AFC West: Aaron Curry

Rolando McClain was supposed to be different.

He was supposed to break the chain of poor first-round drafting by the Oakland Raiders. Oakland took McClain with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft. It was well received because McClain was expected to be a sure thing. He was a star on a defense of stars for Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide.

Many teams wanted him. McClain earned immediate kudos for asking for his playbook as soon as he was drafted. He was going to be the anti-JaMarcus Russell.

It went downhill from there.

McClain was not a good NFL player and it seems like his time is up in Oakland before his third NFL season is over. ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting McClain will be cut Thursday.

The situation became murky Wednesday when McClain missed practice and the team said it was because of a team-related issue. McClain then took to social media, saying he was no longer a Raider.

McClain never lived up to his billing on the field. He was out of shape, slow and often out of position. He didn’t show the instincts expected from a top-10 pick. He was convicted on a gun charge last year, but it was recently overturned on an appeal, according to his attorney.

The new Oakland regime was charged with salvaging McClain’s time in Oakland. He didn’t make improvements and his playing time dwindled in some games. Now, it is over.

McClain will be the 27th player to leave since new general manager Reggie McKenzie took over. Last week, fellow starting linebacker Aaron Curry was cut.

Changes like this show that the Raiders are rebuilding and patience is needed with the new regime. McKenzie is trying to reconstruct a team with a bad salary cap situation and small draft classes. Getting rid of players who didn’t work out like McClain is also part of the process. Perhaps more cuts are on the way.

McClain may be able to salvage his career elsewhere in the right situation. I’m sure some teams will be interested in him. Oakland will hope he is claimed so the rest of his contract is taken on. But that may not be easy. I could see McClain passing through waivers.

Like every NFL team, I think the three other AFC West teams could look at McClain because he can fit in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses. But each team will have to decide if trying to salvage McClain is worth its time.

As for Oakland, newly signed veteran Omar Gaither will likely play at middle linebacker for the time being.

Oakland will look for a middle linebacker in the offseason. One target may be Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o if he is available when Oakland picks in the NFL draft. He is expected to be a top-five pick. Oakland is currently on pace to pick fourth. Te’o is considered a can’t miss prospect.

Sound familiar?

Branden Albert out for Chiefs

November, 25, 2012
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The Kansas City Chiefs will be without left tackle Branden Albert on Sunday against the Denver Broncos, and their dynamic pass-rush.

Albert has a back injury that forced him to leave last week’s game. He was doubtful to play Sunday. Rookie Donald Stephenson will start for Albert and he will have to deal with Denver star pass-rusher Von Miller, who has 13 sacks. The Chiefs did get some good news. Center Ryan Lilja (knee) will play Sunday, after missing last week’s game.

In a less-impactful decision, but an interesting one, receiver Jamar Newsome is active, a day after being promoted from the practice squad. He is active over veteran Steve Breaston, a former key cog in this offense, and fourth-round pick Devon Wylie. The Chiefs cut offensive lineman Rich Ranglin to make room for Newsome.

For Denver, cornerback Tracy Porter is inactive for the sixth straight game. He was probable after practicing this past week, but will not be on the field Sunday.

In other AFC West news:

Oakland backup running back Taiwan Jones, who was questionable with an ankle injury, is active in Cincinnati. Oakland needs Jones because of major injuries at the position.

As expected, the Raiders promoted linebacker Kaelin Burnett from practice squad. He fills spot left open by the release of linebacker Aaron Curry.

Also as expected, San Diego promoted tackle Kevin Haslam from the practice squad. He took the place of left tackle Jared Gaither, who went on the injured reserve Friday.
What does it say about a starting linebacker who was cut from a team that has allowed 135 points in the past three games?

That’s up to Aaron Curry to explain.

In a mild surprise, the Oakland Raiders cut the linebacker Tuesday. Curry has been active the past two games after spending most of the season on the physically unable to perform list with knee issues.

He didn’t make much of an impact, although he did rack up more than $23,000 in fines in his first game back, against Baltimore, in Week 10.

