Month: November 2016

Earl Thomas expected to be back for Week 1

Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas underwent left shoulder surgery on Tuesday, but is expected to recover in time for the 2015 season opener, according to NFL Network Ian Rapoport.

Thomas, 25, tore his labrum — a ring of fibrocartilage around the edge of the joint surface — in the NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers, which caused his shoulder to dislocate. He played the rest of the game with a shoulder harness and did the same in the Super Bowl, finishing with eight tackles against the New England Patriots.

While this isn’t his worst time, it is the worst one since he ran a 6.18 in 2011, posting a 6.03 or better the past three years.

Eisen has been running the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine since 2005, when Terrell Davis challenged him to compete in the event. He’s generally shown steady improvement over the past 10 years, putting up his worst time of 6.77 seconds in 2005 and not getting near that number again over the years. In 2014, he set his best time at 5.98 seconds, the first time he’d made it under the six-second mark.

McShay dropped Missouri’s Shane Ray on his big board after his subpar performance in Indianapolis. He had disappointing results in the bench press (21 reps) and weighed in at just 246 pounds, causing concern about his lack of strength and power. The Falcons, however, will take all the pass-rushing help they can get, and Ray is probably the best edge rusher available at this point in the draft.

The Bears clearly need to upgrade their defense, which ranked 30th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed. The massive nose tackle has the potential to be the centerpiece of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s new 3-4 defense. The 339-pounder is a huge space-eater in the trenches, and has proven to be both stout against the run and an above-average interior pass rusher.

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Fantasy fallout: Rookie Tyler Boyd, rival Steve Smith could fill A.J. Green void

Injuries are part of the deal in fantasy football. But it’s not every week that teams lose their best player — which is now the case for many A.J. Green owners.

The Cincinnati Bengals are in the same boat. Not only did they lose Green to a hamstring injury that leaves the rest of his season in doubt, but they lost their No. 2 pass-catcher — running back Giovani Bernard — to a season-ending ACL tear.

The Vikings signed Jake Long in October to fill a void at left tackle, but he didn’t stay healthy for long.

Has Bradford made a difference in terms of winning games?

Let’s look. The Vikings were supposed to be built around a great defense and a Peterson-led running game, but only one end of that bargain has held up. Minnesota wasn’t acquiring Bradford to be Drew Brees, but you don’t give up a first-round pick unless you think you have a guy who can squeeze out a late score to win a game. Where has he made the difference so far this season?

You can make a case for Week 2, Bradford’s debut, when he threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Diggs to put the Vikings up 17-7 on the Packers with 2:11 left in the third quarter. The Packers scored a touchdown in the fourth to get within three, but never got much closer. Bradford didn’t do much to close it out in the fourth: He completed a 15-yard pass on third-and-27, had a pass batted away, took a sack, and was part of a 12-yard pass interference call. He otherwise kneeled, handed off, and threw a pass with three seconds left to burn the remainder of the clock.

The three other games in Minnesota’s winning streak were all by double digits; Bradford played well, but his defense allowed an average of 11 points in those games. Minnesota’s only other victory came against the Cardinals in Week 11, 30-24, in a game where the Vikes scored 14 points on returns and Bradford’s only second-half scoring drive produced a field goal. In the fourth quarter, Bradford’s offense produced one first down, while he took a strip sack that gave the Cardinals a short field and set them up for a touchdown.

The possibility of a Bradford injury was another one of the arguments against the deal that is somewhat forgotten now. He has managed to stay healthy, but the injury chaos surrounding Bradford is a reminder of how we can’t assume everything will go right in justifying win-now deals.

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Saints willing to trade almost entire team, according to report

The New Orleans Saints are ready for an overhaul. After going 7-9 last season, the Saints are reportedly shopping “everyone but Drew Brees and Brandin Cooks,” according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. The team has already sent tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks and offensive guard Ben Grubbs to the Kansas City Chiefs since the start of free agency at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

The quick trigger by the Saints front office suggests that last season really didn’t sit well. The Saints missed the playoffs despite playing in perhaps the worst division in the NFL. Their final two losses came by a combined 47 points to the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, their NFC South rivals.

Kansas City previously cut wide receivers Donnie Avery and A.J. Jenkins, so the team is still thin at a critical position for quarterback Alex Smith, despite the addition of Maclin. No wideout caught a touchdown pass in 2014, a staggering statistic that highlights the Chiefs’ need for a playmaker.

