That day 30 years ago, when Jets and Dolphins set records and ruined pencils

The voice on the other end of the phone belonged to Wesley Walker, who scored a walk-off touchdown in the wildest game in New York Jets history. On Sept. 21, 1986, before pass-oriented offenses and fantasy football were the rage, the Jets and Miami Dolphins defied the era with a futuristic display of offense.

It was Jets 51, Dolphins 45, in overtime. Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino passed for a combined 884 yards, an NFL record that stood until 2011. The teams racked up 1,066 total yards between them, still a single-game record for a Jets game. It was such a back-and-forth contest — we’re talking 13 touchdowns — that Fred Smith, a member of the Jets’ stats crew, went through four pencils instead of the usual two.

“My office is on the left side. Hours are 1 to 4. You can make an appointment. Check in and I will see about you,” Norman told ESPN’s Ed Werder prior to Sunday’s 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Either way, it might not matter. Beckham has done damage throughout his career against some of the game’s best cornerbacks. He had eight catches for 156 yards against Vontae Davis and the Colts and seven catches for 108 yards against Richard Sherman and the Seahawks during his rookie season. Granted, not all of those yards and catches came against Davis and Sherman, but some of them did.

“You’re the real deal,” Sherman told Beckham after that 2014 matchup.

Beckham also had over 100 yards receiving last season against Darrelle Revis and the Jets, Malcolm Butler and the Patriots and Delvin Breaux and the Saints. He scored a long touchdown in each of those games.

Beckham’s stat line (mostly vs. Norman) could’ve been: Nine catches, 175 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Or greater.

Then, after three quarters in the second game, they did what they said they didn’t want to do in the opener and moved Norman around. It worked, too: In zone coverage, he held Dez Bryant to no catches in the fourth quarter. Bryant’s lone reception in the final 15 minutes came against someone else.

What this means for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants and receiver Odell Beckham? It’s anyone’s guess. The Redskins have shown they’ll use different strategies — and Norman has shown he can be effective when being moved around. The misnomer is that you move around to play man; that’s not the case.

Carolina’s strategy

Last season, in the infamous December game against Beckham, Norman — then with the Panthers — split time playing both the left and right side (for zone too). It wasn’t just to defend Beckham, though, as he wasn’t always aligned to the same side. But it certainly made it tougher for the Giants to know where Norman might be and, therefore, to adapt their receiver alignments.

When Norman wasn’t on Beckham — the Giants will sometimes align him as the inside man in a three-receiver set — Carolina still handled its business. They’d use a linebacker to drop to his area with safety help over the top. Sometimes, quarterback Eli Manning would look in Beckham’s direction, see Norman’s coverage and the safety alignment, and throw elsewhere. They did have success, getting Beckham free on a deep ball with an inside release by occupying the safety’s attention (Beckham dropped it). And Beckham won with a double move to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

Rob Ninkovich ‘heartbroken’ by four-game suspension

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots starting defensive end Rob Ninkovich will serve a four-game suspension to open the 2016 regular season after a positive test for a banned substance.

About 70 Santa Clara police officers work each 49ers game at Levi’s Stadium, according to NBC Bay Area.

The union letter says Kaepernick’s protest has “threatened our harmonious working relationship” with the 49ers.

Whether or not Sanchez will be one of those 53 players remains to be seen.

“I have no idea,’’ Sanchez said as he left the locker room. “I guess I’ll find out [Friday].’’

“We’ve got to evaluate the entire situation,’’ Kubiak said. “ … We’ve got a lot of tough decisions to make.’’

Roethlisberger served a four-game suspension of his own in 2010 for violation of the league’s personal conduct policy, but when asked what advice he’d give Brady for coping with his absence, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said Brady “doesn’t need any advice from anybody.”

“Tom’s the greatest in the world, and I mean that,” Roethlisberger said.

