Thursday, September 15, 2011

Report: Bills awaiting tests on rookie Dareus' ankle injury

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A person familiar with rookie defensive lineman Marcell Dareus' ankle injury has told The Associated Press that the Buffalo Bills are awaiting tests to determine its severity after the first-round draft pick was hurt in practice.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team hasn't released any information or confirmed Dareus was hurt.

The injury occurred in practice Wednesday, during a portion that is closed to reporters. Dareus was briefly spotted walking on crutches in the locker room after practice.

Dareus was drafted third overall out of Alabama in April and is being counted on to make an immediate impact in improving what was a porous Buffalo defense last year.

The Buffalo News first reported that Dareus hurt his left ankle.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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Croyle signed as Cardinals' backup QB; Hall waived

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals have shored up their depleted quarterback ranks by signing Brodie Croyle, in the process parting ways with Max Hall.

Hall, who partially dislocated his left shoulder in practice on Monday, was waived-injured, a move that could lead to an injury settlement with the second-year quarterback. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said that would allow Hall to be re-signed at some point in the season if the team needs him.

"It's the only way we could potentially get him back," Whisenhunt said. "If we went straight injured reserve, then he wouldn't be able to come back and play for us this year. But the way I understand it, the way the rules work now, is that if we work out a settlement with him in whatever time frame, then we would have an opportunity later in the season to bring him back if we needed that."

The Cardinals also signed veteran punter Dave Zastudil, an indication the team is not satisfied with the performance of Australian Ben Graham, who has held that job for the past two seasons. Graham had a big season in 2009, averaging 47 yards per punt with 42 inside the 20-yard line and 17 inside the 10, and only three touchbacks. Last year, as the team went from 10-6 to 5-11, Graham's average dropped to 43.4 yards with 29 inside the 20 and 12 inside the 10. He had nine touchbacks.

"We weren't as good in a lot of areas last year, and that was definitely one of the areas that we weren't up to our standards," Whisenhunt said. "So that's the reason we have extra guys in camp. We're trying to look at that position and get the best player we can."

Zastudil, who started his pro career with Baltimore, is a 10-year NFL veteran, the last five with Cleveland. He spent last season on injured reserve with a knee injury. Zastudil has a career average of 42.7 yards in 113 games with 179 punts inside the opponent's 20.

Croyle participated in Wednesday morning's walkthrough and is expected to play some in Saturday night's preseason home opener against San Diego, because the only other healthy quarterbacks on the roster are starter Kevin Kolb and Rich Bartel. John Skelton has not practiced all week after spraining an ankle in last weekend's loss at Green Bay.

Croyle was the obvious choice to fill in because he spent the last five seasons in Kansas City, primarily as a backup, the last two under Todd Haley, who was Whisenhunt's offensive coordinator before going to the Chiefs.

"He was with Todd in that system so there's obviously some similarities there," Whisenhunt said. "As far as being able to get him in here in two days and have him potentially ready to play, we felt like that was the best opportunity for us to do that. You figure we've got two games in five days, so it would be very hard to get just any quarterback in here up to speed with the ability play, which could happen in those two games."

Hall, a high school star in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, made the Cardinals' roster as an undrafted rookie out of BYU a year ago, impressing the coaches with his quick grasp of the offense. When starter Derek Anderson faltered, Hall became the starter in week five, helping Arizona upset New Orleans. But he had a bad game the following week at Seattle, then was benched after two passes were returned for touchdowns against Tampa Bay.

Anderson returned, then Hall came back briefly before going down with the same injury he sustained this week. The rookie Skelton started the final four games of the year.

The Cardinals practiced Wednesday afternoon, and have a morning workout Thursday before heading down to the triple-digit heat of the desert.

Kolb said he wants to play into the third quarter against the Chargers, something Whisenhunt said probably would happen.

The Cardinals' new quarterback has been to University of Phoenix Stadium once, when he was a backup for the Eagles in their NFC championship game loss to Arizona in the 2008 season.

"I don't even know how to get out there," he said. "I have to look it up on my phone and get directions."

Kolb wants to use these next two home preseason games to get his pregame routine down.

"Game day you don't want any surprises," he said. "You want to just get there, be in the right mindset, and be ready to roll."

