NFL Notebook

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Associated Press
The NFL notebook ….
HOUSTON ó Ah, Arizona. Just the place for the Super Bowl to thaw out after a frosty foray into the New York/New Jersey area.
The Super Bowl is heading back to the desert in 2015, one year after it will be at the mercy of winter weather in the Meadowlands. The Phoenix area was awarded the 49th Super Bowl by NFL owners Tuesday, beating the only other candidate ó Tampa, Fla.
It will be the third time the Phoenix area has hosted the game, which will be played in Glendale.
ěWe are thrilled to be back in Arizona,î Commissioner Roger Goodell said. ěI will say it was a difficult choice.î
Phoenix won on the second ballot, prompting screams of joy from the Arizona committee.
ěEveryone pulled together throughout the Phoenix area to put together a terrific package we were able to present to the owners,î Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said. ěWe are delighted.î
HOUSTON ó No NFL players have come close to being suspended for illegal hits through five weeks of the season. The number of fines for such hits is down.
Thatís an indication players are adjusting their tackling styles, well aware of the increasing emphasis on player safety. It hardly makes pro football the safest sport out there, and the rules remain fuzzy for many defensive players, including Bears star linebacker Brian Urlacher. He was penalized for what certainly appeared to be a shoulder-on-shoulder tackle on Tony Scheffler in Monday nightís victory by the Lions. One play later, Matthew Stafford hit Brandon Pettigrew for an 18-yard touchdown.
ěI would never say there is no gray area,î NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson told The Associated Press on Tuesday. ěBut on the field, officials are doing the job they should be.
ěWe are moving full speed with our emphasis on safety and on protecting defenseless players and we will be aggressive on protecting player safety, very protective. Certainly everyone will need more education as we go along and we will proceed on that.
ěThere have been fewer fines, but not significantly fewer. We have come nowhere near any suspension decisions and that is encouraging.î
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. ó Adrian Peterson is the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
The NFL announced the award Tuesday.
The Minnesota Vikings running back scored three touchdowns in the first quarter Sunday against Arizona and finished with 122 yards rushing in the win over the Cardinals.
This is the fifth time Peterson has received this honor, including one in 2010 after playing Detroit, one in 2008 after a game against Green Bay, and two in his rookie year 2007 when he gained 224 yards at Chicago and set the NFL single-game record with 296 yards against San Diego the next month.
Peterson and the Vikings play the Bears this Sunday night. He is second in the league with 498 yards rushing this season and tied for the NFL lead with six rushing touchdowns.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. ó Detroit coach Jim Schwartz went home for a nap early Tuesday morning, following the Lionsí win over the Chicago Bears. A couple hours later, he went right back to work.
The Motor City is buzzing about the franchiseís first 5-0 start since 1956 and football followers from coast to coast are taking notice of the suddenly formidable Lions.
Schwartz refuses to get caught up in the hype and is focusing on the reality that his team hasnít put a complete game together yet.
ěWe havenít played our best,î he said with glassy eyes Tuesday. ěWe still have improvements to make.
ěWeíre still a work in progress there, but weíve managed to put good enough efforts together to win the first five games.î
Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, 47 of 52 teams to get off to a 5-0 start have made it to the playoffs, according to STATS, LLC.
PITTSBURGH ó LaMarr Woodley heard it everywhere he turned after the Pittsburgh Steelers were mauled by Houston nine days ago. On TV. On the radio. In the paper. On the Internet.
The consensus was the same: The defending AFC champions were through.
No James Harrison. No Casey Hampton. No Bryant McFadden (again). No Rashard Mendenhall. They couldnít possibly resurrect their season with a group of nobodies, right?
ěPeople were saying the Pittsburgh Steelers was banged up, and they didnít have any guys to fill the roles,î Woodley said. ěBut we had guys that was ready to come in and play.î
And play well.
Buoyed by familiar ó and not so familiar ó faces in familiar ó and not so familiar ó places the Steelers rolled by Tennessee 38-17 on Sunday and spent 60 minutes reminding the rest of the AFC why they went to the Super Bowl last year.
The Steelers did it with backup running backs Jonathan Dwyer and Issac Redman gashing Tennesseeís defense for 156 yards. They did it with reserve cornerbacks William Gay and Keenan Lewis continuing their solid play in McFaddenís absence. They did it with Lawrence Timmons disrupting things at outside linebacker while Harrison watched from the sideline with his right eye patched up after undergoing surgery last week.
They even did it with a left tackle (Max Starks) who hadnít played in nearly a year.
ěWe had a lot of guys filling in so we just got back to the basics, I think, on both sides of the ball,î Woodley said. ěAnd that really helped us out.î
Lewis and Gay have played so well while McFadden nurses a lingering hamstring problem that coach Mike Tomlin is in no hurry to get McFadden back on the field.
ěWhen those guys step up and are given an opportunity and play at a high level, than you are not going to fix it if itís not broken,î Tomlin said.
Tomlin called McFadden ěpretty close to healthyî but has been impressed with the way Lewis and Gay have helped Pittsburgh shore up its pass defense. The Steelers ranked fourth in the league in passing yards allowed (174 yards per game) and are first in the NFL in yards per attempt (5.6).
ěWe have some guys who have answered the call … and have showed us that they are capable of playing salty football,î Tomlin said. ěSo those are good issues.î
Not all the reserves will keep their jobs on Sunday when the Steelers (3-2) face reeling Jacksonville (1-4).
Mendenhall is expected to return against the Jaguars, though Tomlin stressed Mendenhallís workload wonít be determined until he sees how the hamstring responds.
If he has to split carries, itís likely Redman would get the first crack. He ran for 49 yards against the Titans and was a valuable blocker, helping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throw for five touchdowns.
Tomlin was ěpleased but not surprisedî by Redmanís contributions. Dwyerís play was a little more intriguing. He ran for 107 yards and did some of the little things that Tomlin loves. He had two tackles on special teams and looked comfortable picking up blitzes when staying in to block.
ěHe is growing in all areas, and that is what is going to be required for him to continue to move forward and retain his helmet as some of those guys who are injured get healthy,î Tomlin said.
While the starting backfield should be in place, the offensive line remains in flux. Chris Kemoeatu, who sat out last week with a knee injury, is questionable. If he canít go, then Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster likely will start at guards. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert (shoulder) is iffy with a left shoulder injury, meaning Jonathan Scott would get the nod if the rookie canít go.
Center Maurkice Pouncey is fine after sustaining a contusion on his right knee and Starks will be thrown right back out there. He appeared to not miss a beat against the Titans, getting the start five days after re-signing with his old club. Starks hadnít played in a game in 11 months when his 2010 season was cut short by a neck injury and he was cut before training camp in a salary cap purge.
ěItís really amazing what Max did this week, to basically come off his couch, work three days in practice and then start an NFL game, you have to take your cap off to him,î Foster said.
It was like that all over the field against the Titans. Timmons looked at home at outside linebacker while filling in for Harrison, who likely will be out a month while recovering from surgery to repair a fractured right orbital bone.
Timmons collected a handful of tackles and had little trouble moving around at the end of the game to let reserve Chris Carter get some playing time.
ěWe value position flexibility,î Tomlin said. ěLawrence has done it before. We expect him to do it, and do it well. It was a good start. He is going to have a few more weeks there, and we expect him to continue to improve.î
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The Associated Press
10/11/11 18:26