NFL U Week 5 Matchup Guide

NFL U Matchups 2013 Week 5

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Jimmy Graham earns historic honor

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham continues to raise the bar for the tight end position.

Graham was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month on Thursday -- the first time a tight end has been so honored in either conference since the NFL started the award in 1986.

Graham caught 27 passes for 458 yards and six touchdowns in four September victories.

"He's a big target. He's extremely athletic. He's got this fire and passion and will to succeed and to work at it. He wants to be great. That's all you want in a teammate and in a target," quarterback Drew Brees said of Graham on Wednesday. "A lot of times you take a player and it's like, 'OK, these are his strengths, but then he's got these weaknesses that we're going to stay away from and we're just going to try to utilize the strengths.' You then encounter certain players like Jimmy Graham and you just say, 'OK, this guy has the ability to have all strengths and no weaknesses.'

"He's not there yet, but he is far outweighed on the strength side than on the weakness side. You can sit there and say, 'Well, there's just not much that we can't do with this guy.' That's a good thing."

Graham ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards, behind only Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (481), and he is tied for the lead in touchdown receptions with Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Graham is one touchdown shy of tying the league record for touchdown catches by a tight end through his team's first five games -- a mark shared by Antonio Gates (2010) and Mike Ditka (1963).

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GIF: Travis Benjamin's 79-yard punt return for a TD


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Winless Giants acquire Jon Beason from Panthers

The New York Giants, winless and desperate for defensive help after being outscored 69-7 in the past two games, have acquired linebacker Jon Beason from the Carolina Panthers, pending a Friday physical, a person familiar with the deal told USA TODAY Sports.

The person, who requested anonymity because the trade isn't official, said the Giants would give the Panthers a late-round draft pick for Beason, a seventh-year player who recently had been benched in favor of former Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn.

The trade should come as no surprise given the men pulling the strings: Panthers general manager David Gettleman worked for the Giants from 1998-2012 before taking the job with the Panthers.

The Giants are acquiring an aging linebacker who has battled injuries, played little over the past three seasons and has twice lost his starting job.

Beason, 28, has suffered nagging injuries since he signed a five-year, $51.5 million extension before the 2011 season. A torn Achilles sidelined him in 2011, when he played just one game, and knee and shoulder injuries in 2012 limited him to four games in that season.

He lost his starting job at middle linebacker last year to Luke Kuechly, and this season, Beason was replaced as the starting weakside linebacker by Blackburn.

When he benched Beason, coach Ron Rivera said the linebacker needed more practice time to shake off the rust.

"He is a competitor. He's working hard to recapture that form and that style of football he's used to playing," Rivera said. "We'll continue to keep giving him reps, keep working with him, keep developing him and we'll see."

Beason agreed to a $4.25 million pay cut this year while also chopping off the last three years, but the deal allows him to reclaim $1.75 million if he's active for all 16 games. He'll earn up to $6.1 million this season.

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Travis Benjamin sets Browns punt return record

With starting quarterback Brian Hoyer out with a knee injury, the Cleveland Browns got a boost from punt returner Travis Benjamin Thursday night against the Buffalo Bills.

Benjamin set a Browns’ franchise record with 179 yards on punt returns against the Bills. With the game tied at 10-10 late in the second quarter against Buffalo, Benjamin returned a punt from Shawn Powell 79 yards for a touchdown to give the Browns a lead before halftime.

Benjamin broke the prior record of 166 yards on returns set by Eric Metcalf against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1993. Benjamin had seven returns against the Bills Thursday and averaged 25.6 yards per attempt. Metcalf set his record on just two returns against the Steelers as he returned both punts for touchdowns – 91 yards and 75 yards, respectively.

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Vince Wilfork: (Achilles) Placed on IR

The Patriots have placed Wilfork (Achilles') on injured reserve, reports.

Wilfork's big body in the middle of the Pats' front line will be sorely missed by the team, in particular against the run. The Patriots will now count on the likes of Tommy Kelly and rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones to help fill the void as best they can.

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Saints consider Devin Hester as dangerous as ever

Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester hasn't aged well in the eyes of his opponents. That's because he seemingly hasn't aged at all

One of the most explosive special teams weapons in the league, the 30-year-old eight-year veteran is second in the NFL in kick returns going into Week 5, averaging 32.4 yards per return with a long of 80 yards.

"He's arguably the most decorated return man in our league's history," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "That's just a fact. ... We've been on the wrong end of a punt return (in 2007). He's outstanding."

Payton pointed to the fact Hester plays in Soldier Field, which he said doesn't allow opposing kickers any easy route to a touchback. So it opens up more chances for Hester. Payton said the coverage units have to be disciplined in their lanes and assignments.

Saints kickoff man and punter Thomas Morstead did his own research on Hester and discovered Hester has scored 17 times on returns during his career. So Morstead said it's "very crucial" for him to be pinpoint in both aspects.

"Every returner is scary, but when you play outdoors and it's real windy, that puts another element that I can't control," said Morstead, who also dubbed Hester the best returner of all time. "So I could hit every ball exactly how I want, and the wind could do something that I don't want it to do."

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Andre Johnson limited in Texans’ practice

Andre Johnson is still dealing with a shin bruise he received during a Week 3 matchup at Baltimore.

Johnson caught nine passes for 110 yards last Sunday during an overtime home loss against Seattle. He was limited in practice Thursday, but part of the restraint was based upon his normal rest pattern.

“His leg’s still sore,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said at Reliant Stadium. “He moved around a little bit (Wednesday). Took a little bit (Thursday). Just working through the soreness and also kind of part of the protocol we follow with him.”

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American Heritage football coach Mike Rumph named as coach for U.S. Army All American Bowl

American Heritage football coach Mike Rumph was named as a coach for the U.S. Army All American Bowl game set for Jan. 4 in San Antonio.

U.S. Army All American representatives named Rumph, who is in his first season at Heritage, as a coach at the school on Thursday.

He has the Patriots at 4-1 this season and will play a key District 16-5A game on Friday against Miami Jackson

U.S. Army All American representatives named Rumph, who is in his first season at Heritage, as a coach at the school on Thursday.

He has the Patriots at 4-1 this season and will play a key District 16-5A game on Friday against Miami Jackson

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Bryant McKinnie Open To Possibility Of Trade

Bryant McKinnie isn’t ready to hand off his starting job, and he is open to moving on from Baltimore if that’s the case.

There are reports that the Ravens are expected to try to trade McKinnie with the arrival of Monroe. He was asked whether he would be want to stay in Baltimore as a backup. 

“We’ll have to see when the time comes,” McKinnie said. “Maybe a trade. Who knows?”

Shortly after the trade for left tackle Eugene Monroe was finalized, McKinnie was asked whether he’ll have to adjust to being a backup again. 

“Who said that’s what I have to adjust to?” McKinnie said. “Maybe not, so we don’t know yet.” 

McKinnie said the Ravens coaches haven’t told him he’s lost his starting job. He could be out there at left tackle this Sunday in Miami, especially if Monroe can’t get a hold of the Ravens offense fast enough. 

“I’m just looking to go out there and play the best at my position, and that’s it,” McKinnie said. 

McKinnie got a phone call from the Ravens Tuesday, giving him a head’s up that they were about to make a trade. 

“Yeah, I’m kind of surprised,” he said. “This is business, so they’re going to do whatever is best for their business.” 

McKinnie has gotten mostly neutral grades on his pass blocking this season from Pro Football Focus. He’s allowed one sack and 11 hurries. But his run blocking has been a tough spot, and the Ravens are looking to get their ground game going. 

McKinnie received his first overall positive grade of the season after Sunday’s game in Buffalo.

“I’ve gotten better and better each game,” McKinnie said.

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Ed Reed: Football business 'shady'

HOUSTON -- That the NFL knew about the dangerous effect concussions have on players' brains long before publicly acknowledging the link doesn't sit well with Texans safety Ed Reed.

"The business of football is shady," Reed told "The business of football is very shady. The fact that they would withhold information is bad. The fact that our [collective bargaining agreement] would not want that information, the fact that our older players would take money instead of getting that information is bad. The business of football, NFL football, is shady. Now we can't get that information anymore? It's just swept under the rug? That's bad."

A two-decades-long campaign to deny scientific research that connected brain damage to football is revealed in the book "League of Denial," written by ESPN investigative reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru. Excerpts of the book appeared in ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated this week.
The book's release will come about six weeks after the NFL settled a lawsuit with former players for $765 million. The plaintiffs in the suit had claimed the league hid the connection between football and brain damage.

Reed, who is in his 12th NFL season, expressed both outrage and a lack of surprise. Texans running back Arian Foster, too, said the report made sense.

"It's about expanding the brand and getting a bigger business," Foster told "That's what I signed up for. I know what concussions do. I do my own research. I talk to many neuroscientists. It is what it is. It's not good for you. That's the risk I take to provide for my family."

The book reports the league used its power to discredit independent scientists who warned of the link between concussions and brain diseases, relying instead on its own research and a public relations campaign to keep the public from knowing what league executives knew about the effect of concussions.
The cover-up began under former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and continued under Roger Goodell, the book says.

"It's a little scary," Texans left tackle Duane Brown told "I've seen cases where guys look pretty bad. And to think that maybe it could've been prevented, it's a little disappointing. I don't know. I don't know much about it so I don't want to comment too much but that's a bit scary to think about."

Foster recalled the days before the current emphasis on concussions, when players were "considered soft" if they weren't able to shake off a concussion. Now players must pass a thorough concussion protocol before being allowed to return to a game. Once a player is diagnosed with a concussion, he cannot return to the same game.

Foster said he did his own research, with the help of his stepfather, who is a geneticist, when concussions first became a hot-button issue. He is generally skeptical about the NFL's commitment to player safety, despite the league's public emphasis on the matter.

"I think the league kind of cloaks their wanting to make the league safe, though," Foster said. "If you want to make the league safe, cut out 'Thursday Night Football.' Do something like that. Don't have guys wear pads on their legs. That's not making anybody safe. It's more like a political move that they try to make things safe. It's a combative sport. It happens. They kind of use that to make themselves look a little better, make themselves look like they care a little more than they do."

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Bernie Kosar claims he wasn’t putting anyone at risk

Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar gave a radio interview this morning in which he was asked about his recent arrest on suspicion of DUI. Kosar didn’t really clear much of anything up.

In a rambling answer to a question about what happened, Kosar didn’t say whether or not he was drunk when he was driving, but he did say he didn’t put anyone else at risk, even though he realizes it may appear to others that he did.