Roethlisberger’s comment comes on the heels of former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw saying he’d take Big Ben “ahead of Brady for sure and anybody else.”

Bradshaw, a Fox NFL Sunday analyst and four-time Super Bowl champion, told he bases his opinion on Roethlisbergrer’s ability and not his personal connection to Pittsburgh.

Roethlisberger has long had a healthy respect for Brady, saying before the 2015 season opener in New England that he hoped Brady would play in the game. Although Brady’s availability was in question while the legal battle over Deflategate swirled, he played for the Patriots in the 28-21 victory over the Steelers.

The lazy person’s guide to fantasy football drafts

You’re lazy.

I get it, you want to play fantasy football but don’t want to put the work in. You also don’t want to come in last because, well … coming in last sucks.

You don’t want to scour the waiver wire or read about practice reports or listen to some analyst drone on about yards generated after contact in press coverage against the AFC West during primetime games.

In order of who you should grab with your first couple picks, based off of guaranteed workload and the least likelihood of getting hurt: David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, Adrian Peterson, Lamar Miller, Eddie Lacy, Devonta Freeman, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy. One or more of these guys will be available regardless of where you’re drafting.

Lee, 34, is a three-time Pro Bowl punter. He spent his first 11 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers before being sent to Cleveland last season. Lee ranks sixth in NFL history with a 46.2 gross punting average. Last season Lee set a single-season Browns record with a 46.7-yard gross average.

In Friday’s Browns tilt with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lee took some grief from Cleveland coach Hue Jackson for a lackadaisical effort in chasing down a punt return that went for a 73-yard touchdown.

After Scifres’ injury, the punting situation for the NFC Champion Panthers looked like a weak spot. Monday they plugged that hole with a proven veteran.

Cullen Jenkins is staying in the NFC East.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the free-agent defensive lineman has signed a one-year deal with the Redskins, per a source informed of the deal. The Redskins later confirmed the move.

Washington inked the 35-year-old lineman after a successful Monday morning workout. Jenkins spent the past three seasons with the New York Giants after two campaigns with the Philadelphia Eagles. Prior to that, he started 66 games for the Green Bay Packers from 2004 to 2010.

Seattle has not been kind to Tony Romo over the years

SEATTLE — There was a time, however briefly, when Seattle was a nice place for Tony Romo to visit.

Romo had trouble breathing for much of the rest of the game, but he was flawless, completing 21 of 32 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

Then there was Thursday. Three plays into what was supposed to be the dress rehearsal for the regular season, Romo took a shot to his back by defensive end Cliff Avril as he was attempting to slide.

“At the moment when you go down, you crunch so your back gets squished, I guess you could say,” Romo said in describing the feeling of the hit. “You almost feel a sensation as if someone gave you a stinger in your shoulder. It just feels hot for a second. That dissipates after a minute and you’re OK, all of those things you felt before with back injuries, those are all fine. Then your strength comes back and you’re, like, OK. It just takes a little bit.”

Romo attempted to return to the game but, but coach Jason Garrett opted to hold out the veteran.

Given the way Romo’s trips to Seattle have been, it was perhaps the wisest decision Garrett has ever made.

After weeks of injuries, a player suspension and spotty preseason football from the reserves, the Steelers walked their stars onto the Mercedes-Benz Superdome field and dissected the New Orleans Saints’ defense as if it was routine, like lunch or a nap, in a 27-14 win on Friday night.

These were not routine numbers, preseason or not: 12-of-17, 148 yards, two touchdowns on two drives for Ben Roethlisberger in his first action of the preseason.

Roethlisberger connected with six different playmakers on his first eight completions, including a 5-yard score to Jesse James off a scramble to cap a smooth 15-play, 74-yard drive.

Nothing like the Saints’ defense to boost morale — Landry Jones tore it up, too, completing 12 of his first 15 passes for 116 yards and a score — but the performance was impressive, and much needed.

