couple of the guys, but here's a quick breakdown.

Harland Gunn
Miami product and former member of the Cowboys' and Saints' practice squads. In college, he had 4 different head coaches, which probably didn't help him in the pre-draft process. Still, in his last 2 years at Miami, he didn't give up a single sack or draw any penalties. Damn. Gunn has been with the Falcons since 2012 and played in three games last season (weeks 15, 16, and 17), spending the rest of the year on the practice squad.

He hung around until the end of August and was ultimately cut. The Falcons wasted no time signing him to the practice squad and for what it's worth, he's widely regarded as a prospect, someone with the potential to contribute to the 53 man roster. That's not always the case with practice squad players, and Gunn might've cracked the 53 man roster anyway this season. Injuries just accelerated that process.

If you recall, Gunn turned in a dominating run blocking performance in week 15. In just 19 snaps, he logged a 1.1 rating as a run blocker. That's pretty darn good. And in 93 snaps over those three games, he gave up just 3 quarterback hurries and 1 quarterback hit. For someone who was thrown in at the end of the season and surrounded by a laughable excuse for an offensive line, he held his own.

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Santana Moss ‘Hurt’ He’s Not Playing: ‘I’m Not Here to be Collecting a Free Check’

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Santana Moss, who restructured his contract in 2013 to save the Redskins money and remain with the team, and re-signed this past offseason to play his tenth season in Washington (saying at the time, “This is what I live for&ldquoWinking, says “it hurts” to have not dressed for any games this season.

Moss, 35, wasn’t told in advance by team personnel prior to arriving at his locker in Week 1, to find no jersey waiting for him. It kind of ticked him off, he said then, wishing he had just been warned personally, all the while understanding it’s the reality for players every week in the NFL.

Now, four games into the 2014 regular season, Moss still has yet to dress for, much less play in an actual football game for the 1-3 Redskins. Four straight weeks he’s been a healthy scratch.

Moss, making his weekly radio appearance Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan’s “Chad Duke vs. The World,” was asked if not having dressed or played on a game day yet this season has left him bitter at all.

“Honestly, man, it hurts. It does,” Moss answered. “I’m not sure if it hurts more because I know these years count so much to me, or it’s just me knowing that I put so much in to be ready. And to be able to accept coming in knowing that it was going to be harder to just say, ‘Yea, I’m on this team.’ And all the other stuff, man, to finally be here and then sitting here and not being able to be a part of wins and losses. It’s just tough.”

“But with all that said, they know they got out of me,” he said. “They know how I come to work every day. I’m gonna keep working. I’m going to keep being positive. I feel like it’s always something good that comes out of situations like this. Knock on wood when I say this, but my career — regardless of how good it has been in a lot of people’s eyes — I’ve dealt with adversity like this before.

“And it seems like it comes to me in some kind of form, whether it’s missing a quarterback or being in some offense where I’m not getting the ball; some kind of form or shape or way I have to deal with something. For me to push through it, that’s all I’ve been doing. I’ve gotta continue to push through, and this is another obstacle I’ve gotta overcome.”

Asked how difficult it can be to see his teammates on the field knowing he could be out there helping them, Moss responded, “Well honestly, me — trust me — I don’t sit there and talk about ‘what-ifs.’ I’m not big on ‘what-ifs.’

“When I look back at situations, I believe in the guys they have out there,” he said. “No question. I go to war with those guys, any day. I’ll line up on the field with those guys, any day. I feel like all us on the field together would be such of a threat, and I was looking forward to that because I’ve never had that luxury. Yea, when P [Pierre Garcon] got here, we did some great things that first year. And then last year was ‘The P Show.’ It was ‘P and Our Tight Ends Show.’ So it sucks being a part of situations like that because that’s what I’m talking about, when it comes to, when you have so many weapons, use ‘em. I watched so many teams be successful using their guys, and that’s what we’re doing now. They have the guys out there.”

Moss understands why he’s not playing, although that doesn’t ease the pain of having to watch his team fight each week without him.

“I was just sitting talking to a fan, I’m like, ‘Honestly man, thinking about it: If I’m not gonna be playing, why dress me?'” Moss had a public moment of clarity. “That’s how I look at it.”

“So you have P as an X, you have Roberts, you have Andre in the slot, and you have D-Jacc [DeSean Jackson] at the Z,” he continued. “So where do I fit? I know where I fit, because when in doubt, if you ever need me — if something goes wrong — I’m there. But at this moment now, if those guys healthy and those guys out there making the plays they make, why dress me just to sit around and watch that go on. We don’t have the rotation that we had years before here, when it comes to those guys get a couple plays and a new batch come in. We’re not doing that. So that’s what runs through my head a lot because I see why I’m not dressing when it comes to that.”