“With the court process going on it’s something that you’re not really supposed to over-talk about,” Kosar said on ESPN Radio in Cleveland. “You don’t want to put other people in danger, and I pride myself on trying to do the right thing and not wanting to put other people at risk. I’m not trying to blame anybody, I’m not trying to make excuses. I look hardest at myself and what I could do, and I know how appearances make things look, but it’s something again that I wouldn’t want to make anybody, put them in a tough spot. And when you’re trying to help people out, and you’re trying to do things, sometimes you end up in situations that you, you know, don’t look as good. But time’s going to show, show stuff on this. And again I’m not really able to talk a ton about things, with the case going on. But again for people out there, you have to take it seriously, you have to look within yourself first to make sure you don’t put people at risk, don’t put people in danger. And I never, never would do that, nor do I want to do that.”

Kosar gave a vague explanation to another question in which he said he was trying to help people at the time he was arrested. Perhaps the best way for Kosar to help people would be to call a cab.

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With Jason Fox back at practice, Detroit Lions may have battle at right tackle

Now that Jason Fox is healthy, the Detroit Lions have a decision to make at right tackle.

Fox won the starting job with a strong camp, but pulled his groin in the first quarter of the Lions’ season-opening win over the Minnesota Vikings and missed most of September.

Corey Hilliard played well in Fox’s absence, starting the last three games at right tackle, but Fox practiced without limitations the last two days and both players have taken reps with the first-team offense this week.

“I don’t have any comment on depth charts and stuff like that,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “I’ll let you guys read into or comment on that. I’d caution you on just with the stuff that you guys are watching in practice.”

Fox worked with the starting offensive line during skeleton drills today, the first time he’s done so since returning to practice last Wednesday. He said he wasn’t too rusty from his time off and felt “good” at practice overall.

“In every week and even in every game, you try to get into a rhythm,” Fox said. “You try to get a flow. That’s what you’re trying to establish every week, every game. That’s just what I’ve got to get back to.”

The Lions don’t have any hard and fast rules about starters keeping or losing their jobs because of injuries, but the offensive line has been a bright spot so far this season allowing just two sacks in four games, the fewest in the NFL.

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said he’s not worried about the line losing whatever continuity it’s developed should the Lions start Fox over Hilliard in Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers.

“The guys all understand, I think, kind of how it works,” Linehan said. “We make decisions on Saturday evenings as to who’s going to play and all that stuff, but we had a really good dynamic through off-season and preseason, Jason played very well. So whatever we decide to do we’re very comfortable with whoever’s out there.”

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Jonathan Vilma to host 4th Annual Celebrity Servers event at Morton's the Steakhouse

Linebacker Jonathan Vilma will host his 4th Annual Celebrity Servers event at Morton’s the Steakhouse on Monday, November 11 from 6-10 p.m.

Vilma will be joined by his New Orleans Saints teammates as they trade in their helmets for aprons and serve guests a signature Morton’s four-course meal and fine wine. Guest also will experience a VIP cocktail reception and a live auction.

All proceeds benefit the Jonathan Vilma Foundation helping to build schools in Haiti and continuing students’ education.

Tickets are 400 dollars per guest and can be purchased now. For more sponsorship information, click here. 

ABOUT THE JONATHAN VILMA FOUNDATION NFL star Jonathan Vilma established The Jonathan Vilma Foundation to support the building of a school in Haiti. In 2010, a devastating 7.0 earthquake struck the region killing more than 230,000 people of which 40,000 were students and 1,000 were teachers. More than 50 schools were destroyed. Jonathan's parents emigrated from Haiti and family members remain in the country. Jonathan is deeply committed to assisting in the long-term rebuilding efforts.
In May 2011, the Jonathan Vilma Foundation made a $50,000 grant to Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) to help expand the school they built in Haiti in response to the devastating earthquake. The school is fittingly named the Academy for Peace and Justice. In April 2012, Vilma visited the school and met with the students who now receive free education, uniforms, food, clean water, transportation and medical care through the school. In 2012 and 2013, the Jonathan Vilma Foundation made grants of $100,000 and $50,000, respectively, to help further expand the Academy in Haiti. For additional information, please call 310.649.5222 or visit

ABOUT LANDRY’S, INC. Landry's is a national, diversified restaurant, hospitality and entertainment company principally engaged in the ownership and operation of high end and casual dining restaurants, primarily under the names of Landry's Seafood House, Rainforest Cafe, McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, The Chart House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Claim Jumper, Saltgrass Steak House and Oceanaire, as well as a fine dining signature group of restaurants: Morton's Steakhouse, Vic & Anthony's, Grotto, Willie G's and others. Morton’s The Steakhouse first opened in Chicago and now boasts 69 locations across the world. The Company is also engaged in the ownership and operation of gaming, hospitality and entertainment businesses, including the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casinos in Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nevada, and Atlantic City, the Kemah Boardwalk, the San Luis Resort Complex, and the Downtown Aquariums in Denver and Houston. Landry's and Mr. Fertitta's affiliated companies will generate approximately $2.5 billion in revenues in 2012. For additional information, please call 713.850.1010 or visit

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Bryant McKinnie reportedly will be shopped by Ravens

Now that Ozzie Newsome has acquired Eugene Monroe to shore up Joe Flacco's blindside, the Baltimore Ravens general manager apparently is going to attempt the equivalent of selling a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.

The Ravens are expected to explore a trade that would send Bryant McKinnie out of Charm City, league sources tell The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson. It should be noted that Wilson stops short of reporting that Newsome is shopping McKinnie.

McKinnie is four games into a two-year, $6.3 million contract signed in May, and the team's brass has concluded that he's a lost cause in his age-34 season. Although the Ravens already have paid his $2 million signing bonus, McKinnie has another $1 million in guarantees remaining on his base salary.

McKinnie has allowed one sack, 10 quarterback hurries and two quarterback hits this season while struggling as a run blocker.

Newsome has to be hoping the Miami Dolphins grow desperate enough to spin the wheel on McKinnie now that Ryan Tannehill leads the league in fumbles and sacks absorbed.

McKinnie attended the University of Miami and weighed an offseason offer from the Dolphins before re-signing with the Ravens.
If the Dolphins take a pass, it's hard to imagine Newsome finding a trade partner.

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Orlando Franklin Earns PFF Weekly Honor

Broncos’ Right Tackle Orlando Franklin made the PFF Team of the Week for the Broncos as he allowed just one hurry against the Eagles and “added some good work when the Broncos ran” according to the site. New England’s Nate Solder was the other tackle named to the Team of the Week.

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Leonard Hankerson displaying improved consistency, effectiveness

Third-year wide receiver Leonard Hankerson continues to show signs of development as he made his third consecutive start and recorded four catches for 49 yards. Hankerson’s most crucial counting as a 17-yard reception on third-and-three to set Washington up to take a third-quarter lead that the team never relinquished.

Pierre Garcon remains the team’s clear-cut No. 1 threat, but Hankerson has started establishing himself as a reliable No. 2 threat for the Redskins.

“That’s what you have to do: You have to make plays,” Hankerson said. “I saw I was in one-on-one coverage, got open and Robert made a great throw. I’m just trying to give my all out there — do what I can do, whether it’s catching the ball, getting upfield, getting a first down.”

Through four games, Hankerson ranks third on the team with 15 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He is on pace to record a 60 catches for 740 yards and eight touchdowns. Those would all count as career highs for Hankerson, who had just 13 catches for 163 yards in an injury-shortened rookie season and then recorded 38 receptions for 543 yards and three touchdowns last year.

Hankerson rarely has struggled to create separation from defensive backs. But consistency proved the biggest struggle for him. He would make a tough catch here and there, and then would get open and drop the ball on what looked like routine plays. But this season, the Miami product appears to have begun turning the corner.

“Hank’s always been one of our best guys in terms of separation, and that’s usually one of the first things you look for in a receiver,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “Hank’s just been a little up and down when he has separated over the years – finishing a play. He’s done a good job of that the last couple weeks. He’s getting separation, he’s making the catch, he’s getting up the field, making some plays after the catch. And if he keeps doing that, he’s can have a great career because he’s got the skills to separate, he’s a big guy with got good hands. It’s just the consistency that we’ve talked about with him, and he’s been consistent the last few weeks and I think the results are showing everyone else.”

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said continuity and health throughout the offseason has benefited Hankerson in his development. Hankerson as a rookie didn’t have an offseason to work with his coaches because of the NFL lockout. Then last year, he spent the summer rehabbing from hip surgery rather than practicing with the team. Fully healthy in this calendar year, he didn’t miss an offseason practice. The work and improved knowledge is manifesting itself on the field, Shanahan said.

“Hank is really playing well. When he gets the opportunity to set guys up one-on-one, he usually wins,” Shanahan said. “He’s one of the guys that has size, has strength and is becoming more comfortable not only with the system, but with himself. It’s nice to have a guy that’s healthy all the way through the summer, through the offseason, training camp, and he’s been able to do that. Therefore, you can see the progress that he’s made.”

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Warren Sapp Says He Used to Save $5K for Teammates to Protect Against NFL Fines

NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp spoke on the Dan Patrick Show and was asked to discuss the Broncos high-powered offense under Peyton Manning. 

Sapp goes on to explain that there's no way to take away the middle of the field and that the only way to do that is to put a solid hit on a receiver. Sapp explains: 

“There’s no way to get in their faces like back in the day.  You know like New England used to do Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison back in the day.  You can’t do that.  You can’t ride them down the field.” 

“I used to have $5,000 waiting for anybody that hit somebody and got a fine because we needed to protect the middle of the field.”

Patrick then asks Sapp how many times he did this during his career, to which Sapp replies, "at least six."

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Marcus Forston just plugging away on Pats' practice squad

If defensive lineman Marcus Forston is about to get the call up from the practice squad, he sure sounds like a guy who doesn't know it.

 Doing his best Sgt. Schultz ("I know nothing"), the Patriots' practice squad member said he hasn't been informed of the team's plans in the wake of defensive lineman Vince Wilfork's right Achilles tendon injury.

For the time being, Forston said he'll just keep plugging away on the practice squad, which has two defensive linemen -- him and A.J. Francis -- on it”

"(I'm) just looking at everything as a blessing," said Forston. "There's a lot of guys wishing they were in the position I'm in now. Even though it's on the practice squad, I'm still in this position, living in my dream and hopefully getting better and hopefully some changes as far as me getting better and showing the coaches I'm ready to play on Sundays."

 Forston said he has spoken to Wilfork since he went down in Atlanta.

"I've talked to him," said Forston. "(He's) just basically telling me to stay positive and continue to do what I do," said Forston.

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Darryl Sharpton fined for horse-collar tackle vs. Seahawks

Linebacker Darryl Sharpton was fined by the NFL for a horse-collar tackle during an overtime home loss to the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday, Texans coach Gary Kubiak said.

Sharpton was penalized during Seattle’s first OT possession, after tackling Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch following a 13-yard pass from quarterback Russell Wilson.

