National Football League
NFL News Wire
  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    NFL to musicians: Pay to play at Super Bowl
    By The Sports Xchange

    Halftime at the Super Bowl is arguably the largest stage available to a performer.

    • The NFL wants musical acts to pay for the privilege of appearing in that spot, according to a Wall Street Journal report Tuesday.

      According to the Journal, the league narrowed its choices for next year's Super Bowl halftime entertainment to Coldplay, Rihanna and Katy Perry. The NFL also told representatives of the three that it wants a portion of the selected artist's income from touring following the Super Bowl, or another "financial contribution" in exchange for being given the chance to perform in front of the year's largest television audience.

      The newspaper reported that the artists' representatives balked at the request.

      According to the Journal, this year's Super Bowl averaged 112.2 million viewers, while Bruno Mars' halftime show attracted a record 115.3 million viewers.

      The NFL usually does not pays its halftime performers, though it covers their expenses.

  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    Panthers trade RB Barner to Eagles
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Carolina Panthers traded running back Kenjon Barner to the Philadelphia Eagles for a conditional seventh-round draft choice in 2015, the Panthers announced Tuesday.

    • Barner, who was taken in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, will be reunited with Chip Kelly, who was Barner's college coach at Oregon and is now the Eagles head coach.

      Barner played in eight games last season as a rookie, gaining seven yards on six carries and catching two passes for seven yards.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Browns not ready to choose starting QB
    By The Sports Xchange

    BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine temporarily put off making a decision on his starting quarterback for the season opener.

    • Pettine planned to meet with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains late Tuesday to choose between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. If they cannot come to an agreement, the choice might be delayed until after the Browns play host to the St. Louis Rams on Aug. 23.

      "We want to get the decision right," Pettine said on a conference call Tuesday. "I don't want to rush it and make it for the sake of making it. Then you're risking the chemistry and the cohesion if you have the wrong guy there. We're still confident we can get a lot of reps with the ones.

      "There is a decent amount of time left still until Pittsburgh, (the opponent for the Sept. 7 opener). These were under ideal circumstances that we could name one this week. Again, I'm not ruling that out. If we have to wait until after the next game, so be it."

      Hoyer started the preseason games against the Detroit Lions on Aug. 9 and against the Washington Redskins on Monday night. The rivals for the starting job alternated practicing with the first team the past two weeks.

      Though he came off the bench, Manziel did get reps with the Browns' first-team offense against the Redskins' first-team defense. Neither quarterback played well, which is making the decision to pick a starter difficult. However, Pettine is not putting all the blame on Hoyer and Manziel. The tone was set on the first play when center Alex Mack snapped the ball early, a mistake that resulted in Hoyer being sacked.

      "I think what was disappointing was that the guys around both quarterbacks didn't play particularly well or were inconsistent," Pettine said. "There were a lot of guys that had some plays they'd want to take back. I just think it was overall inconsistency on the offense. It's hard for a quarterback to look good when the guys around them aren't playing well."

      Manziel has completed 14 of 27 preseason passes for 128 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Hoyer is 8-for-20 for 108 yards with no touchdown passes and no interceptions.

      Pettine is relying heavily on Shanahan and Loggains to make the decision.

      "I haven't polled the entire coaching staff, so I don't know where they would be with it," Pettine said. "When we talk tonight, we all kind of have our feel. I don't sense a lot of division. I think there's a lot of common ground with all of us. I wouldn't say there's any divide amongst the staff."

      Meanwhile, Pettine reiterated that he is upset with Manziel for flashing the middle finger of his right hand over his shoulder in the direction of the Washington bench in the third quarter Monday night. The Redskins were heckling him, and Manziel responded with the obscene gesture. Pettine said it could factor into the decision on who starts at quarterback.

      "We'll take into account all things quarterback A-Z," Pettine said, adding what Manziel did was "unacceptable. You have to maintain your poise and composure, especially at that position."

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Jerry Jones 'physically restrained' from drafting Manziel
    By The Sports Xchange

    Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did not deny a report that he was physically restrained in the team draft room from turning in Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel as their first-round pick.

    • Responding Tuesday to a report that Jones was restrained by his son, CEO Stephen Jones, who "snatched the Manziel card straight out of his (Jerry Jones') hand" in May's draft, the longtime Cowboys owner said there was truth to the report by Jim Dent.

      "Figuratively speaking, it got close to that," said Jones on 105.3 FM in Dallas. "It certainly was a big debate going on, if no place else other than my mind."

      It's water under the bridge now, of course, with Manziel drafted 22nd overall by the Cleveland Browns. The Cowboys drafted offensive lineman Zack Martin from Notre Dame and he is expected to start as a rookie.

      Jerry Jones publicly lauded Manziel's style, and the week before the NFL draft, when rumors are rampant, multiple reports linked the Cowboys to a possible trade aimed at drafted the Heisman Trophy winner. When Manziel was on the board with the 16th overall pick when the Cowboys were on the clock, the buzz apparently went beyond social media, and right into the draft room at Valley Ranch, Texas.

      According to Dent, the Cowboys ultimately settled on Martin because of the six-year contract given to incumbent starter Tony Romo. Romo holds all the leverage in a deal that would be an albatross for an already unfavorable salary cap situation in Dallas.

      "(Dent) was privy to someone that had my read pretty good in there, because ultimately that was the problem," said Jones. "Being behind Romo for those years and whether or not that was really the best way to use that pick."

      Martin is drawing raves from coaches and teammates in preseason. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan called his talent rare.

      Before long, Martin might even be able to shake the "What If" questions centered on Manziel being the one with the star on his helmet.

      "I try not to worry about that. He's a great player and I do admit I loved watching him in college and any time we had an early game (and) he was playing at night we tried to always watch it because he is such an electrifying player," Martin told the same radio station. "But that's fine that I'll be linked to him and hopefully I can produce and help this football team."

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Steelers bring back Keisel
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Pittsburgh Steelers reached a contract agreement with free agent defensive end Brett Keisel on Tuesday.

    • The 12-year veteran had received an offer from the Arizona Cardinals but decided to stay in Pittsburgh, according to multiple reports.

      The 36-year-old veteran started 42 games for the Steelers the past three seasons before becoming a free agent. He will serve as a backup this year to Cam Thomas and rookie Stephon Tuitt at defensive end.

