Raiders might need to rely heavily on QB Palmer

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Raiders might need to rely heavily on QB Palmer

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Carson Palmer could be in for another busy day for the Oakland Raiders.

With top two running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson slowed this week by sprained right ankles, the Raiders may need to rely on their passing game when they visit the Baltimore Ravens.

Palmer threw the ball 61 times last week against Tampa Bay as the Raiders (3-5) were forced to play catch-up in the second half after losing McFadden and Goodson to the injuries. Neither back practiced Wednesday and their status remains in doubt for Sunday's game against the Ravens (6-2).

``We've got a plan in place if either or both of those guys are not able to play,'' coach Dennis Allen said.

That likely will involve lots of passing with no other proven halfback on the roster. Palmer set a career high in attempts in last week's 42-32 loss to Tampa Bay, completing 39 passes for 414 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

With McFadden out for the entire second half, Goodson getting hurt in the fourth quarter and Oakland falling behind by 18 points, the Raiders ran the ball just three times in the second half - their fewest in eight years.

``You got to adjust to what your health is of your team, but you know it's a team that's had some yards rushing on them, especially the last couple of weeks,'' Palmer said. ``It's very odd. I have never seen that before in my career. So, there are some things we want to take advantage of in the run game.

``But you can't be one-dimensional at the same time, too, and throw it and throw it. We've got to figure out a way to get Darren back as quickly as possible and maybe have a selected or limited game plan for him or Marcel (Reece) or whoever is going to be back there.''

Palmer is quite familiar with the Ravens, having spent the first eight seasons of his career in the AFC North with Cincinnati. Palmer's nine regular season wins as a starter against Baltimore are the most of any quarterback.

He has completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,202 yards, 15 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and an 84.5 passer rating in those games. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said Palmer looks as good as he did with the Bengals and when the two faced off in college when Suggs was at Arizona State and Palmer starred at Southern California.

``I don't fear any quarterbacks, but I'm always worried when I play Carson Palmer,'' Suggs said. ``Me and him come from the same draft class, 2003. This guy has kind of tortured me through all my college and professional career. I'm very aware of the talent. I know he can make every throw. If you ask me, he's very highly underrated. He's definitely one of the premier quarterbacks in the league.''

He will likely need to be that way Sunday with Oakland's running game in the situation it is.

The Raiders chose not to sign another running back this week and will likely go with little-used third-stringer Taiwan Jones or fullback Marcel Reece if McFadden and Goodson can't play. They also could activate Jeremy Stewart from the practice squad.

``It's really a next-man-up philosophy and we're going to have to count on some guys to step up potentially and fill a bigger role,'' Allen said. ``We'll know more at the end of the week exactly what we've got to do.''

Jones, a speedster drafted in the fourth round in 2011, has been slowed by hamstring, knee and rib injuries during his brief career. He has just 17 carries for 75 yards and three receptions for 29 yards.

He has played just seven snaps on offense all season with one run for 2 yards and he also caught a 4-yard pass on a fake punt.

``Since I've been here I've waited for him to get his opportunity and it hasn't worked out and here it is,'' Palmer said. ``He'll get his touches and I can't wait. I mean, he's so electrifying. He puts his foot in the ground and goes. He wiggles out of hits, he wiggles out of tackles. Can't wait to throw him the ball, get him in the open field. He's so much fun to watch at practice it's, like I said, a long time coming.''

Reece, a converted receiver who excels in the passing game, had his most productive game last week with eight catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. He has 48 career carries for 234 yards and could get time as a single back on Sunday.

``I feel comfortable doing anything in this offense,'' he said. ``They've prepared me a long time ago to do anything in this offense and I'm prepared to do it. Whatever happens on Sunday, whatever they ask me to do I'm going to go do it.''

NOTES: DT Desmond Bryant was a full participant in practice after spending Sunday night in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. ... RT Khalif Barnes returned from a groin injury that has sidelined him since week two and Allen said he would know later this week whether he'd be able to play Sunday. ... DT Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring) and CB Shawntae Spencer also missed practice.

