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Hardy, Haley huddle should continue

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The Sports Xchange

It was hardly surprising when sources told The Sports Xchange Wednesday that Hall of Fame defensive lineman Charles Haley met with Dallas Cowboys perpetual tantrum, Greg Hardy.

They talked for almost a half an hour behind closed doors Wednesday and then hugged it out afterward. It wasn’t their first meeting. It should not be their last.

Owner Jerry Jones should hire Haley to deal with the Hardy situation before it gets worse.

Haley has been there, done that. And now he is proud of more than his record five Super Bowl rings or even that new gold coat from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hardy could take lessons from Haley, the former San Francisco 49ers and Cowboys defender whose rages once made him feared by players on his own team. Watching Hardy called up memories of Haley’s rants as a player.

There was an infamous moment that the great Ronnie Lott, then with the Oakland Raiders, was summoned from his locker room to deal with Haley, then Lott’s former teammate, during one of his rages with the 49ers.

It wasn’t easy, but Haley eventually dealt with those personal demons and the underlying medical issues that caused them with the same commitment that made him one of the best players in NFL history.

Against all odds, Haley now mentors youth and volunteers for organizations that help others. Sounds like he is made for this job.

In Oakland, the Raiders are not bragging, but they have not endured similar issues with outside linebacker Aldon Smith, whose repeated off-field problems led to his being cut by the cross-bay 49ers.

That was a remarkable action considering Smith had 44 sacks in only 50 NFL games, an unprecedented pace.

Smith has not regained that momentum, but he is playing better every week on a defense that is doing the same in Oakland. And he apparently is taking care of life off the field.

Smith still has a pre-trial conference set for Nov. 4 regarding his latest run-in that caused his release from the 49ers — suspicion of DUI, hit-and-run and vandalism. He could be subject to NFL discipline at some point.

General manager Reggie McKenzie said Wednesday he feels good about the situation.

“Going in, we did a lot of research, so at the end of the day when we say we’re going to go ahead and go after him, we just wanted him to join the family and help him every way we can. That’s what we’re doing,” McKenzie said.

Asked if Smith fit in to the Raiders’ long-term plans, McKenzie replied in the affirmative and said he thought Smith was starting to come around after missing training camp.

“He spent some time getting his legs back, but he’s definitely a good player for us now,” McKenzie said. “It may not add up in the stat sheet, but it’s like Khalil Mack last year, ‘X’ amount of sacks but a lot of disruption. The number is going to come, the flash plays are going to come.”

Smith signed a one-year contract worth up to $8 million including game day roster bonuses and other incentives.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

–When Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw during Wednesday’s practice for the first time since Week 1, head coach Gary Kubiak opted to have him get the extra work because of the rest afforded by the bye.

Of course it had nothing to do with the fact that the Broncos are at Green Bay Sunday night. Nah.

–Twisted logic: Coaches usually don’t want to see their offensive linemen downfield, picking up 15-yard penalties for unnecessary roughness. But Andy Reid appeared to have no problem with the penalty his left tackle Eric Fisher picked up last Sunday against Pittsburgh.

Fisher went after a Pittsburgh defender at the end of a 7-yard run by Charcandrick West. There appeared to be an attempt to unscrew the running back’s leg like one might a peanut butter jar.

“Listen, we don’t want the penalty, that’s not what we want, we want to stay disciplined,” Reid said. “But at the same time, the guy was twisting Charcandrick’s leg right in front of the official, so somebody has to do something about it.

“He probably could have handled it different, but at the same time, you’re going to stick up for your guys. You’re going to try to tweak the ankle of one of our guys, we better be coming to the rescue as an offensive linemen. I was proud of him for that.”

Moreover. . . .

With prolific running back Jamaal Charles lost for the 2015 season with a ruptured right ACL, West, from Abilene Christian University, becomes a key weapon for the Chiefs.

He was last weekend’s most unexpected NFL star, running for 110 yards and a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, a big part of ending the Chiefs five-game losing streak.

West entered the league an undrafted college free agent last year and spent nine weeks on the practice squad, was promoted to the active roster and finished the 2014 season as part of the 53-man list.

West’s 110-yard game was notable for several reasons. Among them: In the first seven weeks of the 2015 season 30 running backs reached the 100 yard mark a total of 48 times. In comparison, there have been 87 games where a receiver has passed 100 yards and 54 games where a quarterback has thrown for 300 yards or more

–The Rams have remade a former first-round pick.