      "I am very excited to finish what I started in 2002 with the @steelers. Time to get to work!! #SteelerNation #DaBeardNation," the 12-year veteran Keisel tweeted Tuesday.

      The Arizona Republic reported that the Cardinals made an offer but Keisel hesitated to leave his family behind. The Cardinals are searching to fill the hole left by defensive lineman Darnell Dockett's season-ending ACL surgery.

      Keisel has started 110 of 144 career NFL games and has 246 tackles, 29 sacks, nine fumble recoveries and one interception.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    49ers extend Dorsey's contract
    By The Sports Xchange

    The San Francisco 49ers signed defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey to a two-year contract extension through the 2016 season on Tuesday.

    • Dorsey, who is sidelined with a biceps tear in his left arm, is going into the final year of a two-year contract he signed in 2013 as a free agent. His salary this year is $2.65 million.

      Financial terms of the extension were not available.

      "Glenn is a true pro who has quickly become a valued contributor to our organization both on and off the field," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said. "He is a quick study and a very good football player that has earned this extension, and we look forward to his future contributions."

      Dorsey underwent surgery to repair the biceps on Aug. 3 and remains on the team's 90-man roster. The 49ers may consider putting him on injured reserve with the hope that he could come back late in the season.

      In the meantime, Ian Williams is the likely replacement for Dorsey. Williams suffered a broken leg in Week 2 last year and Dorsey took his spot.

      Dorsey played in 16 regular-season and three postseason games and started 15 last year. He finished with 100 tackles and two sacks.

      The 29-year-old Dorsey began his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, who selected him No. 5 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft out of LSU. In six years with the Chiefs, he logged 332 tackles, six sacks, four fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    NFL roundup: Browns not ready to name QB starter
    By The Sports Xchange

    Coach Mike Pettine's goal was to name a starting quarterback entering this week's preseason game, the third for the Cleveland Browns and the typical dress rehearsal in which the first team plays into the second half.

    • Frustrated by poor results and uneven performance by Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel, Pettine changed his mind Tuesday and will take more time to weigh the decision.

      "We want to decision right, It's the risk-reward thing," Pettine said Tuesday. "I don't want to rush it."

      However, Pettine didn't rule out naming a starter before Saturday's preseason game against the St. Louis Rams in Cleveland.

      ---Practice squads will expand from eight to 10 players, effective Aug. 30, as NFL rosters are set at 53 players and practice squads can then be established the next day.

      The league and the NFL Players' Association reached agreement on the expanded practice squad roster for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

      Until 2004, a practice squad was only five players. Practice squads were first created in 1989 at five players per team.

      ---Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did not deny a report that he was physically restrained in the team draft room from turning in Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel as their first-round pick.

      Responding Tuesday to a report that Jones was restrained by his son, CEO Stephen Jones, who "snatched the Manziel card straight out of his (Jerry Jones') hand" in May's draft, the longtime Cowboys owner said there was truth to the report by Jim Dent.

      "Figuratively speaking, it got close to that," said Jones on 105.3 FM in Dallas. "It certainly was a big debate going on, if no place else other than my mind."

      ---Former punter Chris Kluwe and the Minnesota Vikings reached a settlement that calls for the team to donate to multiple groups that support gay rights.

      Kluwe will drop the threat of a lawsuit against the Vikings' organization. No financial terms of the deal were made public, but the team confirmed the two sides settled in a statement.

      Kluwe had argued that his release was based on his support for gay marriage and that special teams coordinator Mike Priefer had directed disparaging remarks toward him. The Vikings contended that Kluwe's release was based solely on his performance.

      ---The Honey Badger is out of hibernation in Arizona. Cardinals safety Tryann Mathieu was activated from the physically unable to perform list Tuesday, returning from multiple knee ligament tears incurred in December.

      Mathieu overtook Rashad Johnson at safety and was a key contributor as the nickel defensive back even before that. He participated in 88 percent of the defensive snaps for the season and in 99 percent of snaps in his final five games before the injury.

      ---The Pittsburgh Steelers signed offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert to a six-year contract through the 2019 season, the team announced Tuesday.

      The Steelers did not release financial details, but NFL.com reported that the deal is worth $30 million. Gilbert, a fourth-year pro who was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, has started 34 regular-season games and one postseason game for the Steelers.

      ---The injuries keep on coming for Oakland Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden, who appears headed to the regular-season physically unable to perform list after foot surgery.

      Hayden was the 12th overall pick in the 2013 draft from Houston, where he overcame a life-threatening injury to return to the field and catch the eye of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. But he played in only eight games last season and underwent foot surgery in late July. He has not participated in any portion of preseason practice and remains on the physically unable to perform list.

      ---The Indianapolis Colts signed free agent guard Andre Cureton and waived kicker Cody Parkey on Tuesday.

      The 6-foot-5, 332-pound Cureton is an Indianapolis native who was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent on May 12 and then waived on Aug. 12. Parkey signed with the Colts as an undrafted free agent on May 13 out of Auburn.

      ---The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have taken a cautious approach with cornerback Alterraun Verner, who has missed the first two preseason games while recovering from a hamstring injury but did return to the practice field Tuesday.

      Verner said he feels "fine," although he is not 100 percent and is not sure if he will make his Bucs debut at the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.

      ---The first two weeks of the 2014 preseason has been dominated by penalties. According to Peter King of theMMQB.com, the average regular-season game in 2013 featured 12.2 penalties per game compared with 17.7 per game during the first week of preseason this year and 20.2 in Week 2.

      The league is expecting the players to adjust before the regular season begins.

      "The way the game's being officiated now is the way it's going to be officiated when the season begins," NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino told King.

      At the heart of the debate is the increased emphasis on defensive holding. According to Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com, there were 56 illegal contact penalties called during the first two weeks of the preseason. Only 54 were called during the entire 2013 regular season.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Colts add lineman to roster, release kicker
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Indianapolis Colts signed free agent guard Andre Cureton and waived kicker Cody Parkey on Tuesday.

    • The 6-foot-5, 332-pound Cureton is an Indianapolis native who was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent on May 12 and then waived on Aug. 12. He played college football at Cincinnati.

      Parkey signed with the Colts as an undrafted free agent on May 13 out of Auburn, where as a senior he made 15-of-21 field goal attempts and 62-of-63 point-after tries and ranked first in the nation with 69 touchbacks.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Bucs CB Verner returns to practice
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have taken a cautious approach with cornerback Alterraun Verner, who has missed the first two preseason games while recovering from a hamstring injury but did return to the practice field Tuesday.