“But the fact of me not playing, I would never be satisfied with it because I’m not here to be collecting a free check like that,” Moss said.

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Antrel Rolle guarantees he'll get a pick-six this season

EAST RUTHERFORD – The Giants defense is riding high, especially after trouncing the Redskins and taking the NFL lead in team interceptions.

Antrel Rolle has two of them, both of which came with big returns. He just doesn't have a pick-six...yet.

We say yet because, this morning, Rolle guaranteed that he would finish the season with a pick-six while doing a weekly spot on WFAN radio.

"I guarantee you, before the season is over, that I will get a pick-six," he said, going as far as to wager a steak dinner with the hosts of the talk show.

Of course, this is just a little off day fun for the Giants but it speaks to a larger theme. This team has not had the confidence to act this way in a very long time. They have not been able to call out opponents, brag about their own accomplishments or even allow themselves to reasonably think about the NFC East in more than a year.

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Frank Gore Records Longest Reception of Career

Playing in the 136th regular-season game of his career, San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore recorded a career-long 55-yard reception in Sunday's 26-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, per ESPN Stats & Info.

Gore, whose previous career-long reception of 48 yards came in a 2009 game against the Detroit Lions, led the 49ers to a comeback victory in a contest that saw the Eagles score all three of their touchdowns on defense or special teams.

The 31-year-old running back piled up 119 yards on 24 carries, and he made sure to get the most out of his only catch.

With the Niners down 7-3 at their own 45-yard line, Gore found himself wide open on the right side of the field on the first play of the second quarter. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had scrambled off to the left side of the field, yet somehow had the awareness to throw across his body to the uncovered Gore.

The veteran running back caught the pass around Philadelphia's 43-yard line, then quickly turned upfield for the right sideline. After stiff-arming Eagles safety Earl Wolff around the 25-yard line, Gore cruised into the end zone for the longest passing play of his illustrious career.

The touchdown catch, No. 11 of his career, was just Gore's second since the beginning of the 2011 season. Once used as a major threat in the passing game, Gore has mostly focused on running the ball since head coach Jim Harbaugh's arrival in San Francisco.

However, as we saw Sunday, the veteran is still a more than capable receiver when needed.

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Reggie Wayne on Pace for a Historic Season

On September 28, 2014, Reggie Wayne played in his 200th career regular-season game, the third player to do so in an Indianapolis Colts uniform (after Peyton Manning and Johnny Unitas).

Less than two months from his 36th birthday, the veteran receiver took the field as a starter for the Colts in their game against the Tennessee Titans. 

On the surface, this matchup was simply another early-season divisional battle. Maybe it was just that. Maybe the Colts' 41-17 domination of the Titans was just another blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things. 

But for Reggie Wayne and his seven-catch, 119-yard, one-touchdown performance, it was something else entirely. 
It was historic, for one. 

In addition to playing in his 200th game, something just 17 active players have done (including Adam Vinatieri and Manning), Wayne surpassed a few other benchmarks during his big day. 

Wayne passed Henry Ellard to move into the top 10 on the all-time career receiving yards list, with 13,873. At his current pace, he'll gain over 920 more yards this season, passing Cris Carter, James Lofton and former Colt Marvin Harrison for sixth on the list. Carter and Lofton are just 26 and 31 yards ahead, respectively, and could be passed next week in the Colts' matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. 

Wayne also passed former St. Louis Ram Isaac Bruce to move to seventh on the all-time career receptions list, with 1,029. On pace for 69 more receptions, Wayne has a chance to pass Terrell Owens (1,078) this season as well. 

With his touchdown, Wayne tied Art Powell for 22nd on the all-time career receiving touchdowns list. Given the logjam on the list, Wayne needs just five more to move into the top 15. 

Of course, Wayne continued his streak of at least three receptions in the game, extending it to 75. The second-longest streak was Cris Carter's 58-game streak from 1993 to 1997; the longest active streak is Wes Welker's 36-game streak, which began in 2011. 

Where Wayne's place in history will be is yet to be determined, but he'll finish in the top 10 in at least yards and receptions, and touchdowns is definitely a possibility. Is he a top-10 wide receiver? Critics will point to the fact that he played with Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck and most likely wouldn't put him among the top 10 most talented receivers to have ever played the game. 

