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 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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NBA Insider is projecting wins and player performance for every team

“I do think that sometimes the narrative with athletes is we want this linear [progression],” says Redick, who read Duckworth’s book during training camp. “It doesn’t always work that way — and not only on the outside and kind of what the public sees and the media talks about, but the internal battles that every athlete faces. There are obstacles and maybe even moments of self-doubt.”

It’s little surprise, then, that Duckworth hears regularly from coaches interested in how they can use her research. While the concepts of hard work, dedication and resilience that are encapsulated in Duckworth’s version of grit are nothing new for coaches, her research into how grit translates in other fields of high achievement, how to measure it and how to build it provide helpful coaching tools.

NBA Insider is projecting wins and player performance for every team. Check out what we expect for your team.

“She gave a greater clarity to the word ‘grit’ for me,” says Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown, who invited Duckworth to speak to his young team. “I think that through her examples of what her version of grit was, it resonated with me more clearly.

Now they are in the business of building for a repeat title. Of course, the memories from their magical run last spring will always be there. And they’ll serve their purpose when things go sideways this season, as they inevitably will, when guys have to remember what they’re all capable of accomplishing together.

However, the goal should be to become a championship team all over again. Not just through having the requisite talent or experience, but by — to use the buzzword of the night uttered in mirrored fashion by James, Irving, Love and Lue — “growing” into one.

That’s why as satisfying as the result might have been, it was just as important to see Lue experiment with a second unit surrounding James at the 5 or accepting that having Iman Shumpert play a heavy dose of backup point guard could look bad before it looks good, but having it look bad is the only way to know if it can ever look good.

“It’s a game we wanted to win,” Lue said. “Our guys wanted to win, they wanted to make a statement on [Toronto’s] home floor, second game of the season.”

A new season. A new goal accomplished. And a little bit of growth from the Cavs.

“It’s something that we’ve moved on from,” Love said of the surreal splendor of last spring. “We still have obviously a goal of winning another championship and repeating and defending a title, but that’s a long ways away. We have a lot of [time to go]. We’ve got to respect the process, love the process and just continue to go through it.”

“Both of my parents are schoolteachers, and her examples of different practices in different school systems and the different economic situations relative to some of her areas that displayed the most grit — and the people who were able to overcome different socioeconomic barriers or boundaries or obstacles and still persevere — that interested me a lot, as well as the coaching side of it.”

“I’ve always felt like the best players have these attitudes and the best players are able to bounce back from a tough night,” he says. “The best players are able to handle success. Certainly the best players always get better.

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Titans sign veteran WR Andre Johnson to 2-year deal

Andre Johnson was hellbent on not retiring after the Indianapolis Colts released him last month, and now he’s found a new home with another AFC South squad.

The Tennessee Titans signed Johnson to a two-year deal, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, ensuring the 13-year veteran will receive at least another shot to play in the NFL. Johnson, 35, recorded a career-low 41 receptions and only 503 yards last season. He caught more than four passes in a game only once and was shutout on three occasions.

Prior to the 2016 campaign, the Colts viewed Johnson as a productive veteran who was ready to mentor the younger wide receivers on the roster. But it didn’t work out that way, as Donte Moncrief emerged as the clear No. 2 option behind T.Y. Hilton, leaving Johnson in the dust.

And McAdoo somehow managed to shoot upward from there.

Players like Justin Pugh (a fourth-year guard) look bigger, stronger and in the best shape of their careers. Pugh was virtuoso in the way he communicated his hopes for the season, in the clarity he effused about the Giants offensive line building camaraderie and cohesion, about how the offense should be faster and sleeker, about how the defense is re-energized and stouter. You could have flipped back and forth between McAdoo and Pugh and the message would have been seamless.

This says that McAdoo is on point with his message to his players. It is filtering effectively among the Giants, several of whom spoke on Thursday in similar manner to Pugh.

It was defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul who stressed that the Giants have not been to the playoffs “in a minute.”

