Seahawks believe Brandon Marshall still has something left

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — At various points during his recovery, when he was traveling to Germany and Switzerland and England to try out the latest treatments, Brandon Marshall spent nearly as much time fighting doubt as he did trying to overcome his injuries.

His world is now centered in Seattle, the sixth stop in his 13-year career. It’s a stop where he may start and will likely be a heavy contributor when the Seahawks open the regular season Sunday in Denver, the place where he first became a star.

“I’m a competitor. That’s why I’m here,” Marshall said. “I think the reason why I’m still playing is that I felt that I never arrived. I always feel like you can get better.”

This isn’t the spry Marshall that became one of the top receivers in the league while in Denver and Miami. It’s not the version of Marshall that caught 109 passes and 14 touchdowns just three seasons ago with the New York Jets.

This version of Marshall is 34 years old, coming off a major ankle injury and toe surgery that cost him the majority of the 2017 season with the New York Giants. He’s a complementary player who fills a need for the Seahawks with his 6-foot-5 frame and could become the red-zone target Seattle had in recent seasons with Jimmy Graham.

At this point of his career, Marshall has the highest standards for even the smallest things. Jaron Brown learned that in training camp when during a drill he lined up in the wrong spot.

“He kind of got mad at me for a second and he didn’t talk to me for that whole period. I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Brown said with a laugh. “It was OK. … I think at this point he wants to get everything right and he critiques himself so hard. I understand it because I’m that way too but it was funny to see him get a little mad at me.”

He’s also become a sounding board for younger players seeking advice or ideas. Considering he’s the second-oldest player on Seattle’s roster — only kicker Sebastian Janikowski is older — that means it could be anyone.

“His vast knowledge of the game is incredible. I was just picking his brain earlier about some things, about offenses and what he’s seen in his history,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “Obviously the physical presence he brings to the field, he’s extremely gifted with that, with his size, but he is so nimble, so quick and it’s fun to be able to go back and forth with a guy who has so much knowledge about the sport. I think that part of it, just in itself, is going to be a huge positive.”

What Marshall can bring — if healthy — is something Seattle has wanted for years.

Coach Pete Carroll has sought a big wide receiver throughout his time with the Seahawks and he’s only had that kind of offensive weapon in small spurts.

Graham was that way once he returned from a major knee injury, but it was mostly just around the end zone that Seattle figured out the best ways to use him. Mike Williams had a breakout season with the Seahawks in 2010, but it was just that one season.

His health is going to be the biggest question for Marshall. Once he shook a slight hamstring strain in training camp, he demonstrated the skills and talent that have made him one of the top pass catchers in the game. The real test of what Marshall has left begins Sunday.

“I’m still trying to prove myself to not only the world but most importantly my teammates and my coaches here,” Marshall said. “On paper it’s a 34-year-old receiver with two down years. Every day I go out there I remind myself I want to prove to (Russell Wilson) what type of receiver I am and what he has out there.”

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Arizona’s Rosen, Seattle’s Mingo draw praise from coaches

Arizona's Rosen, Seattle's Mingo draw praise from coaches

Arizona

Arizona’s Rosen, Seattle’s Mingo draw praise from coaches

Arizona Cardinals: No team wants to put its rookie quarterback under regular pressure, as Arizona has with Josh Rosen this season, but the Cardinals have been pleased with how well Rosen has handled it. “Quarterbacking in this league is hard,” interim offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich told reporters. “When things get bad, this kid tends to be fine.” Rosen added that he has always emphasized the ability to stay strong in the face of pressure. “It’s definitely a point of pride for me, to stand in the pocket and not get flustered,” he said. “Whenever I see ghosts, I get mad at myself. That’s what quarterback is all about.” The No. 10 overall pick is also intent on maintaining a high standard despite his team’s 2-7 record. “It’s about consistency,” Rosen said. “You kind of want to be a rock for other guys who may be looking for some sort of steadying force.”

Los Angeles Rams: A day after their Monday night matchup with the Chiefs was moved from Mexico City to Los Angeles over field quality concerns, the Rams had another — more minor — schedule change made. The NFL announced the Rams’ Week 14 visit to Chicago has been flexed into prime time, meaning L.A. will play on Sunday Night Football in back-to-back weeks, including hosting the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15. That will give the Rams the maximum of five prime-time games this year, after they had previously played in a total of 12 since 2008. The last time the franchise played more than two prime-time games in a season was in 2004, Marshall Faulk’s second-to-last season.

San Francisco 49ers: Meanwhile, the 49ers are done playing under the lights this year after playing in consecutive prime-time games the last two weeks, on Thursday night in Week 9 and Monday night in Week 10. The NFL announced that San Francisco’s Week 13 visit to Seattle has been flexed out of the Sunday night slot and into the typical late afternoon start, with the Chargers-Steelers game moving to SNF. The Niners will play their final five games in that late afternoon slot after a Week 12 visit to Tampa Bay in the early window. Including their Monday night game in Week 6 at Green Bay, the 49ers played three prime-time games this season after having a total of three over the last two years.

Seattle Seahawks: One surprisingly important contributor for the Seahawks this season has been a former first-round Cleveland Browns draft bust, linebacker Barkevious Mingo. Playing on a two-year, $6.8 million free agent deal, Mingo has played 333 of Seattle’s defensive snaps (59.5 percent) and 207 snaps on special teams (83.1 percent), notching 26 tackles (three for loss) on defense and four more on special teams. “He has done a really good job of spreading his availability across the board,” head coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a great (special) teams player… he’s been a rusher, he’s been an outside guy playing Sam linebacker, he’s played the Will backer spot for us, nickel, done some specialty things in rushes as well. …He’s been a really fantastic addition and surprised us in so much versatility.”

–Field Level Media

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Bills’ defense thrives quietly

Bills' defense thrives quietly

Buffalo Bills: So much attention

Bills’ defense thrives quietly

Buffalo Bills: So much attention has been paid to the Bills’ quarterback situation and the struggling offense that the defense’s accomplishments have been overlooked this year, but they deserve some attention. The Bills (3-7) are the best defensive squad in the NFL. They lead the NFL in fewest yards allowed at 302.2 yards per game, and they are second in the league in pass defense (202.4), narrowly behind the Jacksonville Jaguars (200.6). The Bills’ pass rush ranks 12th. “Coach (Leslie) Frazier and his staff have done a phenomenal job.” head coach Sean McDermott said of the defensive coordinator, per the team website. “There’s still a lot of work (that) remains, but the growth that they’ve undergone since those first two games in particular and the culture that they’ve started to build on that side of the football with the discipline and effort (is impressive).”

