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  • Book: Brady mulled 2018 'divorce' from Belichick
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, September 19, 2018

    A new book about New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick gives the latest glimpse into his allegedly rocky relationship with star quarterback Tom Brady.

    • According to "Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time," by ESPN writer Ian O'Connor, Brady had a tough time deciding whether to return to the Patriots this season.

      "If you're married 18 years to a grouchy person who gets under your skin and never compliments you, after a while you want to divorce him," a source told O'Connor after the 2017 season. "Tom knows Bill is the best coach in the league, but he's had enough of him. If Tom could, I think he would divorce him."

      Late last season, multiple media outlets reported about a rift between Brady and Belichick, reportedly over the team's treatment of Brady's personal trainer, Alex Guerrero. The Patriots reportedly banned Guerrero from the sideline, took away his office at Gillette Stadium and no longer allowed him to fly with the team.

      Guerrero reportedly has been back in the team's good graces this season.

      O'Connor wrote of Brady's offseason decision-making, "But in the end, even if he wanted to, Brady could not walk away from the game, and he could not ask for a trade. The moment Belichick moved (Jimmy) Garoppolo to San Francisco, and banked on Brady's oft-stated desire to play at least into his mid-forties, was the moment Brady was virtually locked into suiting up next season and beyond. Had he retired or requested a trade, he would have risked turning an adoring New England public into an angry mob."

      The book also alleges that Brady was unhappy about Belichick's response to the Deflategate scandal.

      A close friend of Brady told O'Connor, "I thought Bill handled it terribly, especially when it involved a guy who'd done everything to help your career as a coach, and you hung him out to dry."

      Belichick, 66, had a 36-44 record in five seasons as the Cleveland Browns coach before starting his legendary run in New England. Since taking over in Foxborough in 2000, he has a 215-75 regular-season mark with the Patriots.

      He and Brady have reached eight Super Bowls, winning five championships.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bucs QB Winston sued for alleged groping incident
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston was sued in federal court in Arizona on Tuesday by the Uber driver who alleges he groped her during a ride she was giving him in March 2016, according to documents obtained by USA Today.

    • Winston is the only defendant named as the driver -- identified as Kate P. -- seeks punitive damages of more than $75,000 and a trial for "past, present and future emotional pain and suffering, and past and future economic losses in amounts to be determined by the jury."

      When the allegations became public last year, the NFL embarked on a long investigation and determined the story was "consistent and credible." In June, the league suspended Winston for the first three games of this season.

      The NFL said at the time, Winston touched the driver "in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent."

      According to records, the driver said she picked up Winston at the International Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., around 1:41 a.m., where another man approached her car and called her "hot" and told Winston he should sit up front.

      Winston did, and she alleged that he "became belligerent," swore and used racial slurs out the window during the drive.

      After Winston requested a burrito, the woman drove him to a restaurant.

      According to the suit, while in the drive-through, Winston reached over, "placed his fingers between her legs and pressed them firmly against" her genitals, over her yoga pants.

      She said she looked at him and asked, "What's up with that?" before Winston removed his hand. She then dropped him off at The Camby hotel.

      She said she didn't go public with the story until the #MeToo movement convinced her to come forward.

      Winston was also accused of sexual assault for an incident in 2012 while he was a student at Florida State, but he was not arrested or charged.

      The Buccaneers have yet to comment and may have no contact with Winston while he is suspended.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bills RB McCoy denies child abuse allegations
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy took to social media Tuesday afternoon to defend himself against new accusations of child abuse.

    • He fired back on Twitter, beginning his tweet: "I LOVE MY BOY!!!"

      He also posted a statement:

      "The allegations made against me today regarding my relationship with my son are provably false, outrageously inaccurate and offensive. I have a loving and close knit relationship with my son. That young boy is my whole life. With a custody case coming up in November, I can see why these false allegations are surfacing."

      His posts are in response to an affidavit filed by Stephanie Maisonet, mother of McCoy's 6-year-old son, as part of the lawsuit filed by another ex-girlfriend, Delicia Cordon. The latter woman was assaulted in a home invasion on July 10 at a home the player owns in Georgia.

      "Our son would often come home with bruises in which I would consistently receive outlandish excuses as to where the bruises would come from," Maisonet wrote in the filing, which is part of the case pending in Fulton County, Ga. "Our son would cry hysterically whenever he had to spend time with (LeSean) McCoy. Our son would cry even harder if he knew that Delica Cordon was not going to be present during (LeSean) McCoy's parenting time."

      In the court documents, Maisonet said McCoy asked for her help after the home invasion. According to TMZ, Maisonet said McCoy wanted her to serve as a character witness, and in exchange, he would allow her to enroll the child in school out of the area.

      "I regret ever agreeing to help (LeSean) McCoy in this case," Maisonet said. "He should not get away with potentially orchestrating this heinous incident."

      McCoy has denied playing a part in the home invasion. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported in early September that an investigation into the crime had yet to turn up any evidence that McCoy was involved.

      In August, Cordon filed a personal injury lawsuit against McCoy and former University of Pittsburgh teammate Tamarcus Porter, seeking damages of around $150,000. It claims McCoy should be held financially liable for injuries Cordon suffered in the assault because he had changed the security codes to the home and refused to provide the information to her, saying he "breached his duty to use ordinary care" to protect Cordon.

      --Field Level Media

  • Browns hope for elusive win against Jets, Darnold
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Is this the week?

    • Riding a 19-game winless streak, the Cleveland Browns' next shot to end it is Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium against the New York Jets.

      The Browns (0-1-1) came heartbreakingly close in Weeks 1 and 2, having a potential game-winning field goal blocked in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers and leading for nearly 35 minutes Sunday in New Orleans before kicking woes undid a pair of last-minute drives led by quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

      "There is a good football team in that room," head coach Hue Jackson said. "We just have not won yet.

      "They are battling hard, and we played two really good opponents. We are going to play another one this week."

      The Jets (1-1) stomped the Lions in Detroit but fell behind 20-0 in their home opener to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, ultimately losing 20-12. Rookie quarterback Sam Darnold became the youngest player (21 years, 103 days old) with 300 passing yards in a game, though he threw a pair of interceptions.

      But as he showed in the season opener -- bouncing back from a pick-six on his first NFL play -- Darnold won't let turnovers make him gun-shy.

      "Other than the two picks, I thought I played pretty well," he told reporters Monday. "So I'm just going to continue to try to play as consistent as possible, find completions when I can and take shots when I can."

      Darnold, of course, once looked very likely to go first overall to the Browns in April's draft. Then general manager John Dorsey finally showed his cards and opted for Baker Mayfield, allowing the Jets to scoop up Darnold at No. 3.

      "Yeah, I mean I thought I could have ended up [with the Browns] or several other teams," Darnold said. "... But I honestly haven't even thought about it since I got drafted by the Jets."

      Jackson, who has been steadfast about sitting Mayfield behind Taylor as a rookie, praised Darnold but also expressed confidence that the Browns took the right guy.

      "[Darnold] is a fine prospect and is going to be a fine player," Jackson said. "I think they got a good one, but we feel we have a really good one, too."

      The Jets won't have to worry about Josh Gordon -- until Weeks 12 and 17, that is -- after the Browns dealt the mercurial wideout to the New England Patriots on Monday. Jackson didn't offer much on the decision to trade Gordon, but expressed confidence in rookie Antonio Callaway, who caught a critical 47-yard touchdown on Sunday.

      "He is making strides," Jackson said. "Obviously, the catch to tie the game last week is a confidence booster for any young player. ... We were not trying to push him too fast, not give him too much too fast. Now, he has to take it all. It is time."

      Beyond Gordon, the Browns also moved on from kicker Zane Gonzalez, who missed two field goals and two extra points in Sunday's three-point loss. Cleveland instead signed rookie Greg Joseph.

      For the Jets, Thursday will mark their third game (and second on the road) since Sept. 10, after they opened the season on Monday Night Football.

      "Three games in 11 days is tough overall," head coach Todd Bowles said, "but you've got to rely on the mental part of it and then try to make sure they're rested well physically and go from there."

      Jets safety Marcus Maye (foot) appears likely to miss his third straight game. Linebacker Josh Martin and tight end Neal Sterling have yet to practice this week with concussions.

      Cleveland will again be without defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah (ankle), while linebacker Christian Kirksey (shoulder/ankle) and safety Damarious Randle (heel) have yet to practice this week.

      --Field Level Media

  • Redskins place RB Kelley (toe) on IR
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    The Washington Redskins have placed running back Rob Kelley on injured reserve, the team announced Tuesday.