“Usually if you get an unnecessary roughness play, there’s like an immediate fine that you have to appeal, unless they think it’s a missed call,” Kubiak said.
The Texans are still waiting to hear whether cornerback Kareem Jackson will be fined for an unnecessary roughness penalty in overtime that set up Seattle’s game-winning field goal.

“I don’t know what that means yet. We usually hear from (the NFL) pretty quick, so we will see,” Kubiak said. “But we put in our submission of questions and all that.”

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Belichick: 'You just don't replace Vince Wilfork'

FOXBOROUGH – With the loss of all-pro defensive tackle Vince Wilfork to an Achilles' tendon tear, the Patriots will have to replace his skill and leadership by committee, coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday.

"I think everybody is going to have to, we're all going to have to pull that rope," Belichick said. "There's no replacing Vince Wilfork. You just don't replace Vince Wilfork. We'll still have his presence around the team and the locker room, and those type of things, which I think he's great at. On the field, we'll miss him. But whoever is out there, those other 11 guys that are out there, they're all gonna have to – we're all going to have to pull a little bit harder, including the coaching staff and all that.

"It's a big loss but we're just going to have to find a way to do it. That means everybody doing their job. Obviously somebody is going to have to replace him. Whoever those people are, they're going to have to answer the bell. But collectively as a team, we're all going to have to pull it together. There is no one person that can replace Vince Wilfork."

Belichick also conceded there is a small possibility the team changes the way its defensive tackles operate. Wilfork often took on multiple blockers to free up defenders, and he was on the field for 81 percent of the team's defensive snaps, through the first 10 snaps of the Atlanta Falcons game before he was injured.

"I mean, look he hasn't played every single play," Belichick said. "There has been times in when he hasn't been on the field, so it isn't like we haven't seen him not on the field. But obviously he's been a key guy for us and he plays a lot. We had to deal without him in Atlanta, we'll have to deal without him going forward. We may do that. Some things I'm sure we'll continue to do but some things we may have to modify. We'll see how that goes."

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Ravens should keep Bryant McKinnie for depth

There is speculation that left tackle Bryant McKinnie wants to be traded now that the Ravens have traded for the Jacksonville Jaguars' Eugene Monroe, but it would be difficult to see anyone wanting McKinnie, not if a team has seen tape on him this season. The entire offensive line has played poorly, but none more disappointing than McKinnie and right tackle Michael Oher.

It has been reported that the Ravens will ultimately give up two mid-to-late round picks for Monroe, and that's OK because the Ravens apparently feel they have a shot at repeating as Super Bowl champions. But unless they get some blockbuster offer, I wouldn't trade McKinnie if I was in their shoes. The Ravens have little depth at tackle and rookie Rick Wagner has already proven he isn't ready to start. It's still a long season, so the Ravens need as much depth as possible.

I'd make McKinnie the backup, and he'd have to compete for playing time just like he did last season. As for Monroe, he isn't elite but a good, solid player. You're going to get a good effort from him every week and that's an upgrade over McKinnie.

It's a move the Ravens had to make, especially after they invested so much money in quarterback Joe Flacco during the offseason. It's wise to protect the investment, and Flacco had been getting hammered in the first four games.

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Blackburn officially ahead of Beason

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians called the Carolina Panthers linebackers the best group "that I've seen in a while." Quarterback Carson Palmer called them the best "linebacking corps in the league."

That would be group of Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Chase Blackburn.

Jon Beason, who began the season as the starter at weakside linebacker, has officially been replaced by Blackburn. We knew that after the three-time Pro Bowl player took only one snap in a 38-0 victory over the New York Giants.

But until Wednesday, coach Ron Rivera had said only that the position was being evaluated and the best player would be on the field.

"Right now, Chase has got the lead," Rivera said as he prepared for Sunday's game at Arizona. "A big part of it is Chase is a little more comfortable at it right now. Jon is still trying to get back in football shape."

Beason started the first two games, but after struggling at the end of the opener against Seattle and throughout the second game at Buffalo it became apparent he hadn't fully regained the explosiveness after undergoing offseason microfracture knee surgery.

Blackburn, who didn't play a defensive snap in the first two games, stepped in against the Giants and more than held his own.

"It's the way it works in this league," said Blackburn, who left the Giants after last season to sign with Carolina. "You just have to make the most of the opportunity."

Now it's Beason's turn to make the most of the opportunities he gets and try and work himself back into the rotation. “

"He's handled it well," Rivera said of Beason. "He's a professional. He knows his opportunity is going to come again, and he'll continue to do things he's asked. He'll get opportunities to get back on the field, and I expect him to take advantage of those opportunities."

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Why couldn't Bernie Kosar walk straight in DUI stop? He blames the Browns

When ex-Dolphins quarterback Bernie Kosar was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Ohio four days ago, the homegrown fave had a quick excuse as to why he couldn't walk straight.

His knees are shot, Kosar told police, and the Cleveland Browns'  lousy offensive line was to blame.

"Mr. Kosar stated that he had a lot of surgeries on his knees and ankles because his line couldn't block," Officer Scott McElroy said.

Kosar, 49, self-employed and living in Youngstown, Ohio, was pulled over around 2:40 a.m. Sunday in Solon, Ohio. McElroy clocked him zipping through a construction zone with workers present at 74 mph — 24 mph over the posted limit.

Kosar had slurred speech and reeked of booze, McElroy reported. Asked for his driver's license, Kosar handed the officer credit cards. Asked whether he'd been drinking, Kosar replied "he was helping a friend," McElroy said.

And asked to recite the alphabet from E to W, Kosar stated "E,F,G,P,L,M,N,O,Q, and from there it trailed on with more letters that were not correct and ended at X," the officer reported.

Kosar refused breath tests. "He was told never to take those," McElroy said.

He was arrested and later released on $500 bond.

Kosar played for the University of Miami, the Browns and the Dallas Cowboys. He ended his career in 1996 after three seasons with the Dolphins.

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Despite his age, McGahee a good fit

At 31, Willis McGahee doesn’t fit the Browns’ analytical ideal for player age. 

The sweet spot is somewhere between 22 and 27 for all positions so that the team is, figuratively speaking, always green and growing. And a running back on the north side of 30 is pretty much considered someone who has merely grown old.

But the Browns were willing to make an exception in this case because they see McGahee, at the very least, as a one-year solution in their backfield, which was depleted by the season-ending broken leg suffered by Dion Lewis in the summer and the trade that sent Trent Richardson to the Colts last month.
They believed McGahee still has enough life in his legs to make a solid contribution on the field, but it is what he can bring from an off-the-field perspective that is equally valuable – especially for a game like Thursday night, when the Browns will be under the national spotlight as they take on the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The guy has a swagger, built through a career that includes two Pro Bowl appearances and the sort of longevity that is extremely rare in the NFL, especially for someone who carries the football. He has a certain spark and flare and fun-loving spirit that have a way of inspiring teammates to raise their game.
First, though, McGahee understood that he needed to demonstrate that he still had some game as well.

“That’s always going to be my thinking, regardless of I’m here next year or somewhere else next year,” he said. “You’ve always got to prove to the people that you can still play this game, because for some reason, everybody thinks this is a young man’s game, which it’s not.

“Like one of my coaches always used to say, ‘You’ve got the young bull and you’ve got the old bull. The old bull knows what to do. You let the young bulls to out there and get hit first.’ But at the end of the day, you’ve always got to prove yourself, especially at the position I play, because you bring in a running back every year.”

The Browns signed McGahee only days before inserting him in the lineup for their third game of the season, at Minnesota. They won, 31-27, but McGahee provided a mere eight carries for nine yards, a 1.1-yards-per-carry average. Other than a nine-yard run, it was a forgettable performance.

But that changed in last Sunday’s 17-6 win against the Bengals. McGahee carried 15 times for 46 yards. He had a modest 3.1 yards-per-carry average, but he did plenty to help the Browns grind out time and move the chains late in the game as they sealed the outcome with a 91-yard touchdown drive.

“From what I’ve learned is, guys don’t want to hear you talk about what you’re going to do; they want to see it,” McGahee said. “I know, for a fact, after they saw me run the ball against Cincinnati, everybody was like, ‘OK, he came here to play!’ I’m getting high-fives from everybody. It was like, ‘Hey, they’re finally opening up to me.’

“That’s a big step right there in the locker room. I think they’ve got faith in me. They were a little iffy at first. Everybody would be a little iffy at first, but they’ve got a little faith.”

McGahee, who began his NFL career as first-round draft pick of the Bills in 2003, is a good mentor for a team filled with younger players. In 11 NFL seasons -- four with the Bills, four with the Baltimore Ravens, and the previous two with the Denver Broncos -- the former University of Miami star has seen and done enough to share his good and bad experiences and what he learned along the way.

But he isn’t forcing any conversations. If a teammate wants his advice, all he has to do is ask. McGahee isn’t into preaching.

“I’m really not a big talker,” he said. “I know, when I was coming up, I didn’t want to hear people trying to tell me how to do this. I was always taught to figure it out on my own. I’m guessing that’s the old school in me.

“But, now, I have no problem helping out the guys. Like, (Chris Ogbonnayaicon-article-link) will ask me, ‘What did you see that I need to do on this?’ I’ll say, ‘You’ve just got to be patient, because it’s going to open up. If you go fast, it’s just going to be like a big, old pile. Just take your time and it’s going to open up.’ He took it and he got some good runs in (against Cincinnati). So I have no problem helping if you come ask.”

McGahee also has no problem seeing a modest number of carries, even though he insists he could handle a larger load because he is fully recovered from a torn medial collateral ligament and compression fracture in his right knee that he suffered last season with Denver.

He will do whatever the Browns want him to do … as long as the results continue to be what they’ve been for the past two weeks.

“We’re winning, so it’s all good,” McGahee said. “That’s what I came here to do: win.”

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Tavares Gooden Gets Workout

The Houston Texans blew a 20-3 lead against the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday, and one of the reasons for the second half collapse likely is Brian Cushing's absence. The Texans inside linebacker suffered a concussion midway through the third quarter, and was unable to return. There were plenty of reasons the Texans lost, but losing Cushing didn't help.

Reports out of Houston indicate Cushing is making good progress. The Houston Chronicle is reporting he looks good to start this Sunday against the 49ers. Head coach Gary Kubiak said "(Cushing’s) feeling much better. He was a part of the meetings. He was a part of everything that we were doing."

That being said, it is worth noting the Texans are bringing in former 49ers linebacker Tavares Gooden for a workout. Gooden shot out several tweets before and after his workout with the team. He has not yet signed with the Texans.