Mark Barron, Tampa Bay’s No. 7 overall draftee as a safety in 2012, is making an impact with Rams — as a linebacker.

That’s the move to make when a player appears to have instincts, likes to hit, but the whispers say he can’t cover. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams figured that out after Williams arrived midseason last year. In only nine games, Barron had 3.0 sacks and some other impressive hits.

Now Barron is not a problem, but a problem-solver who eliminates matchup challenges that usually require multiple situation substitutions. Said Williams: “Nobody should count him out on anything. As our multiple safeties, when you bring a nickel or a corner into the game to play nickel or you bring a safety into the game to play nickel and you bring a safety into the game to play in the box, that person that’s coming in in substitution is playing the linebacker position. He’s done that since he walked in the door here.”

OK, a bounty for anybody who can decipher that.

–The brand on Marshall.

It has taken the New York Jets just seven weeks to get the whole Brandon Marshall experience — from his All-Pro level play to the stupid mistakes on and off the field that mar his career.

Still, the talented wide receiver is on pace for 104 catches and the team record is 93 receptions, set by Al Toon in 1988; and for 1,541 receiving yards, which would shatter the previous Jets high of 1,434, set by Hall of Famer Don Maynard in 1967.

But his mistakes have arguably kept the Jets from being 6-0. In the 24-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 24, Marshall committed what he called “the worst play in NFL history” when his lateral was recovered by the Eagles, who went on to score a touchdown.

–No snap decision.

Nick Mangold, the Jets’ starting center for the past 10 seasons, didn’t practice Wednesday after suffering a scary neck injury in the final minute of Sunday’s 30-23 loss to the New England Patriots. Mangold is listed as questionable and head coach Todd Bowles said he could play without practicing this week.

Mangold missed just three games since the Jets selected him in the first round of the 2006 draft. In his own uniquely direct way, Bowles acknowledged there’d be a step down from Mangold to a combination of Dozier/Johnson.

“Obviously, they’re not Mangold or they’d be in front of him,” Bowles said. “I’m confident these guys can go in and do their job and play.”

QUOTES TO NOTE

–“They believe in him. They know he’s the leader of the football team. They’re also smart enough to know the things he’s done that have a lot to do with why we’re 6-0, too. If we don’t go down the field in Kansas City, we get beat there. If we don’t go down the field at the end of the game against Baltimore, if we don’t do the same thing against Minnesota — so our players know that.” — Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, on how Peyton Manning is perceived in the locker room.

–“I think our quarterback is playing well. I have been pleased with Sam, very pleased with Sam.” — Eagles coach Chip Kelly on quarterback Sam Bradford, who is 29th in the league in passing and has thrown a league-high 10 interceptions, although Kelly qualified his logic by mentioning mitigating factors such as 28 dropped passes.

–“The expectation is to go out there and win games. We’re not looking for style points. We’re just trying to win football games. That’s all that matters.” — Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey on whether the offense can pick up Sunday against Cincinnati where it left off before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was injured.

–“I’ve probably played on worse fields. We play in the Chicagos of the world. They’re not really great, so I’m not really worried about the field.” — Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson when asked if he is worried about the field conditions at London’s Wembley Stadium Sunday.

–“What the perspective is outside the locker room really has nothing to do with me or this team.” — 49ers Colin Kaepernick, on the reports of a frigid relationship between the quarterback and his teammates.

BY THE NUMBERS

–0: Players on the Kansas City Chiefs roster who took part in an NFL game outside the United States, which the Chiefs do Sunday in London against the Detroit Lions. So that means when 6-foot-2, 350-pound Dontari Poe gets his first TSA frisk, he better not be ticklish.

–1.5: Amount of sacks Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt needs to tie and 2.0 to pass DeMarcus Ware for the third-most career sacks in a player’s first five seasons of his NFL career.

–2: Number of touchdowns the St. Louis Rams defense allowed in three home games. Overall, the Rams’ defense allowed eight touchdowns, best in the league. Denver allowed nine. Of the 11 total touchdowns scored by the Rams’ opponents, three were rushing, five passing and three on returns.

–2: Victories by the Browns in their last 12 games dating back to last season. Yeah, don’t need to take off the shoes to count wins yet.

