NFL Nation: 2013 Week 2 NFL Buzz

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- In stark contrast to Ray Rice's awkward news conference in May, the Baltimore Ravens running back showed Thursday that he finally understood the weight of his actions from the alleged altercation with his then-fiancée in February.

He delivered the correct message, one the NFL failed to do last week with the two-game suspension, by not only apologizing to his wife, Janay Palmer, but also expressing a desire to become an advocate for domestic-violence causes.

Rice was compelling in his contrition, calling it the biggest mistake of his life. He stood in front of the microphone alone, without his wife standing by his side, and took full responsibility for the incident. Perhaps more importantly, Rice actually said the words "domestic violence," which weren't heard in his statement two months ago.

"My actions were inexcusable," Rice said. "That's something I have to live with the rest of my life."

Before anyone pats Rice on the back, this is what he should have said the first time when he broke his silence in May. Instead, Rice nervously fumbled through notes on his phone and apologized to team officials and his sponsors. That debacle of a news conference came across as damage control to his image.

His 17-minute news conference Thursday hit the right tones. He apologized to all women affected by domestic violence. He accepted the blame for losing the respect of fans. Rice came across as genuinely sorry.

"I let my wife down, I let my daughter down, I let my wife's parents down, I let the whole Baltimore community down," Rice said.

Rice's biggest misstep was not talking about what happened in the elevator. He was asked twice about it and declined to answer both times. His stance against domestic violence would have resonated stronger if he had explained his transgressions.

"I'll be honest: Like I said, I own my actions," Rice said. "I just don't want to keep reliving the incident. It doesn't bring any good to me. I'm just trying to move forward from it. I don't condone it. I take full responsibility for my actions. What happened that night is something that I'm going to pay for the rest of my life."

The only way Rice can move forward from this incident and show he's truly sincere is through his actions. It's not by his words. It's not by a hefty donation, which is merely a gesture. It's by proving this will remain a "one-time incident" and by supporting domestic-violence causes.

Thursday represented a small step forward for Rice. But it was an important one.

Locker Room Buzz: Pittsburgh Steelers

September, 17, 2013
CINCINNATI -- Observed after the Pittsburgh Steelers' 20-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

Costly penalties: A lost fumble and a penalty cost the Steelers a pair of passing plays that covered 67 yards. A tripping penalty on Marcus Gilbert negated a third-down completion that had moved the Steelers into Bengals territory early in the third quarter. Gilbert said he inadvertently took out the legs of a Bengals defender after falling to the ground. “It was an awful call,” the Steelers’ starting right tackle said. “They blew that call bad.”

Point the thumb: Ben Roethlisberger delivered a pointed message in the visitors locker room at Paul Brown Stadium following the Steelers' second loss of the season. “Ben said it real good,” right guard David DeCastro said. “Don’t point the finger; point the thumb.” Roethlisberger did just that after the Steelers’ locker room was opened to reporters. “I didn’t make enough plays,” he said.

Out of position: The Steelers allowed the Bengals to rush for 127 yards, and free safety Ryan Clark said some of Pittsburgh’s defensive players might have gotten out of position because they were too eager to make something happen. “I think you heard that a lot on the sidelines, ‘Let’s go make a play.' When it used to be, 'Let’s just go play,’” Clark said. “We can’t start pressing to do things because of what’s on the scoreboard.”

Work to do: The Steelers played better than they did in a season-opening loss to the Titans, a performance coach Mike Tomlin called unacceptable. “This is unacceptable, too,” he said. But, Tomlin added, “I honestly believe that the answers are still in that room.”

Locker Room Buzz: Cincinnati Bengals

September, 17, 2013
CINCINNATI – Observed in the locker room after the Cincinnati Bengals' 20-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Staying humble: Rookie running back Giovani Bernard burst onto the national stage Monday night with his two-touchdown effort in the victory. Both scores -- one rushing, one receiving -- were career firsts. After the game, he wasn't in the mood to talk about milestones. "It was whatever, but the biggest thing is that we won. I've always been that way. As long as we win, I'm happy."

Sloppy win: As joyous as the Bengals were over Monday's win -- at one point while interviews with reporters were ending, Frankie Beverly and Maze's "Joy and Pain" blared over the locker room's speakers -- they weren't fully satisfied with the performance. Between now and Sunday's visit from the Green Bay Packers, there is much to be fixed. "We kind of considered it a little bit of a sloppy effort and not as good as we'd like it to be," offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said, "but it was still a really good win."

Same old Harrison: While being interviewed at his Bengals locker, former Steelers linebacker James Harrison shrugged off talk about playing his old team: "It was no more of a game than it was any other game."

