Louisville defeats Miami 31-13 in ACC debut (Yahoo Sports) - Dominique Brown's 15-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and Gerald Christian's 10-yard TD catch late in the fourth backed Louisville's big defensive performance that helped beat Miami 31-13 Monday night. The victory provided a successful Atlantic Coast Conference debut for the Cardinals and to Bobby Petrino's second coaching stint at the school. Despite the 18-point margin, Louisville showed little of the offensive efficiency expected in Petrino's return as the Cardinals outgained the Hurricanes 336-244 in a ragged game offensively for both teams. Louisville's new 3-4 defense provided the saving grace with three takeaways, including one that followed a costly fumble by Cardinals quarterback Will Gardner inside his 15. Falcao caps record summer spending - Radamel Falcao's loan move to Manchester United was the major deadline day signing as summer spending hits a record £835m. Raiders tab rookie Derek Carr as starting QB (Yahoo Sports) - Oakland rookie Derek Carr will start the season opener against the New York Jets. Coach Dennis Allen announced Monday that Carr got the nod ahead of Matt Schaub, who struggled in the preseason and has been hampered by a sore elbow. Carr will be the first rookie to start the season opener at quarterback in Raiders history. Carr was a second-round pick out of Fresno State in May. He will become the 18th starting quarterback for the Raiders since the start of the 2003 season. Hull add £10m Hernandez & Ben Arfa - Uruguay striker Abel Hernandez signs for Hull City from Palermo for a club-record fee, while Hatem Ben Arfa joins on loan. Dizzy in heat, Bouchard out of upset-heavy US Open (Yahoo Sports) - Bothered by the heat and stifling humidity, Eugenie Bouchard felt dizzy and her vision was blurry. Bouchard tried to carry on, but it was hardly an ideal time to try to win a tennis match. The No. 7-seeded Bouchard became the latest top woman to bow out at this surprise-filled U.S. Open, beaten 7-6 (2), 6-4 Monday by 17th-seeded Ekaterina Makarova of Russia in the fourth round. Phil McNulty’s transfer window verdict - Man Utd sign Falcao on loan for £6m - Manchester United sign Colombia international striker Radamel Falcao on loan from Ligue 1 side Monaco. Arsenal sign Welbeck from Man Utd - Arsenal sign Welbeck for £16m - Dunn homers in 1st at-bat as A's top Mariners (Yahoo Sports) - Adam Dunn is in a pennant race at last, and what an impression he made on his new team as the September stretch run began. Dunn provided instant pop for the struggling Athletics, hitting a towering, two-run homer in his debut at-bat for Oakland to highlight a 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Monday in a matchup of playoff contenders. ''We're going to take full advantage.'' Acquired a day earlier in a trade with the Chicago White Sox, the 6-foot-6, 285-pound Dunn immediately became an imposing presence in the middle of Oakland's order. His drive was a welcome sight for a team that just got swept in a four-game series by the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels and was shut out for 29 straight innings.

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Rams leave Michael Sam off practice squad ... so what's next for him? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: September 1, 2014, 11:08 pm]
The St. Louis Rams named the 10 players they signed to their practice squad. Michael Sam was not one of them. The team made Sam one of its final cuts on Saturday and met with him the following day, but it apparently doesn't have interest at this time in signing Sam. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said Sam's release Saturday was for "football reasons" and had cited the team's injuries on the offensive line and secondary as reasons why the team was concerned about its depth at other spots and couldn't keep more than 10 defensive linemen on the roster. But not on the practice squad either? Sam was unclaimed by the other 31 NFL teams and remains a free agent, with no teams offering a practice squad spot — despite those rosters increasing this season from eight to 10 players per team — with nearly every slot around the league believed to be filled. Does this mean Sam's NFL shot has passed him by? Not necessarily. He had three sacks in the preseason, none of them gifts, and didn't play poorly otherwise. Sam put some decent tape out there to be considered. But he is what he is: a left defensive end who likely can't hold up for three downs in the NFL and has little to no special teams value. Still, there are teams that value pass-rush specialists, and it's surprising that he hasn't been brought in, even for a look. The NFL can be a cold place, and it's not just about Sam's sexuality, as many have speculated. Wideout Stephen Hill, a 2012 second-round pick (43rd overall), just passed through waivers after being released and yet to find a team — although he worked out for the Carolina Panthers on Monday. Windows can close shockingly fast in this league. And there's little doubt that a team would have to have been fairly impressed with Sam's preseason performance to add him to their practice squad, knowing that a horde of media will follow with questions about a player who is not even on t