As for excitement in the waning days of camp, there wasn't much, other than Kolb, riding his Segway, narrowly avoiding what could have been a nasty collision with one of the multitude of skunks that roam the area.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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Achilles tear takes Chiefs' Siler out of linebacker competition

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Brandon Siler tore an Achilles' tendon during practice this week and is the latest to join a growing list of NFL players to sustain the season-ending injury.

Siler's agent, David Canter, confirmed the injury in a text message to The Associated Press on Wednesday. He did not know which Achilles was hurt, but said Siler already had surgery to repair it.

"We're both beside ourselves upset," Canter said.

Siler was competing for the middle linebacker spot alongside Derrick Johnson after signing with the Chiefs as a free agent. Siler had looked good throughout fall camp after picking up 44 tackles, one sack and one interception in 12 games with the San Diego Chargers last season.

"I don't really know what happened," said Demorrio Williams, who has been competing with Siler for playing time. "I just saw him land on the ground."

The Chiefs' policy is to not discuss injuries, although they're quickly stacking up.

First-round draft pick Jonathan Baldwin hurt his right thumb in a reported locker room altercation with running back Thomas Jones. Fellow wide receiver Steve Breaston also has missed some practice time, along with offensive linemen Jared Gaither, Ryan O'Callaghan and Darryl Harris, cornerback Brandon Flowers and linebackers Gabe Miller and Eric Bakhtiari.

The Chiefs should be able to withstand the loss of Siler, who could also have contributed to special teams. Jovan Belcher has made 131 tackles while playing significant snaps the past two seasons, and Williams and Cory Greenwood are in the mix.

"I think we have good depth," Johnson said. "It's always tough to lose a linebacker, and it's hard. It's hard. But this is a violent sport."

Siler's injury is the first significant one for the Chiefs, though hardly the first round the league, where some believe the NFL lockout has contributed to more season-ending injuries.

Detroit's second-round draft pick, running back Mikel Leshoure, tore an Achilles tendon earlier in fall camp. Browns punter Reggie Hodges sustained the same injury after he took a snap in the end zone, took one step and dropped like a sack of flour. Philadelphia defensive end Victor Abiamiri and Bengals linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy are among the other players to tear their Achilles.

The lockout wiped out organized team activities and the ability for players to use team facilities during the summer months, which some argue resulted in players arriving at camp out of shape.

Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the players' executive committee, has said he is personally monitoring some of the reported injuries from other training camps. He's also asked trainers to keep him updated on missed practices to determine whether the lockout had any effect.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.

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Colts agree to terms with QB Collins while Manning rehabs

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts are bringing one veteran quarterback out of retirement.

No, not Brett Favre.

The team agreed to terms Wednesday with Kerry Collins, making him the likely starter in case Peyton Manning hasn't completely recovered from offseason neck surgery when the season opens Sept. 11.

Collins said he has been given no indication that Manning won't play at Houston.

Wyche: Collins more than insurance

"Hopefully, Peyton will be back, but if he's not, maybe I can be one of the guys that can help this ballclub," Collins said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday night. "The biggest draw for me coming here was just being with a team that I have a lot of respect for and a lot of history with, and really to be with a great team and play with one of greatest quarterbacks of all time."

Collins agreed to a one-year contract and acknowledged he could be talked into staying longer than 2011.

But not everyone in the Colts' locker room was enamored with the move.

"We don't even know him, we ain't vanilla, man, we ain't no simple offense," wide receiver Reggie Wayne said. "So for him to come in here and be the starter, I don't see it. I think that's a step back."

Collins acknowledged that learning the Colts' offense in such a short time is his biggest challenge in joining the team.

"It's going to be like a foreign language," Collins said. "The concepts may be the same, but they call it something completely different. So that's going to be a challenge, and that's why I need bust my tail, get in the classroom and hopefully I can get to the point where I can get out there and operate the offense efficiently."

Colts coach Jim Caldwell wasn't available to talk with reporters about Collins, but he struck a calm tone in a statement released by the team.

"He is a veteran quarterback who has started many games and he brings dimension and depth to the quarterback position, which will be helpful," Caldwell said. "He is familiar with our division and will make a great addition to our roster."

Yet the move is another indication that Manning's streak of 227 consecutive starts, including playoff games, is in serious jeopardy.

