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Former NFL LB Tim Shaw says he has ALSExternal Link

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Former NFL linebacker Tim Shaw has announced that he has ALS.

In a 25-second video posted Tuesday on the Tennessee Titans' web site, the 30-year-old Shaw reveals he was recently diagnosed with ALS and pours a bucket of ice water on his head as part of the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money and awareness to battle the disease.

Shaw then challenges "the Tennessee Titans organization, James Franklin and the Penn State football team and my Clarenceville community" to do the same.

"I'm here today to stand up and fight with all of you against this disease," Shaw says in the video.

Before entering the NFL, Shaw played at Penn State and Clarenceville High School in Livonia, Michigan. He started 32 games at Penn State, where he played running back, middle linebacker, outside linebacker and defensive end.

Shaw was drafted in the fifth round by the Carolina Panthers in 2007. He spent his NFL career with the Panthers (2007), Jacksonville Jaguars (2008), Chicago Bears (2009) and Titans (2010-12). He played in 80 career games.

The Titans named Shaw a special teams captain in 2011 and 2012.

After getting cut by the Titans before the 2013 season, Shaw announced his retirement from football earlier this year.


MSNBC.com | Wed, 20 Aug 2014 01:08:00 +0000
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Rookie Report: QBs make it tough on coachesExternal Link

For the second straight week, the first four quarterbacks selected in May’s draft attempted to push the veteran incumbent out of the starter’s role.

Blake Bortles began the weekend with a bang, while Teddy Bridgewater rebounded nicely from a scatter-brained first effort. Derek Carr looked, well, better than Matt Schaub, while Johnny Manziel, the player with the clearest road to a starting job failed to impress on multiple levels.

Here’s where the Browns, Jaguars, Vikings and Raiders sit after two preseason games.

Browns

Coach Mike Pettine has said all offseason that he planned to pick a starting quarterback before Cleveland’s third preseason game. When asked Monday night about his timeline, Pettine said “all options are on the table.”

It would be hard for Pettine or offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to find any answers mired in Monday’s quarterback quagmire. Neither Manziel nor Hoyer did anything to win the job, with each seemingly saying to the other, “No, you take it,” throughout the first half.

The highlight of Manziel’s night came when he was caught flipping the bird to the Washington sideline after an incompletion late in the third quarter, a moment that lit the hot-take world of Twitter on fire – even though it's largely irrelevant when it comes to his ability to play quarterback.

Manziel was far less headline-worthy with the ball in his hands. Although he finished with better numbers than Hoyer, they were due entirely to extra reps in the second half against Washington’s second- and third-string defense. He was mostly overwhelmed by Washington’s pressure and his play regressed after an uneven, but exciting effort the previous week against Detroit. Thanks to sloppy footwork and hesitation in the pocket, Manziel consistently missed open receivers, particularly throwing behind targets on slants. The two best throws Manziel made both came on a drive that started on his own 1-yard line. After Ben Tate picked up a yard on first down, Manziel remained calm operating in his own end zone, side-stepping pressure and checking the ball down to tight end MarQueis Gray. Seven plays later, the Browns got Manziel out of the pocket on a naked boot to the right, where he hit Andrew Hawkins for an easy 12-yard gain. They weren’t the highlight-reel plays, but they were the kinds of simple throws the Browns will have to rely on if Manziel ends up starting this season.

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The fact that the Browns still don’t know their starting quarterback after Manziel’s effort mostly followed Hoyer’s performance speaks to the level of the veteran’s play. On the first drive of the game, Hoyer gave little hope to fans (or viewers) after a sack, a false start and a throw behind Jordan Cameron put the Browns in 3rd and 21 at their own nine yard line. It was his first of three three-and-outs in four series as Hoyer completed just two passes on the night for an average of 2.7 yards per completion. Although hardly a grizzled vet, Hoyer has enough NFL experience (six seasons) to not be intimidated by the moment, yet he appeared completely overwhelmed and looked nothing like the bright light he appeared to be at times during three appearances last season. His throws were consistently behind receivers and one practically rolled to Hawkins' feet.