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins signed wide receiver Brice Butler on Wednesday to help rebuild their injury-ridden receiving corps. Butler has been in the NFL six seasons — two with the Oakland Raiders and the last four with the Dallas Cowboys. The Dolphins need replacements for DeVante Parker, who injured the AC joint in his shoulder, and Jakeem Grant, who has a leg injury. Both injuries occurred last week in the team’s loss to Green Bay, and both players are expected to miss a few weeks. The Cowboys waived Butler last month when they traded for receiver Amari Cooper. Butler, 28, has 73 career receptions for 1,177 yards and has scored eight touchdowns.

New England Patriots: Tom Brady missed Rob Gronkowski during last week’s 34-10 loss to Tennessee. A lot. In his news conference Wednesday, Brady had this to say about his longtime tight end. “When he’s not there, there’s just a different level with other players. Sometimes we don’t try some things because Gronk’s not in there, sometimes we do,” Brady told reporters. He continued: “Whenever we get him back, I think everyone’s going to be excited about that. Hopefully it’s soon, but those things are really up to him and the trainers and so forth. I know he works extremely hard at preparing and I know he wants to be out there.” Gronkowski missed the past two games with back and ankle injuries.

New York Jets: Jets safety Jamal Adams admitted this week that his team was unprepared before Sunday’s 41-10 drubbing by the Buffalo Bills. The Jets, he said, weren’t expecting to face quarterback Matt Barkley, signed by the team just 12 days earlier. “We obviously planned for Josh Allen to come in there,” Adams said Tuesday on his weekly show on WFAN radio. “We thought he was going to play. Obviously, he didn’t play. Obviously, we didn’t have a lot of film on Barkley. We definitely didn’t have film on him.” Allen was listed as limited in practice throughout the week.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos WR Hamilton ready for expanded role

Broncos WR Hamilton ready for expanded role

Denver Broncos: The trade of

Broncos WR Hamilton ready for expanded role

Denver Broncos: The trade of Demaryius Thomas was made possible in large part because of the emergence of second-round rookie Courtland Sutton, but he’s not the only rookie the team wanted to give a larger role. Fourth-rounder DaeSean Hamilton, who had three catches for 44 yards in Week 5 but has missed the last two games due to a knee injury, is expected to take a large role in three-WR sets when he returns Sunday against the Chargers. “He’s a young player still, but he’s a great route runner,” head coach Vance Joseph said of Hamilton. “I’m excited to see him get more opportunities now. He’s going to be a good football player for us. He does the dirty work. He blocks and he plays on special teams, so whatever you ask him to do, he does. He’s got a bright future.”

Kansas City Chiefs: With the Chiefs’ offense lighting the league on fire, there’s one player who has gotten fewer chances to perform than he’s used to: punter Dustin Colquitt. In a video released by the team Wednesday showing clips of quarterback Patrick Mahomes mic’d up from Sunday’s game, Colquitt joked with the quarterback about finally getting on the field. “Thanks for letting me punt,” Colquitt said with a laugh. “I appreciate it. It felt good to get out there again.” Among punters who have played the whole season, only the Rams’ Johnny Hekker (25) has booted fewer punts than Colquitt (28), meaning Monday night’s matchup could be notably short on special teams. A two-time Pro Bowler, Colquitt is tied for fifth in the NFL in net average (41.4).

Los Angeles Chargers: A major part of the Chargers’ hot streak this season has been getting ahead early in games, allowing the team to play with the lead rather than chase a deficit. “We’re trying to start with more urgency this year, playing from ahead,” head coach Anthony Lynn said. “…You force teams in obvious situations where you’ve got to pass the football, our guys get a chance to come off the ball and tee off a little bit.” This week, Lynn is particularly focused on getting out in front so the Broncos’ fierce pass rush can’t be the group teeing off. “If they put you in a situation where you have to pass the football to beat them, it could be a long day because their pass rush is excellent,” Lynn said. Denver is seventh in the NFL with 28 sacks, but the Chargers have allowed just 13 this season (fourth fewest).

Oakland Raiders: A few weeks after trading Amari Cooper, the Raiders could be awfully short-handed at wide receiver on Sunday against the Cardinals. Martavis Bryant is out with a PCL injury, and Jordy Nelson will likely be listed as questionable with a bone bruise in his knee. That should open up opportunities for seventh-round rookie Marcell Ateman, who was promoted from the practice squad in late October but has yet to play in a game. “Coach said I was going to get my opportunity sometime, and it’s here,” Ateman told reporters. “…I just didn’t take a backseat when I got on the practice squad. I just was like, I’m going to keep grinding, keep working, and when I get my opportunity, I’m going to be better.” A 6-foot-4, 216-pounder, Ateman had 12 catches for 139 yards in the preseason.

–Field Level Media

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Titans QB Mariota has revved up his production

Titans QB Mariota has revved up his production

Titans QB Mariota has revved up his production

Houston Texans: Rebounding from an 0-3 start to post six straight wins is a nice deal but coach Bill O’Brien keeps trying to diffuse the excitement. Quarterback Deshaun Watson doesn’t see that to be a problem, not with seven regular-season games remaining, including Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins. “He’s not saying that we don’t deserve to enjoy the six wins and we haven’t done anything, he was just saying we just got ourselves out of the hole, but at the same time, there’s still a lot more football to play,” Watson told reporters. “We can’t get ahead ourselves and think we’re just going to walk in to any situation. Every week is going to be a task, every week is going to be a battle.”

Indianapolis Colts: Versatile offensive lineman Joe Haeg was designated as the team’s second and final player to return from injured reserve, beginning a 21-day window in which the team can place him on the active roster or put him back on the IR. Haeg started the first three games at right tackle before suffering an ankle injury. The Colts will watch him closely as they integrate him back into practice to see what type of progress he is making. Haeg started in 15 games last season at either right guard or right tackle and can play all five positions.