    • Kelley injured a toe during Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts and may require surgery.

      Being placed on injured reserve means Kelley will have to miss at least eight games.

      Kelley is the third Washington running back to go on the injured reserve list this season. Derrius Guice and Byron Marshall previously suffered knee injuries.

      Kelley has just 8 yards on four carries over two games.

      Washington also officially announced the signings of receivers Michael Floyd and Breshad Perriman.

      Floyd has 256 career catches for 3,859 yards and 24 touchdowns in six NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings. Perriman had 43 receptions for 576 yards and three touchdowns in two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.

      --Field Level Media

  • Chargers' Liuget sues former trainer
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget has sued former trainer Ian Danney, alleging he injected him with a banned substance, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in California on Tuesday.

    • Liuget is seeking $15 million in damages for lost wages, as well as pain and suffering for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

      He currently is serving a four-game suspension because of the positive drug test.

      "I am hard-pressed to put into words the shame and trauma which has come with this suspension and the betrayal I feel for a person who, I thought, was acting in my best interests," Liuget said in a statement.

      Liuget claims Danney told him he was using a high dose of an over-the counter, anti-inflammatory to treat pain in both of Liuget's feet after a game last season. But instead, Liuget said he was injected with a substance banned by the NFL.

      Liuget, 28, is in his eighth NFL season. He has spent his entire career with the Chargers and has 22.5 sacks and 199 tackles during his career.

      --Field Level Media

  • Falcons OG Levitre lands on IR
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Falcons offensive guard Andy Levitre landed on injured reserve Tuesday as injuries continue to pile up in Atlanta.

    • Levitre suffered a season-ending triceps injury in Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.

      Wes Schweitzer replaced Levitre in the win against the Panthers. Guard Zac Kerin was signed to the 53-man roster to replace Levitre.

      "After receiving the tests results on Andy's injury from Sunday's game, it has been determined that he will miss the remainder of the season with a triceps injury," said Falcons coach Dan Quinn. "Andy worked extremely hard to get back on the field after a similar injury last year, and there is no doubt his leadership will continue to be felt this year. We have a ton of respect for Andy and what he stands for, and what he means to our team."

      Schweitzer started at right guard last season.

      "I know the experience of starting and playing last year is going to help him moving forward for sure. But we have a lot of confidence in him, too," quarterback Matt Ryan said of Schweitzer. "That was a competitive battle up front for those guys and who was going to start. You know, it's disappointing. You never want to see somebody go down, but we're fortunate to have experienced guys that are able to step in there and do a nice job for us."

      --Field Level Media

  • NFL notebook: Football Hall of Fame members want benefits, pay
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    The newly formed players-only Hall of Fame Board, made up of Pro Football Hall of Fame players, is threatening a boycott of enshrinement ceremonies unless the members receive health insurance and an annual salary that includes a share of NFL revenues.

    • Former Rams running back Eric Dickerson is the chairman of the board created to represent the pursuit of health care and a piece of the NFL's massive revenue pie.

      The Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, has undergone an enormous construction project in recent years -- Hall of Fame Village, aided by a huge sponsorship deal with Johnson Controls -- that includes a retirement center for players, who would receive health care on the premises. The project also included a new stadium and will bring multiple football fields for youth participation initiatives.

      In the letter, Hall of Fame members reference Major League Baseball's lifetime health coverage afforded any player who serves a single day on a big-league roster, and point to the established $620 million "Legacy Fund" as one of the NFL's "cynical public relations ploys that fail to help those who desperately need it."

      --Former No. 1 draft pick Jameis Winston has one game remaining on his season-opening suspension, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson is already saying he wants Ryan Fitzpatrick to keep the job.

      "He's playing on fire right now," Jackson said of Fitzpatrick on the NFL Network. "With the way the team is rallying behind him and just playing lights-out football, you have to kind of honor it. You can't take the hot man out. You got the hot fire right now. It's like NBA Jam. We used to play NBA Jam - whoever got that hot fire shot, you got to keep shooting, man."

      Tampa Bay is 2-0 behind veteran quarterback Fitzpatrick, who is 48-of-61 passing (78.7 percent) and leads the league with 819 yards. The 35-year-old has thrown eight touchdown passes against just one interception, and his 151.5 passer rating also leads the league. Jackson has caught three of those touchdown passes and leads the league with 275 receiving yards.

      --Patriots quarterback Tom Brady warned of placing great expectations on wide receiver Josh Gordon before he has time to settle in with New England. The Patriots traded a conditional fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns to acquire Gordon on Monday.

      "You know, I hate to make projections and expectations. That's not fair," Brady told Jim Gray on Westwood One on Monday night. "I've never met Josh personally, just like I hadn't met some of the guys that have come in the last couple weeks. So we'll see how it goes this week and hopefully he can work hard, put the team first and end up helping us in any role that he can find for himself on the team."

      After missing training camp to enter a rehab facility at the University of Florida as a preventive measure, Gordon caught a touchdown in Week 1. But he ran out of chances with the Browns, who parted with the troubled wide receiver following multiple suspensions and repeated violations of the league's substance-abuse policy.

      --Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has become the virtual poster boy for the roughing the passer penalty in the NFL's latest instructional video for officials. NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron is packing Matthews' roughing penalty, questioned by Packers coach Mike McCarthy and almost universally on social media channels Sunday, into a video distributed to league officials this week.

      Referee Tony Corrente made the right call, Riveron said, when Matthews was flagged for taking Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins to the ground and landing on him with his weight. A strikingly similar play in the Jaguars-Patriots game ended with Tom Brady on the ground but no yellow flags were tossed.

      After the game, Corrente provided his explanation. "It has nothing to do with the rule of full body weight," Corrente said. "It has nothing to do with helmet to helmet. He picked the quarterback up and drove him into the ground."

      --San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones and New York Jets wide receiver ArDarius Stewart are among the players returning from two-game NFL suspensions this week.

      Foster served a suspension for violations of league policies on personal conduct and substance abuse. The 49ers have a two-day roster exemption, ending Wednesday, before being required to clear a spot for him on the 53-man roster.

      Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Jones would be with the team Wednesday when Green Bay returns to the practice field. Jones was suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Stewart was suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. He had six receptions for 82 yards in 15 games as a rookie in 2017.

      --Brice Butler is back with the Dallas Cowboys, who continue to search for the right combination at wide receiver.

      Adding Butler gives the team seven wide receivers on the 53-man roster. Safety Tyree Robinson was released to make room on the roster.

      Butler had 43 catches and six touchdowns in 36 games after being acquired in 2015. Butler spent three seasons with the Cowboys before he was released in the offseason and drew fire in Dallas for going on FS1 to vent his frustrations with the franchise.

      --Field Level Media

  • WR Jackson: Bucs need to stick with 'lights-out' Fitzpatrick
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Former No. 1 draft pick Jameis Winston has one game remaining on his season-opening suspension, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson wants Ryan Fitzpatrick to keep the job.

    • "He's playing on fire right now," Jackson said of Fitzpatrick on the NFL Network. "With the way the team is rallying behind him and just playing lights-out football, you have to kind of honor it. You can't take the hot man out. You got the hot fire right now. It's like NBA Jam. We used to play NBA Jam - whoever got that hot fire shot, you got to keep shooting, man."

      Tampa Bay is 2-0 behind veteran quarterback Fitzpatrick, who is 48-of-61 passing (78.7 percent) and leads the league with 819 yards. The 35-year-old has thrown eight touchdown passes against just one interception, and his 151.5 passer rating also leads the league.

      Jackson has caught three of those touchdown passes and leads the league with 275 receiving yards.

      Bucs coach Dirk Koetter would not commit to a starting quarterback beyond Week 3, when Tampa Bay plays host to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

      "I won't be the one getting into that because we'll worry about that when the time comes," Koetter said Monday. "Right now, right after I get out of here we're going to start working on Pittsburgh, and that's all that matters right now. Everything else is in the future because it could all change like that."

      On Aug. 30, general manager Jason Licht wouldn't commit to Winston starting in Week 4 when he returns from suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

      "I don't think it's fair to say right now that he's going to be the guy," Licht said then while speaking on the Bucs' broadcast on WFLA TV.

      --Field Level Media

  • QB Brady, Patriots preach patience with WR Gordon
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Patriots quarterback Tom Brady warned of placing great expectations on wide receiver Josh Gordon before he has time to settle in with New England.

    • The Patriots traded a conditional fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns to acquire Gordon on Monday.