The 30-year-old Bowe could still help a team elsewhere, but likely won’t command anything close to the salary he was due in 2015 before his release.

All the bad feelings of the last six months or so could be gone by the time September rolls around thanks to Baalke’s track record and eye for talent, but it’s hard to see a clear pattern in player movement there so far this spring. The 49ers are his team now, his alone, and that’s a heavy burden to carry.

Chip Kelly threw cold water on those rumors about packaging Sam Bradford and some draft picks for a move up to take Marcus Mariota at his Wednesday afternoon press conference. He’s committed to Sam Bradford, for now anyway. Interestingly enough, the team has not entered into talks with Bradford about a contract extension, who is in the last year of his original six-year rookie contract.

Did Patriots get a steal?
Jabaal Sheard, recently of the Browns, is headed to New England. He signed a two-year, $11 million contract. He was miscast in Cleveland as an outside linebacker when he’s much more natural at defensive end. The Patriots are moving toward a more straight forward four-man front after parting ways with Vince Wilfork.

Like Smith, Prescott was extremely efficient

In a strange coincidence, Prescott joins Smith and Cousins with a 94.1 Total QBR in Week 11. On Sunday, Prescott continued his magical rookie season by throwing for 301 yards and three touchdowns in the Dallas Cowboys’ 27-17 win over the Ravens. He has now thrown for 300 yards and two touchdowns in back-to-back games.

Like Smith, Prescott was extremely efficient, with 72 percent of his plays gaining positive EPA. He also avoided costly plays as he took one sack for 2 yards and posted his sixth game this season without a turnover.

“I’m still gathering information on what exactly took place, but all I know at this point is, when we were out there on the field on offense, there were multiple times I saw a green laser coming from the stands,” Osweiler said. “There were a couple of times it definitely hit me in the eye. And it was very noticeable.”

Osweiler refused to say the laser was “the difference-maker” in the game, but he said, “Certainly, having a laser zoomed in on your eyeball definitely affects how you play.”

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien would not comment on the laser, saying that was more of a question for security.

Texans players weren’t the only ones who noticed.

“Certainly, having a laser zoomed in on your eyeball definitely affects how you play,” Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler said. twitter/@espnnfl
“Yeah, that was kind of weird,” Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack said. “I saw that, and I thought I was in the Twilight Zone.”

Osweiler said he had never experienced anything like that while playing football.

“I’ve never experienced a laser being shined in my eyeball during a football game, let alone a professional football game in the National Football League,” Osweiler said. “So I think that was certainly disappointing. But at the end of the day, that’s not why we lost the game. That was just one small factor. But it certainly affected how I was playing.”

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LeSean McCoy avoids criminal charges for night club brawl

Two months after Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy was reportedly involved in an incident that ended with two off-duty police officers being hospitalized, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced no criminal charges will be filed because of “insufficient evidence.”

Williams was criticized by the head of Philadelphia’s police union for “overthinking” the case and taking too much time.

Gordon initially applied for reinstatement in February, and could have been reinstated within 60 days of his application had this test not come up dirty. Goodell was not required to make a decision in that time frame, according to initial Fox Sports report.

When previously talking about the issue of reinstatement, Goodell said that the whole process was designed around making sure the things that led to the suspension don’t continue to happen. This is obviously a huge roadblock on that front, though he can again apply for reinstatement on Aug. 1.

Gordon was originally suspended last February for “at least a full calendar year” for multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy. Gordon was suspended after testing positive for alcohol after entering the league’s substance abuse program following a guilty plea for a DUI charge. He was suspended for the full 2014 season following a failed drug test the previous year, but it was reduced to 10 games when the league revised its substance abuse policy.

“Wow. Wow. If you had done anymore, you would’ve knocked me out for sure,” Glenn said, via CBS Sports. “I would take a practice punch, but I’m sure you’d knock me out in one second.”

Glenn is also prone to some of the endearing verbal missteps that plague other members of his family as well. In a January Buffalo News profile, he couldn’t pronounce the name of Ravens fullback Kyle Juszczyk, a player he says he’s often compared to.

“Kyle Zu … Baltimore Ravens fullback,” Glenn said. “J or Z. Something crazy. Zu-check or something. A lot of people have been comparing me to him. I heard that’s not a bad thing, that’s what they’re saying.”

Interestingly enough, Glenn says he isn’t receiving any draft advice from his older brothers.