The Steelers are at their best when in the no-huddle offense like on that first drive, Roethlisberger said. In that set, Roethlisberger calls plays from the line of scrimmage along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

“I think our base offense is going to be uptempo,” Roethlisberger said.

Le’Veon Bell was a tease, because he looked explosive coming off knee surgery, and now he’s out until late September because of the three-game suspension for missed drug tests. His ability as a receiver (five catches, 37 yards) reminds that he can help offset the losses of tight end Ladarius Green (ankle) and Martavis Bryant (suspended). Save his second-quarter fumble on 3rd-and-18 — and he rarely fumbles — Bell looked excellent.

Julio Jones: Usain Bolt amazing but not football-ready

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Alex Van Pelt has been on both sides of the debate about whether to play a quarterback in the preseason.

As a former NFL quarterback, he liked playing in the preseason.

As Aaron Rodgers’ position coach, he’s not so fond of it.

“As an ex-player I think, yeah, you do want to take some hits just to get that ‘OK it’s over with,'” Van Pelt said this week as the Green Bay Packers prepare to start Rodgers in Friday’s preseason game at San Francisco, in what will be his first — and perhaps only — preseason appearance.

“I remember what that’s like. But as a coach, no I don’t want him to get hit. But that’s part of the game. He’s been hit before; he’ll be hit again.”

So Van Pelt, who played nine years with the Buffalo Bills, mostly as Jim Kelly’s backup, was happy to take his first hit of the year?

“I think he’s shown some really good signs on tape,” Payton said. “He’s really quick and explosive. I think he’s a pressure player, so when he rushes I think he can really get to QB pretty quickly. He has a good burst. He’s done a really good job.

Jones was asked if he could make the transition the other way and, like Bolt, run the 100 meters.

“I could do whatever I put my mind to,” Jones said with a smile.

A reporter asked Jones if his estimated 100-meter time would be around 10.5 seconds. Bolt ran a 9.81 in Rio and holds the world record at 9.58 seconds.

“That’s something if I train for it, who knows?” Jones said. “That was pretty high though, a 10.5.”

Siemian has taken the long way to the doorstep of being the starting quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champion. As a senior at Olympia (Florida) High School, he was the 31st-ranked player in the state and the 33rd-ranked quarterback nationally by SuperPrep. He also played baseball and was voted Mr. Olympia by his senior classmates (future nickname alert if all goes well).

Titans rookie Derrick Henry shifts spotlight to his on-field production

“I mean, I don’t know how you get information from these guys. They are quiet professionals. That’s OK. I think that’s a good thing. They do their job. I guess when they have to answer the questions, they answer the questions.”

Henry was practically aglow Saturday night after a dominant, 10-carry, 74-yard game with a touchdown in his debut. He showed fantastic lateral movement, which is an area some including me wondered about — perhaps unnecessarily. But that chat was about a successful night, not about growing pains.

The Heisman Trophy winner had previously fielded questions about learning blocking schemes or struggling with an early drill and seemed like he’d prefer to be swimming in the less-than-blue lake that borders the Titans practice fields.

Does Henry like the media spotlight he draws on a team where he was one of the biggest names on the roster as soon as his name was called during the draft?

“I mean I’ll do it, it comes with the game,” he said. “There is not really a big difference from Alabama. The only difference is you have access to the locker room. I talked to people a lot back at Bama.

“It’s just a learning process. I’m a rookie, I’m trying to get acclimated. Just like when I was a freshman and sophomore. It just takes time for you to get experience and get acclimated to everything that is new.”

It’s a relatively minor piece to all he’s got to deal with now. With play like Saturday’s, he’ll like the topics a great deal more.

And there was one small thing that didn’t go great in his first preseason game. Henry didn’t bristle when it came up.

Playing in front of Tre McBride on kickoff returns, he could have offered a bruising option on a short kick. The chances went to McBride, however.