    • Verner said he feels "fine," although he is not 100 percent and is not sure if he will make his Bucs debut at the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.

      "We're just going to see as we increase my reps during practice and see how I respond," Verner said Tuesday. "If I do play, I can't tell you how long. I'm going to play as long as they need me to play. I look forward to getting out there. Hopefully everything holds up so I can play."

      Free safety Dashon Goldson made his 2014 preseason debut last week, but the Bucs have yet to have their entire secondary on the field together in a game.

      "No issues," coach Lovie Smith said after watching Verner practice Tuesday. "But again, we're just giving him a couple of reps each period. This is his first work, so it's his first preseason game. I know I talked about how soon the season is coming up on us, but we have to be careful with that hamstring, which we'll do."

      --The third preseason game is typically when teams do their most game-planning for the upcoming opponent, and Smith is anxious to see how his maligned offensive line holds up against a Buffalo defense that racked up 57 sacks in 2013.

      "They can rush the passer, simple as that," Smith said. "They don't need a blitz. They can rush and get to the passer with their four guys, and we're trying to get to that point. So it will be a big challenge for our offensive line this week. And also of course, on the road. This is what we need to get ready for the football season."

      The only team with more sacks than the Bills last season? The Carolina Panthers, who will travel to Tampa for the teams' regular-season openers on Sept. 7, had 60.

      "(The Bills' pass rushers) are guys on edge that really get after you. You need to go through a team like this to see exactly where you are," Smith said. "So for us to make the progress we need before Carolina, we need to see a team like this."

      --DE Michael Johnson is day-to-day with a knee bruise.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Steelers sign OT Gilbert through 2019
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Pittsburgh Steelers signed offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert to a six-year contract through the 2019 season, the team announced Tuesday.

    • The Steelers did not release financial details, but NFL.com reported that the deal is worth $30 million.

      Gilbert, a fourth-year pro who was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, has started 34 regular-season games and one postseason game for the Steelers.

      As a rookie in 2011, Gilbert started 13 games, the first time that a first-year Steelers player had made the starting lineup since 2006.

      Last season, Gilbert was a starter for all 16 games at right tackle. He was the only Steelers offensive lineman to start every regular-season game.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    NFL practice squads expand to 10 players
    By The Sports Xchange

    Practice squads will expand from eight to 10 players, effective Aug. 30, as NFL rosters are set at 53 players and practice squads can then be established the next day.

    • The league and the NFL Players' Association reached agreement on the expanded practice squad roster for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

      Until 2004, a practice squad was only five players. Practice squads were first created in 1989 at five players per team.

      According to the agreement, players must meet eligibility requirements for the practice squad.

      One is a minimum of six games on a practice squad during the season to count as one of a player's three permissible seasons of practice squad service.

      The second is each team will be allowed to sign a maximum of two practice squad players who have no more than two accrued seasons of free agency credit. Without this exception, a player who has one or more seasons would not be eligible for a practice squad unless he spent fewer than nine games on a 46-player active list in each of his accrued seasons.

      All other practice squad rules from the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement remain in place.

      The expansion of practice squads add 64 jobs across the NFL and afford teams the ability to create, at least in theory, greater depth. However, players can still be signed to the active roster of another team from the practice squad. A team can block such a move by bringing the player in question up to the 53-man, active roster and waiving or releasing another player.

      "I think you have to have enough players to practice. So, sometimes if you go shorter in a position on your 53-man roster you can subsidize that with a player or two on the practice squad so it doesn't screw your practices up and you're able to maintain a normal flow of practice," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.

      "The players you want on the practice squad, you would like for them to be guys that you think could develop and eventually become roster players. ... You see a lot of juggling of practice squads throughout the first six weeks, half the season and that's part of it. You getting injuries or your roster changes a little bit and you need players on your practice squad to fill in those gaps. Or you find somebody that you like and think, 'This guy has a chance to develop on our practice squad.'"

      The Patriots have been successful springboarding players from the practice squad to the active roster and even starting lineup, including 2013 starting center Ryan Wendell.

      The Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts are also noted for developing talent out of unheralded, undrafted college talent.

      "I think it's awesome," McCarthy said Tuesday of potentially expanded his roster to 63, active roster plus practice squad. "As many as they want to give us."

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Flag frenzy: Penalties on rise, here to stay
    By The Sports Xchange

    Preseason football is often watchable only for the most fervent fans. With starters only making cameo appearances half the time and games dominated by unknown players scrapping for roster spots, the product on the field is typically sloppy and the results not indicative of the true quality of the teams.

    • The first two weeks of the 2014 preseason has been particularly difficult to digest with a constant flurry of penalty flags littering fields across the league. According to Peter King of theMMQB.com, the average regular-season game in 2013 featured 12.2 penalties per game compared with 17.7 per game during the first week of preseason this year and 20.2 in Week 2.

      The message from the league? The rules are not going to change, so the players better adjust.

      "The way the game's being officiated now is the way it's going to be officiated when the season begins," the NFL's head of officiating, Dean Blandino, told King.

      At the heart of the debate is the increased emphasis on defensive holding. According to Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com, there were 56 illegal contact penalties called during the first two weeks of the preseason. Only 54 were called during the ENTIRE 2013 regular season.

      "We have to remain consistent. I knew we'd see a spike in calls when we put out these points of emphasis," said Blandino, adding that downfield contact was "underofficiated" in 2013. "But coaches adjust, and players adjust. They have to, and they know it. And we'll correct our officials when we feel they're being over-zealous with certain calls."

      Ironically, one of those corrections came on a call against the Seattle Seahawks that negated a 105-yard interception return for a touchdown by Tharold Simon on Friday night. The league informed the Seahawks, whose "Legion of Boom" secondary is seen as one of the reasons for the increased emphasis on physical play downfield, that the call should not have been made.

      The change in mindset will have to come from the top down, with coaching staffs spending time working with players on how to avoid penalties downfield.

      "I think it is really an emphasis more than anything," New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said. "Typically, what's being emphasized really shows up in the preseason. The officials are trying to make a point so you see a lot of contact. You see a lot of penalties with holding or pass interference.

      "I think because that is one of the areas, it is not uncommon to see those flags. That being said, though, very quickly we have to get up to speed with how that affects us defensively. It becomes more challenging defensively than it would be offensively."