Locker Room Buzz: Seattle Seahawks

September, 16, 2013
SEATTLE -- Observed in the locker room after the Seattle Seahawks' 29-3 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday night at CenturyLink Field:

Sherman chastises doubters: Even before he reached the locker room, Richard Sherman went off during an NBC postgame interview. “There were a lot of pundits and ignorant idiots who thought we were gonna lose this game,” he said. “Don’t doubt us. Did they not see the last time we played this team?’' That last time was a 42-13 Seahawks victory, in December in Seattle. Sherman later said: “A lot of things were said this week that we didn’t appreciate. We did what we expected to do.”

Everyone praises the crowd: Unofficially, the record crowd of 68,338 spectators set a noise level record at 136.6 decibels. “I’ve been coaching a long time and I’ve never heard a crowd like that,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “The crowd was unbelievable,” said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. “The energy in the stadium made a huge difference for us.”

No surprise: Not to the Seattle players after the game. “This is what we had planned,” said safety Kam Chancellor, who had one of three Seattle interceptions. “We stuck to the game plan and executed. There are still areas where we can improve on defense, but we came up with the big plays again tonight.”
SEATTLE -- Observed in the locker room after the San Francisco 49ers' 29-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

Humble room: The 49ers took their lumps and gave credit to the Seahawks. There wasn’t any excuse-making. The players knew they were outplayed and they owned up to it.

Kaepernick puts it on himself: San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a poor game, and he knew it. "We're not going to win games if I play like that," he said.

Delay not an issue: Most players said the hour-long lightning delay was not a factor. The team had dealt with a 34-minute delay at the Super Bowl, and players said they took a similar approach.

Locker Room Buzz: Denver Broncos

September, 15, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed in the locker room after the Denver Broncos' 41-23 win over the New York Giants:

Clady injured: The Broncos are slightly less daring on offense without left tackle Ryan Clady, as they were when the starters played in the preseason when Clady was held out after offseason shoulder surgery. Clady was sporting a significant limp following Sunday's win because of a left foot injury he suffered against the Giants. Clady will be evaluated when the team gets back to Denver and will have an MRI at some point Monday.

Ihenacho in boot: Safety Duke Ihenacho wore a walking boot on his injured right ankle when he left the stadium. He was jogging on it as he rushed back to his locker, but things are usually a little more difficult the next day. He will be evaluated as well.

Relief for Manning: Quarterback Peyton Manning looked visibly relieved to have the third, and likely last, career regular-season game against his brother Eli over and done. Manning certainly understands the history of it all, but it is an uncomfortable situation for both him and his family. “I think both of us are glad that it’s over with."

Flag day: The Broncos expected a tough scrap with the Giants' receivers, and in the end Denver’s defensive backs were called for eight penalties in the game, including four for pass interference, two for defensive holdings and one illegal contact. “That was a battle," cornerback Chris Harris said. “Sometimes the flags are going to come."

Locker Room Buzz: New York Giants

September, 15, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observed in the locker room after the New York Giants' 41-23 loss to the Denver Broncos.

They know they have been here before: Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the fact that the 2007 Giants started 0-2 and went on to win the Super Bowl "was mentioned" in the postgame locker room, and guard Chris Snee said he believed it was defensive end Justin Tuck who mentioned it. But Snee was ready for the question and not eager to rush to the comparison. "That was a different team," Snee said. "We'll see what kind of team we have and what kind of fight we have."

Brotherly love: Eli Manning said that he and his brother, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, spoke for about 10 minutes before the game and that he didn't expect Peyton to give him a hard time about being 3-0 lifetime in their head-to-head starts. "These are our jobs," Eli said.

Unusual request: When there's a crowd of reporters around the locker of long snapper and special teamer Zak DeOssie, you know something went wrong. DeOssie didn't offer much of an explanation for Trindon Holliday's 81-yard punt return for a touchdown. "I missed him," DeOssie said. "I wish I hadn't."

Locker Room Buzz: Oakland Raiders

September, 15, 2013
OAKLAND -- Observed in the locker room after the Oakland Raiders' 19-9 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Keeping perspective: As feel-good a loss as last week’s defeat in Indianapolis was for the Raiders, this home-opening victory over the woeful Jaguars was just as much a cautionary tale. Sure, players were happy, and they should be after getting an NFL victory, but too many times the Raiders played down to their level of competition.

A stark development: Tyvon Branch was lost in the first quarter to an ankle injury that coach Dennis Allen said looks to be “significant.” It was a stark announcement paralleled by the starting strong safety’s empty locker. “I just saw him in the trainer’s room, all iced up,” said safety Usama Young.