“He needs to get a little bit quicker, too, because he put Tre in a little bit of a bind,” Mularkey said. “Tre was running up on Derrick. We’ve got to do a better job of Derrick moving faster so Tre has a little bit more vision, a little more room to maneuver.

Said Henry: “I’m comfortable. This is just my first time doing it, so it’s something I am trying to get used to. Hopefully it’ll be better next week, we’ll get a better feeling in practice.”

The NFL has threatened discipline, including suspension, for players refusing to cooperate with the league’s investigation into steroid claims made by an Al-Jazeera America report.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, Green Bay Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers and former Packers linebacker Mike Neal have until Aug. 25 to comply with the league’s requests for interviews, according to an NFL letter sent to the NFLPA and obtained by ESPN.

Vice president of labor policy and league affairs Adolpho Birch wrote the league has a “good faith basis” for investigating potential violations of the NFL’s drug policy, yet the league has made at least seven unsuccessful attempts to interview these players.

“For those players whose interviews do not take place on or before [Aug. 25], or who fail meaningfully to participate in or otherwise obstruct the interview, their actions will constitute conduct detrimental and they will be suspended, separate and apart from any possible future determination that they violated the steroid policy,” Birch wrote. “The suspension for each such player will begin on Friday, August 26 and will continue until he has fully participated in an interview with league investigators, after which the Commissioner will determine whether and when the suspension should be lifted.”

A spokesman for the NFLPA said it doesn’t have a comment at this time.

Outspoken cornerback Josh Norman will be NFL analyst for Fox this season

This offseason has been a whirlwind for Norman, who refused to get into a war of words with rival Odell Beckham of the New York Giants, the receiver with whom Norman sparred on the field late in the 2015 season in an ugly display. Norman won’t have to wait long to see his nemesis on the field — the Redskins and Giants first play in Week 3 in New York, the site of last season’s melee, and then again in Week 17 in what could be a crucial division matchup for NFC East supremacy.

Norman’s role might be a trend of more players seeking active media duty during the season. It’s a potentially slippery slope, with Fox giving a player a forum in their NFL coverage — but what happens if Norman does something this season that opens him up to criticism? Will the network treat him as any other player?

If, say, Beckham keeps up with his taunting of Norman, Fox would be wrong not to ask him about it — and could Norman resist firing back at that point?

Also, there’s the concern about whether Norman struggles to play up to his massive contract (five-year deal worth $75 million, with $50 million guaranteed) or the team gets off to a poor start. Norman would be expected to stick with his media obligations, and it would be a bad look if he asked to back out at any point before the 10th appearance.

It’s a fascinating development, and it could make for some great TV, but one that comes with some concerns.

Despite working hundreds of miles apart from each other, John Elway and Brock Osweiler found a way to communicate without actually seeing each other. Thanks to local reporters in Denver and Houston, the Broncos general manager and the Texans’ new quarterback traded mild barbs this week.

John Elway started it by telling The Denver Post he was “a little surprised” by Osweiler getting “a little bent out of shape” after being benched for Peyton Manning ahead of the Broncos’ Super Bowl run. Osweiler then watched Manning lead (in a figurative sense) the Broncos to a championship before spurning them in free agency.

Osweiler ended up responding to Elway on Monday.

“The only thing I would say is what kind of competitor wouldn’t want to play in that situation?” Osweiler said, per The Houston Chronicle.”Outside of that, I think I’ve answered all of those questions. We’re now in August, we just had a great training camp practice and I’m excited to play the 49ers coming up.”

Osweiler is right, of course. Keep in mind, he got benched for a quarterback who nearly led the league in picks (17), despite playing in just 10 regular-season games. Osweiler didn’t exactly thrive under center, but he at least limited his turnovers (six interceptions in eight games) for a team that relied entirely on its defense to win games. There’s no doubt the Broncos were just as capable of winning the Super Bowl with Osweiler as the starter.

Brock Osweiler was forced to sit and watch Peyton Manning win a Super Bowl last year.