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AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

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AFC North: Will Steelers RB Bell stay healthy this season?

Here’s a key AFC North question. Will Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell stay healthy?

Bell is without question one of the league’s most talented backs. However, knee injuries have ended his season the past two years, leaving the Steelers without him when they were eliminated from the playoffs.

De’Angelo Williams did a superb job in place of Bell last season, rushing for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns. But Bell is a better pass receiver and more elusive – capable of turning almost any play in to a big play. In 2014, Bell had over 2,000 yards combined from scrimmage – 1,316 yards rushing and 854 yards receiving.

Bell doesn’t want to be labeled as injury-prone, yet some people already view him that way. But at Steelers OTA’s, Bell showed up looking healthy, while vowing not to run cautiously next season.

“I’m going to be physical,” Bell told ESPN.com. “I’m out here with no knee brace or anything, didn’t wear a sleeve or anything. I’ve been training my knee for everything I’m about to go through, so when September gets here I’ll be even better than I am now. That’s even crazy to think about. But I’m excited.”

When Bell has been healthy, putting up numbers has not been a problem. The more Bell plays next season, the better the Steelers’ chances of making the playoffs.

Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

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Urschel spends his spring getting straight A's at MIT

If the NFL had an All-Academic team, Ravens offensive lineman John Urschel would be on it.

In February, Urschel began the Ph.D program in mathematics at MIT. How’s he doing so far? Here’s a hint. When it comes to grades, Urschel is only familiar with one letter in the alphabet.

“My first semester in school in nearly three years,” Urschel wroter on Twitter. “Four PhD classes at MIT. Four A’s. The streak continues!!!”

Entering his third season with the Ravens, Urschel has found a way to juggle his love for football with his love for mathematics. He posted an interesting article on The Players Tribune this week in which he described training with the football team at MIT this spring.

“I probably had about 50 or 60 pounds on the biggest guy on MIT’s O-line,” Urschel wrote. “But when we ran, they put me to shame. They could outsprint me.

“What I found is that the team at MIT is no joke. It is a football team – in some ways, more of a football team than any I’d ever seen. These guys love football. They are playing the game because they want to. No one is making them come to practice, no one is checking up on them. They know as well as anyone about head injuries; they know that football is dangerous; they know the feeling of exhaustion and pain. They still play. They don’t do it for money, and they don’t do it for status.

“We talk about dedication and passion in the pros, but the truth is, sometimes the game feels like a job. You start to think of the paycheck. You feel the grind. But training with the team at MIT, I started thinking about what had drawn me to football as a kid. It felt like a game again. I had thought I might have something to teach the team. I never imagined they’d have so much to teach me.”

That guy in the Dos Equis beer commercials might be the most interesting man in the world. But Urschel has built a strong resume as the most interesting player on the Ravens.

RELATED: NFL ANNOUNCES LOCATIONS FOR 2019, 2020 AND 2021 SUPER BOWLS

NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

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NFL announces locations for 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls

The NFL has decided on the locations of the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Super Bowls. The vote took place at the NFL owners meetings in Charlotte on Tuesday. 

Atlanta will host Super Bowl LIII in 2019, while South Florida (Miami) will get the event in 2020 and Los Angeles will host in 2021. 

The cities chosen each included new or upgraded stadiums in their pitches to the league. 

Atlanta will be home to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opening in 2017. 

Miami's stadium (Sun Life Stadium from 2010-2016) is undergoing a $400 million renovation that will include an open-air canopy to provide shade for 92 percent of seats, according to Sports Illustrated. Construction should be complete before the 2017 season. 

And Los Angeles will boast a new 300-acre, campus-style stadium housing the Rams and potentially a second team. The $2.6 billion project will be the most expensive sports arena in the world, reports CNN, and should be ready before the 2019 NFL season.