Jacksonville Jaguars: A team that ranks near the top of the list when it comes to the NFL’s biggest disappointments is aware it is running out of time to turn things around. The Jaguars have dropped five straight games entering Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. “I think as an organization, I think we are all frustrated,” Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone told reporters. “I have to lead it and they have to pull it together and we have to go. We have to get on the field, we have to be able to coach them as well as we can, they have to get out there and be able to perform. We’ve got to go win a game. I look at it as it’s more of a whole than one person.”

Tennessee Titans: Quarterback Marcus Mariota is suddenly playing sharper football after struggling earlier in the season. Mariota is 37-of-53 passing for 468 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions over the last two weeks when Tennessee defeated the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots. “I think we’ve done a good job on third down, and definitely done a whole lot better in the red zone, being able to score touchdowns,” Mariota told reporters. “If we can continue that, I think we have a chance to be pretty good. When it comes down to it, we can build off of it, we can continue to use the momentum. Guys are flying around. I thought (Wednesday) was a good practice, and we have to continue to build off of it.”

–Field Level Media

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Cowboys C Frederick improving from Guillain-Barre syndrome

Cowboys C Frederick improving from Guillain-Barre syndrome

Dallas Cowboys: All-Pro center Travis

Cowboys C Frederick improving from Guillain-Barre syndrome

Dallas Cowboys: All-Pro center Travis Frederick has been sidelined all season by Guillain-Barre syndrome but he has encouraging news. He has sensation back in his hands for the first time in almost three months, according to the Dallas Morning News. “It’s starting to come back in my hands a little bit here, which is good,” Frederick said. “Now it’s more just numbness, no tingling, and it’s more in the tips. I mean the fact there is some light at the end of the tunnel is definitely a positive.” Frederick said he still doesn’t have any feeling in his feet, but he cited statistics that said almost all people who suffer from Guillain-Barre — an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system — make a full recovery. “I’m doing good. I’m getting better, slowly but steady.”

New York Giants: He doesn’t sign the paychecks for the Giants, and he doesn’t make the roster decisions, but legendary anchorman Dan Rather has a strong opinion on one New York player — Eli Manning. “I’ll tell you what, whatever you think of the Giants — and they are terrible — I love Eli Manning,” Rather told TMZ Sports on Tuesday. “As an anchorman on the fade, on the way out, you say to yourself, ‘I’m not as good as I once was. But, for once, I’m as good as I ever was.’ That was Eli Manning last night against San Francisco.” Monday night, Manning completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns.

Philadelphia Eagles: Coach Doug Pederson and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton played some golf at league meetings in March, and Payton lost. When the two teams meet on Sunday, Payton’s team will pay off the bet between the two coaches. They’ll be wearing their all-white “color rush” uniforms at home, while the Eagles will wear their home green on the road. “We wanted to liven up the match, and we decided to bet and we chose jersey colors,” Pederson said Wednesday. “Three holes into it I ended up beating him, and that was it.” Payton lost twice to Pederson on the course this year. In his second loss, in July, he made a donation to the Eagles Autism Challenge.

Washington Redskins: Safety D.J. Swearinger isn’t mincing any words about his first team, the Houston Texans, who the Redskins meet on Sunday. The Texans selected him in the second round of the NFL draft in 2013 and released him during the offseason in 2015. Tampa Bay claimed him off waivers. “I never got a fair chance from Tampa,” Swearinger told ESPN recently. “I remember my first interview with (then-coach) Lovie (Smith), he asked me about all the things Houston bashed me on. I was sitting there shocked, like, ‘They really said that about me? This is horrible.’ I took that and put that chip on my shoulder, like I never got that fair opportunity.” He blames Texas coach Bill O’Brien for that, and on Instagram this week he referenced O’Brien: “That Same Coach Told Me I Would Be Outta The League In 3Years. Unfortunately, My God & Grind Had A Plan And Knew That 6years Later….I Would Make Him Eat His Words!”

–Field Level Media

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Bucs DE Pierre-Paul ready to torment Giants

Bucs DE Pierre-Paul ready to torment Giants

Atlanta

Bucs DE Pierre-Paul ready to torment Giants

Atlanta Falcons: Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones (foot) was a limited practice participant Wednesday after being removed from injured reserve two days earlier. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn is promising caution when it comes to the handling of Jones, so there is not yet a verdict as to whether he could play in Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. “Well, we’re going to great care of him, No. 1, because he is so important,” Quinn said a radio appearance. “I think the best way to go about it is, let’s take him all the way through a full week where he can really get ready to play. And when he’s ready to go, that’s when we’ll make him active. Until that time, we’re not going to put him out there until he’s 100 percent ready.”

Carolina Panthers: Cameron Artis-Payne doesn’t have a carry this season but he is now the No. 2 running back entering Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. The team released C.J. Anderson on Monday, giving Artis-Payne the opportunity to get some snaps whenever lead back Christian McCaffrey needs a breather. “You don’t want to go out there and do too much. You just want to go out there and play to the best of your ability,” Artis-Payne told reporters. “The offense has been rolling. Christian has shown he’s one of the better backs in this league. When you go in there to spell him, you got to do your job and make sure you’re taking care of the ball.” Carolina also claimed running back Kenjon Barner off waivers and waived cornerback Josh Hawkins.

New Orleans Saints: The team is taking a long look at receiver Brandon Marshall after signing the veteran earlier this week. Marshall was signed after Dez Bryant tore his Achilles late last week, but he is in football shape after being with the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season. The test is finding out if being available to play this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles is too ambitious or if the fact Marshall has been on an NFL roster will speed up the curve. “Having had the training camp experience and he was not 100 percent healthy, this gives us a chance to see where he is at, week by week, take a peek and try to evaluate his skillset to where and if it fits with what we are doing,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul didn’t need a reminder that the New York Giants are the opponent on Sunday, and he still has hard feelings about the offseason trade from New York to Tampa Bay. “I didn’t speak to no owners or nothing,” Pierre-Paul told reporters. “Obviously, I gave a hard eight years with the New York Giants and won a Super Bowl there, and the only thing you get is a phone call. I wouldn’t say I was hurt but it was just shocking. You know what I mean? Honestly, I had this game checked off since I left there. Emotions running big. I’m coming, man. I’m bringing the house down.” Pierre-Paul did indicate that he received phone calls from general manager Dave Gettleman and quarterback Eli Manning after the trade.

–Field Level Media

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NFL flexes pair of December games

NFL flexes pair of December games

The NFL has used its flexible scheduling option to move two December games to

NFL flexes pair of December games

The NFL has used its flexible scheduling option to move two December games to prime time.