But nobody can take away production. Regardless of who he's played with, the fact is that Wayne has done his job, every day, week and year since being drafted 30th overall in 2001. He produced top-10 numbers despite the fact that he was the No. 2 receiver on his own team for the first six seasons of his career. He oversaw the potentially tumultuous transition from Peyton Manning and Bill Polian to Andrew Luck and Ryan Grigson (with some Curtis Painter in between), smoothing the road for the young, inconsistent team. 

Sunday's game, with all its momentary greatness, was historic in Wayne's ascension on the all-time lists, but it was also a reminder of the smaller picture: 2014. 

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Homecoming For Calais Campbell

When Calais Campbell was 6 years old, he wanted to play tight end, because that was the position of his hero – Denver Broncos future Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe.

“We’d be trying to flex and stuff, trying to be all swol like Shannon Sharpe,” Campbell remembered.

This weekend’s trip to Denver is important for the Cardinals, but it carries added significance for the defensive end. He is from the Denver area and has been waiting a long time to play an NFL game in his hometown.

He didn’t play there in college (he had a sack for the University of Miami against Colorado in 2005, but the game was in Miami) and the only time the Cardinals have played the Broncos since Campbell turned pro was in 2010 at University of Phoenix Stadium (the Cards won, 43-13).

“I love the game and am very passionate about it,” Campbell said. “I had a lot of dreams of playing in that stadium since I was 6 years old. It’ll be sweet. I am looking forward to it, but I have to play every game the same.”

Campbell’s other hero growing up was running back Terrell Davis, whom he met when he was “about 8,” and even today Campbell raves about what a role model Davis was to him.

Campbell’s life growing up wasn’t easy. His family is tight-knit, but at one point when Campbell was a burgeoning football star in the seventh grade, both his parents lost their jobs and the family had to stay in a homeless shelter for about eight months.  

The veteran just sees that time as part of what made him today, just like those days rooting for the Broncos.

“I have a lot of good memories growing up a Broncos fan but now we’re playing against them,” Campbell said. “No more friends, all business. We’re trying to win a game.”

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Lauryn Williams ‘playing with the idea’ of bobsled this season

NEW YORK — Sochi silver medalist Lauryn Williams might not be done competing after all.

Williams, a three-time Olympic medalist over track and field and bobsled, said she’s at a “pivotal point” on Monday night in deciding if she wants to return to bobsledding this season.

“I’m going to have to make a decision in the next couple weeks or so and get on a formal [training] plan,” she said at NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti‘s Fund to Cure Paralysis dinner at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. “I’m not so out of shape at this point that I couldn’t be ready for a bobsled season.”

Williams, 31, became the fifth person to win Winter and Summer Olympic medals in different disciplines with her bobsled silver medal in Sochi, pushing for Elana Meyers Taylor.

She said in April, “I think I’m done with sports as an active competitor,” but did not fully commit to retiring. She did not take her name out of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency drug-testing pool.

“It has got a little twinge of, is this really the right thing [retiring], and how do you really know when you’re done, especially when you have such an awesome experience in such a short period of time [in Sochi],” said Williams, who is doing the same kind of training as she did as a sprinter and bobsledder now to stay in shape.

Williams said she is definitely done with track and field, though.

“Track is so 20 pounds ago,” she joked.

Williams said Meyers Taylor urged her to come back for a second season with U.S. Bobsled. It appears she would be the most experienced returning push athlete, with Olympians Lolo Jones and Emily Azevedo taking a break, Aja Evans moving to track and field and Katie Eberling now driving.

Williams also took up recreational rugby since coming back from Sochi. Rugby sevens makes its Olympic debut in Rio 2016, and Meyers Taylor has played for Team USA this year.

“Tackling, I can’t quite get my mind around the idea of someone jumping on me or me jumping on someone,” the 5-foot-3 Williams said. “Elana peer pressures me into everything.

“I’m toeing the line of do I even want to play recreationally. I’m not even thinking about the Olympics right now.”

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Unsinkable Jon Jay is Cards' unsung hero

Monday, I presented my “Top 10” reasons why the Cardinals won the NL Central.

My list didn't make prominent mention of one starting player, but that was done for a specific reason.

That's because, fittingly enough, the Cardinals had a true unsung hero during the regular season. And he warranted separate attention, so I saved him for today.

Of course, I'm talking about outfielder Jon Jay.

During a season in which many Cardinals' regulars suffered a decline in performance, Jay was an exception. He exceeded his 2013 level, and certainly exceeded 2014 preseason expectations. After the trade for center fielder Peter Bourjos, many assumed Jay would be phased out or at least used a lot less in 2014. Well, Jay never got that memo. He responded admirably to the challenge by improving offensively and defensively.