Oakland still owes Seattle a fifth-round pick in 2013. It gave the Seahawks a seventh-round pick in the 2012 draft for Curry. The trade was made by former Oakland coach Hue Jackson last October. The Raiders acquired Curry, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 draft, with the hopes of igniting his career.

Curry was an enthusiastic player and he made some plays for Oakland last year. But he was inconsistent and often plays out of control. The new staff never appeared enamored with Curry.

Rookie Miles Burris has been a solid starter, so instead of hoping Curry can be a difference-maker on a weak defense, the Raiders decided to cut their losses and move on.

Expensive week for AFC West LBs

November, 16, 2012
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There were heavy fines levied against some AFC West defenders from Week 10 action.

A day after the Denver Post reported Broncos linebacker Von Miller (who has been fined at least $84,250 in his short NFL career) was fined $21,000 for a low hit on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, the league said several other players from the division were fined.

Kansas City linebacker Tamba Hali was fined $25,000 for a helmet hit on Steelers’ quarterback Byron Leftwich in Pittsburgh on Monday night. Fellow Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston was docked $7,875 for unsportsmanlike conduct when he led a group celebration after a touchdown that was reversed by a challenge.

In his first game off the PUP, Oakland linebacker Aaron Curry was hit with two fines from the Baltimore game for a total of $23,625. One occurred on defense and the other happened on special teams.

Oakland linebacker Philip Wheeler was fined $7,875 for a facemask violation.

Steve Breaston is not active

November, 12, 2012
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Todd Haley will not be able to see one of his favorite players Monday night in Pittsburgh.

Kansas City receiver Steve Breaston is a healthy scratch for Monday night’s game. He was brought to Kansas City last season by Haley when he was the head coach. Breaston played for Haley when he was an assistant in Arizona. Haley was fired by the Chiefs last December and he is now the Steelers’ offensive coordinator. Rookie Devon Wylie is active in Breaston’s place.

Breaston has six catches in new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s system. He had 61 catches last season and he’s had, at least, 47 catches a season since catching eight balls as a rookie in Arizona in 2007.

Meanwhile, Kansas City offensive linemen Branden Albert (back) and center Ryan Lilja (neck) are playing Monday night. They were both questionable.

It is raining in Pittsburgh on Monday.

In other AFC West news:

Oakland running back Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson – who both suffered high ankle sprains against Tampa Bay in Week 9 and didn’t play Sunday at Baltimore – are still in walking boots. They will likely not play Sunday against New Orleans barring major improvement.

The NFL released a statement the punt return by Denver’s Trindon Holliday should have been reviewed and should have been ruled a touchback because he flipped the ball out of his hands before he crossed the goal line in Denver’s 36-14 win at Carolina.

Oakland is putting reserve linebacker Travis Goethel on injured reserve because of a season-ending knee injury he suffered Sunday at Baltimore. Bringing back linebacker Vic So'oto is not an option. He signed with Green Bay on Monday. The Raiders cut him Saturday to make room for Aaron Curry of the PUP.

The Chargers expect starting nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin to miss a couple of weeks with a knee injury.

Detroit claimed cornerback Pat Lee, who was cut by the Raiders on Saturday.

Aaron Curry activated

November, 6, 2012
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UPDATE: The Raiders make it official: Curry activated. Linebacker Vic So’oto cut to make room for Curry.

Fox Sports is reporting the Raiders will activate linebacker Aaron Curry from the physically unable to perform list. The team must do it by Wednesday. If not, Curry must be put on the injured reserve.

On Monday, Oakland coach Dennis Allen indicated that Curry is still dealing with the knee problems that have plagued him since the offseason. By activating him, it would mean Oakland thinks Curry can help this season.

I’d think Curry would be eased back into action and be a backup for now until he can show he is ready to take on an expanded role.

In other AFC West news:
  • In an Insider piece, Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston ranked very high on a list of underrated NFL players. Oakland linebacker Philip Wheeler also made the list. I can’t agree more. We will talk about the great linebacker play in the division more this week.
  • San Diego coach Norv Turner received votes in a players poll, naming the most overrated coaches. That’s a new one. I’ve heard Turner called a lot of things. Being rated highly is not one of them.
  • This ESPN video looks at just how bad the 1-7 Chiefs are.
  • Pro Football Weekly named Denver’s John Elway as the executive of the midseason. He is the only AFC West representative on the list, which honored players at each position and a coach.
  • This ESPN video looks at how the Broncos are utilizing technology.