      Always the pragmatist, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined to take the bait from reporters this week when asked if he was frustrated by the number of flags being thrown.

      "It's one of things that we don't really have any control over," he said. "I'm just worried about trying to get our team better and coach our team. Let (Blandino) and whoever else handle the officials."

      Teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have several cornerbacks known for their ability to press at the line of scrimmage, will be forced to adapt.

      "They know the rule -- they've been playing corner for a long time," Bucs linebacker Mason Foster said. "So they'll get it done."

      The emphasis on downfield contact would appear to be the latest trend favoring offenses. At the same time, defense has continued to be the calling card come the Super Bowl, and the NFL is a copycat league before most anything else.

      "I'd rather have the fewest penalties than the most penalties even though the last two years, as we know, both teams, Seattle and the Ravens, were the most penalized teams in the league and won the Super Bowl," said New York Jets coach Rex Ryan. "I'll sign up for that, but we want to be the least penalized team. That's something we strive for. Again, it's hard to attain. But we want to be physical too."

      And there's the rub for teams trying to follow the blueprint of the Seahawks and Ravens. How to be physical while still playing within the confines of the rules. The Jets were flagged for six personal foul penalties alone in their second preseason game.

      "It is to a point where the style of play, we were going to be aggressive and we challenged our guys to be aggressive," Ryan said. "It was against a physical opponent and that's how we played. But, obviously, we've got to make sure that we know the difference between being aggressive and doing some extra things."

      While coaches like Belichick, Payton and Ryan have generally taken the high road in regard to the number of penalties being called, there is a very real concern about what happens to the product on the field should the trend continue into the regular season.

      "The bottom line is, they're going to call them and it sounds like they are going to continue to call them and you just hope it doesn't turn away the spectators from the game," Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "They get bored watching the officials throw the ball more than the quarterback. That could be a problem."

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Raiders CB Hayden (foot) could remain on PUP
    By The Sports Xchange

    The injuries keep on coming for Oakland Raiders cornerback DJ Hayden, who appears headed to the regular season physically unable to perform list following foot surgery.

    • Hayden was the 12th overall pick in the 2013 draft from Houston, where he overcame a life-threatening injury to return to the field and catch the eye of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie.

      But he played in only eight games last season and underwent foot surgery in late July. He has not participated in any portion of preseason practice and remains on the physically unable to perform list. T he Raiders want to protect their significant investment by getting him fully healthy before he returns to the field.

      Two standout defensive linemen, Sheldon Richardson of the New York Jets and Star Lotulelei (Carolina Panthers) were drafted with the two picks immediately following Hayden in 2013. That selection was a surprise to many, given Hayden's health concerns and the risk involved for a team that had precious few draft chances in recent seasons.

      If Hayden winds up on the PUP list as expected, he would miss at least the first six games, and Oakland's suspect secondary would be further taxed.

      The Raiders signed former 49ers cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers in the offseason. Behind those veterans are 2014 seventh-round pick Travis Carrie and Chimdi Chekwa, a fourth-round pick in 2011.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Redskins encouraged by strong defensive strides
    By The Sports Xchange

    ASHBURN, Va. - In 2013, the word beleaguered often preceded the phrase "Redskins defense." Although coordinator Jim Haslett, line coach Jacob Burney and secondary coach Raheem Morris are all back and eight of the starters who finished out last season are regulars again, halfway through the preseason, Washington's unit is playing much better.

    • Admittedly, it's preseason. Admittedly, New England rested standout skill position players Danny Amendola, Tom Brady, Julian Edeleman and Rob Gronkowski against Washington in the preseason opener. Admittedly, the Cleveland team Washington beat 24-23 on Monday night has quarterback issues and questionable talent at other spots.

      However, the fact remains that the Redskins' starting defense has been on the field for six series this summer encompassing 26 snaps and has surrendered just 71 yards, four first downs and no points. The latter statistic has certainly helped first-year coach Jay Gruden get off to a 2-0 preseason start.

      "I thought our defense did a nice job maintaining their rush lanes, playing good pass coverage," Gruden said of the Browns game. "Most importantly, we did a great job at tackling and I thought for the most part throughout the game."

      All told, Washington has allowed 556 yards, 35 first downs and 29 points on 113 snaps this summer.

      On Monday, second-year safety Bacarri Rambo forced a fumble after the Browns, leading 3-0, had advanced to the Washington 44-yard line late in the second quarter. The Redskins also recorded five sacks, two from starting outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and one each from reserve outside linebacker Gabe Miller and backup end Clifton Geathers with backup outside linebacker Rob Jackson and reserve cornerback Chase Minnifield splitting the other one.

      "Our unit (handled) some adversity with our offense giving up (four) turnovers (two by the starters)," said three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. "I thought we did a great job. I know what type of defense we're capable of being. We just gotta keep it up. And we ain't even fully loaded yet (minus rehabbing three-year starting right end Stephen Bowen and with veteran cornerback Tracy Porter and inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton, both limited by injuries). Once we get fully loaded, we're gonna be something special. But that's all talk. We got to keep working."

      Kerrigan is always working. A Pro Bowl selection in 2012, his second season, Kerrigan likes what he's seeing from a starting unit in which unproven inside linebacker Keenan Robinson has replaced retired captain London Fletcher, second-year man David Amerson has succeeded departed cornerback Josh Wilson and heady veteran safety Ryan Clark was brought back from Pittsburgh after an eight-year absence as upgrade over Reed Doughty, who's is currently out of the league.

      "I've seen a lot of three-and-outs from the ones and that's always encouraging," Kerrigan said of the first-team defense. "That's what you want to do. You want to keep an opposing team's defense on the field as long as possible."

      As for his pair of sacks on Monday, Kerrigan wasn't crowing. His first came on the opening play when Cleveland quarterback Brian Hoyer was seemingly not ready for the snap, and his second got the defense off the field when the Browns had third-and-5 at the Washington 41 in a scoreless game in the first quarter.

      "I was fortunately able to get the first one out of the way on a miscommunication on their part," said Kerrigan, who has recorded 24.5 sacks during his three NFL season. "After you get that first one out of the way, you're a little more relaxed. I definitely thought the second one was more of a coverage sack than anything, so thanks to (cornerback DeAngelo Hall) and all of those guys back there for making (Browns rookie quarterback Johnny) Manziel hold on to the ball a little longer,"

      -- G/C Mike McGlynn made his Redskins debut Monday night after two years with Philadelphia, one with Cincinnati and two with Indianapolis. McGlynn missed the Aug. 7 preseason opener against New England because of back spasms.

