TEMPE, Ariz. -- This was the week Larry Foote was supposed to start sitting back and kicking his feet up.

By time the Arizona Cardinals reached their seventh game this season, he was supposed to be more of an assistant coach than an every-down linebacker. But Foote, 34, has been around long enough to know most things in the NFL don’t go as planned.

Foote was signed on May 7 to be the short-term replacement for linebacker Daryl Washington, who the Cardinals were anticipating would face a four-to-six game suspension for pleading guilty in March to assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

Foote
“I was going to be in there and hopefully keep us .500 until he gets back,” Foote said.

About three weeks after Foote signed, Washington was suspended for the entire 2014 season.

“He ends up gone for the year, and I’m in there every snap,” Foote said. “But, competitively, I love being out there.

“But, six games I was looking at the money, I said, ‘OK that makes sense.’”

The numbers don't quite work for 16 games. Foote signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals worth $1.020 million, which included a $65,000 signing bonus. His final year in Pittsburgh in 2013 netted $2.5 million.

With Arizona sitting at 5-1 heading into Week 8, Foote’s deal looks like a steal.

The 13-year veteran has played every snap for Arizona this season after missing the final 15 games of 2013 with a biceps injury. He’s tied for second on the team with 35 tackles and has one interception and one sack, which he recorded Sunday in Oakland.

"Larry's kind of the glue over there rihgt now," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "He calls the defense, he sets the defense, he's the cheerleader -- he's everything I knew he would be. He's been that way for a long time. But, he brings a lot of passion to the practice field, too, and the locker room.

"Yeah, he's everything we needed."

Not going through a full season this late in his career has helped Foote.

“After the season I didn’t have to ice no injuries,” he said. “I just started working out and [my] body feels good.”

While he was supposed to already be thinking about postseason vacation destinations, the only place Foote has been visiting this year is the training room.

He doesn’t know if he’ll sign another contract to return in 2015 or hang up his cleats for a life of retirement. That decision could’ve been made starting this week, but he’ll have to put it off until December -- or maybe February, if he’s lucky.

“At this point, I’m week to week,” Foote said. “I’ve never been in the training room as much [in] my whole career. I told them guys, ‘This is the last week,’ and last week was supposed to be the last week. They got on me [Monday] morning and I said, ‘Football week don’t start until Wednesday.’

“But I’m having fun. When you winning, I mean, this is what football is about. Winning, having a run, those memories, that’s worth more than money or anything. A lot of guys haven’t been fortunate enough to have those runs.”
After the Texans' 30-23 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a common postgame question centered around the ridiculousness of what happened to conclude the first half.

Have you ever been part of something like that?

[+] EnlargeSteelers
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesThe Texans have given up 24-point quarters in consecutive games.
Most said no, or that they couldn't remember. It's worth pointing out, though, the Texans also gave up 24 points in a quarter last week to Indianapolis (just not as quickly). Here's a fact: What the Texans have experienced in the past two weeks is something that hasn't even happened in the lifetimes of most of their players. The last time it happened, Bill O'Brien was in high school.

For a team to give up 24 points in a quarter is unusual. For a team to do it in consecutive weeks is, well...

According to Elias Sports Bureau, prior to the Texans this season, the last team to allow 24 points in a quarter in consecutive games was the Packers in 1986. They did it in losses to the Vikings (42-7) and Bengals (34-28) in Weeks 4 and 5 of the season.

Since the Texans' inception in 2002, there hasn't been a single team to allow 24-point quarters in more than two games in an entire season.

It happened in different ways each time. The Colts' scoring explosion, driven by Andrew Luck and receiver TY Hilton, was aided by an onside kick after their first quick touchdown. That move totally caught the Texans off guard and helped the Colts go up 24-0 in the first quarter before the Texans answered.

Of course, last night's second-quarter catastrophe started with the defense allowing a few big plays, and got worse when offensive turnovers gave the Steelers the ball inside Houston's 10 twice.

The results both times, though, were too much for the Texans to overcome. And if the Texans aren't careful, they would find themselves on the wrong side of history if it happened again.
The Cleveland Browns have passed on nine easy points in the last two road games trying to continue drives on fourth-and-short. Three times, they failed to convert.

This shows coach Mike Pettine’s aggressiveness, which players can appreciate, but the calls can haunt a coach when they don’t work.

Pettigrew
Pettine
Did Pettine second-guess the decision to go for fourth-and-1 in field goal range while up 6-0 at Jacksonville this past Sunday, especially after the Jaguars converted a touchdown off Cleveland's failed attempt?