Try four straight seasons. And the last two seasons were raw 6-10 ones, the kinds that forced change, that got coach Tom Coughlin fired and fixture players like cornerback Prince Amukamara and receiver Rueben Randle booted. The Giants needed a mental and physical overhaul and McAdoo is driving both.

There is a frank reality about him, though, that is operative: “These are words,” he said. “We need to back it up. We all have to go earn it.”

McAdoo has a 1-2 punch, a two-step shuffle that is his chief Giants playbook.

Several offensive-minded coaches in recent years became head coaches and concentrated on being creative, on being fancy, on their Xs-and-Os factor being the single-most important ingredient to victory. They wanted to dazzle as much as win. But McAdoo has a true grit to him and this quote from him on Thursday should make anyone who cares about the Giants ecstatic:

“The game looks a little different than it has in the past, but still the teams that are standing at the end are the heavy-handed, tough teams. That part hasn’t changed and it never will.”

This emphasis on being “heavy-handed” is a huge difference between NFL winners and losers. McAdoo gets this. The Giants players get it. He said he will be smart about injuries but also insisted that he will have a physical training camp. He is incessantly instructing his team that discipline and poise must accompany this physicality. It is a tricky mix, but also an essential mix to championship football.

Browns could move into unprecedented QB territory in final nine games

BEREA, Ohio — The Cleveland Browns continue to be associated with records they would rather forget.

The only winless team in the NFL has six players who have attempted passes this season.

Here’s the answer: Yes. Effective this week, Montgomery is eligible at both wide receiver and running back. It’s important to note that once we add a position to a player’s eligibility, it cannot be removed that season. As such, the wide receiver/running back tag is staying for Montgomery for the rest of the 2016 season.

With that cleared up, here’s our Week 8 ESPN Fantasy waiver wire column.

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (34.5 percent). With Doug Martin suffering a setback in his recovery for a hamstring issue, Rodgers has the starting job to himself in Tampa Bay. What has he done so far? Gone more than 100 yards on the ground in two straight games and handled 62 total touches. The volume is great, and so is the production, and the upcoming schedule isn’t something to be scared of. Rodgers is a must-add in all leagues and an RB2 right away.

Matt Asiata, RB, Minnesota Vikings (26.0 percent). Asiata’s value is not rooted solely in the health of Jerick McKinnon, but it’s worth noting that the latter left Sunday’s game against Philly because of an ankle injury. If McKinnon sits, that thrusts Asiata right into RB2 territory for Week 8 against the Bears.

Have a company you’d like Glover Quin to put his money toward? Then your product had better have a purpose. “We like companies that we feel can change the world,” Quin said.

“I just want to get her intake,” Quin said. “Like, ‘Oh, I would never use that or I think that’s a great idea, you know. If somebody did something like that, it would be dope.’ See what she says about it because she has a good feel for stuff.”

After all that, if a deal excites him, he has four benchmarks he typically uses to decide if a deal makes sense.

While all of that is going on, just over a mile away the Cleveland Browns prepare for what might be their best shot at a win this season. They will host the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Browns enter Week 8 as the only winless team in the NFL and are No. 32 in ESPN’s Power Rankings, as well as No. 32 in ESPN’s Football Power Index.

Cleveland currently has a 69 percent chance to get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, according to FPI. That’s over four times more likely than the next-closest team, the San Francisco 49ers (15 percent).

To put that in perspective, at this time last year, the Tennessee Titans were the most likely team to get the top pick in the 2016 draft with a 17 percent chance. Their chances of getting that top pick, plus the chances of the next four teams behind them through Week 7 last year, still would have fallen short of the Browns’ chances at getting the 2017 top pick right now.

The 49ers and Broncos fumbled 3 times in less than a minute

Preseason football is filled with gaffes. Coaches want to get young, inexperienced players enough playing time to adequately evaluate them, veterans are rusty, and the wins and losses don’t count, so it’s really not that big of a deal. The 49ers and Broncos, though, took preseason football to a whole new level with not one, not two, but three fumbles in the 45 seconds before the half.