The league announced Wednesday that it is moving the Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh game on Dec. 2 to the Sunday night slot, replacing the originally scheduled San Francisco and Seattle game.

The 49ers vs. Seahawks will move to 4:25 p.m. ET.

The following week, on Dec. 9, the Los Angeles Rams will play at Chicago at 8:20 p.m. ET. Pittsburgh at Oakland will move to 4:25 p.m.

The game set for this Sunday night, Minnesota at Chicago, already had been flexed to prime time, replacing Pittsburgh at Jacksonville.

–Field Level Media

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The unsung heroes of Buffalo is the defense

The unsung heroes of Buffalo is the defense

Buffalo

The unsung heroes of Buffalo is the defense

Buffalo Bills: So much attention has been paid to the Bills’ quarterback situation and the struggling offense that the defense’s accomplishments have been overlooked this year, but they deserve some attention. The Bills (3-7) are the best defensive squad in the NFL. They lead the NFL in fewest yards allowed at 302.2 yards per game, and they are second in the league in pass defense (202.4), narrowly behind the Jacksonville Jaguars (200.6). The Bills’ pass rush ranks 12th. “Coach (Leslie) Frazier and his staff have done a phenomenal job.” head coach Sean McDermott said of the defensive coordinator, per the team website. “There’s still a lot of work (that) remains, but the growth that they’ve undergone since those first two games in particular and the culture that they’ve started to build on that side of the football with the discipline and effort (is impressive).”

Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins signed wide receiver Brice Butler on Wednesday to help rebuild their injury-ridden receiving corps. Butler has been in the NFL six seasons — two with the Oakland Raiders and the last four with the Dallas Cowboys. The Dolphins need replacements for DeVante Parker, who injured the AC joint in his shoulder, and Jakeem Grant, who has a leg injury. Both injuries occurred last week in the team’s loss to Green Bay, and both players are expected to miss a few weeks. The Cowboys waived Butler last month when they traded for receiver Amari Cooper. Butler, 28, has 73 career receptions for 1,177 yards and has scored eight touchdowns.

New England Patriots: Tom Brady missed Rob Gronkowski during last week’s 34-10 loss to Tennessee. A lot. In his news conference Wednesday, Brady had this to say about his longtime tight end. “When he’s not there, there’s just a different level with other players. Sometimes we don’t try some things because Gronk’s not in there, sometimes we do,” Brady told reporters. He continued: “Whenever we get him back, I think everyone’s going to be excited about that. Hopefully it’s soon, but those things are really up to him and the trainers and so forth. I know he works extremely hard at preparing and I know he wants to be out there.” Gronkowski missed the past two games with back and ankle injuries.

New York Jets: Jets safety Jamal Adams admitted this week that his team was unprepared before Sunday’s 41-10 drubbing by the Buffalo Bills. The Jets, he said, weren’t expecting to face quarterback Matt Barkley, signed by the team just 12 days earlier. “We obviously planned for Josh Allen to come in there,” Adams said Tuesday on his weekly show on WFAN radio. “We thought he was going to play. Obviously, he didn’t play. Obviously, we didn’t have a lot of film on Barkley. We definitely didn’t have film on him.” Allen was listed as limited in practice throughout the week.

–Field Level Media

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Rookie Jackson says he’s ready if Ravens need him

Rookie Jackson says he's ready if Ravens need him

Baltimore Ravens: Though he has had 10 days

Rookie Jackson says he’s ready if Ravens need him

Baltimore Ravens: Though he has had 10 days to rest since the Ravens’ last game, quarterback Joe Flacco remains unable to practice because of a hip injury. And with fewer than four full days until his club’s next game, Sunday at home against the Bengals, coach John Harbaugh is giving more time under center to rookie first-round pick Lamar Jackson. Harbaugh didn’t tip his hand at who would start at QB, but Jackson said he’d be ready if needed. “I feel like I’d be very prepared,” Jackson said, per ESPN. “I’m trying to sponge everything in. Whatever happens, will happen.” Jackson has taken part in 84 plays, frequently as a runner, and has thrown for 87 yards, but he said he’s improved. “Before I had to ask coach 100 times, ‘Say it again, say it again,'” Jackson said. “Now, he’ll say it one time to me. Sometimes, don’t get me wrong, if it’s longer, I have to say, ‘Say it again.’ But, other than that, I’m getting better at that.”

Cincinnati Bengals: After firing defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and taking over play-calling duties, then hiring former Cleveland head coach Hue Jackson to be a special assistant, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis met with the media to discuss how he anticipates the changes to impact his club. “Hue is here to right now trying to … just get immersed back in what we’re doing, how we’re doing it,” Lewis said of his former offensive coordinator. “He assists with the players on the field. He’ll continue to look at things analytically.’ But Lewis added Jackson won’t have a hands-on role with the offense right now. As for himself? “We’re not reverting back to 2002 the last time I did this. I’ve been involved throughout and I study everybody throughout the league throughout the season … Don’t worry about that part. I got it.”

Cleveland Browns: With his team heading into a bye week and his head coach position still in flux, Browns general manager John Dorsey met with the media to speak about the state of his club. And he started out with an update on the coaching search. “Senior management and I have kind of gotten together the last 10 days and we’ve kind of begun to walk through the process. … (At the conclusion of the regular season) we’ll be planned, we’ll be prepared and we’re going to get the best coach possible for this organization.” While hesitant to name any potential candidates, Dorsey did say two names: “(Interim head coach Gregg Williams) will get interviewed for the head coaching position, I think he deserves that. I think (offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens) has done a heck of a job.”

Pittsburgh Steelers: Le’Veon Bell isn’t coming back this season, so his teammates decided to help him clean out his locker. His locker had been fully stocked awaiting his arrival, but by Wednesday afternoon, everything was gone. “Awww, they’re ransacking his locker,” guard Ramon Foster said, per Yahoo! Sports. His nameplate was removed, then Steelers players decided to help themselves to the footwear reserved for Bell, along with his CDs, and some other clothing. Even a suit.

–Field Level Media

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Former Cowboys WR Brice Butler signs with Dolphins

MIAMI (AP) — Receiver Brice Butler has signed with the Miami Dolphins to shore up the injury-depleted position.

Wideouts Jakeem Grant (calf) and DeVante Parker (shoulder) were both hurt in Sunday's loss at Green Bay.

