Kenny Stills

NFL Notes: Texans LB Brian Cushing suspended 10 games for PEDs

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NFL Notes: Texans LB Brian Cushing suspended 10 games for PEDs

Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing has been suspended for 10 games by the NFL for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.

It's the second time Cushing has been suspended; he missed four games in 2010 under the same policy, testing positive for a fertility drug. Cushing had won 2009 Defensive Rookie of the Year, an honor which was jeopardized by the suspension. He kept the award after a revote by The Associated Press' awards panel.

Currently in the NFL's concussion protocol after being injured in Houston's opening loss to Jacksonville, Cushing will be eligible to return on Nov. 28.

Cushing has had a checkered career since his sensational rookie season. Injuries curtailed the 2012 and `13 seasons, when he got into a total of 12 games. He's never come close to matching his first-year production of 86 tackles, 47 assists, four sacks, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 10 passes defensed.

The 2009 defensive rookie revote came after Cushing tested positive for HCG, a fertility drug that is on the NFL's banned substance list. He had one positive test from a urine sample taken in September 2009, then subsequently tested negative several times (see full story).

Cowboys: NFL trying to speed appeal over blocked Elliott ban
FRISCO, Texas -- The NFL is trying to accelerate the timeline in its appeal of a federal judge's injunction that blocked Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension over a domestic violence case.

The NFL quickly answered a filing from Elliott's attorneys Wednesday, telling U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant that the league would immediately go to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans if he didn't rule on its request for a stay of his injunction by Thursday.

The legal maneuverings are unlikely to keep last year's NFL rushing leader from playing Sunday at Denver. He had already been cleared to play in a season-opening win over the New York Giants before Mazzant granted his request for an injunction.

The NFL had until Friday to respond to arguments from Elliott's camp against Mazzant rescinding his own order blocking the suspension. In that scenario, Mazzant wouldn't have ruled until next week (see full story).

Dolphins: Stills calls for athletes to support Kaepernick
OXNARD, Calif. -- Kenny Stills wants to know why more athletes aren't standing with Colin Kaepernick.

The Miami Dolphins receiver has restated his questions from a series of tweets Tuesday questioning the support across sports for Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback currently out of football after his protests during the national anthem last season.

"I just feel like the league, it's majority African-American, and you would think more people would come to have one of our guys' back," Stills said Wednesday.

"We talk about the NFL being a brotherhood," Stills added. "They give us this presentation every year about the NFL being a brotherhood, and (if) something wrong is going on to one of your brothers, I feel like we should be there to have his back and speak up for him."

Stills spoke after practice in Oxnard, where the Dolphins are spending the week ahead of Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers. They traveled to the West Coast early due to Hurricane Irma's devastation of South Florida.

Kaepernick spoke up against police abuses and racial injustices last season, sparking many players to join him in activism. Those players included Stills, who knelt during the national anthem along with three teammates.

Stills had previously said he won't take a knee this year, but said Wednesday that he might re-evaluate his plans.

Giants: Manning not worried about offense
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Fourteen seasons in the NFL have taught Eli Manning not to make too much of one game.

Sure, the New York Giants' offense was pathetic in a season-opening 19-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

The statistics screamed bad game: three points, 233 total yards, 35 on the ground, 53 total plays, just under 26 minutes of possession, three sacks. It was awful, and even missing leading receiver Odell Beckham Jr. with a sprained ankle was no excuse for such a performance.

There was blame to go around a couple of times, from the offensive line to the wideouts who could not get open.

Manning was quick to answer when asked if he was worried about the offense, which also struggled last season despite an 11-5 record.

"First game," the two-time Super Bowl MVP said. "Guys were playing fast, got some good guys out there, some new bodies. So, we'll bounce back. We'll be fine. We just have to slow down, everybody take a breath and just run the plays the way we've been running them all spring and all summer."

Chiefs: Smith shrugs off win, turns focus to Eagles
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A year ago, all four of Kansas City's regular-season losses came after big wins. Big wins like the Chiefs' rout of New England last week to open their season.

Two of those losses came at Arrowhead Stadium, which will be the site of Sunday's game against Philadelphia. The Eagles opened their season with a 30-17 win over Washington.

For quarterback Alex Smith, word that he was the AFC's offensive player of the week after the upset of the Patriots brought only a brief smile.

"I just think that if you play long enough you realize how quick things can change," Smith said Wednesday. "One week everybody's raving about you and how quickly it can flip if you drink the Kool-Aid."

Smith finished the opener 28-of-35 passing for 368 yards and four touchdowns, but that's old news to him and the rest of the Chiefs.

"Certainly it's nice but at this point I feel like preparations are already begun on the Eagles," he said. "I've certainly seen teams where they play really good and they're feel so good about themselves and walk into the next week and get smacked in the mouth."