Rolando McClain to play Sunday

November, 4, 2012
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OAKLAND -- Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain is active Sunday against Tampa Bay.

He was a game-time decision because of a toe injury. He is expected to start. There weren’t any other major developments on Oakland’s inactive list.

Meanwhile, the Raiders did not activate linebacker Aaron Curry from physical unable to perform list. The Raiders need to activate him by Wednesday or shelve him for the season.

In other AFC West news:

In an interview with USA Today, suspended Denver linebacker D.J. Williams opens up about his feelings regarding his nine-game suspension and what he expects to give the Broncos on the field after he is eligible to return in Week 11. The question is how much will Denver use Williams when he returns?
Cornerback Tracy Porter will miss his third straight game as the Denver Broncos figure out how to best regulate his treatment as he deals with his post-seizure career.

Porter missed practice Friday after he fully participated Thursday in preparation for Sunday’s game at Cincinnati. He had a seizure in August and dealt with some symptoms in October.

“We’re still regulating the medication,” coach John Fox said of Porter missing practice Friday and Sunday’s game. “Not that it was a setback, but there was a little bit of an issue, and we’ll evaluate that moving forward. His safety is what’s the utmost concern right now.”

Chris Harris will continue to start for Porter. Harris has been outstanding as Porter's replacement.

In other AFC West news:

Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain (toe) and running back Taiwan Jones (knee) are questionable to play Sunday against Tampa Bay. McClain will be a game-time decision. The San Francisco Chronicle wonders if linebacker Aaron Curry will be shelved for the year?

Lots of AFC West love from ESPN experts’ picks this week.
If Tracy Porter can’t play Sunday against his former team, the New Orleans Saints, the Broncos still might get some inside information on the Saints.

“He gives us little tips about what the receivers like to do,” said cornerback Chris Harris on Friday of Porter. “There’s really not too much he can really say, but he just gives me what this specific person likes to do.”

Harris is in line to start for Porter. Porter is officially listed on the injury report as questionable. However, he will not play until he is medically cleared, and that might be difficult before Sunday. Porter missed Week 6. He had a seizure in the summer and he had dealt with the affects of it.

Porter told reporters Friday he is confident in his recovery. He saw a doctor on Thursday.

“Everything looked normal, but they still want to make sure that I’m 100 percent healthy if they put me out there on the field, so that’s the only thing I can ask for,” Porter said.

In other AFC West injury news:

The Chargers are expected to have tackle Jared Gaither back after he suffered a groin injury in Week 6. He is listed as probable on the injury report to play Sunday at Cleveland. Receiver Eddie Royal (hamstring) and linebacker Jonas Mouton (hip) are questionable to play. Neither player practiced Friday.

Kansas City defensive end Glenn Dorsey (calf) is listed as questionable to face Oakland on Sunday. Receiver Devon Wylie (hamstring) is listed as probable.

Oakland defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (elbow) was limited Friday and he is questionable. Defensive ends Matt Shaughnessy and Dave Tollefson are both questionable with shoulder injuries. Tight end Richard Gordon (hamstring) and running back Taiwan Jones (knee) are questionable. They’ve been limited as well. Oakland coach Dennis Allen told reporters that he is considering activating linebacker Aaron Curry (knees) off the PUP list for the game. He has been practicing the past two weeks.

New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham (ankle) is going to be a game-time decision at Denver on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Peyton Manning said he is still not fully recovered from his neck injury that kept him out all of last season. Regardless, Manning is an MVP candidate.
The Kansas City Chiefs signed Peyton Hillis with the hopes of having one of the best 1-2 running back punches in the NFL.

While starter Jamaal Charles has been fantastic with 591 yards, Hillis hasn’t been unleashed because of an ankle injury. Hillis has missed the past three games with an injury. He has 93 yards on 21 carries this season.