“Not much,” Glenn told Evans in an interview for CBS Sports. “They had to go through the process, so they’re making me go through the process.”

Uni Watch’s Friday Flashback: The power of the powder blue

The San Diego Chargers wore their powder blue alternate uniforms on Sunday. As you know, one of the sports world’s most iron-clad rules states that whenever this uniform is worn, countless fans will respond by saying: They should go back to wearing their original powder blues from the 1960s. Those were the best football uniforms ever!

And those fans are right — mostly. The Chargers’ original powder blues were gorgeous. What many fans don’t realize, though, is that the team’s original powder blue period, which ran from 1960 through 1973, actually featured a surprisingly large number of variations, with many of the uniform’s key elements — the helmet, the pants, and even the shade of blue used on the jerseys — in constant flux. So when people talk about the Chargers’ “original powder blues,” they’re actually referring to a wider range of uniforms than they probably realize.

Let’s look at some of those variations, one uniform element at a time:

Thursday night, the Browns coach spoke louder, pulling Kessler in the second half against Baltimore and replacing him with Josh McCown.

Jackson said this was only a one-game, in-game move and Kessler will start Nov. 20 against visiting Pittsburgh. ?But the decision said something, as clearly a team under strain from losing is looking for any kind of way to end the skein that hit 0-10 with Thursday’s 28-7 defeat. And a coach weary of seeing his team lose is willing to try anything.

“You’ve got to try something different,” Jackson said. “And, being in the situation we are, why not try something different?”?

Why not, indeed? The worst that can happen is the Browns lose again.

The move does speak volumes about the state of the Browns when they pull a rookie quarterback and replace him with a 37-year-old. It’s not the spot a building team wants to be.

The pants. When you think of the Chargers’ powder blue era, which pants do you instinctively envision them wearing? It’s a trickier question than you might think, because the Chargers wore four different pant designs from 1960 through 1973: white with blue lightning bolts down the sides; white with gold bolts; gold with blue bolts; and gold with conventional striping.

Brown opened up during two separate interviews totaling nearly four hours

In the film, Hall of Famer and Browns teammate Paul Warfield said, “The creator said, ‘I’m only going to do this one time in a very special player.'”

“We wanted to remind people of what made him so special,” Smith said. Yet there is so much more to Brown’s life. The film examines his early retirement at age 30 and how he transitioned to a career in Hollywood. It shows how his film roles broke from convention and laid the foundation for future African-American actors.

Interviews with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Rev. Jesse Jackson, among others, tell how Brown was a crusader among African-American athletes in pushing for social change in America. Smith says he didn’t realize how close Brown was to Muhammad Ali.

Golden Tate’s acrobatic sudden-death touchdown tumble topped Week 9’s Top “Performance Moments of the Week”, presented by Bridgestone.

The score came on the heels of two momentum-swinging drives. After the Vikings scored to grab a three-point lead with just 27 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Stafford led a two-play, 35-yard drive in 21 seconds to set up a game-tying 59-yard field goal from Prater. The quick turnaround shocked Minnesota’s previously impenetrable defense, and was a sign of things to come.

Detroit won the coin toss in overtime and chose to receive. The Lions converted three third downs in a row — one via penalty — before being faced with a fourth third down on the Vikings’ 28-yard line. With the Minnesota fans roaring, Stafford took the snap in shotgun with two wideouts set to his right blanketed by man coverage and Tate to his left shadowed by safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Despite being targeted by two of Minnesota’s top defensive backs, Tate found space on a 15-yard out and caught Stafford’s pass just a few steps from the sideline.

Instead of running out of bounds to secure the first down and continue the drive, Tate instinctively cut back. The wideout’s juke sent Rhodes, who was closing fast, flying out of bounds. With his back briefly toward the end zone, Tate shoved off Smith and sped off toward the far pylon, toward another victory.

Always the showman, Tate topped off his game-winning grab with a boastful, if not reckless flip into the end zone, giving safety Andrew Sendejo some “cheeky” treatment in the process. The win moved Detroit within a half-game of the lead in the NFC North.

Also on the countdown: Mike Wallace: still fast. … Fat Guy Interception Alert! … Jimmy Graham can catch touchdowns with one hand tied behind his back.

NFL on pace to obliterate recent ejections record

Before you settled into your Barcalounger Sunday, two more NFL players had been ejected from games. And then, before the early games were complete, another player had been disqualified.