      -- DE Jake McDonough, who spent the final week of 2013 and the subsequent two playoff weeks on the Colts' practice squad, made his NFL debut Monday and was credited with a special teams tackle.

      -- CB Bryan Shepherd, a rookie free agent, made his NFL debut against Cleveland after not playing against New England.

      -- TE Mike Caussin missed a second straight preseason game with a balky knee on Monday, decreasing the former Buffalo Bill's odds of still being a Redskin come September.

      -- S Ross Madison was the only healthy player who didn't see action against Cleveland, not a good sign for the rookie free agent's chances of sticking around this season.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Cardinals DB Mathieu returns to practice
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Honey Badger is out of hibernation in Arizona. Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu was activated from the physically unable to perform list Tuesday, returning from multiple knee ligament tears incurred in December.

    • Mathieu overtook Rashad Johnson at safety and was a key contributor as the nickel defensive back even before that. He participated in 88 percent of the defensive snaps for the season and in 99 percent of snaps in his final five games before the injury.

      Mathieu declared himself ready in July, but head coach Bruce Arians said the team would take it very slow and follow a conservative plan in bringing him back to the practice field.

      The Cardinals might choose to hold Mathieu out of the regular-season opener Sept. 8 against the San Diego Chargers. While his progress has the second-year safety ahead of schedule, the Cardinals want to avoid re-injury.

      Mathieu returns just as the Cardinals lost defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, the heart of their defense and emotional leader, to a torn anterior cruciate ligament Monday.

      Mathieu finished last season with 68 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and two interceptions.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Vikings, Kluwe finalize settlement
    By The Sports Xchange

    Former punter Chris Kluwe and the Minnesota Vikings reached a settlement that calls for the team to donate to multiple groups that support gay rights.

    • "As Chris always stated, this is not about money but about changing the culture of professional sports that tolerates homophobia at any level," said Clayton Halunen, Kluwe's attorney, in a news release. "For Chris, this agreement with the Vikings is a big step forward in that direction."

      Kluwe will drop the threat of a lawsuit against the Vikings' organization. No financial terms of the deal were made public, but the team confirmed the two sides settled in a statement.

      "I'm pleased that the issue has been resolved," Kluwe said. "I intend to continue to speak out on behalf of marriage equality, and I am pleased to be a part of the impact the Vikings material charitable contributions will have on LGBT and related causes."

      The Vikings will donate to five groups over the next five years, and Halunen said the settlement figure is "substantial," though Kluwe does not receive one cent.

      "As a family we have long-supported equal rights causes, including marriage equality," said Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf in the release. "We are glad a resolution of this matter has been reached, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to create positive awareness of these issues."

      Kluwe had argued that his release was based on his support for gay marriage and that special teams coordinator Mike Priefer had directed disparaging remarks toward him. The Vikings contended that Kluwe's release was based solely on his performance.

      Priefer received a three-game suspension, which will begin when the regular season opens, and he will donate $100,000 to gay rights charitable and educational organizations. The ban could be reduced to two games upon completion of anti-harassment, diversity and sexual-orientation sensitivity training.

      Kluwe has been out of the NFL since being cut by the Oakland Raiders last year.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Redskins edge Browns in sloppy contest
    By The Sports Xchange

    LANDOVER, MD. -- With a national television audience focused on the progress of Cleveland rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Washington Redskins overcame a slew of early mistakes and beat the Browns 24-23 Monday at FedEx Field.

    • Colt McCoy threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Nick Williams with 2:01 to play, breaking a 17-17 tie.

      Cleveland tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi outleaped a slew of players to haul in Connor Shaw's 45-yard Hail Mary pass on the final play, but Shaw's two-point pass fell incomplete.

      The Redskins (2-0) outgained the Browns 185-80 with just over two minutes left in the first half but trailed 3-0 because quarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins each had a poorly thrown ball intercepted and because running back Alfred Morris was thwarted on three consecutive carries from the 1-yard line.

      Morris also failed to hold onto a pitch from Griffin on Washington's third play, turning the ball over. What's more, Griffin, whose fabulous rookie year of 2012 ended with a torn ACL, absorbed too many blows while trying to make things happen with his feet.

      "It's something we have to continue to talk to (Robert) about, how important he is to this team and this franchise," Redskins rookie coach Jay Gruden said. "When he gets out of the pocket, he needs to protect himself. He needs to pick his shots and learn how to get down a little bit better."

      Gruden was also somewhat frustrated by his team's mental mistakes.

      "Part of my pregame speech was we have to eliminate penalties and protect the football, and we did neither," he said. "But overall, I'm fairly pleased. We're coming along at a good clip."

      On the final drive of the first half, 35-year-old wide receiver Santana Moss rushed for 24 yards on third-and-19. Two plays later, Cousins found rookie receiver Ryan Grant for 15 yards, and two plays after that, running back Evan Royster powered for 24 on a short toss. Royster scored two plays later from the 2, giving Washington a 7-3 halftime lead.

      Cousins opened the second half by completing all five of his passes for 48 yards, the last 14 yards coming on a toss to Grant in the right rear corner of the end zone for the touchdown that made it 14-3.

      Griffin, who slumped in 2013 after his record-setting rookie campaign, connected on six of eight passes for 112 yards. However, he telegraphed a sideline throw for receiver DeSean Jackson -- making his Redskins debut -- that Browns cornerback Joe Haden picked off at the Cleveland 17 and returned 37 yards.

      "I kind of floated it out there," Griffin said. "That's what happens when you play good corners like Joe Haden. If you make a mistake, they'll make you pay for it. ...

      "We did a good job moving the ball ... but we can't hurt ourselves. We're getting too many penalties (11 for 100 yards). We still know there's a long way for us to go to get to where we want to be."

      Cousins, who also played better as a rookie in 2012 than he did last year, overthrew receiver Aldrick Robinson on a deep ball that Browns safety Tashaun Gipson caught and returned 43 yards to set up Billy Cundiff's 29-yard field goal with 4:58 to go in the second quarter.

      Cousins finished 12-for-21 for 145 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

      Cleveland (0-2) was driving on its first series of the third quarter when Washington rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland knocked the ball loose from ex-Redskins receiver Anthony Armstrong on fourth-and-1 at the Washington 26.