Media crush: It was hard to tell who was in the middle of a bigger media circus -- running back Darren McFadden, free safety Charles Woodson or quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Offensive lineman Andre Gurode, though, joined the media crush for Pryor’s scrum and yelled out a question: “Excuse me, everybody wants to know where you got that polka-dot shirt.” The nattily-attired Pryor’s response? “He’s jealous.”

Teaching moments: The game does not end with the final gun. Center Stefen Wisniewski and right tackle Tony Pashos emerged from the shower, with towels on, only to stop in the middle of the locker room to go over a certain alignment.

Locker Room Buzz: Detroit Lions

September, 15, 2013
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Observed in the locker room after the Detroit Lions25-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Bush walking fine: Lions running back Reggie Bush injured his left knee during the second quarter and missed most of the second half due to it. While he will undergo tests Monday to find out what is going on, he moved fairly well around the locker room after the game as he packed up his things.

Johnson exchanges jerseys: After the game, Calvin Johnson exchanged jerseys with Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson. Johnson finished with six catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns. When asked what he was going to do with the jersey, he said, “It’s my jersey.” In other words, he’s likely keeping it.

Stafford happy with offensive line: As quarterback Matthew Stafford walked out of the locker room, he turned to his linemen and said, “You played good out there.” Then he commented that for another week he was largely clean after only being sacked once.

How they are identified: Instead of nameplates Sunday, each Lions player merely had their number on a white background outlined in black identifying which locker was theirs.

Locker Room Buzz: Arizona Cardinals

September, 15, 2013
Observed in the locker room after the Arizona Cardinals’ 25-21 victory over Detroit Lions.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald limited: Larry Fitzgerald’s tweaked hamstring got the better of him in the second half Sunday. He pulled himself out of the game during the Cardinals’ last drive of the third quarter.

“I didn’t have much in the second half,” he said. “I was just fatigued. I didn’t want to be a liability for my team. A couple years back I would’ve tried to keep going.”

First for Arians: Bruce Arians recorded his first win as a head coach in his second game leading the Arizona Cardinals.

“[It’s] always special,” Arians said. “You never know when you’re going to get it.”

Arians never satisfied: The Cardinals again struggled on third down, going 1-for-11. Arians was asked what he’s like on the headset during stressful situations, like third downs.

“I’m always frustrated,” he said. “I’m pissed the whole game.”

Peterson anticipated pick: When Patrick Peterson gave up a 72-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson in the second quarter, he thought LB Karlos Dansby had an interception. In fact, Peterson heard the ball hit Dansby's shoulder pads but the ball went under Dansby's arm.

Locker Room Buzz: Indianapolis Colts

September, 15, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- Observed in the locker room after the Indianapolis Colts' 24-20 loss to Miami Dolphins.

Heyward-Bey to be checked out: Colts receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is scheduled to get an MRI on his shoulder. He was injured when he went up in traffic and came down hard deep in Miami territory in the second quarter. He left the game and didn’t return. “We’ll see what happens,” Heyward-Bey said.

An empty locker room: Many of the Colts hung around the locker room for quite a while after their Week 1 victory over Oakland. That wasn’t the case Sunday. The players quickly addressed the media and headed out the door after they gave up too many big plays to quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offense.

Hope the officials are right: Colts receiver Reggie Wayne said he hopes the officials didn’t make mistake on the illegal-shift penalty they called on him in the third quarter that took away what would have been tight end Coby Fleener's second touchdown catch. The Colts ended up having to settle for a 38-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal. “I hope that they’re right, 'cause if they’re wrong, it’s probably going to be a tough pill to swallow,” Wayne said.

Locker Room Buzz: Houston Texans

September, 15, 2013
HOUSTON -- Observed in the locker room after the Houston Texans' 30-24 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans:

Happy owner: Texans owner Bob McNair walked out of the locker room before it opened to media and held court. Afterward he kept repeating, smiling, "What a game."

Dejected kicker: Randy Bullock's face as he greeted a crowd of reporters postgame reflected the kind of game he had. He missed all three of his field goal attempts and seemed shell-shocked. "I don't think I've ever had a game like this," he said. "It was frustrating, but at this point all I can do is move forward and come back for more work this week."

Baby cameo: Inside linebacker Brian Cushing brought his son to the podium for his news conference. Cayden was born last Oct. 15, days after Cushing tore his anterior cruciate ligament, giving Cushing an emotional high off the field right after an emotional low on the field. Cayden remained peaceful for most of the news conference, but eventually started batting at the microphone.