“When it doesn’t work out, absolutely,” Pettine said.

Pettine is not afraid to take his chances. The Browns are 2-of-7 (28.6 percent) on fourth downs this season, good for 28th in the league.

Two conversion tries came while down double digits against the Titans, so the need for six points instead of field goals was understandable. The Jacksonville call was tough to digest for two reasons. One, the Browns gave up all momentum entering the half because of the gamble. And two, they didn’t use their strength, the running game, to try to get one yard. Instead, they ran a route for Jordan Cameron that looked doomed from the start.

Pettine said he gauges situational football with fourth-down calls but also goes by “feel.” In the case of the Jacksonville play, Pettine felt his defense was playing well enough to stop the Jaguars in case the Browns didn’t convert, plus he didn’t want to settle for field goals all game. Turns out the Jags marched 76 yards downfield in 57 seconds to make it 7-6, the worst possible outcome.

“I get the analytics behind it, but to me, all the circumstances are different,” Pettine said of going for fourth downs. “I know you can just look at paper and say, ‘Hey, they’re converted at this rate,’ but to me, you have to factor in the circumstances of the game. That’s what I do, but I think in general, I’ll tend to be a little more on the aggressive side. It’s somewhere in between.”

Once the Browns convert a crucial fourth down on the road, Pettine can be justified in his confidence in his offense. That doesn’t make the Jacksonville call any less painful.

Pettine has conviction regardless. He knew he was going for the fourth down two plays before.

“When it was second-and-1 we made a decision, ‘Hey, we’re in four-down mode,’” Pettine said. “That’s ... you live with it.”

Redskins sign LB Everette Brown

October, 21, 2014
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The Washington Redskins liked him enough that he nearly made the 53-man roster out of training camp. But it did lead to an eventual roster spot for Everette Brown.

Brown
Tuesday, the Redskins signed Brown to the active roster, taking the spot created when Brian Orakpo was placed on injured reserve. They had talked about signing Gabe Miller off the practice squad. Miller had beaten out Brown for the final outside linebacker spot out of training camp. But they eventually cut Miller and placed him on the practice squad, calling him a developmental player. Brown is more ready.

Brown will have a chance to play against one of his former teams on Monday night when the Redskins play at Dallas. Brown played seven games with Dallas last season, recording a sack. Carolina drafted him in the second round of the 2009 draft, but he never fulfilled expectations. Brown has started three games in his career while appearing in 38, with stops in Carolina and San Diego in addition to Dallas. He also spent time with Detroit and Philadelphia, but never appeared in a game with either team. Brown played for current Redskins outside linebackers coach Brian Baker in Carolina.

The Redskins signed him on July 28, four days after training camp had opened. They cut him on Aug. 30.

Brown will be the fourth outside linebacker, with rookie Trent Murphy taking over for Orakpo in the starting lineup. They also have Jackson Jeffcoat.

Packers hang with Pearl Jam

October, 21, 2014
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – You might have seen T.J. Lang's picture from backstage at Monday night's Pearl Jam show in Milwaukee.

The Green Bay Packers right guard posted a shot of himself and teammates Matt Flynn, Corey Linsley and Josh Sitton with the band's frontman, Eddie Vedder, on Twitter.

Not pictured was quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But he was there and met one of his rock heroes before the show.

"Well we did hang out and talk for a little while backstage before the concert," Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. "And he did say that he was [a Packers'] owner. A buddy had gotten him a stock certificate a few years back."

Vedder, a Chicago-area native who remains partial to his hometown teams, donned a Packers' jersey during the show with the No. 10, which is Flynn's number. But the jersey was not Flynn's. Rather, the Packers had one made up with that number to commemorate the 1991 Pearl Jam album "Ten."

"People thought Flynn had given him the jersey, and Flynn obviously played along or maybe in his mind believed it was a Flynn jersey that he was wearing," Rodgers said. "I'm pretty sure it said "Vedder" on the back."

Vedder gave Rodgers a shoutout during the show, however, Rodgers said the story the singer told the crowd about asking Rodgers if he’d be interested in a trade to the Bears for quarterback Jay Cutler was a tall tale.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball returned -- briefly -- to the practice field Tuesday, but the Broncos had enough concerns about their overall depth at running back to tweak the roster.