Butler, a six-year veteran, was slowed by a groin injury earlier this season with the Dallas Cowboys and

MIAMI (AP) — Receiver Brice Butler has signed with the Miami Dolphins to shore up the injury-depleted position.

Wideouts Jakeem Grant (calf) and DeVante Parker (shoulder) were both hurt in Sunday’s loss at Green Bay.

Butler, a six-year veteran, was slowed by a groin injury earlier this season with the Dallas Cowboys and was released last month. He has 73 career receptions for 1,177 yards and eight touchdowns for Dallas and Oakland.

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Raiders offense regressing under Carr, Gruden

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr knew there would be growing pains adjusting to a new offense for the Oakland Raiders under coach Jon Gruden.

The surprising part for Carr and the Raiders is instead of showing steady progress throughout the year, the offense instead has regressed.

The Raiders (1-8) head into Sunday's

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr knew there would be growing pains adjusting to a new offense for the Oakland Raiders under coach Jon Gruden.

The surprising part for Carr and the Raiders is instead of showing steady progress throughout the year, the offense instead has regressed.

The Raiders (1-8) head into Sunday’s game at Arizona (2-7) having gone back-to-back games without a touchdown for the first time since 2012, with the nine combined points in losses to San Francisco and the Chargers marking the lowest two-game output for Oakland since 2009.

“It gets frustrating because I know how hard some of our guys work and you expect it to continue to go this way,” Carr said about the early season progress that hasn’t been maintained. “But this league, it’s tough man, and it’ll humble some guys really quick. … When you turn the film on it’s like, dang, if I just had that, or if I just would have checked to this or done this.

“You can sit there and second-guess it all the time, but the only thing that we have the opportunity to do is do our best right when it’s in front of us. So, that’s what we have to do better, we all have to play better. Coach puts us in great positions, we just have to play better.”

The Raiders will try to improve the production this week despite possibly missing several key pieces on offense. Receiver Martavis Bryant is out at least a couple of weeks with a knee injury and receiver Jordy Nelson didn’t practice Wednesday with a knee injury that has put his status in doubt this week.

Oakland already is without injured running back Marshawn Lynch, who is on injured reserve with a groin injury, and traded away No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper last month to Dallas.

That will likely give an opportunity this week to rookie Marcell Ateman, who began the year on the practice squad and has been inactive since getting promoted to the 53-man roster last month. Undrafted rookie Saeed Blacknall was promoted from the practice squad Wednesday and also could play a role.

Carr has been impressed with Ateman’s hard work at practice and attention to detail.

“One thing that really stuck out is during games, he’ll come up to me and ask questions, not in a bothersome way or anything like that just, ‘Hey, what did you see here? What if they ran the route like this?'” Carr said.

“So, I can tell that he’s not just here taking a redshirt year, enjoying his time wearing the team colors, he’s really put in a lot of work and it means something to him. He’s shown that, so hopefully he just goes out there and cuts it loose, because he’s done all the right things, now he’s just got to go play.”

Ateman showed flashes in training camp, as he was able to use his size and jumping ability to make contested catches even when going up against the first team.

Ateman said the past few months of practice have made him even more ready to perform on Sunday.

“I didn’t take a back seat when I got on the practice squad,” he said. “I kept working that so when I get my opportunity I’m better.”

NOTES: C Rodney Hudson (ankle), G Kelechi Osemele (knee), CB Gareon Conley (ankle), CB Daryl Worley (shoulder) and LB Kyle Wilber (knee) were all limited in practice. … The Raiders also signed WRs Rashard Davis and WR ArDarius Stewart to the practice squad.

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Keenum says he’s embracing the pressure of playing in Denver

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Case Keenum is off to a rocky start in the shadows of John Elway, Peyton Manning and the Rocky Mountains, which he and his wife, Kimberly, visited during the Broncos' much-needed bye week.

"It's pretty. I've been looking at them for the last six months," Keenum said. "So, it

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Case Keenum is off to a rocky start in the shadows of John Elway, Peyton Manning and the Rocky Mountains, which he and his wife, Kimberly, visited during the Broncos’ much-needed bye week.

“It’s pretty. I’ve been looking at them for the last six months,” Keenum said. “So, it was fun to go up there and enjoy that. It was good to get away.”

Not that he was scrambling from the pressure and high expectations of playing in quarterback-crazed Denver, the magnitude of which he insists doesn’t faze him.

“Yeah, there’s a lot to it, playing quarterback here, and I enjoy it, I love it, I love the intensity of it. I love the tradition, the history,” Keenum told The Associated Press on his way to the weight room after practice Wednesday.

As if on cue, Keenum triggered an automatic door leading from the facility to the parking lot that separates the weight room from the rest of the team’s headquarters.

He pointed to the larger-than-life photos of Broncos greats that decorate the walls and halls of the UC Health Center.

“I mean, you walk in and the pictures are right there of who’s played here and what they’ve done,” Keenum said. “So, I don’t take it lightly. I love my job. I love what I do. Personally, I feel like I’ve got the best job in the world.”

Even though it comes with such little patience from the boo-birds at the stadium and the longtime listeners/first-time callers smarting over the Broncos’ 3-6 start, Keenum’s 10 interceptions and two dozen sacks in his Denver debut.

Keenum knew Denver was different from his other NFL stops when he signed with the Broncos for two years and $36 million after leading the Vikings to the NFC championship game.

“I love it. And I understand that there’s pressure and expectations that come with it,” Keenum said. “I’ve had those pressures and those expectations on myself my whole career, my whole life. Every time I step on the field I want to win. I expect to win and I expect to do well.

“So, that’s me, that’s who I am and I think that’s why I’m built to play quarterback here.”

His new workplace, where three Lombardi Trophies loom large in the lobby, isn’t anything like Keenum’s stops in Houston, where he also played college ball; St. Louis, where they were about to lose a franchise; L.A., where those Rams weren’t yet these Rams; and Minnesota, where he subbed for Sam Bradford.

Here, the fans let their beloved Broncos hear about it the first time a pass is off target.

“That’s just the fan base here, they expect good things, they expect explosive plays, they expect offense,” Keenum said. “And I love that they care, I really do. I’d rather them be that way than nobody shows up. I’d rather play in front of all those fans that are into the game than just some other fans — not to mention any other fans out there — that come for the tailgate and the party. They want football and I appreciate that.”