When others, including me, were ready to give up on Jay, he never gave up on himself. He never complained, never caused a fuss when Bourjos was given the first crack at the starting job. Jay just kept working and waited for his chance. When Bourjos started slowly, Jay reemerged in center, and at times was the team's most consistent hitter.

Jay batted .303, or 27 points better than in 2013.

His onbase percentage was up by 21 points, to .372.

His slugging percentage increased to .378, up from .370.

His OPS was .750 this season compared to .721 last year.

His OPS+ — which is adjusted based on industry-wide hitting performances — was 114, which means he was 14 percent above the league average. That was an improvement of 10 percent over Jay's 2013 season.

And his defensive turnaround was pretty dramatic. In 2013, Jay ranked 32nd among MLB center fielders with an abysmal minus 10 in Defensive Runs Saved. This season he finished 13th at the position with 5 Defensive Runs Saved — a positive swing of 15 defensive runs from last year.

Jay finished with 2.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) which was nearly a win better than his 2013 WAR.

After dealing with a bit of a slump in July, Jay had a tremendous August, batting .382 with a .474 OBP and .487 SLG. He batted .323 with a .406 OBP after the All-Star break.

Jay, who bats left, hit .375 against lefthanded pitching.

Jay's upturn gave manager Mike Matheny a chance to put together a more mobile defensive alignment by using Bourjos in center and Jay in right later in the season.

Kudos to Jay for plugging away, being a pro and avoiding the kind of downturn experienced by so many teammates.

“It was different for him this year,” Matheny said late in the season. “But to his credit there wasn't one day where he showed up — and when I make my rounds, I know there's days when guys aren't happy. I get it. I've been that guy. But I can't think of one day all season where no matter how many days it was where he wasn't getting the opportunities he'd just say 'Hey, whatever you need me to do, I'll be ready.' And it was sincere. So it's nice to see a guy like that all of a sudden take off and prove it to everybody.”

Moreover, Jay went out of his way to help the younger players like Randal Grichuk and Oscar Taveras. He offered support to Bourjos. Even though his generosity could have (in theory) cost Jay playing time, he took the high road. He unselfishly committed to being an exceptional teammate, lending a hand to guys that were competing with him for starts and at-bats.

“A guy like Jon will come in and spend time with a Peter Bourjos, and spend time with an Oscar Taveras and Randal Grichuk and this whole slew of outfielders we have,” Matheny said. “He's probably the one that's spending the most time trying to help other guys … It's always a great reward to see a guy who buys into that thought process, that culture that we have here where it's just 'let's make everybody better.' And somehow it comes back. And I think that's a great story for Jon Jay this year.”

In summing up Jay's bounce-back season, Matheny said: “It just proves toughness. And ability. He had a pretty good year last year. I think he was one of the first to say that he could have had a better year on both sides. Defensively he was always quick to point that out. But this year once again reinforced why we thought of him as we have. He's a good defender, and you look up there and see his average this late in the season – and that's with a guy that's been battling some things health wise.

"But just staying with his approach and getting big hits for us. And it's not a surprise. It's like we say with all of these guys — keep doing your thing and we believe it comes out in the wash over the long haul what kind of player you are.”

And that's why the Unsinkable Jon Jay is the Cards' Unsung Hero for 2014.

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Lamar Miller registers first career multi-TD game

For the first time since Week 4 of last season, Dolphins running back Lamar Miller scored a rushing touchdown. In fact, he got in the end zone twice in a convincing 38-14 victory over the Raiders at Wembley Stadium in London.

Miller got off to a fast start, ripping a 21-yard run on his first touch of the night. On a fourth and inches, Miller gashed Oakland's line for an 8-yard score in the second quarter. He finished the first half with 38 yards and a touchdown on six carries.

In the second half, Miller fumble just inches shy before crossing the end zone. Luckily, the Dolphins picked off Derek Carr three plays later and Miller got redemption, scoring from 1-yard out in the third quarter for his first multi-touchdown performance of his career.

Miller took 12 handoffs for 64 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He caught all two of his targets for three yards. He has 277 yards on the ground through four games.

The Dolphins have a bye next week before hosting the Packers in Week 6.

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Harland Gunn To Get Promotion From The Practice Squad?

Gunn was one of the surprise cuts at the end of August, and he could help bring some stability to the interior of the offensive line if Justin Blalock and/or Joe Hawley miss time. We'll see if this happens.