Derek Carr, not Matt Schaub, to start Week 1 for Oakland Raiders [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: September 1, 2014, 10:23 pm]
The Oakland Raiders reportedly have switched gears at quarterback for Week 1 against the New York Jets. Second-round pick Derek Carr will start, per Fox's Jay Glazer, confirming what many had suspected when Matt Schaub suffered by elbow tendonitis and Carr lit it up in the Raiders' preseason finale. Breaking: Raiders players have been informed that the team is making the switch at QB and starting Derek Carr over Matt Schaub— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) September 1, 2014 [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Carr had been having a terrific training camp and start to the preseason but was set back in the second exhibition game when he suffered a rib injury and was tested for a concussion. The Raiders held Carr out of the third preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, a game in which Schaub and the offense struggled mightily. Schaub came out of that game with elbow pain, and when Carr was cleared to play against the Seattle Seahawks in the preseason finale, he made the most of it. Carr was exceptional in leading four touchdown drives in his four posssessions — including two with the Seahawks' starters in the game — with three touchdown passes. Head coach Dennis Allen pulled Carr in the first half of the game, as if he'd seen enough to know that Carr could start if needed. Schaub's elbow was tested Monday, and it's believed that he wasn't healthy enough to go Sunday against the Jets. Frankly, Schaub's health might not have mattered too much. Carr clearly was the better performer in the preseason, and the Raiders need not delay the future if Schaub or No. 3 QB Matt McGloin can't get it done. The Jets likely will be shorthanded in the secondary, with top corner Dee Milliner (high ankle sprain) in serioud doubt for the opener. It's likely that the Jets will have to have Antonio Allen, a converted safety, and Darrin Walls as their starting corners outside, with Kyle Wilson in the slot. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a wri

St. Louis Rams claim former Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: September 1, 2014, 9:59 pm]
The St. Louis Rams have added a quarterback to their mix, and he started eight more games last season than projected starter Shaun Hill has started in the past three seasons combined. Case Keenum, who was waived by the Houston Texans after they completed a trade with the New England Patriots for Ryan Mallett, was claimed by the Rams.  Keenum started half the season for the Texans in 2013, and though the team lost all eight contests (seven of them by a one-score margin), he played fairly well all things considered. Keenum got off to a solid start in his first three games last season, throwing for seven TD passes and zero interceptions with a very respectable 822 passing yards. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] But as the season wore on, Keenum's completion percentage hovered closer to 50 percent (54.2 for the season) and Keenum threw six picks in his final five games before missing the rest of the regular season with  a sprained right thumb. Keenum was thrown into the Texans' wide-open quarterback mix this offseason, but Ryan Fitzpatrick clearly established himself as the starter. Even after T.J. Yates was released, the Texans felt it was better to invest long term in fifth-round pick Tom Savage and trade for Mallett than it was to keep Yates. In St. Louis, Keenum is likely to be the backup to Hill, who replaced the injured Sam Bradford. Hill hasn't started a game since 2010. The Rams also have Austin Davis, who has yet to attempt a regular-season pass but has been on the team's roster each of the past three seasons. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