Locker Room Buzz: Minnesota Vikings

September, 15, 2013
CHICAGO -- Observed in the locker room following the Minnesota Vikings' 31-30 loss to the Chicago Bears:

Final-call frustration: The Vikings' defensive call on Jay Cutler's touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett with 10 seconds left was a source of consternation in the Vikings' locker room after the defeat. Cornerback Chris Cook, who was on the left side of the field with Martellus Bennett and Earl Bennett, declined to talk to reporters after the game. Coach Leslie Frazier put the loss on himself, saying he needed to do a better job of guiding the team in the last two minutes. Middle linebacker Erin Henderson said the call on the 16-yard TD was a surprise. "It was just not what we expected in that situation," Henderson said. "Not really something we prepared for or practiced for, for that to come in that way. But it did, and we've got to make our coaches right."

Third-and-goal stop: With a chance to go up 10 with just more than three minutes left, the Vikings had to settle for a field goal when Adrian Peterson was stopped for no gain on the 4-yard line. Peterson said the call on the play was "35 Bob" -- the same play he said he could have sprung for a big gain last week. He was stopped for no gain on a run off left tackle, and the Vikings had to settle for a field goal. Asked if the Vikings could have scored had they gone for it on fourth down, Peterson said, "That's the mindset you have to have. But we just do what's called."

Trying to rally: The Vikings are now 0-2, a record from which just 22 teams have recovered to earn a playoff berth since 1990. Defensive end Jared Allen was on one of those teams -- the 2008 Vikings -- and he was quick to point that out afterward. "I've been in this spot before, and I won the division," Allen said. "We were 0-2 and we came back and won the division. You always have a chance in this league."

Locker Room Buzz: Tennessee Titans

September, 15, 2013
HOUSTON -- Observed in the locker room after the Tennessee Titans' 30-24 overtime loss to the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium:

No intent: Brian Cushing was lost to an ACL injury last year on a block thrown by Matt Slauson of the Jets. Titans center Rob Turner was flagged for a similar peel-back block on J.J. Watt at the end of the third quarter. Cushing spoke of more than a penalty and a fine being needed as a deterrent. But Turner said he had no ill intent. “I didn’t think about it on the screen,” Turner said. “It was a bad decision on my part to throw [it]. As a lineman, you get kind of ingrained, ‘Run a screen, throw a cut, run a screen, throw a cut.’ I tried saying something to him after the game, saying, ‘Look, I wasn’t trying to take your legs out.’”

Looking ahead: Last week Jurrell Casey delivered a postgame one-liner about what the Texans could expect. The defensive tackle may be good in that department every week. “We're just going to respond, do what we need to do next week against the Chargers and let them feel our pain,” Casey said. “That’s it.”

Spiky shoes: Apparently spike-covered shoes are a thing. I missed the memo on that, but Kendall Wright said he’s hardly the first guy on the Titans to have them. Chris Johnson set the tone. Check out Wright’s shoes on my Instagram: pkuharsky.

Locker Room Buzz: Philadelphia Eagles

September, 15, 2013
PHILADELPHIA -- Observed in the locker room after the Philadelphia Eagles’ 33-30 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Bad bounce: Kicker Alex Henery could have turned the game around if he’d handled a fumble by Chargers return man Fozzy Whittaker. “It was coming toward me, it bounced up and hit my elbow,” said Henery, who does not practice such situations. San Diego recovered on the Eagles' 39-yard line and scored a touchdown seven plays later.

Stalled drive: The Eagles had the chance to take a 34-30 lead in the game’s final minutes. Not only did their last drive stall at the San Diego 14, but they left 1:51 on the clock for the Chargers to stage their winning drive. Coach Chip Kelly said no attention was paid to the time: “We were trying to score a touchdown,” he said. “We’re trying to make it a four-point game instead of a three-point game.”

Wilted secondary: The Eagles completely remade the secondary that was gashed for 33 touchdown passes last season. Philip Rivers torched the new version for 419 yards, three touchdowns and a 124.3 passer rating. With Alex Smith, Peyton Manning and Eli Manning the next three weeks, that’s scary. “There’s still a lot of work to be done,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “We’ve got to work our tails off and get things done.”

Run stopped: Running back LeSean McCoy was held to 53 yards on 11 carries after gaining 184 on 31 rushes at Washington. The Chargers’ commitment to stopping the run was part of that. “We wind up with 400 yards passing,” McCoy said. “To be honest, as a defense, I don’t think they were really effective.”