AFC West: James Harrison

Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly told the San Francisco Chronicle he expects to be released by the team. Kelly is his own agent, and he told the paper he has not had any contact with the team this offseason.

“The writing is on the wall," Kelly told the paper. "The team is going in another direction. I'm ready for the next chapter. ... They're ready too."

Quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey may have to take pay cuts to avoid being cut as Oakland tries to get enough cap room to maneuver through the offseason.

In other AFC West news:

U-T San Diego reports the Chargers have given receiver Danario Alexander the low restricted-franchise tag tender. There is a chance that a team could give Alexander a decent offer, but the truth is that he was recently on the street and has dealt with multiple knee issues. The Chargers felt it was worth the risk.

The Chargers signed long snapper Mike Windt to a four-year extension.

The Denver Post reported the Broncos visited with cornerback Dunta Robinson on Friday before he signed with the Chiefs. Cleary, Denver is in the mix for a veteran cornerback.

Pittsburgh cut pass-rusher James Harrison. His skills have been declining, and he is 34. I’m not sure there will be a huge AFC West market for him. For what it’s worth, the Chargers have a couple of the things Harrison is looking for in a new team: They play a 3-4 defense and are a warm-weather team.

Key players return to practice

September, 20, 2012
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  • Denver star pass-rusher Von Miller practice fully Thursday after being limited Wednesday with a hip injury. Also, nickel cornerback Chris Harris practiced on a limited basis for the first time since hurting his ankle in Week 1.
  • Oakland middle linebacker Rolando McClain is back at practice Thursday after being out Wednesday with a concussion. He should be able to play against Pittsburgh on Sunday.
  • Kansas City receiver Steve Breaston (wrist) and cornerback Jalil Brown (groin) both practiced fully Thursday after not practicing Wednesday and guard Ryan Lilja (back) practiced on a limited basis after being held out Wednesday.
  • Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison (knee) and safety Troy Polamalu (safety) are expected to miss Sunday’s game against the Raiders. Harrison has been out for several weeks and Polamalu missed last week’s win over the Jets.
  • Peyton Manning made fun of himself Thursday at the Broncos’ practice.
  • The Raiders-Steelers game will be shown on local television.
  • The Chargers’ home game against Atlanta, though, is blacked out on local television.

Denarius Moore stays on pace

September, 7, 2012
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Oakland receiver Denarius Moore (hamstring) practiced well Friday and he is expected to play Monday night against San Diego unless there is a setback. Oakland receiver Jacoby Ford (foot) is still not practicing and he very likely will not play Monday.

Meanwhile, San Diego running back Ryan Mathews remained limited. He is not expected to play Monday with a broken clavicle.

In other AFC West news:

Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli and Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff talk about their long relationship in a radio interview. Their teams play each other Sunday.

San Diego tight end Antonio Gates talks about the sense of urgency for the team in a radio interview.

The Redskins are meeting with tight end Chris Cooley next week. There has been some talk the Raiders (who could use a veteran tight end) could look into Cooley. But, clearly, he is going to wait and see what happens with the Redskins before even thinking about another team if there is, indeed, interest.

Pittsburgh star linebacker James Harrison is listed as questionable to play Sunday night at Denver because of a lingering knee injury. There is a report that says he won’t play. Denver coach John Fox is taking a wait-and-see approach on Harrison’s availability.

“We’ll kind of wait and see when the thing comes out officially and we’ll make that judgment then,” Fox said Friday. “We’re prepared for whoever they line up at outside backer to his side and we’ll go from there.”

ESPNW has a look at the off-field passion of Oakland fullback Marcel Reece.

Chargers score big with Ingram

April, 26, 2012
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In my opinion, the San Diego Chargers just made the best pick of the draft since the two top quarterbacks went 1-2.

Ingram
Ingram
And I’m not alone.

When the Chargers took South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram at No. 18, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper called it the best value pick of the draft.

Ingram is a top-10 player who becomes the impact defensive player the Chargers have craved. I believe he becomes an instant impact as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He is versatile and can play on the defensive line. He has been compared to James Harrison, and I think he will be a tremendous NFL player. Ingram might have fallen because teams didn’t know where to play him.