Gooden is a special teams player, so I imagine this is not likely connected to Cushing's recovery. That being said, it is still interesting timing to bring in a linebacker for a workout. The Texans will issue their first practice participation report Wednesday afternoon. We won't have final information at that point, but it will be worth tracking Cushing's progress.

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Lamar Miller: Sherman: Miller not running away from Daniel Thomas

Asked if he believed Lamar Miller was "distancing himself" from Daniel Thomas, Dolphins OC Mike Sherman said "I don't get that (sense)," and reiterated he wants to continue using both backs.
Miller rushed 11 times for 62 yards and a touchdown Monday, Thomas, four times for five yards. Sherman must not be watching the same games as the rest of us, as the talent gap between his two backs was on full display against the Saints. Given the ball on 3rd-and-inches on the Dolphins' opening possession — a drive in which Miller had been chewing up yards — Thomas got slammed for a two-yard loss. He later failed to convert a goal-line carry. For the season, Miller is averaging 4.6 yards on his 43 carries, while Thomas has averaged 2.8 yards on his 25 totes. It's painfully clear Miller needs a bigger role while Thomas needs to be phased out, but the Dolphins appear poised to remain stubborn for the time being.

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Vince Wilfork Thanks Fans, Encourages Teammates in Emotional Message

Vince Wilfork won’t be suiting up for the Patriots anytime soon, but the big fella sure knows how to make an impact, even while recovering from surgery. Wilfork, who underwent successful surgery earlier in the day, posted a message on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon, thanking fans for their well-wishes and sending encouragement to his teammates.

Check it out below in a message he called “Just trying to get my thoughts out.”

“I just want to thank everyone for your support and encouragement. Bianca is making sure I see all of the comments I wish I could respond to everyone. But please know your words are heard. One thing I know is I signed up to play football I don’t regret anything that has happened and there is no need to feel sorry about it. I’ve been blessed to only have had one surgery prior to today and that was in [high school]… I know what signing up to play football means and I know the rewards and the risks. This is my job and I will switch positions for now and play the role of patient but that is only temporary. I have so much confidence in our team and know that they will do great and I will be right besides them maybe not in uniform but in all other ways… Thanks again.”

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Bernie Kosar cracks jokes during weekend DUI arrest

Former Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins quarterback Bernie Kosar was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol on Sunday. According to the arrest document filed by the arresting officer, Kosar was stopped around 2:45 a.m. ET in Solon, Ohio for speeding. The document suggests that Kosar was going at a "steady speed" of 74 mph in a 50 mph construction zone with workers present.

After pulling over Kosar's black Cadillac, Officer Scott McElroy reportedly asked Kosar to present his driver's license. At this point, Kosar reportedly handed the officer two credit cards. McElroy said he observed slurred speech and a strong odor of alcoholic beverages at this time.

When asked to exit the vehicle and perform a field sobriety test (after a reported colossal failure to recite the alphabet from letters 'E' through 'W'), Kosar complied, but was unable to stand on one leg or perform the walk and turn test. When asked if there was anything preventing him from taking these tests, Kosar reportedly suggested he could not due to multiple knee and ankle surgeries because his "line couldn't block."

Kosar was then arrested and officially charged with OVI -- operating a vehicle while under the influence. Kosar played for the Browns for a full eight seasons before being released and signed by the Dallas Cowboys and later the Miami Dolphins. He was elected to the 1987 Pro Bowl and was an All-Pro that year, as well. He was with the Cowboys for their Super Bowl XXVII victory, though he was not the starter at this time.

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Ravens Trade For Jags Left Tackle: End of Road For Bryant McKinnie?

The Jacksonville Jaguars have agreed in principle to trade offensive tackle Eugene Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens.

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter first reported the deal.

The Ravens will send multiple third-day draft picks to Jacksonville in exchange for Monroe, a league source told Schefter. The deal is still pending a physical.
"It was shocking news," Monroe told The Associated Press. "It came out of nowhere for me. I'm just preparing to make the move. It's a fresh start."

Monroe, 26, was taken by the Jaguars with the eighth pick in the 2009 draft out of Virginia.

He has started 62 games over five seasons, including the team's past 30 games. He was Jacksonville's best offensive lineman this season, getting beat at times as he tried to pick up the slack for struggling guard Will Rackley. Rookie Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 draft, now will switch from right tackle to left tackle for the Jaguars.

The Ravens have rushed for only 256 yards this season -- the fifth-lowest total in the NFL -- and have allowed 12 sacks through four games.

Monroe likely will replace Bryant McKinnie, who has struggled this season and was involved in a party bus incident last week. McKinnie was benched for the entire 2012 regular season but redeemed himself by starting throughout the Ravens' Super Bowl run.

The Ravens re-signed McKinnie this offseason to a two-year, $6.3 million contract, which included a $2 million signing bonus.

With Monroe in the final year of his contract and the winless Jaguars clearly in the early phases of a complete rebuilding project, it made sense to trade him now and get something in return. If Monroe does break into Baltimore's starting lineup and plays well, it could mean a long-term deal for the former Virginia standout and Plainfield, N.J., native.

"I hope it works out," said Monroe, whose wife is from the Baltimore area. "I've never really been focused on a new contract. I've always just been the same guy, ready to give the best I've got and let everything work itself out."

The Ravens hope Monroe can help an inconsistent line that has had difficulty opening holes for running backs Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Baltimore allowed four sacks Sunday in a 23-20 loss to Buffalo.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn't single out McKinnie as the problem behind the team's lackluster running game, but it was apparent something had to be done after Baltimore set a franchise record for fewest rushing attempts (nine) against Buffalo. Baltimore also is 28th in the league in rushing, averaging 64 yards a game.

"I think the whole O-line is disappointing right now," Harbaugh said Monday. "There's no one more disappointed than they are right now. We've got to run block better, we've got to pass block better."

The question now in Jacksonville: Who's next? With Monroe gone, the team has just one player on the roster (defensive end Tyson Alualu) from any of the three drafts between 2008 and 2010.

The Jaguars aren't close to being competitive, so it makes sense to try to trade players with value who aren't in general manager Dave Caldwell's long-term plans.

The players could include running back Maurice Jones-Drew, tight end Marcedes Lewis and linebacker Paul Posluszny.


Willis McGahee: He's no Trent Richardson, and take that however you want

Mr. Bones: A half-hour after practice, Willis McGahee walked into the Browns locker room still shivering from a 15-minute session in the cold tub.

“These old bones aren’t 21 anymore,” he said, grabbing his shoulders with both hands.

Monday is normally a “spa day” in the NFL. But when you have a Thursday game, there is no time for your body to recover. Monday is jammed with game review, game plan preview and a light practice.

The turnaround from a Sunday game to a Thursday game is a challenge even for a young, healthy player. For a 31-year-old running back with three rebuilt ligaments in one knee and one healed ligament in the other, it is a brutal part of the job.

“Being a running back, you’re hit on every play,” McGahee said after Monday’s practice. “You’re gonna have more bumps and bruises than the norm. It’s a quick turnaround. The body’s used to resting after a Sunday. But we had to get out there. At the end of the day, you have to be a professional.”

McGahee didn’t play in a game for 10 months, and now has played in two in the span of 10 days since joining the Browns as Trent Richardson’s replacement.

As McGahee prepares for his third game Thursday against the Buffalo Bills – the team that drafted him in the first round in 2003 knowing he would miss that entire year because of a devastating knee injury in his last college game – it is obvious that he will be an integral player with the Browns.

“The leadership he’s bringing and the attitude he’s bringing to the offense, and to our team, I think has really helped our guys,” said coach Rob Chudzinski.
Nobody on the team knows McGahee better than Chudzinski, who was his offensive coordinator at University of Miami more than 10 years ago.

Winning them over: McGahee joined the Browns on the Friday before the Minnesota game. He was the front office’s choice to replace the traded Richardson. McGahee  suited up and ran eight times for 9 yards in that 31-27 win. It wasn’t a memorable debut, but the fact he was able to even compete and give the coaches an option helped the cause.

McGahee vowed to be better in his second game after a full week’s work -- and he was. Sunday against Cincinnati, McGahee carried 15 times for 46 yards.
In the clinching, 91-yard touchdown drive, McGahee ran the ball six times for 33 yards, including a 9-, 5- and 9-yard back-breaking sequence at the end to set up a 1-yard TD pass to Chris Ogbonnaya.

“I think it showed them that I’m here to play,” McGahee said. “I ain’t Trent Richardson. But I’m here to play. I’m gonna just be Willis McGahee.

“That drive showed that we wanted it. We wanted to go out there and put it away. Our defense was playing lights out. It was our job to get on their level.”

In the locker room after the 17-6 win over Cincinnati, a game that moved the Browns into a three-way tie for first in the AFC North, McGahee emotionally accepted high-fives from teammates. It was a “Welcome to the team” moment.

“I think Willis, even though he’s been here only a week, he understands where the holes are,” said left tackle Joe Thomas. “Sometimes you just got to put your head down and run forward for 5-6 yards. Not every run has to be a home run. I think that’s a good understanding of the blocking schemes.

“When you get somebody that can get 5, 6, 7, 8 (yards) a crack, the coordinator’s just gonna keep dialing up runs. I think the line and the running backs did a nice job of finishing the game on that last drive with a physical running game.”

Been there, done that: McGahee has 8,152 rushing yards on his record, including 1,000-plus-yard seasons with Buffalo (two), Baltimore and Denver. Upon joining the Ravens and Broncos, he assumed integral roles on teams that made the playoffs.

The Browns are one of the youngest teams in the league. Their offense needed a few experienced players to show them the way. Davone Bess is one. Brian Hoyer is another. And now McGahee can make a mark.

“This reminds me of my first year in Denver (2011),” McGahee said. “ It was really a young team. We had Champ (Bailey), an older guy. I was one of them. (Brandon) Stokley was another. But it was really a younger team. That’s what I see in this team. It’s gonna click. It’s gonna happen.”

Chudzinski said McGahee “brings some of that swagger to us.”

“When you start winning, everybody’s swagger’s gonna change a little bit,” McGahee said. “I’m just easing into it. I’m not trying to be rah, rah, rah right off the bat. You have to earn that.”

On Monday, McGahee earned a trip to the sauna after his session in the cold tub. I expect McGahee will earn more than that before this season is over.

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DJ Williams: In the Bears he trusts

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- D.J. Williams is talking barbecue, business and football, but the conversation keeps coming back to the issue of trust.

Williams said he trusts his three buddies from the University of Miami with whom he has partnered in two soon-to-be Brother Jimmy's BBQ franchises.

He trusts the Bears after giving him a fresh start and then keeping their faith in him despite a calf injury that kept him out all of training camp. And he trusts that Bears fans will give him a chance after his final two years in Denver, which have him grateful to still be playing.