      Manziel (7-for-16, 65 yards, one touchdown) finally got the Browns in the end zone with 13:33 remaining to close the gap to 14-10. The rookie quarterback, who is competing with holdover Brian Hoyer for the starting job, connected with running back Dion Lewis for an 8-yard touchdown.

      Two plays later, safety Jim Leonhard picked off McCoy's first pass and returned it 19 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

      McCoy, who played for Cleveland from 2010-12, rebounded with a 43-yard completion to rookie receiver Rashad Ross on the next series, which ended with a 25-yard field goal by Kai Forbath that tied the score at 17-17 with 9:51 left.

      Cundiff, who lost Washington's kicking job to Forbath in October 2012, was wide right on a 54-yard attempt with 5:24 remaining.

      Hoyer completed two of six passes for 16 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

      "The first play was messed up," he said. "It kind of spiraled out of control. We were never able to get things going."

      Speaking of the Browns' performance, Hoyer added, "It probably couldn't get any worse. It's disappointing, it's embarrassing."

      NOTES: Browns WR Travis Benjamin (ribs) departed in the third quarter, while the Redskins lost CB Tracy Porter (hamstring), OLB Rob Jackson (sprained shoulder) and TE Niles Paul (hand). ... Washington won its eighth consecutive preseason game. ... DE Jason Hatcher (knee) was the only player expected to start for the Redskins this season who was sidelined Monday. ... DE Desmond Bryant (wrist) and CB Buster Skrine (thumb), both listed as starters, were among the 14 Browns unable to play. Skrine, who had surgery on the thumb Monday but could be back for the Sept. 7 opener at Pittsburgh, was one of six Cleveland defensive backs who were unavailable.

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Manziel struggles, but creates controversy
    By The Sports Xchange

    LANDOVER, Md. - Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine came into Monday's game planning to announce his quarterback for the regular season opener in the next couple of days.

    • However, neither highly touted rookie Johnny Manziel nor holdover Brian Hoyer played very well in Cleveland's 24-23 loss to the Washington Redskins Monday night, leaving the Browns in a quandary.

      Manziel was just 7-for-16 passing, and got more attention for his actions than his play. He managed to create some controversy by extending his middle finger toward the Washington Redskins bench after a third-quarter incompletion.

      He was not penalized for his action, but the NFL may fine him after reviewing his actions on tape.

      "I should've been smarter," Manziel said of his gesture. "It was a Monday Night Football game -- the cameras were probably solidly on me."

      This incident did not endear him to his coach.

      "It does not sit well... disappointing," Pettine said. "You have to be able to maintain your poise."

      The gesture occurred with 2:28 left in the third quarter. After a second-and-7 pass attempt fell incomplete, Manziel trotted back to the huddle and extended his right finger over his shoulder toward the Redskins' bench as if reacting to something that was said.

      Earlier in the game, after outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan sacked Manziel in the first quarter, Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo mocked Manziel's "money" hand gesture he made last season.

      "Just having a little fun, just welcoming him to the NFL," Orakpo said. "He's a great player. He's going to be a good one for 'em. He's still got a lot to learn, still got some growing pains, but ... he's a playmaker. ... Our defense was a great test for him."

      Pettine is left with the task of determining a starting quarterback.

      "All options are on the table," Pettine said when asked about pushing back his decision on a quarterback. "Somebody's got to be ready for the opener."

      Neither Manziel, who became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in 2012, nor sixth-year journeyman Hoyer had distinguished himself in Cleveland's 13-12 loss to Detroit in its Aug. 9 preseason opener either.

      On Monday, Hoyer finished 2-for-6 for 16 yards. Manziel, who got equal time against Washington's starting defense before playing the entire third quarter, passed for just 65 yards, the last eight yards coming on a toss to running back Dion Lewis for a touchdown that closed the Browns' deficit to 14-10 with 13:33 remaining.

      That 16-play, 68-yard drive consumed 8:15 and might have been huge for the rookie, who posted a 76.3 passer rating on the night.

      Manziel was 5-of-14 for 49 yards before completing his final two passes. He was also sacked three times. Hoyer went down once while posting a 42.2 passer rating.

      The Browns took a 17-14 lead when veteran safety Jim Leonard intercepted Redskins third-string quarterback Colt McCoy's first pass and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown with 12:19 to go.

      Pettine, a defensive specialist, will surely rely heavily on offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in making the choice between the headier, less talented Hoyer or Manziel, who has a bigger upside but much less of a handle on the offense.

      Although he might not even start for a team that went 4-12 last season, Manziel is already one of the NFL's most scrutinized players because of his extraordinary athletic gifts and his well-publicized love for nightlife. In the first two-plus months after the Browns drafted the former Texas A&M star, Manziel's jersey was the league's top seller.

      Hoyer's first two series Monday were ugly. He did not seem to be ready for the first snap and was sacked for a 6-yard loss. Tight end Jordan Cameron dropped Hoyer's pass on the next play before a draw preceded a punt. When the Browns got the ball back, Ben Tate ran twice before receiver Andrew Hawkins couldn't hold Hoyer's low throw.

      Manziel didn't start any better when he took over for Cleveland's third series. After Tate gained five yards, Manziel threw behind running back Isaiah Crowell on second down before he was dropped by Kerrigan to force a punt.

      Manziel's second series, which began at the Washington 1-yard line, was better. He hit tight end MarQueis Gray with a screen for 17 yards and neatly fit in a 12-yard completion to Hawkins while on the run. However, Manziel's next three plays were a one-yard loss, another Cameron drop and an ugly throw behind receiver Josh Gordon.

      Hoyer then took over again to get some work against Washington's backups. Fortunately, the Browns had the ball at the Redskins' 15 after a 43-yard interception return because Hoyer and Co. managed just three yards before Billy Cundiff kicked a 29-yard field goal to give Cleveland a 3-0 lead with 4:58 remaining in the first half.

      When Hoyer finally completed a pass after six incompletions, Gray fumbled and the Redskins recovered.

  • Monday, August 18, 2014
    Cardinals DT Dockett tears ACL
    By The Sports Xchange

    Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett suffered a torn ACL during Monday's practice and will be lost for the season, the team announced on its website.

    • Dockett, who will undergo surgery, injured his knee on a pass play during an 11-on-11 period and was carted off the field.

      Dockett has been remarkably durable, missing just two games during his 10-year pro career, all as a starter for the Cardinals.