NFL Preview Week: Which teams have the toughest first four games? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: September 1, 2014, 7:25 pm]
The NFL regular season officially kicks off on Thursday when Green Bay travels to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Shutdown Corner will be previewing everything to come all week, capped off by our awards and Super Bowl predictions on Thursday. You can’t earn or lose a playoff spot in the first month, but you don’t want to dig a deep hole you’ll spend the last three months trying to get out of. Ask the Steelers and Giants. Both teams were popular playoff picks last year, but Pittsburgh started 0-4 and the Giants started 0-6. It didn’t matter that Pittsburgh won six of its last eight or New York won seven of its last 10. Neither one made the playoffs because of the slow starts. Remember, all 16 games count the same, so the ones starting this week have the same weight in the standings as the ones in the final weeks. These teams have the toughest (and easiest) first four game stretches to start the season: Denver Broncos First four: Indianapolis, Kansas City, at Seattle, Arizona The Broncos were a good team last year, but they were a good team with a very favorable schedule. Not so this year. Denver starts the season with four games against teams that all had 10 or more wins last season. The good news is three of the four games are at home. The bad news is the road game is at Seattle, and we all know how that last meeting turned out. The Indianapolis game is huge for a Week 1 game, considering that each team is favored to win its division and the Colts have a far easier schedule. Baltimore Ravens First four: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, at Cleveland, Carolina Hope the Ravens are storing up on aspirin. They’ll face four of the toughest defenses in the NFL before the first month is over. The Browns might not be the best team, but it’s on the road and they’ll play strong D. If we could include the first six, Baltimore has road games at Indianapolis and at Tampa Bay to start October. Yikes. Cleveland Browns First four: at Pittsburgh,

Greg Cosell's NFL Preview: Breaking down the rookie quarterbacks [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: September 1, 2014, 4:48 pm]
The NFL regular season officially kicks off on Thursday when Green Bay travels to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Shutdown Corner will be previewing everything to come all week, capped off by our awards and Super Bowl predictions on Thursday.  Let’s start our look at some notable rookie quarterbacks with Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel, because he’ll be a seminal player in some people’s minds. That’s because he’s a classic example for the question: What is the quarterback position in the NFL right now? When quarterbacks who played in true spread offenses in college like Manziel did at Texas A&M, they have almost no understanding of pocket quarterback play – three-step drops, five- and seven-step drops, the play-action passing game. And in the NFL the routes time up with the drops. Spread quarterbacks have no concept of that, and it’s not their fault. They weren't asked to do that in college. And the more a spread quarterback was a runner in college, the more the issue is exacerbated, because they tend to rely on their legs. Those quarterbacks usually perceive pressure and react to opposing jersey color more than pocket quarterbacks. You can do some things to take advantage of a quarterback’s mobility, but the question in the NFL will be, what’s an acceptable level of pocket play in order to play quarterback at a reasonably high level? At this point Manziel is solely a movement player, with read-option concepts and play-action bootlegs. There is no sense of timing and rhythm to Manziel’s play in the pocket; it’s random and arbitrary. There was a great example of how this affects the Browns offense in the fourth preseason game against Chicago. On the second play of the third quarter, the Browns ran a deep corner/crossing route combination against a Bears defense with eight in the box and a single safety deep. And that’s "Route Concepts 101," a very basic concept to beat that defense. Because this was the second play

NFL Preview Week: 12 second-year players ready to break out [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: September 1, 2014, 1:45 pm]
Coaches often say that the biggest growth in an NFL player occurs between the first and second season. Rookie confusion can lead to second-year clarity and unencumberance. In this rush-to-judgment league, it's easy to forget last year's draft class. But here are some of the second-year players who might be ready to remind everyone just how good they still are: Cleveland Browns pass rusher Barkevious Mingo — When you listen to him talk this preseason, the words "comfortable" and "confident" used a lot. That's because Mingo, who was always seen as a work in progress entering the league, now has his body and mind properly shaped to be an impact player. The Browns will have a strong top three edge rushers with Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard and Mingo and can rotate them and keep them fresh. Mingo likely will be an open-side rusher (the offense's left side) and will be his best to use quickness and length to distract and disrupt quarterbacks. He had three of his five sacks in his first three NFL games but wore down. Now, in Year 2, Mingo should have the stamina to put up double digits in that category. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins — It was a quiet rookie season for Collins, who contributed on special teams and slowly built up his defensive involvement through the course of the season, until the playoff opener against the Indianapolis Colts. That's when we got a view of just how dangerous and gifted a playmaker Collins could be (six tackles, a sack and an interception) while playing a variety of assignments. Expect Collins to fill a "Joker" type role this season; he could play over the tight end, line up on the edge, be a blitzer, stack and shed as an inside linebacker when the team uses 3-4 alignments and also drop off into coverage. Collins is that gifted athletically and is starting to look like a special defender who is on the verge. Atlanta Falcons cornerback Des