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Reggie Wayne A Week 4 Winner

Reggie Wayne: In case you were wondering if the 35-year-old Colts wideout was all the way back from his ACL reconstruction, he snared seven of Luck's passes for 119 yards and a TD. With 1,029 career grabs, Wayne moved into seventh place all-time, and his 13,873 career receiving yards now rank him in the top-10 in NFL history. (He'll move past Hall of Famers Cris Carter and James Lofton into eighth place with 132 more yards.)

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Frank Gore finds Fountain of Youth, piles up 174 yards

After getting just six carries and gaining 10 yards Week 3, 49ers running back Frank Gore busted out in Sunday's win over the Eagles. The 31-year-old's first carry went for 15 yards, and he had 59 yards on 10 carries by halftime.

Gore finished with 119 yards on 24 totes, both easily season bests. His 28-yard jaunt in the third quarter represented another season high. It was Gore's first 100-yard rushing game since Dec. 8 of last year against Seattle.

Early in the second quarter, Gore got wide open in the right flat and Colin Kaepernick hit him from all the way across the field. Gore did the rest, shoving safety Earl Wolff out of the way for a career-long 55-yard touchdown catch. It was his only catch on two targets.

Gore takes on the Chiefs in Week 5.

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Sam Shields contributes pick to Packers win

Packers cornerback Sam Shields was the hero of the secondary Sunday against the archrival Bears. He snagged an interception and ran 62 yards with it to help his team win.

Shields led Green Bay with three passes defensed and added three tackles.

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Devin Hester reflects well on Harry Douglas

With Harry Douglas inactive because of a foot injury, Devin Hester played the role of third wheel to Julio Jones and Roddy White Week 4 at Minnesota, catching five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.

The 70 yards were more than Douglas has had in a game this season. Yet because the performance came with Douglas sidelined, it only further validated that the Falcons offense is designed for three wide receivers and able to sustain three wide receivers. Between quarterback Matt Ryan's poor showing in Week 2 and the early injury to Douglas in Week 3, Douglas' relevance to Fantasy owners had been in doubt.

When Douglas returns, Hester won't just go away, but he was clearly a lesser part of the passing game in Week 2 and before Douglas went down in Week 3. I'm thinking Douglas is still the better choice as a bye-week replacement and occasional start in points-per-reception leagues.

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Jon Beason returns

Jon Beason, who was doubtful heading into Thursday's game, appears to be back and practicing. I would expect him to at least be considered "limited" today based on his work in individuals.

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Ryan Braun to undergo thumb surgery

Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun needs surgery to repair his nagging right thumb injury and he'll get it this coming week, the Brewers have announced. The rare procedure will involve freezing a nerve near his thumb.

The injury has been bothering Braun for much of the past two seasons, though it reportedly got worse later this season.

"If I was relatively healthy, if I was performing up to the standard I set for myself, then we'd be in a different place as a team. It makes it that much more difficult for me personally to accept the way the season went," Braun said (via Associated Press).

Braun's numbers noticably dipped as the season progressed. Through 43 games, he was hitting .318/.353/.565 with 11 doubles, nine homers and 30 RBI. The rest of his season (92 games), he hit .242/.311/.400 with 10 homers. In September, when the Brewers went 9-17, Braun hit .210/.319/.284 with just one home run.

Braun said the reason he didn't yet have the surgery is due to how rare the procedure is.

"The whole reason we hadn't done it sooner was because there isn't a lot of experience in doing this specific surgery that I'm getting done," he said (via AP).

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Jimmy Graham comes alive late

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who had only an 8-yard catch at halftime, came alive late in the Week 4 loss at Dallas. With the Cowboys playing a prevent defense, Graham hauled in seven second-half passes to finish with eight catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Graham's 13-yard score with 9:49 left in the game was his third touchdown this season. He drew a game-high 11 targets but also lost a fumble.

Graham plays the Buccaneers in Week 5.

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GIF: Frank Gore makes 55 yard touchdown reception

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Reggie Wayne goes for 7-119-1 in victory

Reggie Wayne caught seven passes for 119 yards and one touchdown in the Colts' Week 4 win over the Titans.

Wayne was targeted eight times on the day and dominated a third-quarter drive that ended in a 28-yard touchdown for Wayne on a back-shoudler throw that beat CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The 35-year-old is on pace for 1,228 yards and four touchdowns on 92 catches. With the Colts turning up their offense in recent weeks, it's sustainable. Wayne is a back-end WR3.

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Devin Hester catches 36-yard TD in Week 4 loss

Devin Hester caught five passes for 70 yards and one touchdown in the Falcons' Week 4 loss to the Vikings.