"I think me leaving Denver was the perfect situation," said Williams, suspended for nine games by the NFL last season for two separate incidents dating back to 2010. "The first thing for me is always to be somewhere where people want you. [The Broncos] weren't interested in me anymore. I really wasn't into what was going on there and how I was treated that year I came back from my suspension, so I think it worked out well. Everybody got a good part of the deal."

In March, Williams signed a one-year, incentive-laden, nonguaranteed contract with a base value of $900,000 to replace Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker. But he may be gone before Bears fans have a chance to get to know and trust him.

A former first-round pick of the Broncos, Williams, 31, seemed to hit his stride in Week 3 at Pittsburgh with two sacks, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble, and he has 14 tackles in four games. The Steelers game, said his mother Sherri Gonzales, was a key in her son's comeback of sorts, and she heard it in his voice afterward.”

"How he looked on the field in that third game is exactly who he is and what he is, and no matter what anyone says, they can't take that from him," she said. "In his head and in his heart, that's who he is. ... That was a long time in coming and he definitely deserved that game. He proved to everybody he deserves to be in the NFL and he deserves to be a Bear for the rest of his career."

Gonzales said things got so bad in Denver after the suspensions -- one was for violating the league's banned-substances policy and the other after a jury found him guilty of driving while impaired in a case that dated back to 2010 -- that he was stopped indiscriminately by police in his own gated community.

Williams said, however, that his love of the game never wavered.

"Personally, I'm not bitter," he said. "But seeing the things that happen on and off the field, it's a crazy business. A lot of the stories that came out about me -- I did some wrong things but a lot of the truth was missed, and in those situations, I just decided to be quiet. The story is already out. But once you get out on the field and you start laughing and joking around with the guys, you realize why you continue to wake up every morning and put your body through it."

Gonzales was a former junior Olympian in track, a college softball player, and a figure competitor in physique exhibition events (stressing muscle definition over size, unlike bodybuilding). She said D.J.'s father was also well-built and that their son is a product of his parents.

"There were articles when D.J. was in 10th grade, with reporters calling him a freak of nature because he was so big. There were pictures of him where he looked like a grown man. He's just always been big and athletic," said Gonzales, who said her son excelled in football, baseball, track and basketball, dunking at age 13 at Jason Kidd's basketball camp.

Williams wanted to be a running back and played fullback his freshman year at Miami before switching to linebacker, where he was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award with teammate Jonathan Vilma his junior year and again his senior year.

His friendships with Vilma, now with New Orleans, and fellow linebacker Jon Beason, now with Carolina, expanded into a business partnership.

"We made sure they were good investments, nothing ridiculous," said Williams, who -- like the other two -- owns a 17 percent piece of the restaurants and is also a part of a "very small investment" in some lounges. "Nothing that would hurt my bank account too much if it didn't pan out. I think that's the biggest mistake most guys make."

Williams, who said he would also like to own a gym one day, speaks to his partners at least once a week, and each occupies a different role in the business.”

"I like to say I'm the party and event coordinator," he said. "Jonathan Vilma does the books. Restaurants and clubs are the worst things in the world because they flip-flop so many times, and you have to have someone you trust watching the money when you're not there. There are so many intangibles where you can lose money, but this one is kind of a family-oriented thing -- basically four guys that went to school together and the owner who really doesn't want to tarnish his name, so we've got a good crew."

In August 2012, the restaurant received national attention when a sign in the window reading "Do Not Serve This Man" (with a picture of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell) was photographed and spread via Twitter.

"One of the managers, I think, put that up, and Vilma and I got a lot of attention for it," Williams said. "I was in training camp with the Broncos and Vilma was suspended." Vilma was a central figure in the Saints' bounty scandal that led to the suspension of four players, but the suspensions were eventually vacated by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who was appointed by Goodell to review the penalties. Vilma filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell, but it was later dismissed in federal court.

"Once it hit the media, it made it seem like we put it up," Williams said. "At the time, Vilma was beefing with the commissioner and I stick with my friends. But the truth was, neither of us put it up, and it was only up for one day when the picture was taken."

That loyalty and trust between friends, Williams said, is nothing new for him.

"I've pretty much been that way my whole life," he said. "I really only talk to people I know. I do have an outgoing personality, but it's only outgoing with people I know. If I don't know you, I really don't talk to you. There are only so many hours in the day and only so much time, and I'd rather waste it with people I have genuine relationships with."

His best friend, he said, is still a guy he met when the two were 9 years old.

"He's been everywhere," Williams said. "He came to Miami when I was in college. He used to come to Denver all the time. He's already been to Chicago twice. I'm his kids' godfather and vice versa. He considers my mom his mom. And besides that, the only guys I hang out with are guys who I went to college with. I doubt I'm going to make any new friends in Chicago unless they're teammates.

"It's a guy thing. I think after around 21, guys don't make friends. Girls can do that, be in the bathroom, 'Your shoes are cute,' come out and exchange numbers. Men really don't do that."

Williams, however, has forged friendships quickly with his teammates, including rookie Jon Bostic, whose solid play while Williams missed all of training camp had some Bears fans calling for the second-round pick to start at linebacker when the season began.

"D.J. has helped me since day one. I'm real close with him," said Bostic, who has also sought Williams' advice on future business plans. "He'll come out and say, 'Hey, did you see that player whatever?' ... He's played in this league 10 years, so there's a lot I can learn from him."

Williams said it meant a lot to him that Bears coaches stuck with him and started him when the season began.

"We communicated the whole time, and they told me if I came back and I was healthy, the spot was still mine," he said. "It was a good feeling."

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said the decision was not a difficult one.

"[Williams is] a veteran payer; he has a tremendous amount of experience, has a high football IQ," Tucker said. "He's a good football player, and he's been that for a long time. We had him before his injury and we saw that. He was that. And we felt once he got healthy that he'd eventually get back to full speed and continue in his development in this system.

"I really like D.J. He's a great guy to be around. He loves football, loves to talk football, has a lot of experience in a lot of different schemes. He's excellent with his teammates, always willing to help. He asks good questions and he works hard."

As for replacing a legend like Urlacher, Williams trusts that his teammates and Bears fans will know that it won't get in his way.

"I don't think about it," he said. "That's just [added] pressure and something good for talk radio. I just try to come out and perform, make sure I'm a solid player for the defense. It wouldn't matter to me if I had my best career stats if we did poorly. To me, I'm just filling in that spot, filling in the void."

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Antrel Rolle calls out teammates

One day after saying that the winless New York Giants can go 12-0 for the rest of the season, Antrel Rolle said that some of his teammates don't share his confidence.

"Honestly speaking, I really don't believe that everyone believes that we can win within our locker room," Rolle said Tuesday during an appearance on WFAN radio in New York. "And it's hard. There's guys that haven't been there before, there's guys that haven't been affiliated with how the Giants make comebacks and how we can come back in the games, or how we can overcome adversity.

"So I really don't expect every guy to believe, to have the same belief that I have, or maybe the other people that have been around the organization have."

The Giants are 0-4 for the first time since 1987, and the first time in a non-strike season since 1979.

"We put some awful football out there," Rolle said. "We all understand that, but it's not too late for us to turn it around."

Rolle, one of the Giants' captains, asked head coach Tom Coughlin if he could address the team during their meeting Monday, one day after New York's 31-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fellow captain Justin Tuck came to the defense of Coughlin following the loss to the Chiefs, telling the New York Daily News, "If anyone turns on our coach, I would be the first one to punch him in the mouth."

"I'll back up exactly what Justin Tuck is saying," Rolle said Tuesday. "Because it's not our coach under any means. It's not our coach -- we have an outstanding coach. We have an excellent coach. We have a coach that has a fire within his heart, we have a coach that's motivated, we have a coach that believes we can win.

"Coach is coach, the players play the game. It's not our head coach. And I'll be the first to say that, I'll be the second to say it, I'll be the third to say it. Coach Coughlin has nothing, nothing, nothing at all to do [with] what we have been displaying out there on Sundays."

The Giants, who have played three of their first four games on the road, host the division rival Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) on Sunday. With the first-place Dallas Cowboys at just 2-2 and facing the undefeated Denver Broncos this week, the Giants can get right back in the NFC East race with a victory.

Rolle issued a rallying cry to the fans on Tuesday as well.

"Just bring the enthusiasm, bring the excitement," Rolle said. "We want to hear that loud noise, we want to hear that roar like we heard when we were making our Super Bowl run.

"We need that same intensity from our fans. We know we haven't given em much to get excited for, to 'Rah rah rah' for, but just bring it and we promise we're gonna be there and we're gonna bring our best."

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Shane Larkin talks about wanting to show he wasn’t a wasted pick and how was snubbed by ESPN

Shane Larkin stopped for an interview in between photo shoots and recording TV promos at Mavericks media day on Monday.

He didn’t get more than 30 seconds in before fellow rookie Ricky Ledo interrupted. The two have become fast friends in their short time with the Mavericks, so much so that it led to questions about whether the two had known each other before hand.

They hadn’t, but the two are just a year apart in age. Larkin remembered Ledo as one of the top high school prospects.

“He was a big time guy, a top 10 recruit,” Larkin said. “He was supposed to be here. I wasn’t ranked and all that. I wasn’t supposed to be here.”
Larkin still remembers his rankings: 72nd overall on and outside of the top 100 on ESPN.

“I paid a lot of attention to it,” Larkin said. “On ESPN I was ranked, and then some guy went there and he didn’t think I was a good player and I dropped like 40 spots. … Now I just go back and laugh at it. I was the 28th-ranked point guard (ESPN actually ranked him 26th) in my high school class. Then in the 2013 NBA draft I was the fourth point guard taken.

“It’s just a testament to hard work. Recruiting guys don’t always know what they’re talking about. They said I was too small, not fast enough, wasn’t strong enough. Now I’m here.”

Larkin still has a long journey to take in order to play in his first NBA game though, after breaking his ankle during practice this summer. He said the ankle caved as he tried to jump for an easy score after a steal in practice.

“It was real tough at first because you want to play in the summer league,” Larkin said. “You want to get your name out there, you want to show all the Mavs fans, the whole organization that they didn’t waste the 18th pick.”

He originally expected to miss five to six months, but after electing to stay in Dallas during the summer to rehab, he said he’s ahead of schedule.
The beginning of training camp is out of the question for Larkin, as is the first couple of preseason games, but he feels confident in a return before the first regular season game.

The stay during the summer has helped Larkin, but he knows he’ll miss some of the chemistry that comes with playing with his teammates during training camp and in those preseason games.

“Once you get out on the court it’s different,” Larkin said. “It’s going to hard to learn how they play, but it’s not really hard to play with Dirk. Get him the ball when he’s open.”

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John Salmons Surprised Kings Kept Him

Veteran swingman John Salmons figured he was expendable.