Ball
Ball, who suffered a right groin injury in the Broncos’ Oct. 5 win over the Arizona Cardinals, was in a jersey and on the practice field during the open period of practice for the first time since the injury. Ball went through the pre-practice stretching with the team and then went to work with the strength and conditioning coaches.

The Broncos have planned for Ball to miss at least three weeks with the injury -- and Thursday night’s game against the San Diego Chargers will be the third game Ball has missed -- so they promoted running back Kapri Bibbs from their practice squad, even as some teams in the league had started to circle the undrafted rookie with interest in signing him.

“I think he’s a guy that we liked," Broncos head coach John Fox said of Bibbs following Tuesday’s practice. “... Right now, until Montee starts moving along, getting well, (Bibbs) is really our fourth back, so we felt the need to do that and did so."

The Broncos also held kicker Brandon McManus (groin), defensive back Omar Bolden (concussion) and linebacker Steven Johnson (ankle) out of Tuesday’s practice. Bolden and Johnson are not expected to play Thursday night.

McManus has been limited in at least one practice in recent weeks but has not missed any game action because of the injury. Fox said he expected that to be the case this week as well.

“See what tomorrow brings. ... I’m sure he’ll be good to go," Fox said.

In an abbreviated practice week, the Broncos did not wear helmets in Tuesday’s work, with the players in jerseys and shorts for the early-afternoon workout.
One would have figured Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White would feel a little bit more comfortable with his performance after an nine-catch, 100-yard, one-touchdown outing against Baltimore last week.

White
White
But that wasn't the case.

White, who said leading into the Ravens game he felt like he was letting down his teammates, remains down on his overall play. Although he surpassed Terance Mathis for the most touchdowns in franchise history (57), White was more concerned about the couple balls he dropped against the Ravens. He now has at least five drops going into Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions in London.

"Mentally, I feel like I'm in the game plan. Mentally, I feel prepared for the games. It's just ... I don't know what is is," White said. "I'm not finishing plays. I'm not doing what I'm supposed to do."

White refused to use injuries as an excuse, although he's dealt with knee, ankle and hamstring issues over the last two seasons. He doesn't bring up the age factor, either, although he turns 33 on Nov. 2.

"It's frustrating me," White said. "It's getting to the point where I'm doing everything I've been doing for the last nine years of playing football, but it's not real good for me right now. I don't know what it is. I'm trying to find out. I'll figure it out, though. I will figure it out."

White has 28 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns through the first seven games. He missed one game due to a hamstring injury.

Vereen brothers are ready for battle

October, 21, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It will be a family affair for Patriots running back Shane Vereen when his team hosts the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Vereen's younger brother Brock is a safety on the Bears, and Sunday marks their first time playing against each other.

A reporter asked Vereen if Brock had ever landed any football hits on him.

“I have not been hit by my brother,” Vereen said. “Not in pads.

“I definitely think he is looking forward to [hitting me]," he said. "So am I.”

S. Vereen
B. Vereen
While Shane Vereen attended the University of California, Brock Vereen played his college ball at Minnesota, where he was a versatile defensive back who was named first team all-Big Ten in his senior season. Brock was drafted by the Bears late in the fourth round of the 2014 draft and has settled in as a consistent contributor on the defense.

The Vereens' family and friends will be piling in to Gillette Stadium on Sunday to watch the brothers play.

“Yeah [my parents] are coming,” Vereen said. “There is going to be a lot of family here.”

When asked about whether his family would be wearing Patriots or Bears’ colors, Vereen laughed.

“Yeah, last time I spoke to my mother she said she was wearing neutral,” Vereen said. “She would be wearing no colors. But we will see, I think that’s going to change.”

One reporter joked that Vereen wouldn’t let his mother receive the ticket if she was wearing the Bears’ colors. Vereen said “we will see, she might switch it up on me.”

As the Patriots' lead running back after the season-ending injury to Stevan Ridley, Vereen is likely to receive a large sum of carries and offensive snaps Sunday, as he played 48 of 60 snaps in Thursday night’s win over the Jets. With Shane’s increased workload, Brock will have more than enough opportunities to get his first hit and then some on big brother Shane.

While Shane is looking forward his first game against his brother, he is focused on the offense improving, especially on the ground, after the team struggled against the Jets. The Patriots were beat out in time of possession as the Jets controlled the football for 40:54 -- with the Pats at just 19:06.

“I think that as an offense we would like to have more control of the football,” Vereen said. “A lot of that comes into the run game, which we are going to have to do a very good job with this week.