Both quarterbacks were done in by the Browns’ short-sighted idea to alternate them every two series Monday. The positions other than quarterback never appeared in sync with either Manziel or Hoyer and the offense didn’t find any semblance of a rhythm until Manziel’s 16-play, 68-yard touchdown midway through the second half. It was a move driven by Pettine’s insistence on picking a starter by the team’s Week 3 game and it led him to make a decision that fit his personal timeline instead of the one best for the team.  Hopeful of installing a starter in time to give the quarterback nearly a full game with the first team, Pettine is now stuck choosing between a rookie who’s not ready and a veteran who hasn’t done anything under this staff to earn the job – at least according to their guidelines.

If the starting quarterback is truly based on game reps, there’s no way Pettine can pick between Manziel or Hoyer without at least one more game. The only deadline now is the season opener against the Steelers on September 7 -- unless Pettine plans to alternate series again.

Jaguars

If there’s been a star born this preseason, it’s Blake Bortles. The UCF product has taken the NFL by storm while playing backup to starter Chad Henne, who has actually played well himself – more on that in a minute.

Bortles entered the NFL as a project who needed at least some time behind a more-experienced passer before taking the reins himself. After chipping away at that logic in his first preseason start, Bortles blew it to hell Thursday night against Chicago. With Twitter playing Flava Flav to Bortles’ Chuck D, Bortles looked extremely comfortable in Jacksonville’s no-huddle scheme and was unafraid of what pressure the Bears managed to generate. My favorite Bortles moment came early in the second quarter.

As soon as Bortles steps to the line, he recognizes that Chicago loaded up to stop the run, putting eight men in the box and leaving single coverage on the outside with a safety high. Bortles audibled out of the play and moved back into the shotgun. When the ball was snapped, he checked his first read to the right, which was blanketed. He then looked off the deep safety before dropping a picture-perfect ball over the shoulder of receiver Kerry Taylor.

It was a perfect example of Bortles being able to diagnose a defense at the line of scrimmage and challenging the defense down the field.

Unfortunately for the Bortles fan club – myself included – the Jaguars are insistent on Henne as the starting quarterback. In his second year in Jedd Fisch’s no-huddle scheme, Henne looks as good as he has since entering the league in 2008. Still just 29 years old, Henne has the big arm that was his biggest attribute coming out of Michigan and could feasibly lead the Jaguars to a respectable season with more talent around him. The problem, though, is that most of the roster surrounding Henne on offense is closer to Bortles’ age and is in no way ready to win more than four to five games this season, despite playing in the weak AFC South.

That doesn’t mean the Jaguars are going to change their view on the non-competition. Coach Gus Bradley said that Bortles will get to play a quarter with the first-string offense against the Lions on Friday, but that has likely more to do with wanting to give Bortles competitive reps in the third preseason game, which is mostly devoted to the first teamers. Barring an injury to Henne, there’s no chance Bortles starts Week 1, even though it’s the better option long term.

Vikings

Similar to the Jaguars, the Vikings have an age vs. youth dilemma. Matt Cassel is the current leader in the QB clubhouse after another strong performance Saturday against the Cardinals. Cassel is an adequate holdover for a team unsure of its rookie QB and can make all the throws necessary in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s west coast system. As an added bonus, Cassel has a strong rapport with tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has slimmed down and figures to be a big part of Minnesota’s passing game regardless of the quarterback. Despite some high praise for Bridgewater in spring OTAs and minicamps, Cassel had clearly been the better immediate option through most of training camp and through the first preseason game against the Raiders -- until Teddy Bridgewater threw a bit of ice water onto the Cassel fire Saturday night.

With the opening-night jitters no longer an issue, Bridgewater displayed the skills that made him the top quarterback prospect in the country last season at Louisville. He was calm under pressure and succeeded in, as Rotoworld’s Josh Norris puts it, winning from the pocket. He made several excellent adjustments and moved to avoid the pressure before resetting his feet and delivering a strike to an open receiver. Playing mostly against twos and threes, Bridgewater stood tall, read the defense and made decisive throws instead of hesitating and taking a hit like he had the week before. The best throw Bridgewater made was also the last. After orchestrating an impressive one-minute (and seven second) drill against an overly-aggressive Cardinals defense, Bridgewater had the Vikings on the the Cardinals' 2-yard line with 22 seconds left and the Vikings down four points -- a field goal will do them no good. Look at what Bridgewater sees when he come to the line of scrimmage.