Kansas City Chiefs, Alex Smith agree to four-year, $68 million extension [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 31, 2014, 11:31 pm]
Another acrimonious contract stalemate has come to an end on the verge of the NFL season. The Kansas City Chiefs and quarterback Alex Smith, who had butted heads for months over a new deal, have come to an agreement on a four-year, $68 million contract. The new contract includes $45 million in guaranteed money. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] At an average per year of $17 million, Smith will be paid on the lower end of the top-shelf quarterbacks, between the New York Giants' Eli Manning ($16.25M average) and the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford ($17.67M). At first glance and considering the guaranteed money, Smith's deal also appears to be more of a sure-thing deal than the incentive-laden deals signed earlier this offseason by the Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton and the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick (Smith's former teammate in San Fran). Smith was entering the final year of the deal. The Chiefs had the option of franchising Smith, but they also must take care of impending free agent Justin Houston and have a tight salary-cap situation. The two sides had exchanged several rounds of negotiations without making much progress, per reports, and the situation could have turned ugly. Luckily, for the Chiefs, Smith showed up to camp, remained quiet about his contract and hoped for things to work out, which is exactly what happened. He is coming off a career season, with 3,313 passing yards and 23 touchdowns and some impressive play down the stretch as the Chiefs went from winning two games in 2012 to 11 and a playoff berth in 2013. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

NFL Preview Week: Top 10 wild cards for the 2014 season [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 31, 2014, 5:42 pm]
One year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs were a joke, the Houston Texans were a Super Bowl contender, the Carolina Panthers were (at best) a middling team and Chip Kelly was an intriguing fascination, but also as the proverbial college coach coming to the big, bad NFL. How much our opinions changed of them in short order. Four months from now, most of what we know will be unwritten or rewritten. There will be some out-of-left-field developments, some behind-the-scenes contributors and some unexpected changes to the NFL landscape. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] We're here to try to predict those. Call them the "wild-card" factors — the either-or propositions around the league that could sway a team (or teams) from 6-10 to 10-6, from putting their coaches on the hot seat to putting the team in the postseason derby. Here's our list of the top 10 for the 2014 NFL season: Rob Gronkowski — The New England Patriots have the best all-around tight end when he's healthy (Jimmy Graham is the better receiver of the two), as the classic "Y" player in this offense who can be as devastating as a run blocker as he is a seam splitter and red-zone threat. But Gronkowski has been saddled with injuries the past two seasons and is coming off a torn ACL last season, and he did not play a snap in the preseason so we're left to speculate his availability for Week 1 and for the remainder of the season. The Patriots are just a different animal offensively with Gronk on the field, and healthy. Tom Brady had an up-and-down 2013 season, with his lowest full-season completion percentage since 2003. But Brady was markedly better with Gronk in the lineup from Weeks 7-14:   Games Completions Attempts Passing yards Touchdowns Interceptions Completion % Yards/attempt 7 (with Gronk) 182 284 2205 13 5 64.1 7.76 9 (without Gronk) 198 344 2138 12 6 57.6 6.22 2013 total 380 628 4343 25 11 60.5 6.92 Brady trusts Gronkowski more than anyone

New England Patriots trade QB Ryan Mallett to Houston Texans [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 31, 2014, 5:37 pm]
A long-rumored trade finally has happened. The New England Patriots have dealt quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Houston Texans, which was first reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and now has been confirmed by the team. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Rapoport reports the Patriots will receive a conditional seventh-rounder in 2016 in return. Terms: The #Texans traded a 2016 conditional 7th round pick for #Patriots QB Ryan Mallett, source said.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 31, 2014 There had been talk up to and during the draft in May that Mallett, who becomes a free agent after this season, could wind up with the Texans and new head coach Bill OBrien, especially after the Texans only signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to start and drafted fifth-rounder Tom Savage as their developmental project. O'Brien was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Patriots when the team drafted Mallett in the third round in 2011. Although Mallett has a mere four regular-season passing attempts as Tom Brady's backup the past three seasons, he reportedly has come a long way since entering the league. Mallett rebounded from a so-so first performance in the preseason to post strong numbers in the second and third contests with the Patriots. The Patriots drafting of Jimmy Garoppolo in Round 2 — and his strong preseason play — alowed the team to send Mallett to the Texans. Now the question becomes if the Patriots sign a third quarterback to the active roster. They worked out Cornell's Jeff Matthews yesterday after he had been cut by the Atlanta Falcons. For the Texans, it's likely that Fitzpatrick will remain the starter for now and that Savage is third in the pecking order, with Mallett likely to come in and challenge Fitzpatrick if he falters over time. It appears Case Keenum will be cut. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow

Report: New England Patriots trade QB Ryan Mallett to Houston Texans [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 31, 2014, 5:37 pm]
A long-rumored trade finally has happened. The New England Patriots have dealt quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Houston Texans, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Ryan Mallett has been traded to the #Texans, source says— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 31, 2014 [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] There had been talk up to and during the draft in May that Mallett, who becomes a free agent after this season, could wind up with the Texans and new head coach Bill OBrien, especially after the Texans only signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to start and drafted fifth-rounder Tom Savage as their developmental project. O'Brien was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Patriots when the team drafted Mallett in the third round in 2011. Although Mallett has a mere four regular-season passing attempts as Tom Brady's backup the past three seasons, he reportedly has come a long way since entering the league. Mallett rebounded from a so-so first performance in the preseason to post strong numbers in the second and third contests with the Patriots. The Patriots drafting of Jimmy Garoppolo in Round 2 — and his strong preseason play — alowed the team to send Mallett to the Texans. Now the question becomes if the Patriots sign a third quarterback to the active roster. They worked out Cornell's Jeff Matthews yesterday after he had been cut by the Atlanta Falcons. For the Texans, it's likely that Fitzpatrick will remain the starter for now and that Savage is third in the pecking order, with Mallett likely to come in and challenge Fitzpatrick if he falters over time. Will the team keep Case Keenum, who had been the backup? It's not clear if they have the roster space for four quarterbacks. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Holdout Alex Boone, San Francisco 49ers agree to new two-year deal [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 31, 2014, 4:47 pm]
And finally, the San Francisco 49ers get a dose of good news. Offensive guard Alex Boone, who has been seeking a new contract while he has been holding out from the team, was granted his wish, per ESPN. Boone and the 49ers have agreed on a new two-year deal that will replace his old one, a contract that includes a salary increase and incentives if Boone reaches the Pro Bowl. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Another factor in the deal is that the 49ers can't place the franchise tag on Boone at the conclusion of the contract. Boone, 27, was slated to make a total of $4 million for this season and next prior to the raise. He had threatened to hold out indefinitely, and he rejected an offer at one point to make Boone paid as a top-12 guard. The team listened to trade offers for him, according to reports, but set the price tag very high. That's because the 49ers, whose offense has sputtered this offseason, wanted him back. As for the fines Boone has accrued — up to $70,000 per day missing, for a total of nearly $1.2 million — it's not clear how the team has handled them. It's possible that they were waived as part of the new contract. The 49ers will take the good news in what has been a tough offseason, capped by Sunday's arrest of defensive lineman Ray McDonald, in that department. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