Working as the clear No. 3 receiver with Harry Douglas (foot) sidelined, Hester saw seven targets. Hester turned a dump off pass into a 36-yard score when he broke two tackles on the way to the end zone. He actually looks decent on offense after struggling with it in Chicago. After four games, Hester is on pace for a 48-784-4 receiving line.

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Reggie Wayne making his mark in the record books

Reggie Wayne added milestones for his career Sunday, footballs for his basket at home.

All in another day's work for the Indianapolis Colts' 14th-year receiving wonder.

Wayne had seven catches for 119 yards – both game-highs – in the 41-17 victory over Tennessee, strengthening his status in the NFL record books.

He's now seventh in career receptions (1,029), 10th in receiving yardage (13,873) and extending his record of consecutive games with at least three catches (75). He's caught one pass in 123 straight.

Of course, by now Wayne has made it clear he's playing more for the enjoyment of the game, especially in light of last year's season-ending knee injury.
But he'll take two balls – one for catching a touchdown, another as an honor from his team – home to the pile of inflated leather he's accumulating.

Toys for the kids, he calls them.

"They're going to go in there at some point and say, 'Let's play catch,'" he said, smiling. "A lot of times I look at (the ball) and be like, 'Damn, this is my 30th touchdown ball.' But if they want to play with it, they can play with it."

Wayne played like a kid Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, dancing around defenders, never more so than in the third-quarter drive that sealed the game. If his 21-yard catch wasn't good enough, his 17-yarder on third down was. Two plays later, he outsmarted cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, pivoting to the left as he extended the ball to the pylon.

No matter that this was his 81st career touchdown; it was his first since the injury.

"A long time coming," he said.

Wayne remains one of the most confident players in this league, but he also realizes the realities of life. He doesn't have the speed he possessed as a first-round draft pick out of Miami in 2001. His body still has days when it requires an ice bath and a massage. But the challenge of overcoming the obstacles is part of the game's pleasure.

"There's quite a few things that are undefeated in this world; we know Mother Nature is one of them," Wayne said as his 36th birthday looms Nov. 17. "You're not going to win that battle.

"I do understand where I'm at right now, (and) I do understand I'm getting up there in age. That just goes to show you I'm going to have to watch more film, have to know my opponent a little better just to find ways to get open."

Having hands of gold helps. It's likely Wayne leads the NFL in that category, too, and listening to him frame a defensive back is worth all the money he's paid.
"He's not looking back at the ball, he's playing (my) hands," Wayne said of how defenders are taught. "I want to wait as long as I possibly can to stick my hands out there."

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck didn't know what else to say about No. 87.

"Open up one of y'all's tape recorders (and) replay the same things I say about him every week," he said. "He's a pro. He makes plays. He shows up in third down. He shows up in the red zone. Obviously, his hands are incredible. He's a phenomenal football player."

Luck finished by calling Wayne "a technician."

"For that reason I think he's an incredible role model for any young kid, any rookie," he said. "How do you work on your cuts? How do you work on body control? He sees coverage extremely well. He knows what (is) zone (defense), man (defense), where the blitz is coming from. He understands football."

"I won't say I haven't skipped a beat," Wayne said of his recovery. "I wish I was a lot faster; I wish I was a lot (of) everything. But this is what I have, and I'm going to play the hand I'm dealt.

"I have a pretty solid poker face, and I'm going to play; I'm not going to fold. I'm going to give everything I've got, and I think everybody in this locker room has some trust in me as far as going out there and delivering."

That why Pagano handed him a game ball. At this rate, more are on the way. The basket at home probably isn't large enough.

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VIDEO: Reggie Wayne scores first TD of the season

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49ers go back to what works: Feeding Frank Gore

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The real Frank Gore is back, and with him, the real San Francisco 49ers offense.

A week after a baffling game plan in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals that resulted in just six rushes for 10 yards for Gore, the 49ers looked like themselves again, with an offense powered by their 31-year-old running back.

San Francisco might have invested big in the passing game, with a massive contract extension for quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a trade to acquire veteran receiver Stevie Johnson from Buffalo, and the addition of veteran Brandon Lloyd to join Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, but it is clear that Gore remains the heart of the 49ers' offense, and they aren't going to win much without him.

Even Sunday, it took until the 49ers' second possession to get back to Gore. On that drive, the second play went to Gore, who ripped off a 15-yard run, just a preview of the type of day that was to come. By the time the 49ers closed out their 26-21 win against the Philadelphia Eagles, Gore had 119 rushing yards on 24 carries — about 5 yards per attempt — and another 55 receiving yards, all of them on perhaps the wildest touchdown catch of his career.