“The Bears have a good defense and we are going to have to hold onto the ball offensively and give our defense more of a spell.”
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Amobi Okoye is expected to practice Thursday for the first time with the Cowboys, his attorney, Darin Morgan, told ESPN's Adam Caplan.

Okoye
Okoye is on the reserve/non-football injury list as he continues to come back from anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a brain condition that causes memory issues and seizures and that had Okoye in a coma for three months last year.

Okoye, 27, was cleared for contact at the end of training camp, but the Cowboys kept him on the injury list so he could continue to rehab. Once the Cowboys activate Okoye, there will be a three-week window in which he can practice but not count against the 53-man roster. At the end of that period, the Cowboys will have to activate him, keep him on the injury list for the season, or release him.

Okoye said two weeks ago he no longer doubts he will play again. He said he is in much better shape after the extended workouts with strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik. He signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys in May.

If he can return this year, he would be part of a defensive line rotation that has been beset by injuries. Anthony Spencer (knee) has already returned, while DeMarcus Lawrence (foot) is expected to return soon.

The Cowboys will monitor Okoye's work closely since no player has ever played in the NFL after recovering from this condition.

Okoye last played in the NFL in 2012 with the Bears.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (3-3) held their first practice of the week Tuesday in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6).

Here are some notes and observations from Miami’s practice:
  • Joseph
    Jordan
    Former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan returned to practice Tuesday. Following a six-game suspension, this was the first time Jordan put on a Dolphins uniform since the final preseason game Aug. 29. Jordan worked with the defensive line and on special teams in the early portion of practice open to the media. Miami’s coaching staff said they must see where Jordan is physically before determining his role.
  • Dolphins backup safety Jimmy Wilson did not practice in the portion open to the media. Wilson missed his first game of the season last week with a hamstring injury. Backup safety Michael Thomas replaced Wilson in the nickel.
  • Miami Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes practiced Tuesday, which is good news considering he did not finish Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
PITTSBURGH -- Linebacker Ryan Shazier is likely to return Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers after missing the last four games because of a sprained knee.

Shazier ran on the Heinz Field turf Monday night prior to the Steelers’ 30-23 win over the Houston Texans. The Steelers also took a look at safety Shamarko Thomas, who has been out with a hamstring injury, prior to the game before deactivating both players.

“At the 11th hour we decided to use some other people,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. “We expect both guys to be extremely close (to returning).”

Tomlin seemed less sure about starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert.

The fourth-year veteran left the win over the Texans in the second quarter with a concussion, and he has a short week to pass the battery of tests that will be required for Gilbert to play Sunday against the visiting Indianapolis Colts.

Mike Adams will start at right tackle if Gilbert is not cleared to play against the Colts, who will bring a five-game winning streak to Heinz Field and are tied for third in the NFL with 21 sacks.

Adams played extensively Monday night for the first time this season, and Tomlin was pleased with how the 2012 second-round draft pick held up against the Texans’ front seven and All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt in particular.

“I thought he did an admirable job. Obviously, it’s not easy going in in the manner in which he did, some of the things we had to do from a game plan standpoint, the movement of J.J. Watt and how they employ their defense,” Tomlin said. “But aside from the technical things and the assignment things, I just thought he played with great energy and finished. He had a good look in his eye. Great night for him and we needed him to step up.”
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – With the kind of speed that would make any overnight delivery service proud, the football Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw to Demaryius Thomas on Sunday night for Manning’s 509th career touchdown pass is on display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Eric Lars Bakke/Denver BroncosPeyton Manning poses with Demaryius Thomas, who caught his record-breaking 509th TD pass, and Hall of Fame rep Joe Horrigan, who raced to put the ball on display in Canton, Ohio.
The ball, along with a handwritten sign on a sheet of three-ring binder paper with “509’’ in black ink on it, to go with three photos, sits comfortably in a case inside an exhibit entitled “Pro Football Today.’’

Asked as he prepared to leave Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday night, Joe Horrigan, the Hall’s long-time vice president of communications/exhibits, said his plan was “to display it as soon as we possibly can.’’

Horrigan secured the record-breaking football from the Broncos’ equipment staff following the game -- Manning had posed for a few photos with it, including a photo with Thomas, inside the Broncos locker room -- and returned to Canton, Ohio, on Monday morning, football packed in his luggage. The football and the sign were brought to the Hall after hours on Monday night and put on display on Tuesday morning.