San Francisco 49ers, Alex Boone agree to reworked two-year deal [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 31, 2014, 4:47 pm]
And finally, the San Francisco 49ers get a dose of good news. Offensive guard Alex Boone, who has been seeking a new contract while he has been holding out from the team, was granted his wish, per ESPN. Boone and the 49ers have agreed on a new two-year deal that will replace his old one, a contract that includes a salary increase and incentives if Boone reaches the Pro Bowl. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Another factor in the deal is that the 49ers can't place the franchise tag on Boone at the conclusion of the contract. Boone, 27, was slated to make a total of $4 million for this season and next prior to the raise. He had threatened to hold out indefinitely, and he rejected an offer at one point to make Boone paid as a top-12 guard. The team listened to trade offers for him, according to reports, but set the price tag very high. That's because the 49ers, whose offense has sputtered this offseason, wanted him back. As for the fines Boone has accrued — up to $70,000 per day missing, for a total of nearly $1.2 million — it's not clear how the team has handled them. It's possible that they were waived as part of the new contract. The 49ers will take the good news in what has been a tough offseason, capped by Sunday's arrest of defensive lineman Ray McDonald, in that department. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Michael Sam appears to be unclaimed; could sign with Rams' practice squad [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 31, 2014, 4:34 pm]
MIchael Sam's journey to the NFL has hit another snag, but he is free to keep trying to make it with the first team that gave him a chance. The St. Louis Rams made Sam one of their final cuts, which subjected the seventh-round pick to the league's waiver process. Any team could have put in a claim to sign Sam to their active, 53-man roster, but it appears that none have. Michael Sam has not been told of any teams that claimed him on waivers. Appears he went unclaimed. Now free to sign with a practice squad.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 31, 2014 [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] That could mean that Sam ends up back in St. Louis on the Rams' 10-man practice squad (the league recently expanded from eight). Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said of Sam on Saturday: “Well, it was a football decision and it was no different than any other decision that we make. It was a football decision. It was a football decision back in May to draft Mike. And once again, it’s been all about football. "I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike. I really was. I don’t say that very often, but Mike came in here and did everything that we asked him to do. He got a chance to play a lot of snaps. He had the second most snaps on the defensive line, to Ethan Westbrooks. He had well over 120, 130 snaps and was productive. "But as we said on the front end of the whole...when we drafted Mike, on the front end, we mentioned that this was going to be a tough road. Those four defensive ends that we have on the roster are good and they play a lot and they’re very productive, as well as the tackles. It’s the strength of our football team. But again, it was a football decision.” Is that a signal that the Rams could be interested in adding Sam to their practice squad? Perhaps, but it also shows that Sam getting on the field anytime soon with the the Rams — barring a slew of injuries — could be tough. Sam also could field offe

Report: 49ers' McDonald arrested for domestic abuse; victim allegedly pregnant [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 31, 2014, 3:15 pm]
It might not take NFL commissioner very long to test his new get-tough-on-domestic-violence stance. NBC Bay Area's Damon Trujilo is reporting that San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald has been arrested for domestic abuse. BREAKING: Sources: #49ers DL Ray McDonald popped for domestic violence. Confirming with Niners. @MaioccoCSN— Damian Trujillo (@newsdamian) August 31, 2014 Making matters worse, Trujilo has been told the victim was pregnant. Sources: McDonald alleged victim pregnant— Damian Trujillo (@newsdamian) August 31, 2014 Per sfgate.com, Santa Clara County records show that McDonald, who was also arrested for a DUI back in 2010, was booked early Sunday morning. No bail has been set. This comes mere days after the commissioner sent out a letter to NFL owners explaining how he got the discipline in the Ray Rice case wrong and that he wants the league to take a far tougher approach to curbing domestic violence and abuse. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Under Goodell's new plan, first-time offenders are subject to a six-game suspension and repeat offenders would be suspended indefinitely. Abuse against a pregnant woman could carry a stiffer penalty, as well. Details are still developing on the McDonald case, but we will update them as they become available. It has been a fairly miserable offseason for the 49ers, who are are very talented team but have dealt with off-field problems, injuries, strife between head coach Jim Harbaugh and the front office and an offense that has yet to jell following the preseason. On Friday, 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith learned he was suspended for the first nine games of the season. Losing McDonald for any stretch of time would be a big blow to a defense that already is without key contributors in Smith, defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and linebacker NaVorro Bowman, the latter two of whom are injured. McDonald,29, is a reliable and disruptive cog up front, and the