Just before the snap, Bridgewater is able to see that he's facing a seven-man rush with six in to block -- one rusher will be coming free. He also knows that he'll have single coverage to his right.

When the ball is snapped, the linebacker directly in front of Bridgewater shoots the gap, but, unlike last week, he never hesitates in the face of pressure. He stares down a seven-man rush, knowing he could get drilled, and delivers a perfect fade pass for a touchdown.

Most impressive to me was where Bridgewater places the ball here. On his first drive, Bridgewater had made a similar throw, but the pass fell incomplete after he throw it to the inside shoulder, allowing the cornerback to knock it down. This time, Bridgewater placed the ball so that only the receiver could make a play on it. Yes, it was against the last-string defense, but it was still a sign of a rookie quarterback not backing down against pressure and learning from a mistake in a key moment in the game.

The difference between the Vikings and Jaguars is that unlike Henne, Cassel has yet to officially be named the starter. Bridgewater’s performance Saturday night wasn’t enough to unseat the favorite – and it shouldn’t be given how well Cassel is playing – but it was a strong step in the right direction. Right now, it looks like Cassel’s job to lose, with Bridgewater likely entering the picture before Halloween.

Raiders

Matt Schaub isn’t an NFL quarterback anymore – definitely not a starting one. We already knew this by the end of the 2013 season, but it’s been confirmed through two preseason games. Schaub no longer trusts whatever arm he has left and refuses to throw the ball further than 15 yards downfield. Multiple times Friday night against the Lions, Schaub had the opportunity to test a shaky Detroit secondary but hesitated and either ended up taking a hit, throwing the ball away or dumping it off for a nominal gain. The times when Schaub did attempt a pass, the ball fluttered, especially on passes across his body or outside the numbers. It’s OK when Peyton Manning’s passes flutter because Manning is more accurate and timely than Schaub, who hesitated on far too many throws behind a leaky offensive live.

Playing mostly against backups, Derek Carr was still clearly better than Schaub. His throws outside the numbers were crisper than his veteran counterpart’s and he looked more at ease in an NFL pocket. That said, Carr’s footwork is still sloppy and he throws off his back foot far too much, especially when under duress. He also took too many hits, one of which concussed the rookie and forced him to exit the game in the fourth quarter.

Carr’s best throw of the night was a perfect example of both his positives and his faults. With 2:56 left in the third quarter, Carr took a seven-step drop, looked off his first read to the left before quickly shifting his eyes right and lofting one to a wide-open Greg Little 38 yards down the field. The ball was slightly underthrown, which caused Little to tumble while adjusting to make the catch. But take a look at Carr's body position and footwork before the throw.

Carr's weight is completely on his back leg and even though he's under pressure, he has enough room to step into the throw. Instead, Carr doesn't transfer his weight forward and throws off his back foot, 40-plus yards down the field. It's an incredible display of Carr's arm strength and it's impressive that the ball nearly landed on target. However, if the ball is out in front, Little walks into the end zone. (Disclosure: Carr ended up throwing a TD pass a few plays later, so I know I'm nit-picking to a degree, but I just wanted to use this as an example of things that can hold him back at other times.)

None of this is to say Carr is ready to start. He’s not, but he’s a better option than the utterly-predictable Schaub, who limits what the Raiders can do on offense. With Schaub in the game, defenses will crowd the line of scrimmage, stop the run and dare Schaub to beat them over the top. Carr at least provides energy and makes one aspect of the Raiders offense dynamic. Of course, coach Dennis Allen doesn’t seem to understand this, which is why he’ll probably be the first coach looking for work this season.

Corey Griffin is an editor and writer for NBCSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyGriffinNBC.


MSNBC.com | Tue, 19 Aug 2014 05:58:49 +0000
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Ohio State: Injured QB Miller done for the seasonExternal Link

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Ohio State star quarterback Braxton Miller will miss the 2014 season, dealing a severe blow to the fifth-ranked Buckeyes' national title hopes.

Ohio State confirmed late Tuesday afternoon that Miller reinjured his throwing shoulder and will need surgery. The two-time Big Ten player of the year left practice in pain Monday after making a short throw.

"My goal is to come back from this injury stronger and better than ever," Miller said in a statement.

It's a huge blow to a team considered to be one of the best in the Big Ten and the country, one which already has several major holes to fill on offense.