Horrigan said Manning has provided “several items’’ that are on display in the Hall, including a uniform from the 2013 season when Manning won his record fifth MVP award and threw for a single-season record 55 touchdowns.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Dom Capers said he has had an open-door policy ever since he became the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator in 2009.

Maybe his players have been walking through that door more often of late.

Williams
 Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams attributed the Packers' defensive improvement over the past five weeks, in part, due to improved communication between the players and coaches.

"Whether it's the head coach or it's Dom, at the end of the day we're the ones out there, so we have to be comfortable," Williams said Monday. "I think the communication line has been really [going] well between coaches and players, and the understanding has been really good between us of understanding what we see on the field, trusting what they see on the film and in their game plan and adding that all in together and coming up with a game plan."

The Packers remains near the bottom of the NFL in several key defensive statistical categories, but they did climb out of last place in rushing defense (they're now ahead of only the Cleveland Browns) this week. However, the past five games have seen far better production. Only four teams allowed more points in the first two weeks combined than the 60 that the Packers gave up to the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets.

In the five games since, they have allowed just 17.4 points per game. That's fifth-best in the league.

Last week in practice, Capers did at least one thing that could be directly attributed to input from his players. He and coach Mike McCarthy devoted an entire period to working on the read-option that they were sure to see plenty of from the Carolina Panthers. And they rendered it ineffective in Sunday's 38-17 rout of the Panthers.

"The more looks you get, the better you play things," Williams said. "I think we've done a good job of that over these past few weeks of doing that and getting better looks. Guys know where they have to be and how it's going to look in the game."

Also in recent weeks, Capers ditched the "quad" package -- essentially a 4-3 alignment that he had never before used in Green Bay until the season opener -- although he said the players had no issues with it and that it remains on his call sheet.

But against the Panthers, Capers unveiled an alignment the Packers call "NASCAR" that features four outside linebackers on the defensive line without any traditional linemen.

McCarthy has a leadership council made up of several veteran players, and Capers said he welcomes the input.

"To me, it's not what I know or what I think," Capers said. "They have to know and believe in it and go out and execute. That's so important. We've got good guys on this team, and I always tell them, 'Hey, if you've got anything on your mind, you let me know.' Because it doesn't do me any good if I don’t know about it. Yeah, I'm always interested in the way they feel because they’re the guys that have to go do it and do it with confidence."

Darrelle Revis, Chandler Jones not at Patriots practice

October, 21, 2014
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. –- New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis and defensive end Chandler Jones were not spotted at the start of practice on Tuesday.

 Jones, who has been dealing with a right shoulder injury, played in 84 of 87 defensive snaps for the Patriots in their win over the Jets on Thursday night. Meanwhile, Revis showed no signs of an injury during the win against his former team and talked with media after the game.

With an extra practice this week, it's possible the Patriots are giving Jones and Revis an additional day of rest.

Meanwhile, the club received a boost on the health front with the return of three players on the offensive line. Starting left guard Dan Connolly (concussion), rookie center Bryan Stork (concussion) and rookie offensive lineman Cameron Fleming (finger) were participating in practice.

Fleming has missed the past three games, Stork the past two, and Connolly the win over the Jets.

Fleming seemed to have a larger black brace/cast on his right hand.

Also, core special-teamer and safety Nate Ebner (finger) returned to practice after missing the past three games. Ebner was wearing a black cast on his right hand that covered his thumb.

Practice squad wide receiver Josh Boyce was wearing a black practice jersey, signifying that he was a practice player of the week in the preparations for the win over the Jets.

Players were wearing sweats and shells.
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AFC East

BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns might be without defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin for some time.

Coach Mike Pettine said Rubin went for a second opinion on an injured ankle. He has missed the last two games.

Pettine was asked if surgery could be a possibility.

Rubin
“I would think all options are on the table at this point,” he said. “I haven’t heard that brought up yet, but I’m assuming that could be the case.”

The Browns will have an update on Rubin’s status Wednesday.

Rubin’s injury highlights one of the more disappointing position groups on the team. The defensive line was supposed to be a team strength. But the defense ranks last in the league in run defense, giving 155.5 yards per game. Not all of that falls on the line, but it is the first ‘line’ of defense.

In a separate personnel move, the team waived fullback Ray Agnew and promoted Kiero Small from the practice squad.

“He’s been doing an outstanding job for us on the scout teams,” Pettine said. “We just felt it was time to promote him and see what he can do.”

There was also word that Seattle was about to sign Small to the Seahawks' active roster, which teams can do with practice squad players.

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