Report: 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald arrested for domestic abuse [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 31, 2014, 3:15 pm]
It might not take NFL commissioner very long to test his new get-tough-on-domestic-violence stance. NBC Bay Area's Damon Trujilo is reporting that San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald has been arrested for domestic abuse. BREAKING: Sources: #49ers DL Ray McDonald popped for domestic violence. Confirming with Niners. @MaioccoCSN— Damian Trujillo (@newsdamian) August 31, 2014 Per sfgate.com, Santa Clara County records show that McDonald, who was also arrested for a DUI back in 2010, was booked early Sunday morning. No bail has been set. This comes mere days after the commissioner sent out a letter to NFL owners explaining how he got the discipline in the Ray Rice case wrong and that he wants the league to take a far tougher approach to curbing domestic violence and abuse. [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Under Goodell's new plan, first-time offenders are subject to a six-game suspension and repeat offenders would be suspended indefinitely. Details are scant on the McDonald case, but we will update them as they become available. It has been a fairly miserable offseason for the 49ers, who are are very talented team but have dealt with off-field problems, injuries, strife between head coach Jim Harbaugh and the front office and an offense that has yet to jell following the preseason. On Friday, 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith learned he was suspended for the first nine games of the season. Losing McDonald for any stretch of time would be a big blow to a defense that already is without key contributors in Smith, defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and linebacker NaVorro Bowman, the latter two of whom are injured. McDonald,29, is a reliable and disruptive cog up front, and the 49ers' depth there is seriously starting to be tested. This only could add to the mounting issues that Harbaugh's team faces. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc

NFL Preview Week: Which division is the strongest? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 31, 2014, 1:50 pm]
The NFL regular season officially kicks off on Thursday when Green Bay travels to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Shutdown Corner will be previewing everything to come all week, capped off by our awards and Super Bowl predictions on Thursday.  Not every division is equal. Ask the Colts and the Broncos, two AFC favorites who look at their 2014 schedule and see much different things. The Colts have the easiest schedule in the NFL, based on what their opponents' records were in 2013. The Broncos have the second toughest. A lot of that is based on the six divisional games they play. The Broncos aren't helped by four games against 2013 playoff teams, and the Colts won't play a divisional game against an opponent that had a winning record last year. And it might ultimately affect seeding in the AFC playoffs. So let's try to figure out how the eight NFL divisions rank in terms of strength, shall we? 8. AFC North Look at any preseason ranking and you’ll find three teams from this division near the bottom. Jacksonville was outscored by more than 200 points last year, yet they went 3-1 against the Texans and Titans. While the Titans aren’t as bad as people think, the Texans might not have the rebound some are predicting either. The Colts, on paper, should win this division by early December. Maybe late November. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football: Sign up and join a league today! ] 7. NFC East If you wanted to argue this is the worst division in football, I wouldn’t stop you. The Redskins and Giants are coming off horrendous seasons, although the Giants added a lot this offseason. The Cowboys’ defense is a mess. The Eagles are the trendy pick this year but they didn’t exactly blow away a bad division last season. Hey, at least we get to see at least one of these teams on roughly 98 percent of the NFL’s prime-time schedule this season. 6. AFC East It seems like another year of the same old thing, with New England winning the division an

NFL Cuts Roundup: Saints release 12-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 30, 2014, 9:04 pm]
The biggest story among the NFL cuts on Saturday was the Rams releasing defensive end Michael Sam. The biggest name among the cuts, from a football standpoint, was cornerback Champ Bailey. Going to New Orleans was supposed to be the last chapter in Bailey’s great career. He never got to write a page in that chapter. The Saints decided to eat the $500,000 signing bonus they invested in Bailey this offseason and cut the longtime Broncos and Redskins defensive back. Bailey is a 12-time Pro Bowler, but has clearly lost a step at age 36. He struggled for the Broncos in last season’s Super Bowl loss to Seattle. He played in just five games last season because of injuries. There are a lot of teams in the NFL who could use help at cornerback, but it will be interesting to see if any take a shot on Bailey, a likely Hall of Famer. Here were the rest of the biggest stories from around the league as teams cut their rosters down to 53 players: Jets: The Jets admitted a massive mistake in their final cuts, dumping receiver Stephen Hill, the 43rd pick of the draft two years ago. Hill looked the part, at 6-4, 215 pounds, but had just 45 catches for 594 yards and four touchdowns in two years. Receiver Alshon Jeffery, selected two picks later, has become a star with the Bears. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football: Sign up and join a league today! ] Hill will likely get another chance, as a team looks at Hill’s situation – playing in one of the NFL’s worst pass offenses each of the past two years – and figures he can be productive in a better offense. In some biting comments to USA Today, Hill’s agent had the same thought. "Two years in that kind of situation is disheartening,” Hill’s agent Alan Herman told USA Today. "He didn't have a chance that first year with that whole Tim Tebow-Mark Sanchez fiasco. ... His second year, Geno Smith was learning how to play quarterback. So they never threw the ball deep because they wanted to simplify things for Geno." The Jets also