"My thoughts and prayers are with Braxton and his family," Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said. "This is an unfortunate injury to a young man who means so much to this program."

The senior and three-year starter partially tore the labrum in his right shoulder in a loss to Clemson at the Orange Bowl. He had surgery, did not face contact in spring practice and was held out of several practices this month due to soreness.

Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett is Miller's top backup and will likely be the starter in the Aug. 30 opener against Navy in Baltimore.

Miller said he was on schedule to graduate with a degree in Communications in December and that he also wanted to attend graduate school, "and then return to lead the Buckeyes next season."

Miller's options would include taking a medical redshirt and returning to Ohio State for one more season in 2015, or rehabbing the injury and making himself available for the NFL draft in the spring. He toyed with the idea of turning pro last spring but decided against it because of the shoulder surgery might hurt him with pro teams.

With a schedule that includes games at defending Big Ten champion Michigan State on Nov. 8, at Penn State on Oct. 25 and a Sept. 6 date at home against Virginia Tech, the Buckeyes are suddenly confronted by a lot of question marks.

Miller's injury in Monday's practice, first reported by The Columbus Dispatch, came on a routine, unrushed rollout pass. Miller reportedly left the field after screaming in pain but was upbeat later while getting his shoulder iced. He had his arm in a sling on Monday night.

Miller is one of the Big Ten's most decorated quarterbacks, and the falloff in experience compared to his backups is huge.

He has thrown 666 passes in his glittering three-year career, starting as a freshman. Barrett has never played in a game, and sophomore Cardale Jones threw his only two collegiate passes during a 56-0 rout of Purdue.

Miller has also run for 32 touchdowns and passed for 52, putting him in reach of many of Ohio State's career records at his position.

Barrett was an acclaimed four-star recruit out of Wichita Falls, Texas, who watched with Jones last year as Miller took most of the snaps in the Buckeyes' 12-2 season. When Miller was hurt for most of the San Diego State, California and Florida A&M games with a sprained knee, senior Kenny Guiton had big games while leading Ohio State to victories.

The Buckeyes are also replacing four of their five starting offensive linemen, their leading receiver (Corey Brown) and 1,500-yard rusher Carlos Hyde from last year's 11-2 team.

Barrett completed 17 of 33 passes for 151 yards with no interceptions and no touchdowns in Ohio State's annual spring intrasquad scrimmage. Because of Miller's problems with his shoulder, Barrett has gotten a lot of practice time with the Buckeyes' first-team offense in the spring and in recent weeks.

Miller hurt originally hurt his shoulder on the first possession against Clemson in the Orange Bowl, but played the rest of the way in the 40-35 loss. Soon after the injury was discovered, he had surgery in February.

Ohio State said at the time that Miller had "minor, outpatient surgery." But he has had problems with the shoulder since.

Still, he has repeatedly said he would be ready to go in the opener, and did so again between practices on Monday. His workload had been reduced to avoid any ongoing soreness in the arm.

At the Buckeyes' media day, Miller said his arm felt good and he was able to throw as much as he liked.

The injury is perhaps the most crippling at Ohio State since tailback Keith Byars was second to Doug Flutie in the Heisman Trophy race in 1985 but then missed almost all of the following season with a broken bone in his foot.


MSNBC.com | Tue, 19 Aug 2014 22:06:00 +0000
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Browns not ready to name starting quarterbackExternal Link

CLEVELAND (AP) This summer saga, packed with drama, celebrity and clumsiness, isn't quite over for the Browns.

Hoyer vs. Manziel marches on.

Cleveland first-year coach Mike Pettine still hasn't chosen his Week 1 starting quarterback, and that's not his fault. Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel haven't convinced him - or anyone, really - that they deserve the job.

Pettine had been expected to announce during a teleconference on Tuesday whether Hoyer, the inexperienced veteran and hometown hero coming back from knee surgery, or Manziel, the hyped rookie and former Heisman Trophy winner, would start the Sept. 7 opener at Pittsburgh.

But the decision has been delayed and it could carry through Cleveland's third preseason game on Saturday.

Pettine said Cleveland's coaching staff will meet Wednesday night and could then choose a starter. Maybe.

"We're not in position to make it at this point in time," Pettine said of an announcement many Browns fans have been anxiously awaiting for months. "We'll decide later if we're ready to name a starter. We could have one named, and I'm not ruling that out. That's something we're going to discuss. And if we do have to wait until after the next game, so be it.