No, Gore certainly wasn't the intended target for Kaepernick after the quarterback scrambled to his left and rolled way out of the pocket. Gore, over on the right side of the field, was so far out of the play that coach Jim Harbaugh had lost sight of him. Harbaugh had no idea what Kaepernick saw as the quarterback heaved the ball across his body for a throw that covered about 30 horizontal yards.

But there was Gore, wide open, and then sprinting past the Eagles secondary for his first touchdown of the year.

"He broke the tackle and got into the end zone," Kaepernick said. "Putting the ball in 21's hands is a good thing."

That might be the truest thing Kaepernick has said all season.

Yet for the 49ers to be successful, it won't be because of Gore's clutch catches, it will be through his tough running, just as it has been so often over the past eight years.

"That was our mindset, just getting him back on the ball and getting him touches, making sure we controlled the line of scrimmage," Boldin said.

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Warren Sapp dresses like a pirate to redecorate Bucs fan's house and sell beer

Budweiser saw a man loading a case of Bud Light into his car, and took it as a sign of him being “up for whatever happens next.”

Of course, it could have been a sign that he was down for saving a few dollars by not buying Sam Adams, but that’s not important. Since this man – Alex – happens to be a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan and is clearly up for whatever, Budweiser decided to makeover his entire house and backyard into a pirate ship.

They also dressed Warren Sapp like a pirate.

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Greg Olsen has two-catch game in Week 4 loss

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen had his worst outing of the season during a 38-10 loss Week 4 at Baltimore. Olsen was held to two catches for 30 yards -- both season-lows.

Olsen was targeted five times and held without a touchdown for the second time in three games. The Panthers are back in action Week 5 vs. Chicago.

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Andre Johnson climbs NFL charts again

With his first catch of the game, Andre Johnson made NFL history again.

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 13-yard completion to Johnson on the first offensive play against the Buffalo Bills. The catch moved Johnson up to 12th place for most receptions in NFL history (944), surpassing Derrick Mason. Johnson was previously tied with Mason on the all-time list.

The Texans All-Pro wide receiver has also recorded a catch in  122 consecutive games.

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Lamar Miller lays claim to Dolphins' starting RB job

LONDON —Anyone expecting Knowshon Moreno to get healthy and immediately take over as the Miami Dolphins starting tailback might want to put those thoughts on pause.

The way Lamar Miller has been playing this season — which includes a 64-yard and two-touchdown rushing performance in Sunday's 38-14 win over the Oakland Raiders — the former University of Miami standout might be proving he's a legitimate NFL starter.

After four games Miller is averaging 5.7 yards on his 49 carries. He produced his first 100-yard rushing performance in last week's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. And this week Miller had his first multiple touchdown performance, scoring on a 9-yard run, and a 1-yard run against the Raiders.

"I think I did pretty good. Obviously I fumbled the ball in a critical situation, and you can't have that," Lamar Miller said, referring to a goal line fumble in the third quarter. "The offensive line did a good job. I just tried to use my speed and tried to break tackles to get positive yards.

"I give all the credit to the offensive line," said Miller, who has also caught 12 passes for 53 yards this season. "I've been trying to use my abilities to get positive yards."

But Miller hasn't been Miami's only productive back the past two weeks.

Daniel Thomas remains the Dolphins' third down back, handling the passing game workload in Bill Lazor's offense. It's a role he held last year, and regained two weeks ago when he was re-signed by the team.

Thomas had 35 rushing yards on five carries, and caught one pass for 25 yards.

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Allen Hurns goes 5-68 against Chargers

Allen Hurns secured 5-of-6 targets for 68 yards in the Jaguars' Week 4 loss to the Chargers.

Undrafted rookie Hurns got wide open against the Chargers' secondary for a first-half gain of 44 yards. There was nobody even in his area, but Hurns fell down and could not quite crawl into the end zone. So Toby Gerhart executed the goal-line score a few plays later. Due to Marqise Lee and Cecil Shorts' hamstring injuries, the arrow is pointing up on Hurns' playing time and usage. Through four games, he's on pace for 48 catches, 1,016 yards, and 12 touchdowns. There's an obvious regression alert on his yardage and scores. Hurns will be a dicey WR3 when the Jaguars take on the Steelers' weak defense in Week 5.

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Andre Johnson not concerned with missing out on milestone

Andre Johnson finished one reception away. Well, sort of.

The veteran Texans wide receiver briefly tied longtime Indianapolis wideout Marvin Harrison as the fastest player in NFL history to reach 950 career catches.
But Johnson’s 950th reception – a five-yard catch with 1 minute, 53 seconds left in the third quarter – was erased due to a pass-interference penalty on left tackle Duane Brown.