San Diego will put him on the field and watch him become one of its best players.

There is no way he should have fallen. The fact that Seattle took Bruce Irvin at No. 15 and bypassed a stellar player such as Ingram is a joke and a gift to San Diego.

Kudos to San Diego general manager A.J. Smith for staying patient and letting the board fall to him. There were reports the Chargers could try to trade up for Alabama safety Mark Barron. To me, Ingram is just as much of an impact player, who fills San Diego’s greatest need as a pass-rusher.

Folks, the three other AFC West teams will be hard-pressed to have a better draft because of this one pick alone.
While Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made strides Thursday in preparation for the Steelers’ wild-card game at Denver on Sunday, his center had a setback.

Roethlisberger practiced fully Thursday after being limited in practice Wednesday because of a lingering ankle injury. However, Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey did not practice Thursday after having a setback in his recovery from an ankle injury.

Pittsburgh defensive stars, linebacker James Harrison (toe) and safety Troy Polamalu (calf) missed practice for the second straight day. Still, at this point, they are expected to play Sunday.

Denver safely Brian Dawkins (neck) and fullback Spencer Larsen (knee) continued to be out of practice. They are not expected to play Sunday at this point. Receiver/returner Eddie Royal was limited Thursday after sating out Wednesday practice with a toe problem.

In other AFC West news:
  • Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will reportedly interview in Miami. He interviewed with the Chiefs on Wednesday and he is considered a legitimate candidate there.

Brian Dawkins is still out

January, 4, 2012
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Denver safety Brian Dawkins missed practice Wednesday as the Broncos begin their full preparation for Sunday’s wild-card game against visiting Pittsburgh.

It not a surprise. Dawkins has been dealing with the injury for a month and there are some long-term concerns. He did not play last week against Kansas City. Unless he quickly heals, the odds are Denver’s vocal leader will not play against the Steelers. Monday, the 38-year-old spoke to his young teammates about what to expect this week.

Meanwhile, Denver fullback Spencer Larsen did not practice, either. He suffered a MCL sprain Week 17. He likely won’t play. Denver receiver/returner Eddie Royal did not practice because of a toe injury.

For Pittsburgh, linebacker James Harrison (toe), safety Troy Polamalu (calf) and defensive end Brett Keisel (groin) did not practice Wednesday. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) was limited. He said Wednesday he had a setback in his recovery in Week 17.
A source close to Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali confirmed that Hali will not be playing in the Pro Bowl on Sunday in Hawaii. He was added late Sunday to replace Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison, who can’t play because the Steelers are going to the Super Bowl. A source close to Hali said he is not playing because of personal reasons, not because he is injured.

San Diego linebacker Shaun Phillips was added to the roster on Monday and is technically replacing Harrison only because Hali declined to play.

The Kansas City Star reported that Hail told the paper in December that he was playing with injuries in both of his shoulders and one of his feet. Whatever the reason, Hali will not be playing in the Pro Bowl after getting his first all-star bid. He led the AFC with 14.5 sacks this season. Phillips is playing in his first Pro Bowl and had 11 sacks in 2010.

Earlier Tuesday, we posted an updated AFC West Pro Bowl roster before the switch was known.

One player to watch

November, 25, 2010
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One player from each AFC West team to keep an eye on in Week 12:

Denver, Knowshon Moreno, running back: Moreno has played well the past two games. He has been a threat as a rusher and as a receiver. Moreno had 58 yards on 13 carries and he added 62 yards on seven catches in a blowout loss at San Diego on Monday night. Moreno caught all seven passes he was targeted on. Moreno looks like he is running with a better purpose than he did earlier in the season.

Kansas City, Dwayne Bowe, receiver: Bowe is on a roll. He has set a team record for catching a touchdown in six straight games. He also has 11 touchdown catches, which is one shy of a team record. Can Bowe keep up his torrid touchdown pace at Seattle?