Cardinals give Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald 1-year extensions

Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell called the news about Carson “great.”

“You can’t win without a quarterback in this league and Carson’s been working hard. He looks like he found the fountain of youth. The guy never gets old. He just looks better and better each day. Going against him I just see his movement in the pocket. It’s a big-time signing. I think that’s really good for us forward. It gives us a few more years of certainty,” Campbell said.

Campbell also reacted positively to Fitzgerald’s extension, describing the wideout as one of his idols.

“That’s a guy I’ve always looked up to and I have so much respect for. He’s been my role model since Day 1. He let me in on the secret a couple day earlier so I knew about that one for a couple of days. He’s just a great guy. He’s very deserving,” Campbell added.

Both players are coming off some of their best and most productive NFL seasons.

Last season, Palmer threw for a career-best 4,671 yards and a career-best 35 touchdowns. Palmer joined the Cardinals in 2013 after being acquired in a trade from the Oakland Raiders. Since coming to Arizona, Palmer has a 29-9 record as a starter, including a 19-3 mark over the past two seasons. A Heisman Trophy winner at USC, Palmer was the No. 1 overall pick by Cincinnati in the 2003 draft.

Fitzgerald caught a career-high 109 passes for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns. Entering his 13th season in Arizona, Fitzgerald was originally taken by the Cardinals as the third overall pick of the 2004 NFL draft out of Pittsburgh.

Orlando Pace, offensive tackle
St. Louis Rams, 1997-2008
Chicago Bears, 2009

Greatest moment

Certainly, Pace and the Rams winning Super Bowl XXXIV was the high-water mark for both the player and the franchise. Pace was three years into what would become a dominant career — and the first of his five All-Pro awards and seven Pro Bowl invites — as a cog in the “Greatest Show on Turf” offense that changed the way the NFL viewed the passing game starting in that 1999 season.

Let’s amend that slightly and add one more moment to Pace’s mantel. Two seasons later, he was at the peak of his career when the Rams rebounded from a disappointing 2000 season to put up even more incredible numbers in 2001. They lost two games by a total of 10 points and won 10 games by double digits and made a second Super Bowl in a three-year span.

Pace became a critical factor in the NFC championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles, protecting a banged-up Kurt Warner, who was nursing a rib injury. The game plan was to run the ball more than usual, and Pace led the way for a different style of Rams attack until he was rolled up on by defensive tackle Paul Grasmanis. After missing a little less than a quarter with an MCL sprain, Pace returned to pave the way for two second-half 1-yard TD runs by Marshall Faulk, who rushed for 159 yards on 31 carries — much of it behind Pace.

“People overlook how tough he was,” former Rams offensive coordinator and head coach Mike Martz told Shutdown Corner in July. “But that’s the part that never got overlooked around here.”

The Rams would overpower the Eagles that day, and though they lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, Pace’s dominant performance in that All-Pro season — and his gutsy effort in that NFC title game — should not be overlooked. Martz sincerely worried the following week that Pace coming back into the conference title game might have prevented him from playing in the Super Bowl two weeks later.

Myles Jack getting first-team reps with Jaguars

If the Jaguars hope to turn their long-suffering defense around, they need Jack and first-round pick Jalen Ramsey to emerge in a hurry. If they pay off, this unit has the players in place to make waves in the AFC.

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Carr is an athlete who is also very football smart, and he can make all the throws you need to win. I watched Carr during my visit to the Raiders this week, and as I told him after practice, I saw him doing a better job looking off defenders and making great sight adjustments. He is reminiscent, in terms of style and the way he moves and the quickness of his release, of Drew Brees. Oakland has assembled a good team around Carr, and there is no doubt in my mind he’ll be a factor in the very near future. That said, I think people might be getting on board with the Raiders a year early, as they tend to do with teams like this. Oakland will be good, and the Raiders might make a decent playoff push, but 2017 will be their year.