But for three plays, the Broncos could be 6-3 instead of 3-6 heading into their game against the Chargers (7-2) this weekend.

— Keenum missed a wide-open Demaryius Thomas for the game-winning TD in the final minute of a 27-23 loss to Kansas City that helped grow the legend of Patrick Mahomes.

— Emmanuel Sanders’ taunting flag after an apparent touchdown cost Denver four points in a 23-20 loss to the Rams.

— Brandon McManus pushed a 51-yard field goal wide right as time expired in a 19-17 loss to the Texans.

With the Broncos flirting with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1971-72, fans are left wondering whether Keenum is the answer at quarterback or if there was anything to general manager John Elway going to watch Oregon QB Justin Herbert last month.

They’ve seen a succession of quarterbacks flame out in Denver following Manning’s retirement a month after the Broncos’ Super Bowl parade 33 months ago:

— Mark Sanchez was cut in camp.

— Trevor Siemian kept getting hurt and eventually was traded.

— Brock Osweiler was brought back in 2017 but not re-signed in 2018.

— Paxton Lynch, a first-round bust.

— Chad Kelly, a backup who got arrested.

If the Broncos had beaten the Chiefs (9-1), Rams (9-1) and Texans (6-3), maybe the buzz is all about a long-term extension for Keenum instead of whether he’s the right quarterback to lead the Broncos’ revival.

“That’s not in my mind,” Keenum said. “During the season I’m taking it one game at a time. During the offseason, I’ll talk about contracts and all that stuff.”

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Cowboys’ Elliott faces Falcons, 1st foe for last year’s ban

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott paused and lowered his voice when asked what he was doing when the Dallas Cowboys played without their star running back for the first time during his six-game suspension last year.

Not only was Elliott having a self-described "tough time" with the NFL's ban over domestic violence

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott paused and lowered his voice when asked what he was doing when the Dallas Cowboys played without their star running back for the first time during his six-game suspension last year.

Not only was Elliott having a self-described “tough time” with the NFL’s ban over domestic violence allegations finally in place after weeks of court battles, but he had to watch a dreadful offensive showing by the Cowboys in a blowout loss to Atlanta. The 27-7 defeat started a three-game losing streak that wiped out any realistic playoff hopes.

“I was home watching it,” Elliott said Wednesday. “Tough to watch. Tough time for me. I’m glad I’m out there this year and able to help my guys go out there and try to get this win.”

It’s relevant because the Cowboys (4-5) are visiting the Falcons (4-5) again Sunday, nearly in the same spot on the schedule, in more dire need of a win because of an uneven first-half performance, particularly by the offense.

Just like last year, though — when Elliott refused upon his return to the team to discuss already-public details about his time away — Elliott didn’t last long talking about the drama surrounding his suspension, and the impact it had on the Cowboys.

“That’s all behind me,” he said. “It’s hard to even need extra motivation when you’re 4-5. For the rest of this season, our backs are up against the wall. We have to do the best we can to go out there and try to win every one of these last games. And those guys on their side, they’re feeling the same way.”

The next two questions were brushed aside. “I really don’t want to dwell on last year,” Elliott said.

Four-time Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin didn’t even remember last year’s Atlanta game was the first without Elliott.

“I know you guys want to talk about it,” Martin said. “That really hasn’t come up at all this year.”

Elliott and the Dallas offense have had a rough season, even with a running game that has ranked in the top five most of the season.

But the 2016 NFL rushing champion as a rookie is coming off one of his best games of the year in a season-saving 27-20 win at defending champion Philadelphia. Elliott had 151 yards rushing with a touchdown and 36 yards receiving with another score — and a TD he lost by stumbling in the open field after almost cleanly hurdling a defender and landing in stride.

“You do have a little bit more momentum,” Elliott said. “When you have a game like that last week, this Falcons team is going to be that much more clued into the run. It’s not going to be easy.”

The Cowboys recovered from the downer of losing Elliott to win the last three without him last season. Then they compounded the disappointment by losing his first game back to Seattle when Dallas still had faint playoff hopes.

That defeat eliminated the Cowboys a year after an NFC-best 13 wins during the remarkable debut seasons for Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Fast-forward a year, and Elliott is still second in the league with 831 yards rushing despite an offense ranked 27th overall, and a group of blockers that has struggled since losing four-time Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick to a nerve disorder before the season started. Frederick’s return this season looks less likely each week.

“I think he’s handled it all really, really well,” coach Jason Garrett said of Elliott . “He wants to be a great player, wants to have a big impact on our team. I thought he handled a lot of the distractions last year very well. He came back from them and now he’s focused on those same things that we always thought he was all about.”

And happy to be playing the Falcons instead of watching from home.

NOTES: LT Tyron Smith was added to the injury report with a back issue Wednesday. He didn’t practice. … Five defensive linemen didn’t practice: David Irving (ankle), DE Taco Charlton (shoulder), DT Maliek Collins (knee), DE Daniel Ross (calf) and DT Antwaun Woods (concussion).

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Titans get more comfortable in new offense, start to produce

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans finally are starting to show signs that some of their growing pains of learning a new offense may be easing.

The quarterback had to learn his third new scheme going into his fourth NFL season. The Titans are leaning on a lot of

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans finally are starting to show signs that some of their growing pains of learning a new offense may be easing.

The quarterback had to learn his third new scheme going into his fourth NFL season. The Titans are leaning on a lot of young receivers and coordinator Matt LaFleur’s experience calling plays grows with each game. The changes, along with the loss of three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker in the opener, led to some early struggles on offense.

Now Mariota is feeling comfortable enough with the offense and LaFleur to speak up when the game plan features something he doesn’t like.

“I just feel as though I’ve gotten a better understanding of the offense, why we’re calling certain things,” Mariota said Wednesday. “Maybe why he wants a particular play against certain coverage, so having that understanding I think has allowed me to have confidence in going in and saying, ‘Hey, maybe I don’t really like that. I’m not feeling that.'”

Mariota said previously he might not have known how a play would look or work on the field.

“Having confidence in it, being in the offense a little longer has definitely helped that,” Mariota said.

The results might not show up in NFL rankings with the Titans (5-4) 30th in total offense and 18th averaging 18.7 points a game.