Oakland, Jared Veldheer, left tackle: Veldheer has to show he can bounce back from a poor outing against Pittsburgh in a 32-point Oakland defeat. The rookie left tackle was handled by veteran James Harrison. Harrison has been playing well at left tackle after moving over to his natural position from a short experiment at center. Everyone has days like this. Veldheer, who is tied for the NFL lead with six false starts, according to ESPN Stats & Information, has to show he can learn from it.

San Diego, Marcus McNeill, left tackle: McNeill has improved steadily after returning from a holdout in Week 6. McNeill is not an elite player. But he is very good. He has made this offensive line better in recent weeks.

It could have been worse for Seymour

November, 22, 2010
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You have to believe Richard Seymour and the Oakland Raiders are relieved.

The NFL acted swiftly against Seymour a day after the Oakland defensive lineman walloped Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the face, dropping the star quarterback. Seymour was immediately ejected from the game. But the league wasn't as harsh on Seymour as some expected.

The NFL fined Seymour, who makes nearly $13 million a season, $25,000. Most importantly to Oakland, Seymour was not suspended. He will be eligible to play at home against Miami on Sunday in a pivotal game for the 5-5 Raiders, who lost, 35-3, at Pittsburgh.

Steelers defensive lineman James Harrison suggested Seymour should be suspended for intentionally nailing Roethlisberger and Seymour's teammates were bracing for a heavy league reaction. Seymour hit Roethlisberger after the quarterback bumped into him while he was starting to celebrate a touchdown.

I wasn’t expecting the league to suspend Seymour, but it wouldn't have surprised me. Still, I thought Seymour would be fined heavier than he was because of the heightened protection the league has adopted for players and because of his on-field history. Seymour was fined, at least, $17,500 last season and he was ejected in Cleveland after he got two personal fouls.

Seymour has to feel fortunate after this incident. I bet he felt he was going to get hammered by the league as hard as he pummeled Roethlisberger.

Now, he can move and try to continue what has been a brilliant season for him. Still, I bet Seymour doesn't have much more wiggle room left. If he gets ejected for fighting again, he could receive a severe sanction.

Moving on: Oakland Raiders

November, 22, 2010
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Here are some areas the Oakland Raiders need to focus on after a 35-3 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Recap: It was a rough day for Oakland as it fell to 5-5 and a game behind Kansas City in the AFC West chase. The Raiders were completely handled by the Steelers.

Biggest area to fix: Offensive line. Oakland’s offensive line had improved recently, but it takes a step back Sunday. Rookie left tackle Jared Veldheer struggled against the great James Harrison. Oakland gave up six sacks, five which came on a five-man pass rush, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Oakland has allowed a league 24 sacks on five-man pass rushes.

Biggest area to build on: Michael Bush. Oakland’s run game was not good as a whole Sunday. Standout Darren McFadden had 14 yards on 10 carries. But Bush had some success in garbage time. He had 33 yards on four carries. It isn’t much to build on, but teams will take anything to build on after a loss like this.

What to watch for: Oakland has to beat visiting Miami on Sunday to stay relevant in the playoff chase. This is a winnable game for Oakland. It needs to bounce back with a win.

AFC West notes

November, 21, 2010
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Random notes from Oakland’s loss at Pittsburgh and Kansas City’s win over Arizona:
  • According to ESPN Stats & Information, Pittsburgh had great success against the Raiders using a five-man pass rush against Oakland. Pittsburgh used the five-man pass rush on 52 percent of Oakland’s drop backs. The Raiders completed 8 of 20 passes and threw two interceptions against the heavy pass rush with a passer’s rating of 9.8. Oakland gave up six games in the game. Oakland gave up five sacks against the five-man pass rush. It has now given up an NFL high 24 sacks against a five-man pass rush. Expect the Raiders to continue to see a heavy blitz until they fix the issue.
  • The Chiefs didn’t allow a sack Sunday after giving up four at Denver.
  • According to ESPN Stats & Information, Oakland running back Darren McFadden averaged 2.0 yards running the middle. McFadden entered the game averaging an NFL high 5.5 yards per game while running up the middle.
  • Oakland rookie running back Jacoby Ford had just two catches for 27 yards Sunday. He had six catches for 148 yards in a win over Kansas City in Oakland’s previous game Nov. 14.
  • After Kansas City’s win Sunday, the AFC West is 6-5 against teams in the NFC. Oakland is the only team to have finished its slate against NFC West teams. It was 2-2.
The ugly side of Richard Seymour returned Sunday in Pittsburgh.