      "You know, I hate to make projections and expectations. That's not fair," Brady told Jim Gray on Westwood One on Monday night. "I've never met Josh personally, just like I hadn't met some of the guys that have come in the last couple weeks. So we'll see how it goes this week and hopefully he can work hard, put the team first and end up helping us in any role that he can find for himself on the team."

      After missing training camp to enter a rehab facility at the University of Florida as a preventative measure, Gordon caught a touchdown in Week 1. But he ran out of chances with the Browns, who parted with the troubled wide receiver following multiple suspensions and repeated violations of the league's substance-abuse policy.

      Head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday the team is exactly where it was the day before with regard to the pecking order at wide receiver. Gordon has not yet worked out with the team.

      The Patriots traded Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams, and free agent Danny Amendola left for the Miami Dolphins in the offseason. The Patriots are still two games away from wide receiver Julian Edelman's return from a four-game suspension.

      Through two games, Brady is 18th in the NFL in passing, and the churn of the wide receiver depth chart has been constant. In adding Gordon, the Patriots released former first-round pick Corey Coleman.

      "Any time you get someone in the middle of the season, there's obviously a lot of things that have happened that have got the team to a certain point that they weren't a part of," Brady said. "So you know, I'm not sure how many of those things matter, but you'd like to try to get up to speed as quickly as possible and it's really up to the individuals. ... You know all these things need to play themselves out. I'm not going to project anything. I'm just going to try to go be the positive, enthusiastic leader that I am and try to be a great quarterback and try to embrace whoever's on the team. And we've all got to play a lot better than we played (at Jacksonville) and that's really where our focus should be."

      --Field Level Media

  • Steelers WR Brown skipped work Monday
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was a no-show in Pittsburgh when the team gathered in the aftermath of a 42-37 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed Tuesday.

    • Brown wasn't entirely invisible Monday. He barked back at former Steelers PR man Ryan Scarpino via Twitter, when Scarpino wrote on Twitter: "AB needs to thank his lucky stars, because he was drafted by a team that had Ben. And Ben got AB paid. You know darn well he wouldn't put up those numbers for other teams."

      Brown replied: "Trade me let's find out."

      Scarpino knows Brown well, having working public relations for the team from 2010-17.

      The Post-Gazette reported Tuesday, citing sources, that Brown did not show up for meetings on Monday.

      Brown's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said Brown's tweet "was not in reference to anything other than Antonio responding to a person he knows."

      He continued: "It was not directed towards a trade, or wanting to be [traded]. Any idea he was asking for a trade is not accurate.

      Antonio had a personal matter. I talked to the team about it. His issue was unrelated to the tweet or his relationship with the team. Third, AB has an incredible drive to win. He just wants to win. That's all that that is.

      That's not anything more than him encouraging his coaches and teammates to win. And that's what his entire focus is on. Any notion, any speculation otherwise, can be put to bed. This is a non-story that has been blown out of proportion. We can end this right here and now."

      Head coach Mike Tomlin held his usual press conference Tuesday and said he understands there is frustration in losing. Tomlin did confirm Brown was a no-show for team meetings Tuesday.

      "I look forward to addressing that and other things with him," Tomlin said, adding he would not get into whether Brown's absence was excused or not. "Again, I'm going to visit with Antonio -- I just haven't done it. I may or may not provide details. I just want to stay focused on what's real and what's important."

      Brown caught nine passes for 67 yards in Sunday's loss and was visibly upset during the game in which JuJu Smith-Schuster caught 13 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, and tight end Jesse James had five receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown.

      Brown, 30, has not been above drama in recent years with the Steelers, who made him the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver with a deal paying him $17 million in 2018.

      --Field Level Media

  • 49ers LB Foster, Packers RB Jones return from suspended list
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones and New York Jets wide receiver ArDarius Stewart are among the players returning from two-game NFL suspensions this week.

    • Foster served a suspension for violations of league policies on personal conduct and substances of abuse. The 49ers are afforded a two-day roster exemption ending Wednesday before being required to clear a spot for him on the 53-man roster.

      San Francisco has been hit hard by injuries at the position and Foster is likely to be in the lineup immediately.

      Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Jones would be with the team Wednesday when Green Bay returns to the practice field. Jones was suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Because pass protection is not a Jones strength and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing with a knee injury, Jamaal Williams is likely to remain the starting running back in Green Bay.

      Stewart was suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. He had six receptions for 82 yards in 15 games as a rookie in 2017.

      --Field Level Media

  • NFL using Matthews' hit in instructional video
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Two weeks, two roughing the passer penalties and Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews became the virtual poster boy for the penalty in the NFL's latest instructional video for officials.

    • NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron is packing Matthews' roughing penalty, questioned by Packers coach Mike McCarthy and almost universally on social media channels Sunday, into a video distributed to league officials this week.

      Referee Tony Corrente made the right call, Riveron said, when Matthews was flagged for taking Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins to the ground and landing on him with his weight. A strikingly similar play in the Jaguars-Patriots game ended with Tom Brady on the ground but no yellow flags were tossed.

      After the game, Corrente provided his explanation.

      "It has nothing to do with the rule of full body weight," Corrente said. "It has nothing to do with helmet to helmet. He picked the quarterback up and drove him into the ground."

      McCarthy said Monday the penalty that negated an interception was troubling.

      "I get what the goal (of player safety) is, and we're all for the goal being achieved, but at the same time, you have to make sure it's not a competitive disadvantage to the pass rusher trying to hit the quarterback," McCarthy said.

      Matthews was penalized for a blatant hit on Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in Week 1. He didn't like the Week 2 call on which he put his shoulder in Cousins' abdomen as the ball was released.

      "I mean, I don't even know where to start to be completely honest with you," he said after the game, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "There are so many emotions running through (me) as far as what a terrible call it was, but at the same time, I don't know what else to do. I don't know, you let me know. Did I put pressure on him? Because I thought I hit him within the waist to chest (area). I got my head across, put my hands down and to call it at that point in the game is unbelievable.

      "Last week, ok, shame on me, but this week - that's unbelievable and the worst part is, we'll probably send it in and you know what they are going to say - they'll find fault on me because they are going to agree with the refs. I don't know. It's a difficult call to call and you saw how it changed the game and I know there's an emphasis on protecting quarterbacks but it's gotten out of control now."

      --Field Level Media

  • Cowboys sign Butler, giving Dallas seven WRs
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Brice Butler is back with the Dallas Cowboys, who continue to search for the right combination at wide receiver.

    • Adding Butler gives the team seven wide receivers on the 53-man roster. Safety Tyree Robinson was released to make room on the roster.

      The Cowboys brought Butler into the fold again following a workout with the team Monday.

      Butler spent three seasons with the Cowboys before he was released in the offseason and drew fire in Dallas for going on FS1 to vent his frustrations with the franchise.

      Butler had 43 catches and six touchdowns in 36 games after being acquired in 2015.

      --Field Level Media

  • Hall of Famers demand insurance, NFL rev share
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    The newly formed players-only Hall of Fame Board, made up of Pro Football Hall of Fame players, are threatening a boycott of induction ceremonies unless Hall of Fame members receive health insurance and an annual salary that includes a share of NFL revenues.

    • ESPN obtained a copy of the memo sent to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker. ESPN shared the text to Twitter on Tuesday morning.

      Former Rams running back Eric Dickerson is the chairman of the board created to represent the pursuit of health care and a piece of the NFL's massive revenue pie.

      The Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, has undergone an enormous construction project in recent years -- Hall of Fame Village, aided by a giant sponsorship deal with Johnson Controls -- that includes a retirement center for players, who would receive healthcare on the premises. The project also included a new stadium and will bring multiple football fields for youth participation initiatives.

      The letter claims the Hall of Fame Board also includes Marcus Allen, Mel Blount, Derrick Brooks, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Richard Dent, Carl Ellard, Marshall Faulk, Mike Haynes, Rickey Jackson, Ronnie Lott, Curtis Martin, Joe Namath, John Randle, Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jackie Smith, Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White's widow, Sarah White.

      However, it also listed retired quarterback Kurt Warner (St. Louis Rams, New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals) and San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders great Jerry Rice, who denied he was in any way associated with the effort. Rice said he supports the message of lifetime health benefits.

      "I plan to support the Pro Football Hall of Fame and look forward to attending the 100th anniversary in 2020," Rice said via Twitter.

      In the letter published by ESPN, players reference Major League Baseball's lifetime health coverage afforded any player who serves a single day on a big-league roster, and point to the established $620 million "Legacy Fund" as one of the NFL's "cynical public relations ploys that fail to help those who desperately need it."