Vikings: Captain Bradford now comfortable as leader 
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Sam Bradford has been named one of the Minnesota Vikings' captains, an obviously natural selection as the quarterback.

This is the first time for Bradford serving in that role on the field since 2013 with St. Louis, though, thanks to an injury and two trades. Finally settled after that whirlwind season in 2016 for the Vikings, Bradford has the comfort in his surroundings to help foster the high level of leadership that his position demands.

"It means a lot, and I take a lot of pride in it," Bradford said. "I think there's a lot of responsibility that comes with that and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure to live up to that."

The 29-year-old's performance in the opener Monday against New Orleans sure looked like that of the franchise player.

"I said this offseason that this would be a big year for Sam," said tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught one of the three touchdown passes. "I wasn't surprised."

The first pick in the 2010 draft by St. Louis, Bradford never truly found his footing there with some weak supporting casts and major injuries that squelched his progress. He didn't play in his final season with the Rams because of a torn ACL in his right knee for a second straight year. Then he was dealt to Philadelphia in 2015 and to Minnesota in 2016. Setting the NFL record for completion percentage last season was quite the accomplishment considering he arrived eight days before the opener.

Redskins: Cousins aims to rebound vs. mentor
ASHBURN, Va. -- When Sean McVay left the Washington Redskins to coach the Los Angeles Rams, Kirk Cousins signed a jersey for him with a poignant message.

"I owe you my career."

During McVay's three seasons as offensive coordinator and two as play-caller, Cousins became a full-time NFL starting quarterback and set and broke the franchise record for passing yards. Now Cousins is trying to rebound from a rough season opener against one of the coaches who knows him the best.

"There is a familiarity there and that does present a challenge, as you'd imagine, with knowing what makes the offense go, not only the scheme but the personnel, and so we've got to be aware of that and plan accordingly," Cousins said Wednesday. "If we can run our plays very detailed and be disciplined in the way we execute, usually that can overcome familiarity. But certainly if we don't execute well, it certainly gives them the opportunity to capitalize."

Last week in an opening home loss to the Eagles, Cousins was 20 of 43 for 240 yards with a touchdown, an interception and two fumbles. The interception at the goal line was a turning point in the game, and his sack-fumble that was returned for a touchdown essentially ended it.

Cousins said if McVay were still around he'd have the same advice as coach Jay Gruden, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell. But McVay also was always the coach who told Cousins in good times and bad: "I believe in you."

Ronald Darby stresses short memory: 'You're going to lose some battles'

Ronald Darby stresses short memory: 'You're going to lose some battles'

Sitting in the corner of his locker stall late in the evening after Thursday's game, Ronald Darby helped finish a reporter's sentence. 

We always hear the most important part of being a cornerback is ...

"Short memory," Darby interjected, nodding his head. 

After pulling in an interception in his Eagles debut last week, Thursday night against the Dolphins wasn't Darby's best showing. Now comes the important part. He has to forget and move on. 

"I critique myself a lot," Darby said. "But I've been doing this a while and you have to have a short memory. You're going to lose some battles, but my goal is to always win most of them. At the end of the day, I want to win more than I lose."

The problem for cornerbacks is that even if they win more battles than they lose, one or two plays can ruin a game. That's what happened to Darby on Thursday night. He was responsible for two big plays from the Dolphins that led almost directly to 14 points. 

In the two weeks Darby has been with the Eagles, his aggressiveness has been pretty obvious. He's not on the field to tackle receivers after they catch balls in front of him. He wants to make plays. 

And even when he gives one up, he claims that aggressiveness won't waver. 

"When I get beat, I try to just come back and play harder," Darby said. "Make every catch after that harder to catch on me. I just compete at the end of the day. You ain't going to be perfect. It's football. And once you understand that, you can go out and play freer." 

In the first quarter Thursday night, Darby lost in a 1-on-1 battle to DeVante Parker, who is four inches taller. On that play, the Eagles' newest cornerback, who came to them in a trade on Aug. 11, had pretty tight coverage. But he mistimed his jump and Parker was able to pluck the ball out of the air before turning and running for a 72-yard gain. Jay Ajayi punched in a two-yard touchdown on the next play. 

"It was just a good throw and catch," said Darby, who admitted that he should have been able to make the play. "I'm going to watch film, critique myself and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Then, on the first play of the second quarter, Darby gave up another big gain. This time, he was called for a defensive pass interference that gave the Dolphins 42 yards and set up a one-yard touchdown pass. Darby was covering Kenny Stills, who beat him on a double move. 

Darby used his 4.3 speed to recover, but placed his hand on Stills' shoulder as he tried to make a play on the ball. 

"I got there," he said. "I had in my mind, once I get there, I'm just going to go up, play the ball. I could have been a little more patient. I tried to jump around him to read the ball. I didn't really try to yank him. It was just that hand being on him that caused it."   