Manning had surgery May 23 to repair a nerve in his neck, and the recovery has gone slower than expected partially, Manning said, because he couldn't work out with team trainers during the 4½-month lockout.

Colts owner Jim Irsay wrote Saturday morning on Twitter that the Colts had to be prepared to play without Manning in the opener against the AFC South rival Texans. Later that day, Manning acknowledged he didn't expect to play in the final two preseason games and that he would need the next two weeks just to get healthy.

Caldwell hasn't said when he expects Manning to return to the field after the quarterback signed a five-year, $90 million contract to stay in Indianapolis last month.

"I think he laid out pretty well where he is, and that he is working extremely hard to try and get back as quickly as he possibly can," Caldwell said Monday. "He's going to work hard at trying to get back and get ready, and he's doing everything he can to do so."

And if he's not ready? Well, there's Collins, who has played in 195 career games with the Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers before retiring in July.

Collins has a career 55.8 completion percentage and has thrown for 40,441 yards, 206 touchdowns and 195 interceptions. As the starter, Collins has led his team to the playoffs four times, including a Super Bowl appearance with the Giants in the 2000 season.

Wayne, a five-time Pro Bowl pick and one of Manning's favorite targets, has supported backup Curtis Painter. And while he called Collins "a great guy," he said he was worried about the Colts improving.

"Who says Kerry's going to be the starter?" Wayne said. "Just because we bring him in doesn't mean he's the starter. He's got to learn too, right? Unless they gave him a playbook months ago, he's got to learn, too.

"I don't care who you are, I mean I'm not going to let anyone just come in here and just push someone (like Painter) aside like you're that dog now, you know what I mean?" Wayne added.

Painter has started both preseason games this year, completing 8 of 16 passes for 95 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. In Friday night's 16-3 loss to the Washington Redskins, Painter managed only one first down and couldn't get the offense past its 29-yard line despite playing the entire first half.

Painter hasn't played in a regular-season game since 2009. Another backup, Dan Orlovsky, has played in 13 games in six NFL seasons, and the other quarterback on the roster is undrafted rookie Mike Hartline.

Michael Conroy / Associated PressKerry Collins started slow in his previous two stops.Collins' first three starts with last two teams

For his part, Painter doesn't expect it to take Collins long to get up to speed.

"He's a veteran guy, been around a while. I'm sure the terminology across the league isn't too different," Painter said. "I expect he'll come in and pick it up quite well."

The good news is that Collins already has some familiarity with the Colts' brain trust.

Colts vice chairman Bill Polian took Collins in the first round of the 1995 draft, No. 5 overall, when he was in charge of the Panthers. And Caldwell was Penn State's passing game coordinator from 1988 to 1992, during part of Collins' college career.

Still, two huge questions remain.

How quickly can the 16-year veteran get up to speed in the offense, which has traditionally relied on calls at the line of scrimmage? And did Collins rediscover his passion for the game in the past seven weeks?

"I have decided that while my desire to compete on Sundays is still and always will be there, my willingness to commit to the preparation necessary to play another season has waned to a level that I feel is no longer adequate to meet the demands of the position," Collins said in announcing his retirement July 7.

Two weeks later, Collins said he had even considered retiring at the end of last season.

Irsay had tweeted to ask for suggestions about signing a veteran free agent and on Sunday said he was in Hattiesburg, Miss., stirring speculation that he might be trying to lure Favre out of retirement (again). Instead, it was Collins.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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Report: Packers RB Grant restructures contract to make roster

Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant has accepted a $1 million reduction in his salary this season in exchange for a guaranteed contract.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday that Grant's agent and the Packers agreed to lower the running back's base pay from $3.5 million to $2.5 million on Aug. 9. That decreased his cap salary from $4.797 million to $3.797 million, giving the Packers $1 million to spend on re-signing other veterans.

The tradeoff for Grant is that his new contract is fully guaranteed against both skill and injury, increasing his chance of making the team's final roster this season.

No other changes were made to the final year of the four-year, $18 million contract that Grant signed in August 2008, according to the newspaper.