      --Field Level Media

  • Film study: How Mahomes is thriving
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 18, 2018

    Patrick Mahomes is taking Andy Reid's scheme to another level.

    • Already out of control entering the season, the Mahomes bandwagon didn't take long to upgrade to a double-decker party bus, complete with a bouncy house and a hot tub.

      Through two weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs' offense has been the ultimate marriage of scheme and skill set, as Mahomes has taken Reid's brilliant designs -- and the incomparable Tyreek Hill -- to another echelon.

      Reid and his staff used a year to refine the QB's iffy mechanics, and he's paying them back with pinpoint throws from an arm capable of almost anything. In an offense that schemes receivers open as well as any in the NFL, Mahomes' willingness to turn throws loose early (unlike the cautious Alex Smith) maximizes yards after catch and big-play potential.

      Reid is superb at blurring the responsibilities of zone defenders through route concepts, and Mahomes' arm -- a howitzer, yes, but also capable of layering throws with touch -- makes him a terror against zone coverages. The Pittsburgh Steelers learned the hard way Sunday.

      On K.C.'s second drive, Mahomes exploited second-year cornerback Cameron Sutton -- filling in for Joe Haden -- in two different ways for big plays against Cover-2 zone. First, he threw early and with perfect touch to Sammy Watkins for 40 yards, dropping it over Sutton's underneath zone well before safety Sean Davis could arrive.

      Two plays later, Reid sent the Chiefs' most dangerous weapons, Hill and Travis Kelce, on vertical routes at Sutton, who was playing as one of two deep safeties. Mahomes used his eyes to force Sutton to honor Hill's outside go route, then whipped the ball to Kelce on a post for an easy 19-yard score.

      Mahomes also showed anticipation by firing early on a back-shoulder throw -- a play normally designed for big-framed targets -- to the diminutive Hill, gaining 36 yards to open the third quarter. Later in the frame, he dropped a pass perfectly over helpless linebacker Jon Bostic into Kelce's hands for 31 yards up the middle of Tampa-2 zone coverage.

      Mahomes capped that drive by flicking the ball from a funky arm angle and into a tight window while rolling right for a 3-yard score to Demarcus Robinson.

      The big plays came in all kinds of ways, a great sign for a signal-caller making his third career start.

      The Steelers' defense was certainly complicit in the torching. It blew red-zone coverages on the first (15 yards to Chris Conley) and fourth (25 yards to Kelce) touchdowns, and missed all sorts of tackles, including on Kareem Hunt's 5-yard TD, Hill's 36-yard catch and a 25-yard gain by Watkins. And believe it or not, Mahomes actually failed to capitalize on three of Pittsburgh's biggest errors, leaving potential TDs of 71, 39 and 99 yards on the field.

      Early in the second, he pulled back on a bomb for Hill -- who got behind Davis deep -- because he stepped up right into 352-pound Dan McCullers for a sack in mostly clean pocket. Two plays after halftime, Mahomes overthrew a wide-open Watkins, who was covered only by 252-pound T.J. Watt on a slot fade.

      Early in the fourth, he threw too far and outside for Hill from his own end zone, after Sutton allowed Hill a clean inside release and Davis inexplicably abandoned center field to double-team Conley's crossing route. A play later, Hunt was tackled behind the goal line for a safety.

      Setting aside the absurdity of Mahomes potentially topping his stat line with a 99-yard TD -- which would have tied NFL records for longest completion and most TD passes (seven) in a single game -- every QB leaves plays on the field. Those were outliers on Sunday, as the misses to Watkins and Hill accounted for 40 percent of Mahomes' incompletions.

      Yes, some regression is inevitable. Teams will study Mahomes more, windows will tighten and his offensive line (two sacks allowed in two games) won't keep him quite so clean. He'll see more press-man coverage and obvious passing situations (the Chiefs have yet to trail this year), forcing him to work deeper into progressions. The guy who had 29 interceptions in 32 college games will turn the ball over at some point. And don't forget the swoon Kansas City's offense had midseason last year (Weeks 1-5: 32.4 points per game; Weeks 6-13: 18.0).

      But the combination of Reid's scheme, Hill's and Kelce's explosiveness and Mahomes' arm is potent enough to shatter the geometry of most defensive coordinators' designs.

      At the combine, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach called Mahomes "one of the best players I have ever seen." While that still seems awfully premature, the 23-year-old is already looking like the best possible fit for Reid's offense.

      --Third down's the charm in Jacksonville

      The recipe for most wins over the New England Patriots includes a few of the same ingredients: stingy coverage and pressure on Tom Brady without blitzing. The Jacksonville Jaguars had those elements in last year's AFC Championship Game but lacked the offensive aggressiveness to close out the win.

      Sunday's upset showed they learned from that mistake, as they kept throwing (Blake Bortles had 45 attempts to Brady's 35) despite leading the whole game. The result was a win that was even more comprehensive than the 31-20 margin, as Jacksonville outgained New England by 2.0 yards per play (7.0 to 5.0) and 179 total yards (481-302).

      Most staggering was the Jaguars' comprehensive dominance on third down, as they won 18 of 26 such plays, finishing 8 of 12 on defense and 10 of 14 on offense. The defense's success rate was no surprise (it ranked fourth on third downs last year), but it could have been even better.

      Two of the Patriots' third-down conversions came via Brady's legs: one on a QB sneak, and another on his longest run in two years, a 10-yard scramble on third-and-6. On the other two conversions, Brady got the ball out despite immediate pressure from a four-man rush, including Dante Fowler Jr. arriving a beat late on Chris Hogan's 7-yard, third-quarter TD.

      Brady's fortune turned less than five minutes later. He was a beat slower and Fowler a beat quicker on a third-and-9, as Fowler dipped around LaAdrian Waddle and stripped Brady as the veteran wound up to throw. The Jaguars recovered, preventing the Patriots from getting closer in the fourth quarter.

      Reliable as the Jacksonville defense was, Bortles & Co. might have been even more impressive on third downs. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett terrorized the Patriots with crossing routes and pick plays while featuring the shifty Keelan Cole and Corey Grant in space.

      Grant set up the first touchdown by beating Patrick Chung with an angle route to convert third-and-7. Just before halftime, a rub from Dede Westbrook sprung Austin Seferian-Jenkins from Chung's man coverage on a corner route for a 4-yard score on third-and-3. Early in the third, Cole turned cornerback Eric Rowe inside out for 22 yards on third-and-11, then used a Westbrook pick three plays later to gain 11 on a third-and-2 slant.

      When things didn't go according to plan, Bortles compensated with quick processing and timely scrambles.

      On the Jags' third play, he shimmied to elude unblocked linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley and found Seferian-Jenkins for 11 yards on third-and-6. When the Patriots dialed up a rare all-out blitz, Bortles threw immediately over a leaping Chung to Seferian-Jenkins -- who was temporarily open as Devin McCourty rotated to cover him -- for 8 yards on third-and-7 late in the second.

      Bortles also moved the chains with scrambles for 9, 10 and 10 on third downs of 6, 7 and 9, respectively, while coming up just short on another with 4 yards on third-and-5.

      Even one of Sunday's few third-down failures came only after a hands-to-the-face penalty nullified a third-and-7 conversion. All told, the Jags moved the chains 7 of 11 times on third-and-5 or longer after going 0-for-8 on such plays in the opener.

      The unit can obviously be more consistent after struggling in Week 1, but Hackett and Bortles have now given Bill Belichick's team fits in two games dating back to the AFC Championship. If these teams meet again in January, Sunday's result gives New England plenty to worry about.

      --The Fitzmagic touch

      The only QB as hot as Mahomes is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose fantastic start (819 passing yards, eight TDs, one pick) might be the NFL's biggest surprise through two weeks.

      Fitzpatrick was always an up-and-down starter because of his willingness to turn it loose without high-level arm strength. The scales have tipped heavily toward the "up" side of things of late, in large part because he's executed a well-schemed attack so precisely.

      Sunday's first play from scrimmage -- a 75-yard TD to DeSean Jackson -- was a perfect example.

      Offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who has taken play-calling duties from head coach Dirk Koetter this year, knows the Eagles' defense prefers quarters coverage (also called Cover-4), especially on early downs. So Monken dialed up a play-action deep shot with Jackson on a post route against Jalen Mills, whose coverage responsibility dictates that he must maintain outside leverage. That gave the speedy Jackson a head start once he cut inside and across the field.

      Fitzpatrick read it and made a perfect throw, allowing Jackson to maximize his speed and take it the final 40 yards to pay dirt.