Add it all up, and NFL officials already have ejected more than twice the number of players as they did during all 17 weeks of the 2015 regular season. The total of 10 disqualifications puts them on pace to set at least a 15-year high and continues a two-pronged effort by the league to restrain what it considers to be unsportsmanlike player behavior.

Roethlisberger won that 2010 game after Haloti Ngata busted his nose and left the crushed bone looking, the quarterback said, “like corn flakes” on the X-rays.

“Hands down,” Harbaugh told ESPN.com when asked if Roethlisberger is the toughest competitor his teams ever faced. “Oh yeah, yes, yes, his physical power, the strength, just a brutish athlete. He’s incredible. The guy’s a Hall of Famer, a lock.

“But it’s his vision, too. How does he see down the field? He’s got people bouncing off him, falling off him, he’s shrugging them away, moving in the pocket, and all the time where are his eyes? I mean, how does he feel these guys? His eyes are downfield all the time. You look at his size, arm strength, accuracy, the fact he’s at the line doing everything, calling their offense at the line. I don’t think there’s any other quarterback in history that you can compare Ben to. Who would you compare him to?”
Roethlisberger didn’t do enough ducking and dodging to steal this game. He usually struggles in these comeback games (especially since he’s forever expediting his returns), and Sunday was no exception. Roethlisberger spent most of the day missing open receivers, dropping shotgun snaps, absorbing hits on delivery and acting like a quarterback who should’ve waited to return for next week’s showdown against Dallas and QB Dak Prescott.

When it was over, the losing quarterback revealed he decided he was fit enough to go a couple of hours before kickoff, and blamed himself for the substandard play to come. As to how his body felt, Roethlisberger said, “You never walk out of a Baltimore game feeling as good as you went in.” And then the NFL’s reigning king of pain grabbed the handle of his travel bag and started rolling it out of the ballpark with a noticeable limp. Ben Roethlisberger won’t go down as the best player in the Brady-Manning generation. He will go down as the toughest.

As the chart shows, NFL ejections typically have remained in single digits for a full season. Historically, the short season relative to other sports has made the league reluctant to use the ejection as a deterrent. There have not been more than 13 in any season since at least 2001, which is as far back as the ESPN Stats & Information database goes.

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Eli Apple denies the Giants asked him to ‘control what his mother says’ about the Josh Brown situation

Like many, Annie Apple was stunned by the New York Giants’ poor handling of Josh Brown after it was revealed that the kicker admitted to abusing his wife. And like many, she voiced those concerns.

The Giants don’t have the power to muzzle any of those voices, but she says team attempted to flex its muscles and pressure rookie cornerback Eli Apple into silencing his mother.

“It’s taking the fun out of the game for me,” Newton said.

There have been a number of hits on Newton this season that were questionable. During Carolina’s season opener against the Denver Broncos, Newton took several helmet-to-helmet shots, but only one was flagged by officials. A helmet-to-helmet hit from Falcons linebacker Deion Jones in Week 4 sidelined Newton with a concussion. Jones was neither penalized nor fined by the league.

Newton told reporters Tuesday that he had spoken to Goodell about the fact that he’s taking hits inside the pocket where he should be protected, and he said it was a “great discussion” according to Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith.

“I got my point across, he got his point across,” Newton said. “We’ll see Sunday and moving forward.”

Newton’s ability to make plays with his legs does open him up to more hits when he runs the ball, but when he’s in the pocket, he should be afforded the same protection as other quarterbacks.

Turner and head coach Mike Zimmer disagreed on the best way to run the offense, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB. It wasn’t a huge rift, but they couldn’t come to terms on the margins of it, the details of the offensive system that needed to be changed in order to better protect the quarterback, get the running game going again, and score more than 20 points a game.

“We had a lot of challenges,” Turner told Breer. “And for a period of time, we were able to hide some problems we had, but it catches up to you. And then we just had a difference of opinion—or what I felt was a difference of opinion—on what we needed to do to give our guys the best chance to fix it.”

On the surface, it looks like Turner handled this in a reasonable, sane way. You could make the case that it’s better for the Vikings that he leaves now to than to let the disagreement fester and turn ugly. On the other hand, why couldn’t he just adapt and stick it out through the end of the season?

Turner hasn’t made a decision on whether or not he’ll coach again — he’s only 64 — but I’d be surprised if some team doesn’t lure him back to coaching with the right circumstances.

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