Yet, the Chiefs may be getting close to getting Hillis back. He practiced on a limited basis and the team is hopeful he could play Sunday against visiting Oakland. Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel is looking forward to seeing a Charles-Hillis tandem finally develop.

“You’ve got a big back that can catch the ball, which can break some tackles, who has good vision and all those kinds of things, and being able to complement Jamaal as well,” Crennel told reporters Wednesday. “I think that it makes the defenses have to think twice about how they’re going to defend some things.”

Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ health seems to be improving. Defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey (calf) was limited and he could be getting back to action and receiver/returner Devon Wylie (hamstring) practiced fully.

Meanwhile, Oakland tight end Richard Gordon (hamstring) and running back Taiwan Jones (knee) have returned to practice. They were both limited. Linebacker Aaron Curry is practicing for the second straight week. Still, he may not be activated from the physically unable to perform list this week to play at Kansas City.

San Diego left tackle Jared Gaither is practicing for the second straight day. He missed the Chargers’ last game with a groin injury. It would be a boost for the Chargers if he can play Sunday at Cleveland.

Denver cornerback Tracy Porter was limited Wednesday with an illness that kept him out of Week 6 at San Diego. Porter has a solid chance to play against his former team, New Orleans, Sunday if he doesn’t have a setback.

GM A.J. Smith not hiding from truth

October, 18, 2012
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A.J. Smith is as blunt as they come. And he is also astute.

The general manager of the San Diego Chargers knows if his team doesn’t stop blowing big second-half leads, there will be wholesale changes at the end of the year, which would include him and coach Norv Turner losing their jobs. That has long been the deal. If the Chargers don’t make the playoffs, changes will be forthcoming after ownership gave both Turner and Smith an unexpected reprieve after they missed the playoffs in 2011 for the second straight season.

The Chargers are 3-3 and still very much in the playoff hunt. But they must find a way to stop blowing games and start finishing them. Smith gets it. Look what he told U-T San Diego columnist Kevin Acee:
“I take full responsibility for the present mess this team is in at this point in time,” Smith said. “The construction and direction of this organization is on my watch. In the next 10 games we will either rally and see a slow, steady rise from the ashes to a division championship – or the beginning of a new era in Chargers’ football.”

You can’t argue with his thought process. It’s either win or get replaced in San Diego.

In other AFC West news:

Former linebacker Bill Romanowski continues to be highly critical of Oakland middle linebacker Rolando McClain. Romanowski, a Bay Area NFL analyst, has long dogged McClain. McClain’s playing time dipped last week and he could potentially lose playing time to promising rookie Miles Burris when Aaron Curry returns from a knee injury.

When is it time quit on a QB?

October, 17, 2012
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Quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn spent Wednesday sharing repetitions in what has become an open competition for the starting job in Kansas City.

The Chiefs likely won’t announce a winner until next week in preparation for the Oct. 28 home game against the Oakland Raiders. The Chiefs break for their bye beginning Thursday.

Cassel had struggled before a concussion in Week 5 opened up time for Quinn. He made his first start in three years during Week 6. We have discussed the topic often and I don’t think either quarterback is equipped to lead the Chiefs out of their 1-5 doldrums. The Chiefs will likely have a new starting quarterback next year. The topic is being discussed in this week’s Hot Read piece by Jeffri Chadiha.

The story delves into when a team knows it is time to make a switch. This ESPN Stats & Information chart shows that Cassel has put himself in the position with poor play. Expect the Chiefs’ quarterback topic to remain hot well after the Chiefs decide whether to play Cassel or Quinn. There are no quick solutions to this problem.

Meanwhile, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli discussed the quarterback situation as well as other issues percolating around the stumbling team in an interview with the Kansas City Star.

In other AFC West news:

As expected, Oakland linebacker Aaron Curry is at practice Wednesday. He has been out all year with a knee injury. Guard Mike Brisiel is also practicing in Oakland. He left the Atlanta game Sunday with a concussion.

Here is a Scouts Inc. look Insider at the Raiders-Jaguars game on Sunday.