      I've been skeptical of keeping Fitzpatrick as the starter when Jameis Winston returns, but the Bucs' deep-ball success through two games is the most convincing argument to do so. Fitzpatrick is 7 of 9 for 317 yards (35.2 per attempt), four touchdowns and no interceptions on throws traveling 20-plus yards on the air, after Winston went 16 of 53 for 537 yards (10.1 per attempt), six TDs and two picks on such throws last season.

      That said, Fitzpatrick very likely will cool off. He had been downright poor on 20-plus-yard throws (28.9 completion percentage, 9.8 yards per attempt, 31 TDs and 40 INTs) before 2018, worse than Winston's career figures (31.1 percent, 10.2, 18 and 10).

      Perhaps Fitzpatrick has found the chemistry with Jackson that Winston never did, or maybe he's due for sharp regression. Mahomes proved Sunday the Steelers' defense is exploitable deep, so Fitzpatrick will get more chances to stake his claim on Monday night in Week 3.

      --How Kupp ties McVay's scheme together

      You don't need me to tell you Sean McVay and Todd Gurley make the Los Angeles Rams' offense go, but don't overlook one of the unit's key pieces: Cooper Kupp. The second-year wideout routinely wins on third down -- on Sunday, he cooked Cardinals cornerback Jamar Taylor for 29 yards on third-and-4, then found a soft spot in a zone for 10 yards on third-and-9 -- but he also does the dirty work.

      McVay regularly deploys Kupp inline like a tight end -- often via motion toward the formation -- and asks the wideout to block straight ahead, across the formation (a "slice" block) to the backside, or by cracking a defensive end to the inside. On Sunday, Kupp stoned safety Antoine Bethea from that inline alignment on Gurley's 11-yard and 1-yard TD runs.

      This also unlocks some of McVay's creativity off play-action.

      Kupp diligently sells run fakes by blocking for a second or two before releasing, a wrinkle few teams use, but one that makes linebackers and safeties take the bait, hook, line and sinker. That allows explosive plays for Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods downfield, but Kupp himself profits on occasion too -- his 8-yard touchdown against the Raiders last week is a perfect example.

      McVay also uses Kupp from that alignment on jet sweeps and fake "slice" blocks, where Kupp crosses the formation behind the line after the snap and is usually wide open for 5 to 10 free yards after a bootleg play-fake.

      Oh by the way, Kupp was also the holder on Johnny Hekker's 20-yard field goal Sunday (Hekker normally holds for Greg Zuerlein, who was out with a groin injury). Just another game for a man who always has a lot on his plate.

      --David DeChant, Field Level Media

  • NFL: Matthews' QB hit a case of what not to do
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 17, 2018

    Mere hours after the Green Bay Packers requested some clarity from the NFL about what linebacker Clay Matthews did wrong on a hit of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, the league gave an answer, and then said it's using that hit as an example of what not to do.

    • The league announced Monday it would send a training video to every team in the league. Included would be Matthews' hit, which referee Tony Corrente viewed as Matthews lifting and driving Cousins into the turf.

      Earlier in the day, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said Matthews has been doing what the new roughing rules dictated, yet he was called for a roughing penalty for the second game in a row.

      "I get what the goal (of player safety) is, and we're all for the goal being achieved, but at the same time, you have to make sure it's not a competitive disadvantage to the pass rusher trying to hit the quarterback," McCarthy said Monday.

      The roughing penalty was especially important on Sunday because it wiped out an interception that Cousins threw on the play. He later threw a touchdown pass on the possession in a game that ended in a 29-29 tie.

      Sports columnist Mike Wilbon tweeted that the penalty call "ought to be an embarrassment."

      "I get what the goal (of player safety) is, and we're all for the goal being achieved, but at the same time, you have to make sure it's not a competitive disadvantage to the pass rusher trying to hit the quarterback," McCarthy said earlier Monday.

      --Field Level Media

  • Gruden: No regrets on Mack trade
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 17, 2018

    Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden told reporters Monday he doesn't have second thoughts about trading defensive end Khalil Mack despite the team's lack of pass rush through two games.

    • "No, it doesn't make me regret the trade," Gruden said. "We made the trade. We made the trade. ... We would have loved to have him here -- and I'm not going to keep rehashing this -- I would have loved to coached him, loved to have him here. But he's not here.

      "Somebody's got to step up. We got to keep building our football team, and that's what we are going to do. Hopefully, we see more from Arden Key. Hopefully, we see more from PJ Hall when he gets healthy. Hopefully, we prove that in the long term we did the right thing."

      After a lengthy holdout as Mack sought a new contract, he was dealt to the Chicago Bears before the season in a trade that included two first-round picks in return. He had a strip-sack, fumble recovery and pick-six in his Bears debut in Week 1, then added another strip-sack Monday in Chicago's 24-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

      The Raiders have two total sacks, one in each game, and seven quarterback hits this season.

      Key, a rookie third-round pick who took Mack's place in the starting lineup, has three quarterback hits but has yet to get a sack. Hall, a second-round rookie defensive tackle, hasn't reached the quarterback yet, and he missed Sunday's game in Denver with a foot injury. Gruden said Hall is unlikely to return in Week 3.

      Gruden also said the Raiders "need to get to get more out of" defensive end Bruce Irvin, who had a sack in the opener and one QB hit in each game.

      "He's had some really good snaps," Gruden said of Irvin. "We need more and more from him. I know he's giving us everything he has and it's tough on him, certainly, because we do have a lot of new guys around him up front."

      Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, a fifth-round rookie, had the team's lone sack against the Broncos.

      --Field Level Media

  • Bills' Jones not concussed after helmetless hit
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 17, 2018

    Buffalo Bills running back Taiwan Jones avoided a concussion after a brutal hit during Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers in which his bare head was struck by an opponent's helmet.

    • "No concussion, he's bruised, cut up a bit there," Bills coach Sean McDermott told reporters Monday, adding that Jones needed stitches.

      Jones was hurt after he scooped up a loose ball in his own end zone following a muffed punt by teammate Marcus Murphy. Jones was hit once, causing his helmet to come off, then was struck again, this time by Chargers linebacker Uchenna Nwosu in a helmet-to-head blow.

      Jones went down in the end zone and was treated by trainers. He then walked off the field with the training staff, and the front of his white headband was clearly bloodied.

      The play was called a touchback. Officials did not appear to whistle the play dead after Jones' helmet came off, but Nwosu was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.

      "You don't wish a hit like that on anybody," Nwosu said after the game. "You try to play as safe as possible. But it's football, and we all signed up to play this game, so you have to face things that come with it.

      Nwosu also apologized in a statement to NFL Network on Monday, saying, "I want to take another opportunity to apologize to Taiwan Jones for yesterday's hit. The game is rough but my intention is never to hurt anyone. The ref hadn't blown the whistle to call the play dead and I didn't realize that his helmet had come off. My apologies man."

      Jones, 30, is in his eighth NFL season and second with the Bills. He has primarily played special teams in his career, logging a total of 44 carries for 183 yards in 76 games (no starts).

      --Field Level Media

  • McDermott: Bills 'moving on' without Davis
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 17, 2018

    Buffalo coach Sean McDermott told reporters Monday that the Bills are putting cornerback Vontae Davis' sudden retirement during Sunday's game behind them.

    • "His actions have spoken," McDermott said of Davis, who started Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers before deciding to retire at halftime and leaving the stadium. "He's retired."

      McDermott added Davis has "had a heckuva career" and wished the 30-year-old the best, but also said the team will soldier on without distraction.

      "I got a lot of respect for Vontae," McDermott said. "He's a good person. I certainly appreciate the way he worked when he was in here, but we're moving forward as a football team. ...

      "There's no need to address it (with the team). We're moving on. That's what a team does. This is not going to become a distraction for us."

      Davis remains on the roster while the team ponders its options, but the Bills received a roster exemption from the league and can add another player if they choose.

      Davis, who signed a one-year, $5 million contract in February, released a statement on Twitter after Sunday's game, which was his first action of the season.

      "This isn't how I pictured retiring from the NFL," Davis wrote. "... But today on the field, reality hit me fast and hard: I shouldn't be out there playing anymore.

      "I meant no disrespect to my teammates and coaches. But I hold myself to a high standard. Mentally, I always expect myself to play at the highest level. But physically, I know today that isn't possible, and I had an honest moment with myself. ... It's more important for me and my family to walk away than to willfully embrace the warrior mentality and limp away too late."

      Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander called Davis' decision "completely disrespectful" to the team, but defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier echoed McDermott's refrain on Monday.

      "We wish him nothing but the best," Frazier said of Davis. "I hope things work out for Vontae, whatever he chooses to do. Hopefully he'll learn from this experience. I'm not sure what's going on in his mind right now. I haven't talked to him since yesterday at this point. But eventually I hope to get a chance to speak to him and wish him nothing but the best."

      --Field Level Media

  • FLM All 32: Team-by-team NFL notes
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 17, 2018

    AFC East

    • Buffalo Bills: The Bills surrendered 28 points to the Chargers in the first half on Monday, and just a field goal in the second half in their 31-20 loss. The difference? Perhaps the defensive play-calling of head coach Sean McDermott. After the half, McDermott took over from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. "I just thought we needed a spark and that's my background. Coach Frazier does [a] really good job as well as the defensive staff. I just felt like we needed a spark," McDermott said. He added: "I didn't really change all that much, honestly. I thought the defense played with a lot of energy in the second half and the guys, give the players credit, they battled."

      Miami Dolphins: Running back Frank Gore passed Curtis Martin to move into fourth-place on the all-time rushing list on Sunday. Drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft after suffering two ACL injuries in college, the 35-year-old Gore has rushed for 14,112 yards and 77 touchdowns during his career with the 49ers, Colts and Dolphins. "I've been doubted my whole life, especially coming out of college with the injuries I had," said Gore, in his 14th season. "People said I would be in the league for two to three years and then I would be done. I've been blessed to keep going and also have success." Hall of Fame members Emmitt Smith (18,355 yards), Walter Payton (16,726) and Barry Sanders (15,269) are ahead of Gore on the list.

      New England Patriots: The silver lining in the loss on Sunday at Jacksonville was the debut of rookie running back Sony Michel, who was out all preseason with a minor knee issue. A product of Georgia, Michel was a first-round draft pick by the Patriots in April's draft. Michel rushed 10 times for 34 yards and caught a

      7-yard pass from Tom Brady. "Once I step on the field, I'm ready to go," Michel said. "There's no way that I can be trying to work my way back into stuff. Once I step onto the field and the doctors say I'm good to go, I'm good to go." Brady said: "He had a tough injury early in camp and had some opportunities today and he will learn from them. He ran hard when he had some chances."

      New York Jets: Team owner Woody Johnson is away from New York, serving as ambassador to the United Kingdom. In his absence, his younger brother, Christopher, is running the team. Christopher said he likes it so much that he hopes to maintain some duties when his brother's ambassadorship is done. "I'm having the time of my life," the younger Johnson told reporters recently. "If I was having that much fun with a five-win season, imagine how much fun I'll be having if we actually start killing it. I'm hopeful we can do that. I'm looking forward to my brother coming back in a few years. He's a great leader, but no question, I'm hoping to have a larger role at that point than I had prior. I think he'd welcome that."

      AFC North

      Baltimore Ravens: With the Denver Broncos up next, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said it's fair to put a spotlight on the Baltimore offensive line. The Cincinnati Bengals gave the Ravens' front five issues in Week 2. "Not systemic in terms of what type of protections we're running. We had one bad matchup, a tight end on a pass rusher ... he ended up hitting Joe on what would have been a big play for us," Harbaugh said. "They won some one-on-one battles at times. You've got to work really hard protecting your quarterback." The Broncos have seven sacks in two games. Flacco has been sacked five times this season. Backup Lamar Jackson has been sacked once in five dropbacks as a change-up option.

      Cleveland Browns: As the Browns lost belief in wide receiver Josh Gordon, they gained confidence in rookie Antonio Callaway, who delivered in spades Sunday at New Orleans. Callaway caught a 47-yard touchdown pass with 1:16 to go and a 16-yarder to set up a potential game-tying field goal in the closing seconds. He is emerging as a standout in a wide receiver group turned on its ear since adding Jarvis Landry in the offseason. In addition to Gordon, the Browns parted with former first-round pick Corey Coleman. "That was big-time, big-boy football. That's what we expect him to do," Landry said. "We're going to need a lot more of him this year, just like that." Quarterback Tyrod Taylor said Callaway "knows the opportunity in front of him."

      Cincinnati Bengals: Even when rookie center Billy Price went down against the Ravens in Week 2, the offensive line was a glowing strength, praised endlessly by quarterback Andy Dalton and coaches in the immediate aftermath of the game. Trey Hopkins had never played center before but stepped into the game and made every line call and adjustment. Offensive tackle Bobby Hart said the Bengals were successful even against the Ravens' "funky" blitz packages because they kept it simple. "We stuck to the things we knew well, and we were comfortable with that we wanted to do," he said. "The results were there -- just running our bread-and-butter plays, running the things where you don't have to worry about different looks and stuff. Just getting it and going. I'm proud of the guys, and I'm excited moving forward."

      Pittsburgh Steelers: Winless entering Week 3, a veteran locker room could be the greatest asset for the Steelers going forward. A tie at Cleveland and close loss to the Chiefs on Sunday put Pittsburgh out of the win column entering the third game of the season for the first time since 2013 (when they started 0-4 and finished 8-8). "It's just Game 2," offensive guard Ramon Foster said. "No panic at all. None of that." Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said the Steelers understand it is "look-in-the-mirror time" heading to Tampa Bay against the 2-0 Bucs for "Monday Night Football." "We'll see," Roethlisberger said, "how everyone wants to respond."

      AFC South

      Houston Texans: An 0-2 start brought critics out but coach Bill O'Brien was quick to point out his team hasn't even played its first home game. "We realize we have to do a lot better," O'Brien said. "We have to play more consistently, we have to practice better, we've got to coach better, we understand that, but we also know there's a lot ball left to be played." Cornerback Johnathan Joseph is of the mind set that one victory can serve as the wake-up call. "You hear a lot of hype coming out of the preseason and things like that and then you have one or two games where it doesn't fall in your favor, sometimes it crumbles a little bit," Joseph said, "but we're definitely standing tall in this locker room and we're moving on to next week."

      Indianapolis Colts: The defense will see Carson Wentz make his return from a major knee injury when they visit the Philadelphia Eagles and safety Malik Hooker says the unit will be ready for the test. "He's a great quarterback, obviously. Everybody knows that," Hooker said. "But at the end of the day, football's an 11-player game and not one, so we can't just let one person beat us. We're going to get out there and do the same thing and improve on the mistakes that we had this week." Colts first-year coach Frank Reich is obviously familiar with Wentz after tutoring him the past two seasons as the Eagles' quarterback coach.

      Jacksonville Jaguars: The offensive line suffered a big blow with left tackle Cam Robinson going down with an ACL tear in his left knee during Sunday's win over the New England Patriots but the injury presents a big opportunity for Josh Wells. The 27-year-old Wells was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014 after playing collegiately at James Madison. He has made four previous NFL starts, all last season. "It's a shame what happened to Cam, and I'm praying for him -- I really am," Wells said. "But it is an opportunity now, and it's an expectation level between the group -- and a trust between the group. I need to be someone who can be counted upon and play to the best of my ability."

      Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota (elbow) is still ailing and it wouldn't be a surprise if Blaine Gabbert is the starting quarterback for the second straight game when Tennessee faces the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Gabbert wasn't asked to do a lot but was steady enough -- 13 for 20, 117 yards, one touchdown -- and guided the team to the game-winning field in a 20-17 win over the Houston Texans. "He made some great throws, and he was the player of the game offensively," Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said. "I think Blaine gave us a chance to win the game and executed two great throws on that last drive." Vrabel said the team won't rush Mariota, who is experiencing tingling sensations and having issues gripping the football.

      AFC West

      Denver Broncos: Coach Vance Joseph said Monday he wasn't pleased with how the Broncos' defense started against the Raiders on Sunday, specifically pointing to the cornerbacks playing with too much cushion. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr reached halftime having gone 18 for 19 for 158 yards, which Joseph attributed to soft underneath coverage. "I thought yesterday defensively that we didn't play aggressive enough in the first half," Joseph said. "... We played way too cautious. ... Our corners have to -- have to -- play with great confidence all the time and obviously play press coverage." Joseph said he liked how the group responded after halftime, though Carr went 11 for 13 for 130 yards after the break.