Grant, an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame who spent 2005 and 2006 with the New York Giants but never played for the team, rushed for more than 1,200 yards for the Packers in both 2008 and 2009. He was limited to one game for Green Bay last season before suffering ligament damage to his ankle.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Titans, CJ2K meet, but sides remain far apart on new deal

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New Bears wideout Williams bristles when drops brought up

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears brought in Roy Williams hoping he would rediscover his old Pro Bowl form in a familiar system.

It might happen. It hasn't yet.

Then again, the season doesn't start for a few weeks.

Williams played only a few snaps in the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills and wasn't the target of any passes. He had three thrown his way without a catch Monday night in a 41-13 loss to the New York Giants, and two probably could have been completed.

Just don't tell him he had a drop. Williams didn't like that.

"I had a drop? I didn't have a drop," the receiver said Wednesday. "If you want to count it, you can. I think the DB (Aaron Ross) made a great play to knock it out as soon as it got into my hands, so I didn't drop the ball."

Williams was referring to a third-down bobble on Chicago's first possession that was initially ruled a 16-yard completion. The Giants challenged and the call got overturned.

On the Bears' next possession, a high short slant hit off Williams' fingers on third down.

About that, Williams said, "Yeah, I got to catch that ball, man. It's my fault. I'll catch it next time, Coach."

The Bears certainly hope so.

They gave the 6-foot-3 Williams a one-year deal and a chance to redeem himself after a disappointing run in Dallas, signing him late last month a day after the Cowboys released him, and made him their No. 1 receiver while dropping Johnny Knox to No. 2. The hope is he flashes some of the skills that made him a Pro Bowl receiver with Detroit when Mike Martz was his offensive coordinator and that a reunion with receivers coach Darryl Drake provides an extra kick. The two have strong ties dating back to when Drake was on the staff at Texas, and under Martz, Williams had 1,310 yards in 2006.

Drake made one thing clear, though. Williams needs to step up his play.

"He's not where he needs to be, and he knows that," Drake said. "He and I have talked about that, and the good thing about it is you've got Johnny Knox who's fighting and working hard. And believe you me, Roy understands that Johnny's there. Johnny's hungry, and Johnny wants his spot back. If things don't start changing, then Johnny's going to be in there. That's straight from the horse's mouth."

Drops have been a big issue for Williams the past few years, and every time a ball hits off his hands, eyebrows are raised. They were up again on Monday, and Drake wasn't giving any free passes.

He said the first one should have been caught "for sure." And while he praised Ross for knocking the ball out, he blamed Williams for letting him do that.

Drake initially said the slant was uncatchable and that there should have been a pass-interference call. Even so, he put some blame on Williams.

"You've got to beat that," Drake said. "What I told him, he's just got to be more physical with him, get him off your spot and get in there cleaner. Don't allow that guy to get his arm in there and rip you around."

That also has been one of the knocks on Williams -- that he's not physical, that he won't go up and get balls, that he plays small for a receiver who's 6-foot-3.

While he knows the system, he still is settling in.

Veteran free agents couldn't practice until Aug. 4, meaning Williams missed the first week, and he and Cutler are still adjusting to each other. He's also getting into shape -- football shape, that is.

When he made an off-hand remark recently about his conditioning, he was made out to be the next William Perry or a guy who was following The Fridge's regimen.

"My fault, media," Williams said. "I'm a sarcastic guy. I like to smile a lot. So I won't do that anymore."

Cutler said Williams simply needs time and that missing those first few weeks in training camp hurt. Now, he expects to see more from his receiver.

The Bears practiced at Halas Hall for the first time Wednesday after holding training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. They're back at home, back to a more typical routine, preparing for their third preseason game against Tennessee on Saturday.

"I think this week is going to be a good stepping stone for him with us really going through an actual game week -- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday -- and getting all of the details to him and exactly what we want to do out there on Saturday," Cutler said. "In past weeks, in training camp, you kind of just skim over some stuff and you go out there and play, and whatever happens, happens."

Notes: Coach Lovie Smith said LB Lance Briggs (bruised knee) and DT Anthony Adams (calf) will not play Saturday for precautionary reasons and might also miss the final preseason game against Cleveland. Briggs played in the preseason opener but sat out against New York. Adams missed both games. ... CB Zackary Bowman returned to practice Wednesday after sitting out a game because of a head injury.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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