In a radio interview, Denver coach John Fox ranks his team’s epic comeback win at San Diego in the top five wins of his career. Denver was down 24-0 at halftime and won 35-24. It was the fourth time in the Super Bowl era that a team came back from at least 24 points in the second half.

Evening AFC West notes

October, 16, 2012
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San Diego coach Norv Turner plans to adjust the offense in light of two straight meltdowns, including an epic 35-24 home loss to Denver on Monday night. The Chargers became the fourth team in the Super Bowl era to blow a 24-point halftime lead.
  • Oakland middle linebacker Rolando McClain saw his playing time dip Sunday at Atlanta, which happened to be the Raiders’ best defensive effort of the season. I could see the former No. 8 overall pick continue to lose playing time when Aaron Curry returns soon from a knee injury. Rookie Miles Burris, who replaced Curry, could take some of McClain’s playing time. Burris is promising.
  • The Bears have reportedly cut former first-round pick, tackle Chris Williams. The Chargers could use some help. Perhaps they will consider Williams, who is not the answer as a starter, but perhaps could provide decent depth.
  • The Raiders made a move on their practice squad.

More from Eric Winston

October, 9, 2012
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Eric Winston said he has gotten support for his rant on Sunday and doesn’t regret saying what he did.

Sunday, Winston ripped some fans who he said cheered when embattled Kansas City starting quarterback Matt Cassel went down with a head injury. Winston, of course, has taken some heat for his words.

“I stand by what I said. I was there; I was on the field. It was obvious to me, but like I said, people are going to make their own conclusions,” Winston told a Houston radio station. “I’ve had a lot of support. I’ve had a lot of people that have emailed me from around the league. I had a person, today, stop me in my car when I was leaving the store and they just wanted to say, ‘Thank you.’ … I’ve had a lot of people that were there, teammates that their families were talking about it after the game. It wasn’t just me. … The only thing that matters to me in this game is the respect of your teammates and the respect of your peers.”

I understand both sides of this saga. But I think it is best for everyone involved if Winston doesn’t address it anymore. It’s time for everyone to move on.

Meanwhile, in our AFC West poll, voters were overwhelmingly behind Winston.

In other AFC West news:

The Chiefs signed center Bryan Mattison and cut defensive back Neiko Thorpe. It's the reverse of a move they made Saturday because of needs at defensive back in Week 5.

The Chargers haven’t had much fourth-quarter magic lately.

Denver reserve cornerback Tony Carter apologized for an insensitive tweet.

Former Denver safety Steve Atwater has been elected to the Colorado sports hall of fame.

Buffalo signed offensive lineman Reggie Wells. He had been on and off the Chargers’ roster for the past several weeks.

As expected, injured Oakland linebacker Aaron Curry is on pace to practice next week. If there is not a setback, he could come back in a few weeks. The Raiders could certainly use the help.
Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday:

DENVER

Chad from MileHigh: I think the Broncos should come out in the No Huddle right off the bat from now on. The slow starts have killed the last two weeks. The efficiency is so much higher when they go into Peyton's No Huddle. Thoughts??

Bill Williamson: I could see that being considered if the slow starts persists. The number doesn’t lie, the Broncos have been better in the no huddle. Manning seems very comfortable in it.

KANSAS CITY

Mark from Kansas City: Do you anticipate Lilja and Allen to have a strong showing in Kansas City on Sunday? The pair looked surprisingly solid against the Saints after Hudson left the game.

BW: Sometimes emotions take over. The big test will be this week.

OAKLAND

Mark from Toronto: What's the word on Aaron Curry? He's eligible to be back in a few weeks, but is there any chance he actually will be? And if he is, does he sit behind Burris?

BW: He has a chance to come back in about three weeks. It will be interesting to see whether Burris keeps his job. Earlier Thursday, on SportsCenter, Mel Kiper said Burris was the most surprising rookie in the NFL. He was a fourth-round pick. He is making a difference. I think he had a chance to be a long-time starter.

SAN DIEGO

Stacy from Denver, CO.: Is Ryan Mathews ever going to get it? The concerns of injury and fumbling have emerged again very quickly this year.

BW: I understand the question. He is very talented, but at some point, he must stay healthy and must keep the ball in his hands. It is time.

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