The Kings hadn’t used their amnesty waiver provision on him, so it seemed logical that his $7.6 million salary might be used to free salary cap space for this season.

“A little bit,” said Salmons, when asked if he was surprised to still be with the Kings. “A little bit. I can’t lie about that. But I’m good with being here, but I am a little surprised.”

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NFLU TD Streak Extended to 15 Weeks

Current Streak (Week 7 2012 – Present) Totals: 15 Weeks & 48 Total TDs

Week 4, 2013
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. St. Louis Rams; 34-yard TD run)
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (1TD vs. Jacksonville Jaguars; 5-yard TD reception)
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins 49ers (1 TD vs. New Orleans Saints; 5-yard TD run)
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (2 TDs vs. Miami Dolphins; 27-yard TD reception; 43-yard TD reception)

Week 3, 2013
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (2 TDs vs. Arizona Cardinals; 16-yard TD reception, 7-yard TD reception)

Week 2, 2013
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 56-yard TD reception)
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (1 TD vs. Buffalo Bills; 13-yard TD reception)
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins 49ers (1 TD vs. Indianapolis Colts; 10-yard TD run)
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TDs vs. Green Bay Packers; 9-yard TD reception)

Week 1, 2013
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (1TD vs. Oakland Raiders; 12-yard TD reception)
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Atlanta Falcons; 7-yard TD reception)
Kellen Winslow Jr., New York Jets (1 TD vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 7-yard TD reception)
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. Green Bay Packers; 1-yard TD run)
Leonard Hankerson, Washington Redskins (2 TDs vs. Philadelphia Eagles; 10-yard TD reception; 24-yard TD reception)

Week 17, 2012
Jon Vilma, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Carolina Panthers; 18-yard INT return for TD) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Carolina Panthers; 19-yard TD reception)

Week 16, 2012
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TD vs. Philadelphia Eagles; 22-yard TD reception) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (1 TD vs. Kansas City Chiefs; 7-yard TD reception)

Week 15, 2012
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (1 TD vs. Indianapolis Colts; 3-yard TD reception) Leonard Hankerson, Washington Redskins (2 TDs vs. Cleveland Browns; 54-yard TD reception; 2-yard TD reception) Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns (1 TD vs. Washington Redskins; 69-yard TD reception)

Week 14, 2012
Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns (1 TD vs. Kansas City Chiefs; 93-yard punt return for TD) Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (1 TD vs. Atlanta Falcons; 25-yard TD reception) Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (1 TD vs. Tennessee Titans; 4-yard TD reception) Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. Miami Dolphins; 1-yard TD run)

Week 13, 2012
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (1 TD vs. Kansas City Chiefs; 47-yard TD reception) Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. St. Louis Rams; 1-yard TD run)

Week 12, 2012
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TD vs. Dallas Cowboys; 6-yard TD reception) Thanksgiving Day Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. New Orleans Saints; 6-yard TD reception)

Week 11, 2012
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TD vs. Philadelphia Eagles; 61-yard TD reception) Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (1 TD vs. Jacksonville Jaguars; 48-yard TD reception) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Oakland Raiders; 1-yard TD reception)

Week 10, 2012
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (2 TDs vs. Atlanta Falcons; 29-yard TD reception; 14-yard TD reception) Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (2 TDs vs. Denver Broncos; 4-yard TD reception; 5-yard TD reception) Colin McCarthy, Tennessee Titans (1 TD vs. Miami Dolphins; 49-yard interception return for TD) Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers (1 TD vs. St. Louis Rams; 20-yard TD run)

Week 9, 2012
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts (1 TD vs. Miami Dolphins; 9-yard TD reception)

Week 8, 2012
Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins (1 TD vs. New York Jets; Punt block recovery in end zone) Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TD vs. Pittsburgh Steelers; 2-yard TD reception) Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (1 TD vs. New Orleans Saints; 1-yard TD run) Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (1 TD vs. Denver Broncos; 18-yard TD reception)

Week 7, 2012
Santana Moss, Washington Redskins (1 TD vs. New York Giants; 26-yard TD reception)

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Jimmy Graham adds post-up game to his TD celebrations


After catching a 27-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter of tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the Saints and the Dolphins, former college basketball player and star tight end Jimmy Graham added a bit of an intro to the standard “dunk the ball over the uprights” touchdown celebration.

The “posting up the imaginary defender before dunking” move is now officially in Graham’s repertoire.

We wonder if he worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon in the offseason to add that post move to his game, or if it just came naturally to him.

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Bernie Kosar arrested on DUI charge, pleads not guilty

Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar has pleaded not guilty to drunken driving charges in suburban Cleveland.

Bedford Municipal Clerk of Courts Thomas Day says Kosar's attorney sent the not guilty plea on Kosar's behalf Monday. A Dec. 9 pretrial hearing was scheduled.

Police in Solon, Ohio say Kosar was pulled over for speeding early Sunday and officers smelled a strong odor of alcohol. The police statement says Kosar took sobriety tests and was taken to jail.

Kosar didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

The 49-year-old Kosar has publicly talked about how head injuries sustained during his NFL career have affected his speech, making him sometimes slur his words. He has also been addicted to pain medications, gone through a divorce and had financial troubles.

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Andre Johnson: I don't care what fans think

It was a rough day to be a fan of the Houston Texans. The Texans blew a 20-3 halftime lead against Seattle and ended up losing to the Seahawks 23-20 in overtime.

One of the biggest plays in the game came in the fourth quarter when Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman picked off Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. Sherman returned the interception 58-yards for a touchdown, tying the game at 20 with 2:40 left in the fourth quarter.

As you can imagine, the fans at Reliant Stadium in Houston weren't too thrilled with Schaub's pick, so they started to boo him. It wasn't just Schaub that was getting booed either, the fans booed the entire offense on the Texans next offensive possession.

Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson doesn't seem to mind being booed because he doesn't care what the fans think.

"Fans are going to be fans," Johnson said, via "You have some that are loyal. You have some that are fair-weather, and they only come around when you win. I've been here when it was 2-14 and there was hardly anybody in the stands, so I really don't care about what fans think. A lot of them don't understand what players go through. They can talk about what they want to talk about."

It's probably a good thing that Johnson doesn't really 'care about what fans think' because some might not like him after reading his comments and some might even boo him. Although they might not boo him because he's the Texans leading receiver. Johnson led all players in the game on Sunday with nine catches for 110 yards.

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Vince Wilfork tears Achilles, will miss Patriots' season

The New England Patriots' 30-23 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night appears to have come at a heavy price -- 325 pounds, to be exact.

Nose tackle Vince Wilfork left the game in the first quarter and didn't return. He was carted off the field and later seen with his right foot in awalking boot.

NFL Media's Albert Breer reported Monday that Wilfork tore his Achilles and will miss the remainder of the season, according to a source.
The Boston Globe first reported the injury. 

A first-round pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, Wilfork has played his entire 10-year career with the Patriots, winning one Super Bowl and playing in two others. He is considered one of the league's premiere run stoppers. If he is done for the season, it would be a serious blow to New England's postseason hopes.

Undrafted rookie Joe Vellano recorded one sack Sunday and played well in Wilfork's place, but the Patriots are dangerously thin at the defensive tackle position. Vellano, waiver pick-up Chris Jones, and 10-year veteran Tommy Kelly (in his first year in New England) are the only tackles currently on the roster.

Aside from Tom Brady, Wilfork has been the Patriots' most valuable player. At times he shut down the opponents' inside run game by himself. The Patriots now need to add depth to the position. We wouldn't be surprised to see Bill Belichick move around pieces, such as Rob Ninkovich, within his front seven to cover the loss of Wilfork, the team's defensive captain.

The Patriots can't seem to shake the injury bug to key players. It hasn't cost them a game thus far, but losing their best defender will test Belichick's genius once again.

UPDATE: During an appearance with WEEI-FM in Boston, Belichick commented on Wilfork's injury, saying, "it's probably unlikely that he'll be able to play again this year."

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Considering Wilfork replacements

ATLANTA -- It's the obvious question: Who might the Patriots sign to fill the considerable void created with Vince Wilfork reportedly tearing his Achilles?

Most likely option. A practice-squad promotion for first-year player Marcus Forston or rookie A.J. Francis.

Forston is a University of Miami alum who has been mentored by Wilfork, also a Miami alum. The Patriots liked Francis enough to claim him on waivers from the Dolphins at the final roster cutdown. Either player would add depth behind Tommy Kelly, Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, who are already on the roster.

If the Patriots stay in-house, the biggest trickle-down effect is that it will likely mean an increased role for Vellano, who opened the year as the third tackle. The undrafted rookie from Maryland averaged 26 defensive snaps per game through Week 3. His snaps obviously spiked considerably higher than that on Sunday night.

Vellano (6-foot-2, 300 pounds), a hard-working player who might be considered undersized by NFL standards but who wins with technique (e.g. third-quarter sack versus Peter Konz on Sunday), was one of the surprise stories of training camp.

Armstead another in-house option, but status unclear. First-year player Armond Armstead, who isn’t eligible to practice until after the sixth week because he’s on the reserve/non-football illness list, is more of a wild card. It is unclear if the former Canadian Football League player, who the Patriots were initially counting on as a No. 3 option at defensive tackle before he underwent surgery for an infection before training camp, will be ready to help the team this year.

Those with past connections. Kyle Love and Ron Brace remain free agents, and while the Patriots released both players in hopes of moving on, perhaps the team would now view them differently with Wilfork injured. In more of a long-shot scenario, Richard Seymour would also fall into that category.

The pure nose tackle type. Similar to when the Patriots traded for Ted Washington in 2003, and then brought in Keith Traylor in 2004, the Patriots could tap the veteran market for a big-bodied, two-down nose tackle type. Would someone like longtime Pittsburgh anchor Casey Hampton have anything left, assuming he'd even be interested? The concern, in general terms, is that an older, bigger nose tackle who hasn't been in a training camp usually is often viewed as a greater injury risk. That's why this is viewed as a less likely option than an internal promotion.

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Leonard Hankerson goes for 49 yards in Week 4

Leonard Hankerson caught four passes for 49 yards in the Redskins' Week 4 win over the Raiders.
He was targeted seven times, playing ahead of Josh Morgan for the third straight week. Hankerson is big and runs savvy routes, but he's not an explosive player and lacks sure hands. He's a WR3/4 in fantasy leagues. The Redskins have a bye week coming up. Keep Hankerson rostered on your own whims.

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Reggie Wayne goes for 100 yards & touchdown

Reggie Wayne caught five balls for 100 yards and a touchdown in the Colts' Week 4 win over Jacksonville.