Rams cut Michael Sam, who is vying to be NFL's first openly gay player [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 30, 2014, 8:09 pm]
Michael Sam did all he could to make the St. Louis Rams' 53-man roster, but it wasn't enough. At least not now.  Sam was released by the Rams, the team announced, after an afternoon of suspense when it looked like he might survive Saturday's NFL cutdown day. Sam, a defensive end, is hoping to become the NFL's first openly gay player. That dream, at least in the technical sense of appearing in a regular-season game, will wait. He is likely to land on the Rams' practice squad, unless some team claims him off waivers. Sam, who was a seventh-round pick by the Rams in May, played well in the preseason. Sam had a sack against Green Bay, and then two more against the Browns. He led the Rams with six tackles in the final preseason game. He had a tough road to make the Rams, however, especially when undrafted end Ethan Westbrooks also had a great preseason. The Rams are one of the NFL's deepest teams on the defensive line, and Sam faced a lot of competition to earn a spot on the roster.  Sam, the SEC's defensive player of the year, played well enough in the preseason that it seems he could find his way onto a 53-man roster during the regular season at some point. But that history will have to wait a bit. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Former Steelers Super Bowl hero James Harrison announces retirement [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 30, 2014, 3:27 pm]
Outside linebacker James Harrison was passed over in the 2002 draft coming out of Kent State. He spent the rest of his career making every other team pay for that. The longtime Steelers linebacker was 2008 NFL defensive player of the year, and his 100-yard interception return for a touchdown on the final play of the first half of Super Bowl XLIII will go down as one of the greatest plays in NFL history. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football: Sign up and join a league today! ] But at age 36, he had enough. Harrison met with the Arizona Cardinals this week, but both sides couldn't work out a deal. So on Saturday, Harrison announced he was retiring on his Facebook page, and cited family reasons:  "I have made the difficult decision to retire as of today. My love for my family and the need to be there for them outweighs my desire to play the game. I have missed too many experiences with them because I devoted SO much time to my career. My love for the game isn't strong enough to make up for missing one more birthday or first day of school. I am retiring as a man who is truly grateful for all of his blessings. I am sincerely thankful to the people who have supported me over the years, first and foremost my family, the Rooney family and my Steeler family, also Mr. Brown, the Bengals organization and fans, and last but FAR from least, Steeler Nation. Thank you." That wraps up a remarkable career, of which he spent 10 years with the Steelers and one with the Bengals. Harrison also had a controversial career, with multiple fines for illegal helmet-to-helmet hits, and was finally suspended one game for an illegal hit on then-Browns quarterback Colt McCoy in 2011. But that mean streak that cost Harrison a lot of money in fines also helped make him one of the most relentless linebackers of his era. Harrison is finished in the NFL, but history will remember him as one of the greatest undrafted players in league history. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner o

Quarterback Kyle Orton pulls fast one on Cowboys, agrees to deal with Bills [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: August 30, 2014, 2:50 pm]
Quarterback Kyle Orton must have really, really hated retirement, because it didn't last long. He likely never wanted to retire, of course. But through his threats, he convinced the Cowboys he did. There was a standoff all offseason as Orton refused to show up to camp, but also refused to pay back the prorated part of his signing bonus if he retired, a little more than $3 million. The Cowboys gave up the fight and released him in July. And voila, Orton was free to sign with any team. He did the veteran thing, skipped training camp and preseason, and has agreed to a one-year deal with a one-year player option with the Buffalo Bills to back up EJ Manuel, Tim Graham of the Buffalo News reported. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football: Sign up and join a league today! ] So Orton got to keep the $3 million he was going to have to pay back if he retired, got to escape Dallas – which, apparently was the goal, considering he was due a $3.25 million base salary from the Cowboys, which isn't bad ... and yes, feel free to make a joke about Orton rather playing for the Bills than the Cowboys – and landed a backup job behind a quarterback who has looked shaky all preseason.  It's probably fair to say Orton won't be asked back for any reunions at Cowboys Stadium by owner Jerry Jones anytime soon. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab





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