It cost the Oakland Raiders and it will likely cost him later in the week.

The defensive lineman blatantly and brutally popped Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the face mask after Roethlisberger inadvertently bumped into Seymour while beginning to celebrate a touchdown, giving the Steelers a 21-3 lead late in the first half. Seymour was immediately ejected from the game.

Seymour is known for having quite the on-field temper. Pleasant and friendly off the field, Seymour -- who is having a brilliant season -- is nasty on it. San Diego center Nick Hardwick called Seymour a dirty player while he was with New England.

Last season, Seymour pulled the hair of Denver left tackle Ryan Clady. Later in the season, he was called for two personal fouls against Cleveland.

Because of his history and how blatant his infraction was Sunday, Seymour should expect a heavy fine. It’s not out of the question to think Seymour could potentially face a short suspension, although that may be excessive. Still, the league will not take kindly to seeing a high-profile quarterback get knocked to the turf for simply celebrating a touchdown, especially in these days of heightened player protection.

Meanwhile, another controversy just developed in Pittsburgh. The Steelers had a touchdown on an interception nullified by a personal foul call on Steelers defender James Harrison on a tackle on Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell. The initial replays showed that it appeared to be a clean hit. Pittsburgh would have taken a 28-3 lead.

Also, Oakland lost defensive end Trevor Scott to a knee injury on a special-teams play. It was announced that he will not return to Sunday’s game. The long-term severity of the injury is unknown.

The key to being a successful quarterback in the NFL is bouncing back.

That’s a lesson all rookies learn. Tim Tebow learned it quickly Sunday night as he bounced back glowingly.

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Chris SchneiderTim Tebow completed 5 of 10 passes for 72 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the Steelers.
Early in the fourth quarter of Denver’s 34-17 victory over visiting Pittsburgh, Tebow made a classic rookie mistake. He misjudged the speed of an NFL defensive backs and looked silly on an interception that set up a Pittsburgh touchdown.

However, the former Heisman Trophy winner didn’t go in the tank in his debut in Denver. On the next drive he threw bullets, including a short touchdown pass to fellow rookie Eric Decker.

Once again, Tebow, who completed 5 of 10 passes for 72 yards, showed he’s resilient and he’s a confident passer. He didn’t let the interceptions ruin his night or take him out of his game.

It’s another important step for Tebow as he learns the NFL game. Tebow, who sat out last week’s game against Detroit with sore ribs, was mostly good Sunday.

He still has an awkward throwing motion that is not going to change overnight. But he threw some legitimate NFL passes and he moved the chains. After his two preseason performances, Denver has to be mostly pleased with Tebow’s progress.

Tebow, who should play extensively against Minnesota in the preseason finale Thursday, should play in special packages as a rookie. He is not great as of right now, but he is making progress and he is learning from his mistakes, which is crucial for a young quarterback.

Meanwhile, Denver’s first-team offense was solid under the leadership of Kyle Orton, who has been outstanding in the preseason. Orton bounced back from a big hit from Pittsburgh’s James Harrison. Denver’s first-team offense has accounted for five touchdowns and one field goal for an average of 3.2 points per possession in 12 offensive drives under Orton this preseason.

Denver’s defense also made strides after a shaky showing in the first two games. Linebacker Robert Ayers showed a strong burst and perhaps he is ready to take the next step as Denver looks for a pass-rushing presence during Elvis Dumervil’s injury.

Final Word: AFC West

November, 6, 2009
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9.