He was targeted a team-high 11 times. Through four weeks, Wayne is on pace for 88 catches, 1,200 yards, and eight TDs. Although the Colts' lack of passing-game volume will likely cap Wayne's WR1 potential, he's squarely in the mix as an every-week WR2. Start Wayne against Seattle in Week 5; he plays frequently in the slot and should avoid Richard Sherman's shadow for most of the snaps.

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Santana Moss Not Pondering His Legacy Just Yet

Lost in the discussion of the team’s slow start is the steady, reliable performance of veteran receiver Santana Mossicon-article-link, who stands on the precipice of a number of career milestones.

With five more receptions, Moss becomes the ninth active player in the NFL to reach 700 career receptions.

With his receptions, he will pass all-time great Gary Clark (549) for third in team history for career receptions as a Redskin.

With 29 more receiving yards to become the fourth player in team history to amass 7,500 Redskins receiving yards (Clark, Art Monk, Charley Taylor).
And with his next touchdown reception, Moss will tie Stephen Davis for 10th-most total touchdowns in team history (48).

With so many milestones at his fingertips, Moss would be well within his right to sit back and admire his legacy with the Washington Redskins.
But that can and will have to wait for another time as Moss still has too much to accomplish in the moment.

“I probably will down the road. All that stuff will come one day when I can sit back and reflect but right now my main goal is to continue to get better and focus on how I can be my best for the team,” he said, shaking his head in front of his locker. “Right now my main focus is to continue to get better and grow as a receiver.

“You would probably think it’s hard for a 13-year veteran to continue to get better and to continue to learn, but I learn every day.”

Moss has made an unmistakable impact on the Redskins in the 2000s, developing from an uncatchable deep threat operating on the fringe of the offense, to a wily veteran capable of exploiting soft spots in the coverage anywhere on the field.

For any decrease in raw physical talent with age, the 34-year-old receiver has compensated with his cerebral mastery of the game.  

“I think what is helping me grow is having a whole new outlook on how you can grow at that position,” he said. “As far as learning a lot more on how I can beat a guy, being on the inside and different things I can do with my God-given talent.”

Unbelievably, Moss’ God-given talent was once questioned in New York, where he was a hard-luck youngster trying to live up to his draft billing with the New York Jets.

“The media got on me earlier when I had my injury,” Moss said, referring to the series of leg injuries he suffered as a rookie. “Being a kid, not knowing how to handle myself and not playing a full year of football was tough.”

For a young Moss, New York was a long way from his home and alma mater in Miami, Fla., and the character assassination in the media made the Big Apple unbearable.

“I took it to heart, and I got down on myself,” he admitted, thinking back. “One guy in the media picked on me; I don’t know why. It could have been something about Miami but it wasn’t me because I treated everybody with the same respect.”

But the negative attention was a net positive for the talented youngster, as Santana Moss hardened his resolve and learned the business side of the NFL.

After just two years in New York, the former top prospect was sent packing to Washington in exchange for Laveranues Coles. With a clean bill of health and a fresh start, Moss had the perfect situation to thrive.

“I found out early you go through those things for a reason. It helped me be the person I am and the player I am,” Moss said. “When I step out there on the field, it gave me another chip on my shoulder. It gave me something else for me to go out and prove.”

Not surprisingly, Moss made an immediate impact for the Redskins, catching four passes for 96 yards in his first game in the burgundy and gold.

He finished his first season in the nation’s capital with 84 receptions for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns. Better yet, he finally had the support of a fan base hungry for a playmaker.

“Fans were pleased with what I did,” he said with a shrug. “I learned that after I left New York, when you get the feedback from the fans. The media and fans gave me a chance to be who I can be.”

Dubbed “The Cowboy Killer” by fans, Moss has had some of his best games against the Redskins archrivals, the Dallas Cowboys. His performance against the division rivals helped bring pride back to Washington, revitalizing a once-sagging rivalry with 84 receptions for 1,189 yards and seven touchdowns.
Through all of the good times and lean years, one constant has been the reliable play of No. 89.

“Once you have been playing this game as long as I have, you realize that there are things that you are going to have to deal with everyday differently,” he explained. “That’s why I never look at anything that has been done.

“I always try to look ahead and try to be better because you can’t look at last year or last month.”

Letting the memories fade from his mind, Moss collected his practice gear and began to prepare himself for yet another day of practice in the NFL. Helmet, mouth guard, gloves, cleats, pads and jersey, and the all-important chip on his shoulder.

Hard-earned milestones lie ahead for Santana Moss, but that doesn’t help him prepare for another day of practice. As quickly as the topic is discussed, it is forgotten.

“It’s amazing. Like I said before, I probably will look back and reflect,” he said. “But really, that stuff doesn’t come to mind until you all tell me about it.”

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Graham fixed on proving self, not contract

METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham stressed again Saturday that he is not concerned about his contract situation and is strictly focused on football -- something that has been working awfully well for the reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

The topic of Graham’s contract came up again because of a report by Pro Football Talk earlier in the week that said the Saints had made an offer at some unspecified point but Graham’s camp had not responded.

“I’m not really sure where all of these rumors are coming from, but for me, that whole situation isn’t important to me right now,” said Graham, who is in the final year of his rookie deal. “I know I’m going to keep going out and do what I do. Every Sunday and Monday, I’m going to go out and play football and play to the best of my abilities. The rest will take care of itself.”

When asked about how it’s become an increasingly hot topic among fans, who scream or tweet, “Pay him!” every time he does well, Graham laughed.

“You know, that comment is funny," Graham said. "I get paid every two weeks here. I’m not really sure what everybody is talking about."

“For me, it really is all football,” Graham added. “I’m a very hungry player right now. I feel like I have a lot to show. I’m going to try to do all I can to put the team in the best situation to win. So all the comments and the things that people say doesn’t faze me or get to me. I’m going to go out on Sunday and give all I have.”

Graham made no secret in the offseason about how determined he is to make up for what he considered a down year in 2012. Although he caught 85 passes for 982 yards and nine touchdowns last year, his performance wasn’t consistently up to his standard. He battled a wrist injury all year and led the NFL with 14 dropped passes, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

This year, he certainly appears to be back in peak form. Graham has 23 catches for 358 yards and four touchdowns. He leads the NFL with 19 catches for first downs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He has been credited with two drops.

“You know, this season for me is everything about proving the type of player that I am,” Graham said. “I feel like I disappointed myself last year and I wasn’t able to do the things that I wanted to do. I mean, if you look at the stats, some people laugh at it because I had a decent year stat-wise. But as far as putting this team in the best opportunity to win and making the plays that I know I can make … so now I play with every emotion that I have in my body. I play because I feel like I have a lot to prove.”

Graham, who had wrist surgery immediately after last season, said his improved health has a lot to do with his improved play this year. He also said he and quarterback Drew Brees have seemed to lock in together well this year. And he said he’s been fortunate to wind up in single coverage in many situations.

“This offseason is the hardest that I’ve worked in, not only rehab but just on little things, you know, film room,” Graham said. “But I think more than anything, I’m playing with more emotion than I ever have.”

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Bryant McKinnie fined $7,875 by NFL for unnecessary roughness

Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie was fined $7,875 by the league for unnecessary roughness, according to an NFL spokesman.

McKinnie committed two facemask penalties during a 30-9 win over the Houston Texans. Those personal fouls came during the second quarter, stalling a drive.

Houston Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus was fined $15,750 for roughing the passer during the game. Mercilus was penalized for hitting Joe Flacco in the chin area.

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Reggie Wayne still going strong at 34

INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne wakes up, climbs out of bed and doesn’t feel like his body has aged to the point where he needs to even contemplate how long he plans to continue his career.

"As soon as I start waking up on a consistent basis and my bones crack and ache and I put that window in there, that’s the day I should probably stop playing," Wayne said. "I’m just taking it one year at a time. I feel good now."

All you have to do is show up for a training-camp practice and you’ll see the 34-year-old Wayne still on the field after some of his teammates have left for the day and he’s catching passes – low, high, one-handed – perfecting his craft on the Jugs machine. Wayne said during training camp that he prepares each offseason as if he's competing for a roster spot. That goes back to his days at the University of Miami, where you had to remain healthy and productive to ensure you stayed on the field.

"It was kind of mandated that the only way you came out of the game was if you got a bone showing [through the skin]," Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was with Wayne in Miami, said. "Otherwise you stay in and play."

Wayne is humble enough not to say he’s the leader of the team. But he is one of the leaders based off how his younger teammates look up to him.

“I won’t say I set the standard,” Wayne said. “I’m not the only guy who practices hard. We have quite a few guys who do that. They may look at me because I’ve played longer, but we have quite a few guys who bust their tails each day. I was doing the same things back in my Miami days, way back then. That’s what got me going. It’s something you have to take pride in, and not everybody wants to go out there every day. You have to be disciplined to go out there and fight.”

Wayne isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. He has appeared in 185 straight games, the second-longest active streak in the league, according to Elias Sports Bureau, and he’s 15 catches shy of 1,000 for his career.

“Not really,” Pagano said when asked if he’s surprised Wayne is still playing at high level. “I’m screaming at him from the sidelines in those couple catch-and-runs [against San Francisco]. We talk about run after catch. That doesn’t apply to Reggie. I’m screaming to get down, self-preservation. That’s just the type of player he is. He doesn’t know any better.”

Wayne added, "I say it all the time, out of all the accolades I have, the one that means so much to me is being able to be out there every game day."

Wayne has 17 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown this season. He’s still the team’s No. 1 receiver but the days of having to shoulder the load should lessen now that the Colts have a legitimate rushing attack with Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw (when he returns from his neck injury).

“I’m in my 13th year, I’m not worried about my numbers,” Wayne said. “All I want to do is win.”

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After having promising career derailed, Kellen Winslow is back in the game with Jets

Kellen Winslow Jr. was one of those toddlers who never fell down. His father can't remember ever seeing his son trip or display an ounce of clumsiness. From the day he took his first step, he was supremely comfortable in his own body.

"I knew by the age of 7, he was going to be a better athlete than I ever was," said Kellen Winslow Sr., the Chargers' Hall of Fame tight end. "I realized that it was going to be my goal to keep him away from tackle football as long as I possibly could."

Winslow grew up playing youth soccer, basketball and baseball in La Jolla, Calif. He also explored other interests such as music before he was allowed to join his high school football team as a freshman.

Thanks to his father, Winslow grew up knowing that there was a lot more to life than football. And that may go a long way in explaining how Winslow ended up being a Jet this season, how he persevered through two tough periods in his life in which the sport he always loved suddenly was taken away from him.
Winslow, 30, ignited a minor fantasy football frenzy in Week 1 when in his first game in almost a year, he caught seven passes for 79 yards and one touchdown in the Jets' win over Tampa Bay.

The performance caught many off guard, because there had been plenty of people who questioned just how much mileage was left in Winslow when the Jets signed him in May.