The offensive turnaround started Oct. 21 in London in a 20-19 loss to the Chargers and includes a 28-14 win in Dallas and last weekend’s 34-10 rout of the Patriots. In those three games, the Titans have converted 61 percent (25 of 41) of their third downs, which is best in the NFL in that span.

Mariota has posted his best passer ratings of the season in each of the past two games, and he has 542 total yards passing, running and catching with five touchdowns. His lone interception in the three-game stretch came in the second quarter against the Chargers

Corey Davis finished with seven catches for 125 yards against Dallas, his second 100-yard receiving game this season. Tight end Jonnu Smith had a career-high 45 yards receiving on three catches with a TD. Even rookie Cameron Batson, who spent three weeks on the practice squad earlier this season, has had four catches for 47 yards over the past two games.

Running back Dion Lewis believes everyone has gotten comfortable with each other.

“It’s a lot of bumps in the road when you’re learning,” Lewis said. “You make a mistake, and you try not to make the same mistake again. I think that’s what everybody’s trying to do knowing what the coaches expect from them. And if they messed up something in the past, just move on forward and not make that same mistake. I think if guys do that, we can keep building on that as an offense and keep getting better.”

The results are easy to see with the Titans, who went through an eight-quarter drought without scoring a touchdown during a three-game skid in October. They followed up a season-high 28 points in Dallas with the best first quarter (17) and first half (24) of scoring since Nov. 13, 2016, against Green Bay.

The Titans are 13th in the NFL holding the ball 30 minutes, 30 seconds per game. They’re also 10th converting third downs, and they’ll test their comfort level Sunday when they visit the Colts (4-5) in a key AFC South game.

“We’ve done a good job on third downs, definitely done a whole lot better in the red zone being able to score touchdowns,” Mariota said. “If we can continue that, I think we got a chance to be pretty good.”

Notes: LB Wesley Woodyard was named the AFC defensive player of the week after 1 ½ sacks against the Patriots. … LB Derrick Morgan (shoulder) and RT Jack Conklin (concussion protocol) were limited Wednesday at practice along with S Dane Cruikshank (knee). LG Quinton Spain (ankle), WR Taywan Taylor (left foot), G/C Corey Levin (illness) and RB David Fluellen (knee) did not practice.

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Lions put TJ Lang on injured reserve with neck injury

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions have put guard T.J. Lang on injured reserve with a neck injury.

The Lions announced the move Wednesday. They also signed cornerback Mike Ford to the active roster from the practice squad and signed safety David Jones to the practice squad.

Lang has missed three

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions have put guard T.J. Lang on injured reserve with a neck injury.

The Lions announced the move Wednesday. They also signed cornerback Mike Ford to the active roster from the practice squad and signed safety David Jones to the practice squad.

Lang has missed three games this season, including last weekend’s loss at Chicago. The 31-year-old lineman is in his second season with the Lions after playing eight with Green Bay.

Lang signed a three-year deal with Detroit before the 2017 season, returning to his home area. He was born in Royal Oak, went to high school in Bloomfield Hills and went to college at Eastern Michigan.

Detroit (3-6) has lost three straight, and the Lions have yielded 16 sacks in the past two games.

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Appeals court hears case of ex-Saints star Smith’s killer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A defense attorney for the man convicted of killing retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith in 2016 has told a Louisiana appellate court that his client deserves a new trial, in part because of evidence that surfaced after trial that he said lends credibility to Cardell Hayes' self-defense

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A defense attorney for the man convicted of killing retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith in 2016 has told a Louisiana appellate court that his client deserves a new trial, in part because of evidence that surfaced after trial that he said lends credibility to Cardell Hayes’ self-defense assertion.

Hayes’ appeal attorney, Paul Barker, told three 4th Circuit Court of Appeal judges Wednesday that New Orleans prosecutors failed to disprove that Hayes acted in self-defense. Hayes is serving a 25-year sentence for manslaughter in Smith’s death and attempted manslaughter in the wounding of Smith’s wife during a confrontation following a traffic collision in April 2016.

Hayes insisted at trial that he fired after a drunk, angry Smith retrieved a gun from his car and fired first.

Barker said none of a host of witnesses had a clear view of everything that happened amid the tumult following the accident in New Orleans’ Lower Garden District.

Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly countered that Hayes was alone among witnesses in saying Smith brandished a gun or fired it. A semi-automatic handgun was found loaded but unused in Smith’s car. And while Barker said gunfire residue on Smith’s body raises doubt that he never fired, Daly said it was consistent with being shot at close-range with a larger weapon.

It was unclear when the three-judge appellate panel would rule.

Barker argued that trial judge Camille Buras should have granted a new trial because a witness who contacted the defense a day after Hayes’ conviction said he had heard two gun fire from two weapons at the time of the shooting.

The witness, military veteran Michael Burnside, delivered rambling and at times profane testimony at a post-trial hearing last year. Daly argued that he wasn’t credible. Burnside lived blocks from the shooting scene and, Daly argued, his testimony indicated a series of shots fired at a slower rate than the rapid-fire shooting Hayes had described.

Parker also contends the trial judge should have allowed testimony about Smith’s 2010 arrest on a domestic abuse charge after former Saint Deuce McAllister spoke of Smith’s sterling reputation among his teammates and friends.

Smith was arrested outside a southwest Louisiana bar in 2011 on misdemeanor charges of domestic abuse battery and public intoxication. Lafayette Parish prosecutors dropped the charges in 2012 after Smith completed community service and participated in counseling.

Daly argued that Buras was right to avoid what would have amounted to a “mini-trial on the Lafayette incident.”

Smith, a 34-year-old father of three, was a defensive leader on the Saints team that lifted spirits in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. He helped carry the team to a winning season in 2006 and a Super Bowl victory four years later.

Hayes was 29 when he was convicted in December 2016. He owned a tow-truck business, had played semi-pro football and is the father of a young son.

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The Latest: Judges hear arguments for killer of ex-NFL star

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Latest on an appeal court hearing in the case of Cardell Hayes, convicted of manslaughter in the 2016 death of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

A lawyer says a manslaughter conviction should be overturned for the man who fatally shot retired

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Latest on an appeal court hearing in the case of Cardell Hayes, convicted of manslaughter in the 2016 death of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

A lawyer says a manslaughter conviction should be overturned for the man who fatally shot retired New Orleans Saints Star Will Smith in 2016.

Louisiana’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeal heard arguments Wednesday in the case of Cardell Hayes.