On fumble one, Mark Sanchez got sacked by Tank Carradine, and Sanchez lost the ball in the red zone.

Yup, that’s a Mark Sanchez turnover

— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) August 21, 2016
At least it wasn’t a butt fumble. So that’s progress.

Mr. Brown and the NFLPA appealed this discipline, but the decision was upheld by a hearing officer.

Brown, 37, is entering his 14th NFL season and is No. 30 on the NFL’s all-time scoring list with 1,353 points.

“Her being pregnant gave me an excuse to eat, so eating anything and everything,” Williams told reporters, via Mike Rodak of ESPN. “She’d wake up, one or two o’clock, ‘I want a snack.’ Well I’m not going to sit here and watch you eat because I don’t want you to feel bad.”

The hits kept coming for Williams when he was hit with a four-game suspension in July for violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

When training camp rolled around in August, Williams still hadn’t shed the extra pounds. Unable to pass a conditioning test, Williams started training camp on the Non-Football Illness list until he finally passed the test and was cleared to practice on Monday.

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NFL won’t fine players who wore 9/11 tribute cleats

A handful of NFL players wore patriotic cleats on the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and in a move that isn’t necessarily consistent with the league’s typical approach, they will not be fined by the NFL, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Tennessee Titans linebacker Avery Williamson, New York Giants wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing and Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee all wore cleats to honor 9/11 victims and first responders during their respective games on Sunday. Falcons receiver Julio Jones wore similar cleats during warmups.

The NFL consistently fines players for uniform elements that don’t fit within the guidelines of the NFL’s strict dress code.

“I just felt like I got so much support across the country, and especially when the New York and New Jersey police unions said that they would pay my fine, that really meant a lot,” Williamson told reporters on Sunday, “I felt like if I didn’t wear them, I just wouldn’t have felt good about it. I felt like I had to do that, just for myself and to represent the people that were lost and the people that do their jobs every day to protect us. I feel like it was just a duty.”

Had Williamson been fined, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey had said he was willing to pay the fine on Williamson’s behalf.

Williamson will auction off the cleats, along with a meet and greet, two VIP tickets to a Titans game and a signed jersey. The proceeds will benefit Operation Warrior Wishes, a nonprofit that provides NFL game day experiences to wounded veterans.

Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz plan to wear special 9/11 cleats for today’s season opener.

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 11, 2016
The NFL has been unflinchingly rigid in its enforcement of the dress code, and has previously drawn criticism for uniform fines. In 2013, then-Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall was fined for wearing green shoes to highlight Mental Health Awareness week.

Washington couldn’t get out of its own way Monday night, and the Steelers capitalized on that, locking up the win.

Rams sticking with Keenum. Jared Goff must be really bad if they’re not willing to try someone else after that performance.

Kevin Harlan had an amazing call on the man running on the field during Monday Night Football. A fan, possibly drunk, ran on the field during the 49ers-Rams season opener. Harlan offered up spectacular play-by-play.

Browns WR Corey Coleman suffers fractured hand during practice

The Cleveland Browns are dealing with another major injury as Corey Coleman broke his hand at practice Wednesday, according to’s Mary Kay Cabot. The injury is believed to have occurred when a teammate landed on it after he had caught a pass. The Browns confirmed Coleman suffered a fractured hand and are still evaluating the injury to determine a recovery timeline, but he’s not expected to need surgery.

“He’s a good player. He’s a really good player. No hate whatsoever, man,” Norman said, via “The guy can play ball. I think the competitor in me likes that. Just a challenge to get up for that. He’s a good player.”

Beckham, for his part, also said he has no feelings about seeing Norman for the first time since their melee. “Honestly, there really is a bigger concern. Division game, 2-0 start to the year. Really focused on going 3-0,” he said, via “Wherever I go, wherever I lineup, that’s my job. The same way it would be whoever’s job it is to stop me. My job is to win over there. The biggest concern is winning, winning this game.”