From 2006 to 2011, Winslow was one of the most productive tight ends in the league, averaging 72 catches a season. He was able to do this despite ripping up his knee in a motorcycle accident that caused him to miss the entire 2005 season as he battled staph infections and endured knee surgeries.

In 2012, however, Winslow played in only one game -- he had one catch for New England -- after being a late-summer cut by Seattle when he refused to take a salary cut. Though there was speculation that Winslow was cut from the Patriots because of knee troubles, he has said the problem was that by the time he came into camp, he was too far behind in the playbook to compete for time with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

In some ways, sitting out most of last season was as hard as rehabbing from the motorcycle accident. Winslow believed he had the talent to play football on a high level.

"Here I was 29 about to turn 30, and no one was calling," Winslow said last week. "It was hard, really hard. I never lost confidence in my ability, but I lost confidence in the system. I was always determined that I would be back, but there were some days where I wondered if someone was going to want me."
Winslow credits his family -- his father and his wife, Janelle -- for helping him through the darker days.

"Kellen knows that football isn't everything, that there's so much more to his life," said Janelle, whom Winslow first met when he was 14 years old. "He knows his football career is not forever, but when it was taken away from him and not on his terms, it was a hard thing for me to see him go through."

Winslow has a quote on his left forearm from the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass. "Without struggle there is no progress," it reads. Winslow had it put there after his motorcycle accident, but it continues to inspire him today.

The Jets were the only team to call him this past spring. General manager John Idzik signed him to a one-year contract after a minicamp tryout in June.
So far, it seems to be a great fit. The team has been very careful with his knees, letting him sit out practice on Wednesdays to save the wear and tear. And Winslow has developed a nice bond with rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Despite having no catches in the Jets' win over Buffalo last week, Winslow is the Jets' third-leading receiver with 10 catches for 95 yards.

Coach Rex Ryan admitted that when the Jets signed Winslow, they weren't sure what they were going to get.

"You want Kellen Winslow like you remember Kellen Winslow, and then when he got here, you weren't sure," Ryan said. "He hadn't played, he gets here and you're like, 'Oh, wow.' I see the skills. I see the great hands, the ground running and he moves better than I thought. He really is a warrior, there's no question, and that's what I see about him. He loves to play."

Winslow Sr. thinks the Jets are a great fit for his son. He plans to be at every home game and about half of the away games this season, cheering on the son whom he once wouldn't allow to play football.

"Right now, he's very happy," Winslow Sr. said. "Being there with Rex and Marty [Mornhinweg], it's a good place for him. He's at peace."

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Antrel Rolle: Giants can go 12-0, starting Sunday

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - The New York Giants have gone into survival mode after their worst start since the 1987 strike season.

The Super Bowl champions from two seasons ago are grasping at anything that offers them hope and a way of keeping this frustrating season alive after an 0-4 start.

Coach Tom Coughlin allowed safety and defensive co-captain Antrel Rolle to speak to the team Monday, 24 hours after a 31-7 loss to the Chiefs (4-0) in Kansas City. Rolle told them there is a bond here and he believed good things will happen in this mistake-marred season.

"I just told the guys, we have to believe that we can do it," Rolle said. "Once you train your mind, and really believe -- not just tell yourself you believe, but really actually believe it -- that's when a lot of things will come together. The mind is a powerful thing. It controls everything within your body."

The Giants play the Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) on Sunday, while the Dallas Cowboys (2-2) are hosts to the Denver Broncos. If things go right, New York might be a game out in the NFC East next Monday.

"I believe we can go 12-0 from this point on, I truly believe that," Rolle said.

Coughlin applauded Rolle's message with the team facing its biggest early challenge in his 10-year tenure.

"He's not afraid of that circumstance," Coughlin said. "He's kind of put his arms around this team and asked the members of this team to accept and understand that as well, and to know that when you take the field as a unit, you really do feel as if you represent one another and have each other's back. You have to totally believe that you have the ability to succeed."

Deep belief, however, can't always overcome bad play and mistakes, and the Giants have had more than share in a winless September. The numbers are frightening through four games:

- They have been outscored 146-61, including 69-7 the last two weeks in losses to Carolina and Kansas City.

- Touted as the strength of the Giants, Eli Manning and the offense have been awful from the first play of the season, a screen pass DeMarcus Ware intercepted in Dallas.

- The Giants are averaging 25:31 in time of possession. The banged-up offensive line has allowed 14 sacks and the running game is averaging 58 yards. Even veteran place-kicker Josh Brown missed two field goals (33, 44) in the last two games when things were close.

- Making a play on third-down is the exception. The Giants are 11 of 48 on third down, roughly 23 percent. Victor Cruz is the only option, with 26 catches for 425 yards and four touchdowns.

Manning has thrown 10 interceptions and there have been six lost fumbles, which have led to 45 points by the opposition. Coupled with the Giants' seven takeaways, they are minus-9 in turnover margin.

"I think a win would be big for this locker room and the morale and just get that feeling again," Manning said. "We work hard. We work hard each week, and the reason you work hard is for that feeling after a game when you can celebrate and you can feel good about all the work you put in. And when you don't have anything to show for it, it gets frustrating."

Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, only the 1992 San Diego Chargers have started a season 0-4 and made the playoffs.
It's been rough," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "I am here every Monday. It's like you are almost listening to the same speeches. It's the same type of feeling and it's getting old."

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An injured Shane Larkin has to prove himself -- again

DALLAS -- From high school to college, Shane Larkin always had to prove he was big enough, wise enough and talented enough to play basketball.
Now the Dallas Mavericks' rookie point guard has to prove himself -- again.

Drafted No. 18 overall out of Miami this past June, Larkin was all set to strut his stuff when the Mavs traveled to Las Vegas in July for summer league play. But on the day the Mavs were slated to leave for Vegas, Larkin unfortunately fractured his right ankle during a practice session at American Airlines Center.
Larkin underwent successful surgery on July 16 and was slated to be sidelined for approximately three months.

On Monday, the day before the Mavs opened training camp, Larkin said of his return: "It’s looking like I should be good to return in the middle of training camp, so we’ll just see what happens. There’s no positive (return) date, so we’ll see what happens.''

Whenever Larkin returns, the 5-11, 176-pounder knows he'll have to show he has the right stuff to perform at this level. Still, he can't help but recall the day he broke his ankle.

"Initially they thought it was just a high ankle sprain or a sprain,'' Larkin said. "To find out it was broken it was like you finally accomplish your dream, you finally make it to the NBA, you finally have that chance to prove yourself once again and you break your ankle.

"But it's just more of a bigger chip on my shoulder, more to prove. People wrote me off, people forgot about me, I have no chance, so back to square one, back to where I started out.''

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Indians undecided on whether Chris Perez will be postseason closer

Indians manager Terry Francona said he's undecided on who he will use in the postseason as his closer.

Chris Perez was pulled from the role last week and seems unlikely to get the job back during the playoffs. "We're not there yet," said Francona. "We'll see how things go." Matt Albers, Joe Smith and Justin Masterson were used in the ninth inning this past weekend, though they were all in non-save situations. Masterson would be an intriguing option, though it's possible he could eventually go back into the rotation. "Some of it probably depends on how stretched out he gets," Francona said of Masterson. "He's a good pitcher, so I'm not as worried about what his role going forward is. I just like the idea that he's a really good pitcher and we plan to use him."

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Chris Perez ends media silence, thrilled for Indians

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Chris Perez went silent, he vowed to maintain his media silence for the entirety of the season. On Sunday, while the Indians celebrated the clinching of the top American League Wild Card spot, the deposed closer approached a group of reporters.

"I'll talk now," Perez said.

Perez covered a wide range of topics, ranging from his troubles on the mound and off the field to being stripped of his ninth-inning duties earlier this weekend. What the pitcher wanted to emphasize, though, was how happy he is to be heading to the playoffs with Cleveland.

After enduring four consecutive losing seasons with the Indians, Perez was savoring the champagne.

"You can't put this feeling into words," Perez said. "It's been a magical year."

With their 5-1 win over the Twins at Target Field, the Indians have earned the right to host Wednesday's Wild Card Game at Progressive Field, with first pitch scheduled for 8:07 p.m. ET. The Tribe ended the season on a 10-game winning streak, picked up 15 victories in their past 17 games, won 21 games in September and finished the campaign with 92 wins overall.

Cleveland has accomplished all of this without the same one-two punch that existed in the eighth and ninth innings in the past few seasons. Setup man Vinnie Pestano's struggles in the first half cost him his role, and the recent woes of Perez cost him his job as well.

Following Thursday's 6-5 win in Minnesota, after giving up four runs in the ninth inning, Perez stopped by the office of manager Terry Francona.

"I'm here to help the team," Perez said. "I went into Tito's office the other night and said, 'I'm not going to cost this team a playoff spot. You need to make a change right now. You've got four or five guys who are throwing the [heck] out of the ball. I don't have an ego. Make the change.' And he did.

"Fans asked me at the start of the year about what my goals are. I told them I'd take 20 saves if we could make the playoffs. We made the playoffs and I've got 25 saves."

Francona finished the season with a closer-by-committee, but a save situation did not present itself in the final three games.

In 54 appearances this season, which was his fourth as the club's closer, Perez posted a career-high 4.33 ERA with 25 saves in 30 opportunities. He dealt with a right shoulder injury in Spring Training and again in late May, when he was shelved for roughly one month. Upon returning from the disabled list, Perez posted a 0.53 ERA with nine straight saves through the end of July.

Perez also began his media blackout when rejoining the team in Baltimore during the June 24-27 series. The pitcher said he went silent due to some of the things that were written after he faced a misdemeanor drug charge in early June.

"A lot of stuff has happened to me this year," Perez said. "I told my wife I wouldn't talk until the end of the year, good or bad. ... There were some times this year that stuff was written that wasn't accurate. Or, somebody was making assumptions. I would have liked to talk to set the record straight, but I made a decision and stuck by it. It was time to just focus on baseball."

As for his struggles over the season's final two months -- Perez posted a 7.52 ERA with seven home runs allowed in 20 1/3 innings, dating back to Aug. 1 -- the pitcher said he simply has some mechanical adjustments to sort out. He threw off the mound at Target Field on Sunday to work on the issues.

"Physically, I'm good," Perez said. "It's just a little mechanical adjustment I need to make. ... I've had a rough couple of months, but you can't pick when it's going to happen. This game can humble you fast. I still feel I can contribute to this team. I know I'm going to. It's terrible when it happens late in the year and you're in it.

"I haven't given up. I don't know if [I'll pitch] in the fifth inning or the seventh inning, whatever, but I'm going to help the team. At this time of year, especially when you're in it, you toss your ego aside."

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