      A three-time Pro Bowler, Dockett started all 16 regular-season games last season, when he had 4.5 sacks.

      Dockett's loss is a significant blow for the Cardinals. They lost linebacker Karlos Dansby in free agency, and will be without suspended linebacker Daryl Washington. It is uncertain when safety Tyrann Mathieu will return from his injury.

  • Monday, August 18, 2014
    Bears sign KR/PR Reynaud
    By The Sports Xchange

    One day after terminating the contract of wide receiver/return man Eric Weems, the Chicago Bears signed kick returner/punt returner Darius Reynaud on Monday, the team announced.

    • Cornerback Peyton Thompson and Reynaud both inked one-year contracts, while the Bears waived long snapper Chad Rempel and punter Tress Way.

      Reynaud split last season between the Tennessee Titans (seven games) and New York Jets (two games). He returned a combined 18 kickoffs, gaining 430 yards (23.9-yard average), and 18 punts, producing 135 yards (7.5-yard average).

      Over his career, which includes stints with the Minnesota Vikings (2008-09), New York Giants (2010), the Titans (2012-13) and the Jets (2013), Reynaud has 104 kickoff returns for 2,347 yards, a 22.6-yard average, and one touchdown. He has 102 punt returns for 985 yards, a 9.7-yard average, and two touchdowns.

      Thompson is a veteran of the Atlanta Falcons' and Washington Redskins' practice squads, though he has no regular-season NFL experience. He signed with Atlanta in 2012 as an undrafted free agent from San Jose State.

      Rempel played with five teams in the Canadian Football League from 2004-13 before signing with the Bears in April.

      Way, a University of Oklahoma product, was in camp with the Bears both last year and this year.

  • Monday, August 18, 2014
    Report: Vikings' Simpson may face suspension
    By The Sports Xchange

    Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson missed practice Monday to attend a hearing in New York that will help determine whether the NFL will suspend Simpson for his November drunken-driving arrest, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

    • The NFL is deciding whether to discipline Simpson as a repeat offender under its Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.

      Simpson pleaded guilty last January to careless driving and refusing to submit to a chemical test following a plea deal. The DUI count was dismissed, and Simpson was given two years' probation.

      Simpson was suspended for three games during the 2012 season after being convicted of a felony for mailing two pounds of marijuana to his Kentucky home while he was playing for the Cincinnati Bengals.

      Simpson had 48 receptions for 726 yards and one touchdown in 2013. He had two receptions for 25 yards in Minnesota's two preseason victories.

  • Monday, August 18, 2014
    Irsay asks for trial to be delayed
    By The Sports Xchange

    Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is seeking a delay in his trial on charges of operating while intoxicated, the Indianapolis Star reported Monday.

    • According to the newspaper, one of Irsay's attorneys, Bruce Boje, filed to a motion in Hamilton (Indiana) Superior Court, asking for the trial to be pushed back from the scheduled Aug. 28 date.

      Irsay faces misdemeanor charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating a vehicle with a controlled substance in the body, both in connection with his March 16 arrest during a traffic stop in Carmel, Indiana.

      Irsay went into rehab after the arrest, when he reportedly failed multiple field sobriety tests and was in possession of nearly $30,000 in cash plus numerous prescription medications .

      In June, Irsay told the Star that he remained alcohol-free and was attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

      "These diseases, both alcoholism and addiction, much like bipolar or depression and different illnesses, are still not seen as real diseases," Irsay said during a two-hour interview with The Star. "People shy away from seeking help because it's viewed as being somewhat morally off the path, that they've lost their way. I really think the disease aspect gets lost when you're talking about alcoholism and addiction; it's not like you're battling leukemia or a heart problem; it is that. But even in 2014, there's still this stigma."

      Irsay, 55, could face a maximum 120 jail days and a $1,000 fine if convicted on both charges. However, because he has no previous record, he likely would receive a more lenient punishment.

      The NFL has yet to announce any penalty for Irsay despite criticism from the NFL Players Association, which maintains its members are dealt with more swiftly and harshly than management staff who run afoul of the law.

      NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told WTHR-TV in Indianapolis on Monday that Irsay's case remains under review, adding, "There's no standard timeline. ... (It) just depends on the circumstances. Every issue is different."

  • Monday, August 18, 2014
    Jets WR Saunders returns
    By The Sports Xchange

    New York Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders returned to the team's practice facility Monday, three days after he had a "medical event" while driving his car.

    • The fourth-round pick was discharged from the hospital Sunday morning. He began practice in the rehab area with Jets trainers, according to Newsday.

      The Jets initially said that Saunders was involved in "a single-car accident" Friday morning, but police said he did not actually crash his car.

      The Jets said Saunders, 21, was OK but sent to a hospital as a precaution.

      Saunders is listed as the team's No. 1 punt returner, but is not expected to play in the team's third preseason game.

      "Well, I think right now we're taking a cautious approach with him, which is (a) smart approach," said coach Rex Ryan, who added that he did not know when Saunders will return to practice. "But as far as anything that way, I think that's what we’re doing. ... We're not going to play him (in the game) this week. But we'll see how he progresses."

      Ryan declined to say what the exact issue with Saunders is, deferring to the player to discuss it with the media.

      "He can tell you a lot better than I could what happened, how he is and all that kind of stuff," Ryan said.

      According to an incident report by the Florham Park Police Department, Saunders experienced an unspecified "medical event" as he made a left turn onto Park Avenue, near the practice facility. His vehicle, a black 2014 Toyota Corolla, then left the roadway and came to rest in the grass.

      Alcohol and drug tests were not administered at the scene and Saunders' car was towed to the practice facility.

  • Monday, August 18, 2014
    Bucs eager to game plan for Bills
    By The Sports Xchange

    Undeterred by a pair of preseason loses to begin his tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coach Lovie Smith saw progress in Saturday's loss to the Miami Dolphins and views the upcoming third game at the Buffalo Bills this Saturday as the most important time of the preseason.

    • For the first time, Smith's coaching staff will game plan for the Bills and attempt to mimic what a routine week during the regular season will be like.

      "It's critical to do that, once the regular season comes you want guys to know what they're doing every second and just a routine instead of wondering what this is like," Smith said. "It's not like we're going to run all of the defenses, offenses and special teams plays we're going to run during the season, but just how we group things when - a regular week - we install all of our different game plans, whether it be red zone, two-minute drill or whatever.