Those words are strikingly different than what Beckham and Norman were saying about each other just a couple of months ago. In a July interview with GQ, Beckham kept up the trash talk. “The reason he’s become relevant is because of me,” he said. Norman responded by saying Beckham is only relevant “because of a catch,” an allusion to OBJ’s sensational one-handed touchdown grab on Sunday Night Football two years ago.

Just last week, some of Beckham’s teammates were belittling Norman for not covering Steelers No. 1 wideout Antonio Brown in Washington’s season opener. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins said Norman should’ve been on Brown all game — regardless of the game plan. Cruz suggested Norman ducked Brown and dared him to cover OBJ when the two teams match up.

But now, the tone between Beckham and Norman is tame. It appears as if the rigors of a new season have caused the two rivals to turn their attention elsewhere. Given the divisional implications of Sunday’s contest, that may be the wise move to make — even if it makes it less fun for all of us.

The Bears did not list Cutler on the injury report for Week 2, but he was not limited in practice at all during the week, so they are not required to do so.

When Peterson was removed from the game against the Packers, he was unable to put any weight on his right leg. He was helped from the field and examined on the sideline, and then he made his way to the locker room for further evaluation with assistance. After the game, Peterson left the locker room in a brace and on crutches.

The Vikings’ opponents have been selling out to stop the run this season, limiting Peterson’s production. He gained just 31 yards on 19 carries against the Titans in Week 1, and 19 yards on 12 carries in the win over the Packers.

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Jerry Jones can’t blow this: Prescott has to start over Romo

Jerry Jones has made his share of mistakes, from firing Jimmy Johnson to hiring Greg Hardy to committing countless unforced errors in between. He cannot make another one at Dak Prescott’s expense. He cannot do anything during the Dallas Cowboys’ upcoming bye week but tell Tony Romo that his time as starting quarterback is done.

Roethlisberger underwent successful arthroscopic surgery Monday, the team announced. Roethlisberger tore his left meniscus in the second quarter of Sunday’s 30-15 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

Jones, who threw for 513 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions in relief of Roethlisberger last year, told reporters he’s not counting Big Ben out to play this Sunday. Roethlisberger has played through injuries in the past, and he’s never missed more than four games in a season. But ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports Roethlisberger will miss the New England game.

In Jones’ last extended performance, he threw for 206 yards on 19-of-22 passing in the third preseason game against the Saints. Jones said he’s comfortable in weeks like this after four years in offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s system. He knows all the nuances of the offense, and the team didn’t change the game plan much in last year’s start at Kansas City, a 23-13 loss.

“The more you play, the more experience you get, the more confidence you get,” Jones said. “I’ll draw from that if things come to it. We’ll see how it all plays out during the week.”

A heavy dose of Bell could be in order. Bell says he isn’t one to lobby for carries, but he’ll gladly oblige if Haley calls his number 20 or more times.

Bell has averaged around 23 touches per game since entering the league in 2013, but he had just 10 rushes for 53 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, one of the league’s worst rushing defenses.

Bell said the Steelers are at their best when featuring play-action and the running game. Bell has 440 total yards in three games, including 177 receiving yards.

“If we run the rock, I’m going to deal with it,” Bell said. “Sometimes, the offensive line likes running the ball. When they feel they want to dominate up front, I’m always ready … I’m not a guy who always complains or talks about getting carries. I just want to go out there and win the game.”

But this isn’t only about Romo, of course, and a battered 36-year-old body that needs to be handled more delicately these days than a piece of fine china. This is about the 23-year-old rookie, Prescott, who is bigger, stronger, healthier and faster. The fourth-round draft pick just walked into Lambeau Field and played big enough in this 30-16 smackdown of the Packers to make Aaron Rodgers, two-time MVP, look like the incredible shrinking man. Relax? The way Rodgers has performed the past two seasons, I don’t think so. In weather conditions the polar opposite of the polar Packers-Cowboys classic known as the Ice Bowl, Prescott threw three touchdown passes to Rodgers’ one, ran his winning streak to five, and all but summoned the sights and sounds of Vince Lombardi barking, “What the hell’s going on out here?”