      Kansas City Chiefs: Lost in the commotion of Patrick Mahomes' six-touchdown day at Pittsburgh was that the youngster, who turned 23 on Monday, handled the Steelers' blitzes effectively. "The thing that I think gets overlooked in this is they threw a bunch at him," coach Andy Reid told reporters, "which I thought was gonna be an important thing for him to work with." Reid added that the offensive line, which allowed just one sack on the day, played a major role in handling Pittsburgh's disguised looks. "The O-line did a really good job of picking the stuff up and kind of kept him clean," Reid said. "Even when they tried to press the receivers and throw your timing off, the O-line still gave him enough time where he could still function."

      Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon finished with only nine carries and 28 yards (including a 20-yard TD) in Sunday's romp over the Bills, compared to 11 carries for 77 yards by Austin Ekeler, but Gordon added six receptions for 38 yards and two scores. Through two games, Gordon leads the team in receptions (15) and receiving touchdowns (two), while gaining 140 yards through the air. Coach Anthony Lynn expects that production to continue. "Melvin has excellent hands, and he's a decent route runner," Lynn told reporters. "We're trying to get him more involved in the passing game, and I think you're seeing that the first couple weeks."

      Oakland Raiders: The Raiders have tallied just two sacks through two games, but coach Jon Gruden said he doesn't have regrets about dealing defensive end Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. "We made the trade," Gruden told reporters. "... I'd have loved to have had him here, but he's not here. Somebody has to step up." Gruden added that the Raiders "need more and more" from defensive end Bruce Irvin, who had a sack in the opener and a QB hit and tackle for loss in Denver. "I know he's giving us everything he has," Gruden continued. "It's tough on him, certainly, because we do have a lot of new guys around him up front."

      NFC East

      Dallas Cowboys: Former Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, cut by Pittsburgh on Sept. 1, worked out for the Cowboys on Monday, according to the Star-Telegram. Jones, 29, could be the veteran quarterback the Cowboys need to back up Dak Prescott. The current backup is Central Michigan product Cooper Rush, and coach Jason Garrett had this to say about him after their Aug. 26 game against the Cardinals: "There were some good things in the game and obviously there were some bad plays. He'll learn how to handle some of the situations better as he goes forward. ... When you're in some challenging situations, all of that gets tested. At times, I thought he handled it really well. Other times, he didn't handle it well enough."

      New York Giants: For a team that some thought had Super Bowl potential, the Giants played far from superbly on Sunday night in a 20-13 loss to the Cowboys. And their performance left new coach Pat Shurmur and quarterback Eli Manning looking for answers. "We certainly didn't do enough in terms of offense to -- we didn't score enough points, especially early," Shurmur said. "And then the game gets twisted like that and you got to pass it more than you want to. Just didn't make enough plays, so here we are, we're 0-2." Manning added: "We didn't execute well enough. When we did get some first downs we made, but seemed to be going backwards a few plays later. We got into some third-and-longs and tough situations."

      Philadelphia Eagles: Move over, Norm Van Brocklin. With a 12-yard pass Sunday against Tampa Bay, Nick Foles surpassed the Hall of Fame member and moved into ninth place on the Eagles' all-time passing yardage list. Van Brocklin had 7,497 yards from 1958-60. Foles now has 7,741 but is a long way from No. 1: Donovan McNabb with 32,873 yards. Foles likely won't hold that spot long. Third-year quarterback Carson Wentz, shelved to start the season with a knee injury, is expected to start Sunday and send Foles back to the bench. In just 29 games with the Eagles, Wentz sits at No. 12 on the all-time list with 7,078 yards and could climb quickly. "He probably will come back stronger and better than ever," Adam Dedeaux, Wentz's mechanics coach at 3DQB, told NFL.com.

      Washington Redskins: The Redskins traditionally have one of the staunchest fan bases, but this season is off to a bad start. The home opener at FedEx Field on Sunday saw the lowest crowd in the stadium's history: 57,013. The previous low, according to Pro Football Reference, was 76,512 in 2015. The Redskins are 1-1, beating Arizona on the road in Week 1 and losing to Indianapolis 21-9 on Sunday. Team president Bruce Allen spoke about attendance late last week: "I think we're going to be OK. We had a nice pep rally out here at Redskins Park [Thursday] night and I think we're going to be fine. You can feel the enthusiasm with our fans for this team. It is the right talent and attitude, and they're putting out an effort that we haven't seen in a while."

      NFC North

      Detroit Lions: Nevin Lawson and Teez Tabor are next in line if cornerback Darius Slay isn't cleared from a concussion in time for "Monday Night Football" with the New England Patriots. Slay's status will not be updated until Thursday. He was ushered to the sideline after taking a blow to the head in each of the first two regular-season games, and left Week 2 at San Francisco following a collision with 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Head coach Matt Patricia signaled a possible start for Tabor when pressed about the next man up. "I think Tabor does a good job every week of being ready to go. He studies, he's smart. He's a big, long guy that can go out there and obviously have a good presence. But, I'm always confident that he's ready to go," Patricia said.

      Green Bay Packers: Linebacker Clay Matthews and head coach Mike McCarthy are seeking clarity from the NFL on what they labeled a "gray area" when it comes to enforcement of roughing the passer penalties. For the second game in a row, Matthews was penalized for roughing late in the game, including Sunday when he hit Kirk Cousins in the ribs as Cousins delivered a pass that was intercepted for what would have been a game-sealing pick. "I get what the goal (of player safety) is, and we're all for the goal being achieved, but at the same time, you have to make sure it's not a competitive disadvantage to the pass rusher trying to hit the quarterback," McCarthy said Monday. He also questioned the validity of a holding call on left guard Lane Taylor that wiped out a touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham.

      Minnesota Vikings: Blair Walsh was granted several chances to save his job with the Vikings under coach Mike Zimmer, but after cutting Kai Forbath in favor of the Auburn rookie, Daniel Carlson missed his shot to endear himself to a Super Bowl hopeful. Carlson missed three field goal attempts in the Week 2 tie at Green Bay, including two in overtime. "Guys are supposed to do their jobs," Zimmer said. On Monday, when Carlson was waived, Zimmer was asked to explain the decision. "Did you see the game?" The follow-up question was whether the decision was easy. Zimmer said "Yeah, it was pretty easy."

      NFC South

      Atlanta Falcons: Coach Dan Quinn disagrees with published reports claiming running back Devonta Freeman (knee) will be sidelined two or three weeks, but was unable to say if Freeman will be available for Sunday's game against New Orleans Saints. "We're not sure where that report came from, it certainly didn't come from us," Quinn said. "So we're going to continue in that spot of day-to-day, and when Devonta can (show) the same explosion that he plays with then we'll let him do his thing. But until that part comes, we're not going to put a timetable on it." Atlanta rushed for 170 yards in Sunday's win over the Carolina Panthers as Tevin Coleman gained 107 on 16 carries and Ito Smith had 46 on nine attempts.

      Carolina Panthers: First-round selection DJ Moore will become a bigger part of the offense after scoring a 51-yard touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons on his first career catch. Moore caught a pass from Cam Newton at the Atlanta 34-yard line, broke a tackle and sailed down the middle of the field for the score. The touchdown came on just one of two times Moore was targeted through his first two NFL games. "I think we've got to put more on his plate," Rivera said. "Just looking at some of the things that we've done, things that we've done in practice, I think that we can stress him more and ask more of him."

      New Orleans Saints: Receiver Michael Thomas set an NFL record with 28 catches through two games -- Atlanta's Andre Rison (26 in 1994) held the old mark -- but he isn't too interested in getting caught up with the milestone. "It's a long season, man. I'm trying to play in the championship. I'm trying to play in the Super Bowl," Thomas said. "I'm trying to do big things here, so individual stats at the end of the day, with a player of my caliber and the guy behind center and the offensive line and all the tools around me, I'm gonna catch a lot of footballs. I'm gonna get open. I've been doing that my whole life." However, Thomas also lost a fumble for the second straight week.

      Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan Fitzpatrick is the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 400 yards and at least four touchdowns in each of his team's first two games of the season. Fitzpatrick's strong performances could lead to him remaining the starter even after Jameis Winston returns from a three-game suspension next week. Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter had no interest in helping ignite a quarterback controversy a week earlier than necessary. "I won't be the one getting into that," Koetter said in response to a question at a press conference. "We'll worry about that when the time comes. Right now we're going to start working on Pittsburgh and that's all that matters right now. Everything else is in the future because it could all change just like that."