Kyle Terada/US Presswire
Philip Rivers goes head to head with Eli Manning on Sunday.
Rivers-Manning I: When does a San Diego crowd treat an opposing quarterback worse than a New York crowd would? When he spurns them. There is little chance Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will be booed Sunday like Giants quarterback Eli Manning was booed when he played in San Diego in 2005. Rivers will likely just get the usual treatment an opposing star gets from Giants fans. New York doesn’t hold anything against Rivers. It was Manning’s reluctance to play in San Diego that spurred the draft-day trade in 2004 that sent Manning to New York and Rivers to San Diego. Manning was the No. 1 overall pick and Rivers was the No.4 pick. Manning has been a public enemy in San Diego since, while Rivers has grown into the face of the franchise. This will be the first time in the NFL these two players started against each other.

Run Jamaal, run: The Chiefs are just looking for a reason to lessen Larry Johnson’s load. Jamaal Charles could be the reason. Charles will likely get several carries Sunday in Jacksonville while Johnson sits out during a one-game team suspension. Charles played well in the Chiefs’ last game, Oct. 25 against San Diego. The second-year player is a speedster who is intriguing. With Johnson’s situation tenuous, Charles could increase his work load the rest of the season with a good performance Sunday.

Can Chargers benefit from the curse of Antonio Pierce? Ever since Pierce blasted the Raiders, the Giants have been awful. Call it the Curse of Pierce. The Chargers are hoping it lasts another week. The Giants have lost three straight games, twice by more than 20 points, since beating Oakland 44-7. After that game, Pierce said playing the Raiders was like playing a “scrimmage,” and he was amazed by how listless Oakland’s players were. The words offended several Oakland players and the Giants haven’t won since.

Tough test for Denver tackle: Denver right tackle Tyler Polumbus will make his first start Monday night against Pittsburgh. His first challenge: LaMarr Woodley, who had 11.5 sacks last season. Polumbus probably also will see some of reigning NFL defensive player of the year James Harrison. Good luck, kid. Polumbus got a taste of life in the NFL last week when he subbed for the injured Ryan Harris. Polumbus had to deal with Baltimore’s Terrell Suggs, and did decently. Polumbus could be in the lineup for three weeks.

Tough stretch for San Diego begins: The Chargers got back on the winning track with wins over lackluster Kansas City and Oakland teams to improve to 4-3. Now, life gets a little tougher as the Chargers start a stretch in which they play at New York, host Philadelphia and then at Denver. If the Chargers are going to get back in the AFC West race (Denver leads San Diego by two games), they will have to play well during this stretch.

AFC West mailbag

September, 23, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson


Mid-week mail call:

Doug from Ohio wants to know if Elvis Dumervil can have a James Harrison-like impact for Denver.

Bill Williamson: That would be asking a lot. Harrison, a star for Pittsburgh, is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. The Broncos will be happy if Dumervil can become a 12-15 sack man. Dumervil, though, looks like he will flourish in Mike Nolan’s 3-4 defense. Switched from end to linebacker, Dumervil was dominant against Cleveland on Sunday as he had four tackles. Dumervil is a type of player who has produced in pass-rush situations since high school. I think he can have a major impact in this defense. But thinking he can be as good as Harrison, may be asking a lot.


Daniel Nichols from San Diego wants to know if I like the Chargers could switch to a 4-3 defense with Jamal Williams out for the year with a triceps injury

BW: I think you will see looks in which San Diego plays the 4-3. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera likes to do that, anyway, now and again. With Williams, a great fit for the 3-4, out, you’ll probably see Rivera take advantage of the 4-3 front more often. But this defense is designed to be a 3-4 look, so it’s highly unlikely it will be completely altered as a result of Williams’ injury.



Randy Reber wants to know what I think of the Denver Broncos after their 2-0 since I was a harsh critic of the team in the offseason.

BW: Fair question, Randy. I think the Broncos have a ways to go before showing they can stay in the race. But they have looked good so far, especially on defense. The fact that this team is 2-0 is impressive. I was, at times, a harsh critic. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Denver went 4-12. Well, they are halfway there. The key for Denver is to survive a tough 10-game stretch that begins in Week 4 at against Dallas. If Denver’s defense can hold up and the offense can continue to make timely plays, Denver could have a chance to be competitive and that is more than lot of people expected.

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