–2.8: DeMarco Murray’s yards-per-carry average on first down in the Philadelphia Eagles’ first seven games. He has rushed for just 147 yards on 53 first-down carries. Let’s see, at $42 million over five years, that would be, oops the abacus melted.

–5: Consecutive losses for the Tennessee Titans. It is the fifth consecutive season that a Ken Whisenhunt-coached team lost at least five games in a row.

–6: The number of 100-yard receiving games for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin in his career against the St. Louis Rams, his most against any single opponent.

–9.4: Yards per reception by Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate this season, the lowest mark of his career. Unless he improves, Tate’s NFL highlight may be destined to be his 2012 Fail Mary catch, a 24-yard jump ball touchdown pass from Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson which, with the help of a PAT, gave the Green Bay Packers a 14-12 victory and is considered to be the reason the NFL ended the strike that necessitated non-union officials.

–10: Kickers used by the Saints in the regular season since Sean Payton took over in 2006. Kai Forbath made his debut in Week 7 following Zach Hocker, Shayne Graham, Garrett Hartley, John Kasay, Martin Gramatica, Olindo Mare, Taylor Mehlhaff, Billy Cundiff and John Carney.

–15: The Indianapolis Colts will be playing their 15th Monday night game since the start of the 2004 regular season. Indianapolis has a 9-5 record in Monday Night Football broadcasts.

–20-6: The Denver Broncos’ all-time record after the bye, which includes five consecutive wins and a 10-2 mark since 2003.

–47: The number of games the Raiders played since their last two-game win streak on Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 against Jacksonville and Kansas City. Raiders fans need to enjoy as much as possible before those moving vans pack up for SoCal.

–114: Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s passer rating on third downs, ranking him fourth in the league, one spot behind Tom Brady. To fully appreciate that, or anything Cutler does under pressure, remember that he is a diabetic. Consider that before criticizing his play next time.

–150: Number of receptions for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell in 33 career games. Bell is already fifth in franchise history in receptions for a running back and needs 157 more to own the record for most receptions by a back in team history. Franco Harris holds the record with 306. No that DOES NOT count the Immaculate Reception, the only touchdown among 51 post-season catches by Harris.

–936: The Buffalo Bills’ all-time winning percentage (134-14-1) in games they score at least 31 points. However, two of the 14 losses were this season, in Week 2 against the New England Patriots, and Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. And that may be the only time the Jags and Pats belong in the same sentence.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH THIS WEEK

–Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers vs. the Denver Broncos’ defense and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning vs. the Packers’ defense.

That’s the real matchup, great quarterbacks against outstanding defenses. It is not Rodgers vs. Manning, as NBC will surely advertise for the SNF thriller.

–Oakland Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper vs. New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis

Cooper gained more than 300 of his rookie-leading total of 519 yards after the catch. He comes into this game fresh off a 52 yard touchdown burst with a bubble screen against San Diego for a touchdown. The key may not be whether Revis can cover Cooper, but if he can tackle the rookie after a catch. Revis was burned badly on Sunday against the New England Patriots, but was spared when a wide-open Danny Amendola dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone.

However this turns out, it could be a classic. Think 10 years from now when somebody will say, “Wow, did you know that Derrelle Revis played against Amari Cooper?” At that point, Revis should be in the Hall of Fame and Cooper still piling up stats to join him some day.

–St. Louis Rams running back Todd Gurley vs. San Francisco 49ers linebackers.

San Francisco inside linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch will be tasked with getting Gurley down when he gets through defensive line. The rookie runner has gained 146, 159 and 128 in his last three games. Bowman ranks second in the league in tackles.

Commonality here is that Bowman famously came back from a horrific knee injury in 2013 and is not quite what he once was. Gurley was drafted in the first round despite a knee injury last year that required major surgery. He is just beginning to show his ample talent.

–Titans guard Chance Warmack vs. Houston Texans mauler J.J. Watt.

Watt will line up all over the D-line, looking for the best matchup to exploit. Warmack has been a bit inconsistent and needs to come up big Sunday in order to help protect his quarterback.

Hey, no pressure Warmack. If injured rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota starts, Watt will help school him on the real meaning of the term quick release.

— Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Material in this report was contributed by The Sports Xchange NFL network of reporters.


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