Hayes is serving a 25 year sentence for killing Smith and wounding Smith’s wife during a confrontation following a traffic collision.

Hayes insisted he fired in self-defense.

Among defense attorney Paul Barker’s arguments is that someone living in the area of the shooting contacted the defense after trial to say he believes he heard two guns fired at the time Smith was killed.

Prosecutors say there were no witnesses or physical evidence to indicate Smith ever held or fired a gun.

The appellate judges did not indicate when they would rule.

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8 a.m.

A Louisiana appellate court is set to hear the case of Cardell Hayes, convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith.

Hayes insisted he shot Smith in self-defense after Smith grabbed a gun and fired as the two argued following a 2016 traffic collision. No one else testified Smith held a gun. A handgun was found loaded but unused in Smith’s car.

Hayes is serving a 25-year sentence.

Arguments before Louisiana’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeal were set for Wednesday afternoon. An immediate ruling was not expected.

Hayes’s attorneys say a judge should have granted a new trial because a witness who contacted the defense a day after Hayes’ conviction said he had heard two guns at the time of the shooting.

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Later Le’Veon; Steelers move on with Bell out of the mix

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers spent the better part of 10 months waiting on Le'Veon Bell to show up for work. They said all the right things, stressed they understood the star running back was making a business decision by opting to stay home in hopes of protecting himself ahead of a

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers spent the better part of 10 months waiting on Le’Veon Bell to show up for work. They said all the right things, stressed they understood the star running back was making a business decision by opting to stay home in hopes of protecting himself ahead of a potentially lucrative payday next spring.

And they’d welcome him with open arms whenever he returned.

On Wednesday, with Bell’s absence for the rest of the season a certainty after he declined to sign his one-year, $14.5-million franchise tender , they exhaled.

And pillaged.

Bell’s teammates invaded his locker after practice, helping themselves to whatever they wanted — or at least whatever fit — with Bell’s career in Pittsburgh all but over. It wasn’t personal. Just business. A celebration of sorts to honor — they hope anyway — the last time they’ll have to answer questions about Bell’s unorthodox approach, one that included leaving his teammates in the dark about his plans.

“I think we all just assumed he’d be here and it’d be the same as the year before,” guard David DeCastro said. “It amazes me in this day and age when you can tweet about things but you can’t talk to each other. You’re so connected, but you’re disconnected at the same time. It’s really interesting when you think about it from the big picture side of it. After that it is what it is, you stop worrying about it and you just move on.”

Something the first-place Steelers (6-2-1) are more than happy to do. They take a five-game winning streak into Sunday’s game at Jacksonville (3-6) looking for a bit of revenge against a team that beat them twice last season at Heinz Field, including a 45-42 stunner in the divisional round of the playoffs.

Bell finished with 157 total yards and two touchdowns in the loss. The Steelers cleaned out their lockers the following day, Bell among them. Despite saying he wanted to be a “Steeler for life” he never returned.

Ben Roethlisberger attempted to reach out to Bell, texting him before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline saying he hoped Bell would come in and sign. Bell never arrived and never responded to the quarterback he played alongside during the first five years of his career.

“He was a great teammate here, a great football player,” Roethlisberger said. “To each his own on what they want to walk away from.”

The Steelers, meanwhile, will try to move forward without the versatile Bell, who played a vital role in the team’s run of four straight playoff berths. Yet they have hardly missed a beat thanks to the rapid development of second-year back James Conner. The former Pitt star is second in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,158 yards) and his 10 rushing touchdowns are already one more than Bell ever put up in a single season.

Conner’s success, however, also put him in an awkward position. He considers Bell a friend — and while Bell did otherwise stay silent on Tuesday he did share an Instagram story that appeared to show him promoting Conner to make the Pro Bowl — and never wanted to be put into an adversarial position against a mentor.

“I never really pay attention to it,” James said. “I always go by the model ‘control what you can control,’ so I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Those concerns are gone now. While Bell will spend the next four months getting ready to hit free agency in hopes of landing a contract that would make him the highest-paid back in the NFL, Conner’s goals are more immediate. He sat out the late portions of a 52-21 romp over Carolina last Thursday after being placed in the concussion protocol for the first time as a pro.

Conner admitted he felt “dizzy” initially, but was cleared to return to practice on Wednesday and should be fine to face the Jaguars.

“I feel good, feel like me again,” Conner said. “Back to normal.”

And his team again looks like the class of the AFC North. While Bell’s absence caused a furor when he didn’t come in before the regular season began — as he did in 2017 — things have died down considerably over the last month. Going unbeaten since the start of October helps. So does having Conner look like a Pro Bowler in his own right.

“It’s nice that it’s over,” DeCastro said. “I don’t have to give (the media) clichés, broken-record answers. We’re just going to keep getting James some more yards and keep winning games. At the end of the day it’s been fun. We’re on a roll and the season goes by a lot faster when you’re winning games.”

NOTES: The NFL flexed San Diego’s visit to Pittsburgh on Dec. 2 to 8:20 p.m. EDT. The game had originally been scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. … The league also moved Pittsburgh’s game at Oakland on Dec. 9 from 8:20 EDT to 4:25 EDT. … RT Marcus Gilbert (knee) and DE Stephon Tuitt (elbow) did not practice on Wednesday. … Roethlisberger was given the day off, as is typical.

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Cardinals sign 2 cornerbacks, guard Justin Pugh goes on IR

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals have signed cornerbacks David Amerson and Leonard Johnson.

Wednesday's move came a day after the team placed starting right guard Justin Pugh on injured reserve with a knee injury and released safety Eddie Pleasant.

Pugh was injured in Sunday's loss at Kansas City. Oday Aboushi, who

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals have signed cornerbacks David Amerson and Leonard Johnson.

Wednesday’s move came a day after the team placed starting right guard Justin Pugh on injured reserve with a knee injury and released safety Eddie Pleasant.

Pugh was injured in Sunday’s loss at Kansas City. Oday Aboushi, who signed with Arizona on Oct. 23 after spending training camp with Oakland, is expected to start in Pugh’s place against the Raiders this Sunday.

Amerson is in his fifth NFL season, appearing in 68 games for Washington (2013-15) and Oakland (2015-17).

Johnson, also in his sixth season, has played in 77 NFL games for Tampa Bay, New England, Carolina and Buffalo.

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