Johnson finished the Texans’ 23-17 victory against the Buffalo Bills with a team-high 71 yards on six catches (seven targets), falling one short of Harrison’s mark.

“If it was meant to happen (Sunday), it would have happened. … Just to be mentioned with that group of wide receivers is a humbling experience,” Johnson said at NRG Stadium. “You’ll never understand it or really realize what you’re able to accomplish until you’re finished playing a game. I think that’s when I really look back on it.”

The lifetime Texan briefly left the game but returned during the fourth quarter.

“I’m fine. I think I was more scared than anything,” Johnson said. “I went on the sideline, got it checked and everything is fine. … They taped it back up and I was back out there.”

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The Brewers are considering moving Ryan Braun to first base

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said Thursday that he has spoken to general manager Doug Melvin about the possibility of Ryan Braun moving to first base”

“I think he’s a good defender in the outfield, learning a new position that he picked up pretty fast. I think he’ll continue to get better in right. We haven’t approached (Braun) about it. It’s just kind of what the needs are. We have (Gerardo) Parra here now and we need to figure out what to do with him for next year.”

The talks aren’t serious yet, but the fact is that the Brewers have four outfielders — Khris Davis, Carlos Gomez, Gerardo Parra and Braun — and three of them are better than Braun. And, of course, Mark Reynolds is not a long-term solution at first base.

Braun, of course, would need to bounce back on offense in order to be worth his contract at first base. He has hit a poor-for-him .269/.323/.457 this year, with 19 homers and 81 RBI. That won’t cut it long-term in an outfield corner for a guy who makes what he makes, and certainly won’t play efficiently at first base.

Braun battled a serious hand injury all year. Milwaukee had better hope that was the problem. And not something else. Like, say, a big falloff by virtue of playing clean.

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Ryan Braun: To Undergo Thumb Surgery After Season

Braun will undergo a minimally-invasive surgical procedure on his thumb Thursday morning in Los Angeles, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Braun, who is in Sunday's lineup against the Cubs for the Brewers' season finale, has been playing with an ongoing nerve issue with his right thumb for most of the season, with his offensive production especially weakened in the second half (.228/.295/.379 over 254 plate appearances). The outfielder's greatest difficulty has come with gripping the bat, a problem he expects the procedure to fully resolve. Braun will turn 31 in November and believes he can return to the level of superstar-caliber play he delivered over his previous seven seasons, but there's plenty of reason to be pessimistic. His slugging percentage already noticed a steep dip in 2013 while he played amid an ongoing investigation for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic, and the track record of players regaining power after the age of 30 is not promising.

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With 200th game, Indianapolis Colts' Reggie Wayne joins exclusive club

INDIANAPOLIS - Peyton Manning. John Unitas. Come Sunday afternoon, Reggie Wayne makes it a threesome.

"That's good company," the Indianapolis Colts veteran wide receiver said. "It's exciting, man.

"Hopefully after it's over with, get a W …  and I can celebrate in style."

The topic of discussion was Wayne being on the verge of reaching yet another milestone on an NFL journey that began in 2001. 

He’ll make his 200th regular-season appearance Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The only Colts players who have played more are Manning (208) and Unitas (206).

"It means that I've played a lot of games," Wayne replied when asked the significance of reaching 200. "You want to get 200 more. You want to play as much as you can. It's a credit to my strength coaches just to keep me healthy, giving me the right workouts to keep my body right.

"Hopefully the 200th game will be the best one yet."

Wayne would have put No. 200 behind him in 2013, but his pursuit was put on hold when he suffered a season-ending knee injury Oct. 20 against Denver. It snapped a streak of 189 consecutive appearances, which was the NFL's longest active streak among receivers.

Being there, Wayne insisted, always has been paramount.

"Absolutely. I really feel like being able to answer that bell each week, that's what it's all about," he said. "Getting the respect from my teammates, knowing that I’ll be there.

"That's bigger than touchdowns. That's bigger than catches. That's bigger than yards. At the end of the day when it's all said and done, I want that respect of my teammates, let them know I was there and I was a good teammate."

Along with being on the verge of his 200th game, Wayne needs three catches to move past Isaac Bruce (1,029) into the No. 7 spot all-time and 24 yards to move past Henry Ellard (13,777) into the No. 10 spot.

Coach Chuck Pagano has become numb to Wayne's continued excellence.

"…if you tell about milestones or somebody else tells me about the numbers, the number of games he's gone with three or more catches, all those type of things, am I shocked? No," he said. "He's the consummate pro. You can't have enough guys like Reggie in your locker room."

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