Maybe it's unfair to treat Darby like some sort of savior. After all, this is just his third NFL season and he's been good in the league; not great. But based on what the Eagles had at cornerback before his arrival, it's hard to not treat him like the man. For this team, he needs to be. 

In the first two years of his career, Darby lined up on the opposite side of Stephon Gilmore, who was a Pro Bowler in 2016 and signed a $65 million contract this offseason. The two remain close and talk daily. 

But this season, Darby has a chance to step out of Gilmore's shadow. For the first time in his career, he's the unquestioned best cornerback on his team. A lot of times, that means traveling to face top-tier receivers ... and the Eagles will face plenty of them in 2017. 

Darby doesn't know if he'll travel to face guys like Odell Beckham Jr. or Dez Bryant or Terrelle Pryor. All he knows is that if that's his job, he's ready for the challenge. 

"If you want to get that label as a lockdown corner, yeah," he said. "I'm not afraid to lose battles. At the end of the day, my goal is to make more [plays] than I lose."

He's not going to win all the time. Knowing that is half the battle; the other half is forgetting. 

Eagles-Dolphins practice 10 observations: Alshon Jeffery's big day

Eagles-Dolphins practice 10 observations: Alshon Jeffery's big day

Training camp is technically over, but the Dolphins are in town for two joint practices before Thursday's preseason game at the Linc.

The Eagles and Dolphins held a lengthy pre-solar eclipse practice under the full power of the sun on Monday morning into the afternoon.

Here are 10 observations from the joint session:

1. *Clears throat* injuries: Brandon Graham and Jordan Hicks left early on Monday. No word about Hicks yet, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Graham suffered a strained tricep that wasn't considered serious. With Graham inside, rookie Derek Barnett took first-team reps at left defensive end. And second-year player Joe Walker filled in for Hicks because Najee Goode wasn't practicing, either.

Barnett returned to practice on Monday after missing Sunday with what Doug Pederson called a "lower-body injury."

2. Plenty of notable folks came out to watch practice today: Charles Barkley, Marvin Harrison, Freddie Mitchell, Stephen Tulloch.

Tulloch, who spent last season with the Eagles, retired this offseason. He's enjoying his retirement but was happy to check out practice on Monday. He owes a lot to Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Dolphins DC Matt Burke, the latter of whom was with Tulloch in Tennessee and Detroit also.

3. Carson Wentz got a ton of reps on Monday because the Dolphins didn't come all the way here to practice against themselves. He went to Alshon Jeffery a ton on Monday during 11-on-11s and 7-on-7s. Jeffery had one of his best days of the summer.

"He's very physical," Byron Maxwell said. "Getting off the line, you definitely need that too. Philadelphia, they've got three different receivers that can do different things. You've got [Torrey Smith] that can take you deep. Jeffery is a guy that can use his body well."

The best ball Wentz threw all day, though, came on a deep pass to Torrey Smith, who beat old friend Maxwell for a touchdown.

A couple plays later, Wentz hit Jeffery for a touchdown after Maxwell was beaten again. On that one, it looked like Maxwell might have expected safety help that never came.

4. Maxwell and Kiko Alonso had rough returns to their old practice fields. Maxwell was beaten for three touchdowns, two to Smith and one to Jeffery, while Alonso was beaten on a quick pass to Darren Sproles near the goal line.

5. If you were hoping to hear about fights or chippy play between the two teams on Monday, it didn't really happen. The closest it got was when Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Stills jawed a little bit after a completed pass to Stills from Jay Cutler. Nothing came of it. Although, Jenkins is the odds-on favorite to get in a fight from the Eagles' defensive players. For the offense, Jason Kelce gets the nod.

6. Cutler had a pretty good day against the Eagles' defense. After practice, the quarterback who the Dolphins lured out of retirement said he feels pretty rested after joining the team late, looked like it. He was whizzing footballs into his receivers. He kept finding Jarvis Landry in the end zone during red zone work.

7. The Eagles ran a fake field goal on Monday! Donnie Jones took the snap from Jon Dorenbos and rolled right before hitting Brent Celek. It worked!

8. Nick Foles has looked really good since coming back from his elbow injury. It's almost shocking how much better than Matt McGloin he is. On Monday, he kept connecting with Trey Burton. That could be something to watch if Foles ever plays in a game this season.

9. Nelson Agholor made a great catch with a Dolphins defender blanketing him. It was probably the catch of the day.

10. Wentz's arm isn't showing any signs of fatigue after a long summer. He absolutely threw a rocket to Mack Hollins. The laser of a throw made a loud sound as it collided with Hollins, who went to the ground to catch it. It was a perfect throw where only Hollins could get it.

Stupid Observation of the Day: Yes, Kiko Alonso was of course rocking a crop top on Monday.