      "That's always good for the players to see when we lift, when you have to get your lifts in through the week, it's a little bit different training and working out in the offseason as opposed to the regular season. There are a lot things for us to go over."

      The Bucs spent time Monday going over film from the Dolphins game before turning their attention to the Bills. The starters are expected to play into the second half in Buffalo.

      "It's been called the 'dress rehearsal,' the real dress rehearsal for the season," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said of the third preseason game. "Starters get anywhere from two and a half to three quarters of play time, and then you've got the younger guys coming in. Just to see where your guys are at, how much have they progressed, how much has our team collectively progressed as a unit, and move forward from preseason (games) one and two."

      The first-team offense showed progress against the Dolphins, including some no-huddle looks. Smith said the intent is to keep the defense off-balance more than it is to score quickly, which just puts your own defense back on the field.

      "We'll no-huddle a little bit, if you just say you should get more plays if you're snapping it fairly quick, but it's about positive plays for me, keeping the chains moving," Smith said. "I still believe in controlling the clock though."

      One of the positives to come out of the Dolphins game was the improved play of the offensive line, including in no-huddle formations.

      "It's faster actually in practice; then when you get to the game, it's a little slower for us," running back Doug Martin said of the up-tempo looks. "We did a good job at executing the high tempo and you could tell that the defense was a little gassed."

      --RB Mike James (shoulder) was injured against Miami, and Smith did not provide a timetable for his return.

      --LB Brandon Magee will be out "a while," according to Smith, who did not provide further details.

  • Monday, August 18, 2014
    Falcons slide Matthews to left tackle
    By The Sports Xchange

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie offensive tackle Jake Matthews officially moved from the right side to the left on Monday.

    • The switch was expected after veteran Sam Baker went down with a season-ending knee injury in Saturday's preseason game against the Houston Texans. He was placed on injured reserve Monday.

      The loss of Baker thrust Matthews, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, into a key position on the line before his first snap in an NFL regular-season game.

      "(He) has left tackle written all over him," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Jake is comfortable playing both right and left (tackle). He played right and left tackle in his college career. I don't think he'll blink. We're not."

      Matthews played left tackle for one year at Texas A&M after being on the right side.

      He said it's an adjustment to switch positions. He started all 26 games at right tackle from 2011 and 2012. In 2013, he replaced Jaguars first-rounder Luke Joeckel at left tackle and started all 13 games.

      "The footwork and hands, everything just gets flipped," Matthew said. "I've been doing the right tackle thing for a while now and you kind of get accustomed to that. Now, you have to flip it all around. ... If I keep getting reps I'll be ready to go."

      Lamar Holmes took over for Matthews at right tackle during Monday's practice. The Falcons' other options at tackle are Ryan Schraeder and Gabe Carimi, a former first-round pick who has already been cut by two teams. The team also signed Pat McQuistan, a ninth-year veteran offensive lineman who has played for Dallas, Miami, New Orleans and Arizona.

      Coach Mike Smith didn't seemed concerned about Matthews adapting.

      "I don't think he'll blink," he said. "We're not."

      Matthews, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, held his own in the preseason game against the Texans after having two penalties in his NFL debut against Miami.

      "I thought Jake did some good things," Smith said Saturday. "He had some tough battles, but I thought he did a nice job. He's going to be a good player in this league."

      Baker, on his 14th snap in the exhibition game against Houston, suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. A first-round pick in 2008, he was coming back from a torn patellar in his left knee. He has played all 16 games in just two of his six seasons in the NFL.

      Training camp is over.

      --The Falcons officially broke camp following Monday's practice. The team will hold regular practices Tuesday through Thursday with a walk-through on Friday in preparation for Saturday's exhibition game against the Titans.

      "It will be nice to sleep in my own bed again," Matthews said.

      The Falcons will play a final exhibition game next Thursday at the Jaguars before the start of the regular season.

      --Sean Weatherspoon was at Falcons practice Monday - as a spectator of course.

      The linebacker is out for the season after suffering a torn left Achilles tendon during the offseason.

      Weatherspoon, dressed all in black including a floppy hat, watched most of practice and interacted with several players.

      He was a big hit with the film crew of HBO's "Hard Knocks" series as a group shadowed Weatherspoon for nearly the entire practice and taped and recorded several conversations.

      --The Falcons will play their starters at least a half during Saturday's exhibition game against the Titans.

      The third game of the preseason is typically the game where the starting units see the most game action. Smith said the team will do some game planning, as it would in a regular-season game, this week. However, he indicated that the Falcons would not show their entire hand during the exhibition.

      "We are going to want to take the starters through the first half of the game," Smith said. "We'll make a determination by the number of snaps (they play) whether they will come back out and play in the second half for a series. That is the way we've handled it in years past."

      BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Smith said the competition for the nickel back position will come down to the final exhibition game. According to Smith, no clear-cut favorite emerged following Saturday's exhibition loss to the Texans.

      Robert McClain, Josh Wilson and Javier Arenas are battling for the spot.

      "I think we still have a lot of decisions to make in terms of who is going to be our nickel," Smith said. "We are going to rotate it a little bit differently than what we did in the first (exhibition) games. This is Arenas chance to get his reps in there.

      "Then we'll make a decision going into the fourth preseason game on who is going to be our starter at nickel."

      --RB Steven Jackson (hamstring) worked out with the trainers on Monday.

      --Carimi (ankle) worked out with the trainers on Monday.

      --DT Corey Peters (Achilles) returned to the practice field Monday for the first time since he tore his Achilles tendon. Peters suffered the injury in Game 15 against the 49ers last season. He has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list since the start of training camp.

      "Corey is way ahead of schedule in terms on his rehabilitation with his Achilles," Smith said. "It's going to be fun to watch him get indoctrinated into what we are doing this season."

      --SS William Moore believes that game-planning for Tennessee will make all of the difference in the world for the defense.

      "You have to keep in mind that we didn't game plan for (the Texans)," Moore said. "(Against Tennessee) we will have the opportunity to game plan and that is very important in the NFL."

      --WR Roddy White was ticked that the Falcons lost left tackle Sam Baker in a meaningless game.

      "It's stuff like that, that tells you a lot about these games," White said. "I know you can get hurt at practice but playing (meaningless) games and getting your left tackle hurt, I just don't know. I don't know what you judge from these preseason games. I'm not a fan (of) them, but we have to play them. So you have to go out and do what you have to do."