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Unrivaled at his position in terms of competitiveness, Rivers put up good numbers in 2015 (4,792 passing yards and 29 passing touchdowns) despite being stuck on a poor team. He’s racked up 60 touchdown passes over the past two seasons combined, while his 145 passing touchdowns over the past five seasons ranks as the fourth-most in the NFL. Over the last 10 years, he’s passed for 41,299 yards — second only to Drew Brees in that span. He’s 14th overall in passing yards in NFL history and 11th in passing touchdowns. Rivers is extremely underrated, but if you put good players around him, he will win. Of course, the question marks on San Diego’s roster leave him stuck in this portion of the list.

A day after Tyrann Mathieu and the Arizona Cardinals agreed to terms on a five-year, $62.5 million contract extension, LSU coach Les Miles described the versatile defensive back’s 2012 dismissal from the Tigers program as one of his worst decisions.

“That’s one of the worst things I’ve ever done,” Miles said Wednesday.

Mathieu starred in the secondary and as a punt returner for LSU in 2011. He earned SEC Championship Game MVP honors and was even a Heisman Trophy finalist. He was dismissed from the program in August 2012, and his substance-abuse issues were well-documented. That marked the end of his college career after just two seasons at LSU, but the Cardinals still made him a third-round draft choice in 2013 as the No. 69 overall pick.

His new contract makes him the highest-paid safety in the NFL.

“He’s so passionate about playing the game, playing football, it’s allowed the best of Tyrann Mathieu to come forward,” said Miles, whose comments Wednesday were captured via Periscope by “… This summer, we went up to New Orleans and had a free youth camp. Well he happened to have a youth camp at the exact same time. We went over to his camp and watched him interact with those kids and just how wonderful that was. To my way of thinking, he’s eclipsed whatever history that somebody would hold against him. Who he is, who he’s been, has been really consistent. I’m a Tyrann Mathieu fan.”

Ezekiel Elliott’s over/under for rushing yards in 2016 is absurdly low

There’s plenty of backs who topple the number as rookies too, so it’s not an absurd number to ask for — since 2010 there are nine different rookies who rushed for more than 900 yards in their first season.

Todd Gurley did it in 2015 despite missing multiple games to start the season and not having a quarterback. Two teams — the Rams and Buccaneers — have multiple players on the list. Gurley and Zac Stacey pulled off the feat for the Rams, while Doug Martin and LeGarrette Blount did it for the Bucs.

The lesson there? If you have a team committed to running the ball, you can easily eclipse such a low hurdle.

Trent Richardson even made the list! Oddly enough, the only rookie running back who didn’t top 900 yards when given 220 touches since 2010? Le’Veon Bell.

Much trickier to figure out? The over/under for Derrick Henry at 600 yards. The Alabama product should break that number, except he’s got to battle Murray for touches.

The most surprising news of the 2016 NFL offseason belongs to Patriots tight end (and notorious partier) Rob Gronkowski. On Wednesday, Gronkowski revealed to the world that he doesn’t drink often and he doesn’t like beer because it “tastes weird.”

So, Gronk — who hosted a party on a cruise ship, chugged a beer during the Patriots’ Super Bowl parade, chugged a bottle of Fireball during that same parade, held a contest to party with him on a party bus, celebrated at least one birthday in Las Vegas, and judged a bikini contest named after a beer (to list a few of his extracurricular activities) — wants us to believe he rarely drinks?


Gronk had previously opened up about his bad feelings for wine, but this beer thing is new. The revelation came during a sit down with Katie Nolan for DraftKings.

This year’s class could provide some level of excitement, but we’ll see what happens with Corey Coleman as the potential No. 1 option in Cleveland, Josh Doctson relative to DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in Washington, and if Teddy Bridgewater can elevate Laquon Treadwell’s game in Minnesota. One of my favorite rookies is Giants receiver Sterling Shepard, who could start right away opposite Beckham.