"We're going to weigh everybody's opinion. I'm very clearly on record: I would like to make a decision, and that's still very much a possibility."

Pettine reiterated that "all options are on the table," meaning he could name Hoyer or Manziel or push a decision back until after the Browns host the St. Louis Rams in their third exhibition.

Pettine's choice grew much tougher after Hoyer and Manziel both played poorly in a 24-23 exhibition loss at Washington on Monday night.

Hoyer started and missed wide-open receivers and appeared to be buckling under the pressure of not being able to put an end to his competition with Manziel.

Hoyer finished 2 of 6 for 16 yards, hardly the numbers he needed to solidify starting.

"It was embarrassing," Hoyer said.

Manziel's most memorable moment may have been when he made an obscene gesture toward the Redskins' sideline, an act Pettine called "extremely disappointing" and will likely result in a fine from the NFL. When he was only using his right hand to throw, Manziel completed 7 of 16 passes for 65 yards one touchdown, which came against Washington's backups.

Pettine said the quarterbacks weren't the only ones who had unsatisfactory games.

"There were a lot of guys that had some plays they'd want to take back," he said. "I just think it was overall inconsistency on the offense. It's hard for a quarterback to look good when the guys around them aren't playing well."

As for Manziel getting caught on national TV flashing his middle finger at the Redskins, Pettine said that behavior - as well as the 21-year-old's other offseason conduct - will be factored into the decision on a starter.

"We'll take into account all things quarterbacks A to Z," Pettine said. "So it's body of work, it's everything from the time they set foot in the building back in the spring up until today."

Manziel said he was taunted by Redskins players and he responded not realizing the world was watching. Following the game, Manziel acknowledged "I should've been smarter."

Pettine has preached to his players about staying poised and Manziel didn't show any in responding to the trash talk he was hearing from Washington's defenders and bench.

"We talk about `Play like a Brown,"' Pettine said. "We want our guys to act like a Brown and we want this to be a first-class organization. We have hundreds, thousands of kids come to our training camp practices and look up to our players and that type of behavior is unacceptable.

"It's something that's part of football that you have to maintain your poise and your composure, especially at that position and he should know better than anyone that all eyes are on him. I know it's something that will be addressed by the league and will be addressed internally."

Pettine, maybe more than anyone, wants the QB competition - and ceaseless discussion - to end. But he won't stop it until he's certain he's chosen the right quarterback to lead the Browns into Heinz Field in a few weeks. He knows the longer it goes, the harder it will be for Cleveland's struggling offense to build momentum.

"We want to get the decision right so that might be the risk-reward with it," he said. "If we want to make sure that we are diligent with it and do the right thing, then I don't want to rush it and make it for the sake of making it. Then, you're risking the chemistry and the cohesion if you have the wrong guy there.

"There is a decent amount of time left still until Pittsburgh. These were under ideal circumstances that we could name this week, and again, I'm not ruling that out."


MSNBC.com | Tue, 19 Aug 2014 22:50:00 +0000
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Djokovic, Federer seeded 1-2 at U.S. OpenExternal Link

NEW YORK -- Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is seeded No. 1 for the U.S. Open, and five-time champion Roger Federer is No. 2, meaning they could meet only in the final.

Djokovic beat Federer for the title at Wimbledon last month.

The U.S. Tennis Association followed this week's ATP rankings in announcing the seedings Tuesday.

Federer moved up one spot from his No. 3 ranking because 2013 champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from the year's last Grand Slam tournament with an injured right wrist. The 33-year-old Federer is seeded at the U.S. Open for the 14th consecutive year, tied with Ivan Lendl for the longest streak, trailing only Jimmy Connors' record of 18.

Federer won the hard-court tournament every year from 2004-08, part of his record 17 Grand Slam titles.

Djokovic has played in the last four finals at Flushing Meadows, winning the title in 2011. He lost to Nadal in 2010 and last year, and to Andy Murray in 2012.

Murray is seeded eighth this year. Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka is No. 3, followed by David Ferrer, Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov.

The women's seedings will be announced Wednesday, and the draw is Thursday.

The tournament starts Monday.


MSNBC.com | Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:18:00 +0000
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