      NFC West

      Arizona Cardinals: Through two games, the Cardinals' offense has just six points and 350 total yards, both last in the league by a mile (Buffalo is next at 23 points and 446 yards). One way to improve could be using running back David Johnson -- who has 22 carries for 85 yards and six catches for 33 yards this season -- more creatively. "We talked about that," coach Steve Wilks told reporters Monday. "We've got to utilize David from the standpoint of getting him out of the backfield, putting him in the slot, putting him out there to try and create that matchup that we need. David is very effective when he is out in space, so we have to start utilizing him in those particular matters." Johnson had 80 receptions for 879 yards and four scores in his last full season (2016), before missing almost all of last year with a wrist injury.

      Los Angeles Rams: For the second consecutive year, the Rams shut out the Cardinals, and Sunday's 34-0 pasting allowed L.A. to rest some of its key veterans. Todd Gurley was kept out of much of the second half after dealing with leg cramps, playing 49 of 72 (68 percent) offensive snaps. Meanwhile, the defense faced just 45 snaps all game, and no player played more than 35 (78 percent) of them. Aaron Donald (30) and Michael Brockers (21) each played less than half of the snaps they did in the opener (62 and 44, respectively), while all four members of the starting secondary (Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson) played exactly half (35, after 70 last week). The extra rest could help, as the Rams face the Chargers on Sunday and the Vikings the following Thursday in Week 4.

      San Francisco 49ers: Third-year defensive end DeForest Buckner has already eclipsed his 2017 sack total (three) with 3.5 through two games, which ranks second in the NFL behind only Denver's Von Miller (four). He had one sack of Matthew Stafford in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win over the Lions, but Buckner noted the defense as a whole must be more consistent over the course of a whole game. "I feel like the energy kind of fell off a little bit and we needed to build it back up that last defensive stand that we had," Buckner said. "I feel like guys kind of woke up during that last drive on defense. We've got to keep the pedal down all four quarters." Stafford and the Lions trimmed a 30-13 lead to 30-27 before being unable to tie in the final minutes.

      --Field Level Media

  • Redskins reportedly sign former Ravens WR Perriman
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 17, 2018

    The Washington Redskins signed wide receiver Breshad Perriman, a former first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, according to multiple reports Monday.

    • Perriman, 25, was the 26th player selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. After missing his rookie season due to injury, he made his debut in 2016, appearing in all 16 games and catching 33 passes for 499 yards and three touchdowns.

      Perriman's production slipped in 2017, as he finished with 10 catches for 77 yards and no scores in 11 games. Baltimore released him on Sept. 1 during final cuts.

      The Redskins placed two wide receivers, Trey Quinn and Cam Sims, on injured reserve last week.

      Per NFL Network, Washington also worked out wideouts Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright, as well as former Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch.

      --Field Level Media

  • Chiefs' Reid praises O-line for helping Mahomes
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 17, 2018

    Denver Broncos: Coach Vance Joseph said Monday he wasn't pleased with how the Broncos' defense started against the Raiders on Sunday, specifically pointing to the cornerbacks playing with too much cushion. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr reached halftime having gone 18 for 19 for 158 yards, which Joseph attributed to soft underneath coverage. "I thought yesterday defensively that we didn't play aggressive enough in the first half," Joseph said. "... We played way too cautious. ... Our corners have to -- have to -- play with great confidence all the time and obviously play press coverage." Joseph said he liked how the group responded after halftime, though Carr went 11 for 13 for 130 yards after the break.

    • Kansas City Chiefs: Lost in the commotion of Patrick Mahomes' six-touchdown day at Pittsburgh was that the youngster, who turned 23 on Monday, handled the Steelers' blitzes effectively. "The thing that I think gets overlooked in this is they threw a bunch at him," coach Andy Reid told reporters, "which I thought was gonna be an important thing for him to work with." Reid added that the offensive line, which allowed just one sack on the day, played a major role in handling Pittsburgh's disguised looks. "The O-line did a really good job of picking the stuff up and kind of kept him clean," Reid said. "Even when they tried to press the receivers and throw your timing off, the O-line still gave him enough time where he could still function."

      Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon finished with only nine carries and 28 yards (including a 20-yard TD) in Sunday's romp over the Bills, compared to 11 carries for 77 yards by Austin Ekeler, but Gordon added six receptions for 38 yards and two scores. Through two games, Gordon leads the team in receptions (15) and receiving touchdowns (two), while gaining 140 yards through the air. Coach Anthony Lynn expects that production to continue. "Melvin has excellent hands, and he's a decent route runner," Lynn told reporters. "We're trying to get him more involved in the passing game, and I think you're seeing that the first couple weeks."

      Oakland Raiders: The Raiders have tallied just two sacks through two games, but coach Jon Gruden said he doesn't have regrets about dealing defensive end Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. "We made the trade," Gruden told reporters. "... I'd have loved to have had him here, but he's not here. Somebody has to step up." Gruden added that the Raiders "need more and more" from defensive end Bruce Irvin, who had a sack in the opener and a QB hit and tackle for loss in Denver. "I know he's giving us everything he has," Gruden continued. "It's tough on him, certainly, because we do have a lot of new guys around him up front."

      --Field Level Media

  • Steelers WR Brown tweets: 'Trade me'
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 17, 2018

    Adding drama to the Pittsburgh Steelers' winless start, wide receiver Antonio Brown followed up his Sunday sideline outburst with an intriguing reply Monday to a Twitter critic.

    • "Trade me let's find out," Brown tweeted in response to former Steelers public relations employee Ryan Scarpino, causing a stir on social media on the same day that the Cleveland Browns traded wideout Josh Gordon to the New England Patriots.

      Scarpino, who worked with Pittsburgh from 2010-17, tweeted about Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after the Steelers dropped to 0-1-1 with Sunday's 42-37 loss to Kansas City.

      "AB needs to thank his lucky stars, because he was drafted by a team that had Ben. And Ben got AB paid. You know darn well he wouldn't put up those numbers for other teams," Scarpino wrote.

      Brown was targeted 17 times against the Chiefs, finishing with nine catches for 67 yards. He caught nine passes for 93 yards and a touchdown in the Week 1 tie at Cleveland.

      During the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss, Brown engaged in a heated conversation with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on the sideline.

      The team has made no official statement about Brown's tweet, but Pittsburgh linebacker Bud Dupree said the All-Pro receiver was just venting after a tough defeat.

      "You know how AB is, especially after a loss like that," Dupree told ESPN. "Guys are going to say things. He just wants to help the team win as much as he can."

      --Field Level Media

  • Patriots acquire WR Gordon from Browns
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 17, 2018

    The Cleveland Browns traded wide receiver Josh Gordon to the New England Patriots on Monday, both teams announced.

    • According to multiple reports, the compensation is a fifth-round pick. ESPN adds the Patriots will receive a late-round pick in return if Gordon isn't active for at least 10 games this season.

      Coincidentally, the Patriots released former Browns wideout Corey Coleman -- who was signed last week -- to make room for Gordon on the 53-man roster.

      Gordon, who was ruled out of Sunday's game at New Orleans because of a hamstring injury, is healthy enough to play for the Patriots Sunday night against the Detroit Lions, according to multiple reports.

      A talented but troubled wideout, Gordon reportedly injured his hamstring during a promotional shoot between Friday's practice and Saturday's walk-through session. The injury worsened an already weak level of trust between the player and the team, leading the team to announce its plans to move on from Gordon.

      "There were things that we do not want to have happen here," head coach Hue Jackson said Monday about the trade. "And we made a decision that is this is best for our football team moving forward."

      NFL Network reported earlier Monday that the Browns and Patriots were nearing a trade. ESPN reports the Browns also spoke with the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers and others about a deal and hoped to send Gordon to an NFC team before accepting the Patriots' offer.

      After leading the NFL in receiving yards with 1,646 in 2013, Gordon has played only 11 games since, including five last season and one this year. Drug-related suspensions cost Gordon 56 out of 96 possible games over his first six seasons.

      Gordon, 27, is set to hit restricted free agency next March. His contract has previously tolled on multiple occasions due to suspension.

      The Patriots have been looking for wide receiver help for the last several months, having released players such as Jordan Matthews, Kenny Britt, Malcolm Mitchell, Chad Hansen, Amara Darboh, Bennie Fowler, Riley McCarron and now Coleman. Hansen, Darboh, Fowler and Coleman were all added after final cuts but didn't last long on the roster. The team also signed veteran Eric Decker, who retired before the season.

      Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett have been the Patriots' primary receivers during Julian Edelman's suspension, which still has two games remaining.

      The Browns will rely more on rookie fourth-round pick Antonio Callaway, who had three catches for 81 yards and a 47-yard touchdown against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Cleveland signed wideout Rod Streater, who was among the Bills' final cuts and hasn't caught a pass since 2016, to fill Gordon's roster spot.

      --Field Level Media