Wed Sep 11 2:13pm ET
By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, left, and outside linebacker Shaq Thompson (54) tackle Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (18) during the first half an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson tackles Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters (22) tackles Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Taylor Moton (72) lifts running back Christian McCaffrey (22) following McCaffrey's touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) drives against San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (75) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw (57) hits Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II (27) during the first half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) tries to keep a loose ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) tackles Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (12) during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) breaks out of the pocket against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) runs while Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Cory Littleton (58) tackles during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers defensive lineman Gerald McCoy won't allow himself to get overhyped when he lines up Thursday night against his former team, the Buccaneers - even though he has plenty of motivation.
After nine full seasons in the NFL, McCoy said he knows better.
''I've been on teams where guys are playing their former team and the night before the game they're losing their minds; day of the game they're losing their minds,'' McCoy said. ''It's like, `Bro, relax. Just go play the game.'''
He said a lot of those players didn't play well because of their emotions clouded their ability to focus on making plays.
Still, McCoy admits he's eager to play the Buccaneers, a team that cut him in May after a nine-year stint where he was selected to six Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro and became the face of the franchise.
McCoy's departure from Tampa Bay did not come without some bad feelings.
There are still people at Buccaneers headquarters McCoy doesn't like, adding that they ''know who they are.''
It all started when new Bucs coach Bruce Arians said during the offseason McCoy was ''not as disruptive as he was four years ago.'' Arians ultimately released McCoy and, a few days later, signed free agent Ndamukong Suh to replace him - and promptly gave him McCoy's No. 93.
''At first, it bothered me, I can admit that,'' said McCoy, who now wears No. 93 in Carolina.
McCoy let it be known publically he was disappointed over that decision, which drew the ire of former Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Sapp has been someone McCoy initially considered a mentor, and later ''family.''
''You get measured by playoff wins,'' Sapp told the Tampa Bay Times in August. How many playoffs did you win? He never was in a playoff game. We were in nine. We won championships. ... You deserve something like this? Bad call, young fella.''
When asked this week if Sapp's comments hurt, McCoy simply shrugged his shoulders.
The 31-year-old McCoy still plans to sign a one-day contract and retire as a member of the Buccaneers when he calls it quits. He said that has been prearranged with Bucs ownership.
As for how he views his legacy in Tampa Bay, McCoy said ''I don't know ... ask Warren Sapp.''
Yep, let the game begin.
Tampa Bay is bracing for a big dose of Christian McCaffrey, who ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns and also had 10 receptions for 81 yards in the Panthers' opener.
Arians called McCaffrey the best dual back threat in the NFL.
''I used to think it was David Johnson, but Christian's passed him up,'' Arians said. ''As a receiver, he's a hell of a matchup problem, and as a runner, he's a great runner.''
Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles agreed, saying ''I don't think you can stop him with one guy. ... They are very talented across the board. We've just got to play disciplined football.''
Bucs QB Jameis Winston became Tampa Bay's career passing leader last week. He also tossed three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns in a 31-17 loss to San Francisco. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich expects the fifth-year pro, who threw for 249 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-17 victory over the Panthers late last season, to respond with a sharper performance Thursday night.
''That's what this league's all about. You can't have any hangovers, no carry-overs, so he's just got to stay locked in,'' Leftwich said. ''The good thing is we had to (begin preparation) the next day and get to rolling with this game being so quick.''
COMING ON STRONG
Arians believes one of the best things the Bucs can do to help Winston cut down on turnovers and realize his potential as the No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft is run the ball more effectively.
With second-year pro Ronald Jones II leading the way, Tampa Bay rushed for 121 yards in last week's loss. Jones, coming off a disappointing rookie season, ran for 75 yards against the 49ers, finally showing signs of why he was selected in the second round of the 2018 draft.
He was impressive, but apparently not good enough to crack the starting lineup. Peyton Barber, an undrafted free agent who led the team in rushing the past two years, will line up first against the Panthers.
''If Peyton gets a little tired, he will get (Jones) in there,'' Arians said. ''And if he has the hot hand, he stays in there until he gets tired.''
Panthers coordinator Norv Turner said he wanted to cut down on McCaffrey's reps, but not his touches this season. Well, McCaffrey not only got 29 touches in a Week 1 loss to the Rams but also played all 67 offensive plays. Coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers will need to think about limiting his reps moving forward, but quickly added ''When he's playing the way he is, you want to keep the rhythm going.''
THE 3-4 DEFENSE
Both the Panthers and Buccaneers have moved to a 3-4 defense this season, which should make for an interesting matchup. Neither unit looked particularly invincible in the season opener with the Bucs giving up 31 points and the Panthers 30.
Free-agent WR Antonio Callaway (Browns) signed with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL Thursday, Jan. 16.
Kansas City Chiefs RB LeSean McCoy (illness) remained out of practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: McCoy played just one offensive snap in last week's Divisional Round game against the Houston Texans. He's clearly behind RB Damien Williams and is no longer worth starting.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Moore (illness) and DT Chris Jones (calf) didn't participate in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. DT Khalen Saunders (knee), CB Morris Claiborne (shoulder), CB Kendall Fuller (knee), DE Tanoh Kpassagnon (neck), C Austin Reiter (wrist) and G Andrew Wylie (ankle) practiced in full.
Green Bay Packers DL Kenny Clark (back), TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury), LB Preston Smith (ankle), FB Danny Vitale (knee) and CB Tramon Williams (non-injury) were limited participants in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. S Adrian Amos (chest), OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), WR Ryan Grant (non-injury), LB Blake Martinez (hand) and OL Billy Turner (ankle) practiced in full.
Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (knee) remained limited at practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Kelce earned a light practice week while catching 10 of 12 targets for 134 yards and three touchdowns against the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round. He's the week's top tight end option once against this week so long as he takes the field.
Tennessee Titans LB Jayon Brown (shoulder), LB Rashaan Evans (foot), WR Adam Humphries (ankle), CB Adoree' Jackson (foot), WR Cody Hollister (ankle) and OT Jack Conklin (shoulder) were limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16. CB Logan Ryan (illness) and LB David Long Jr. (knee) participated in full.
Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison (illness) was limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: It's an upgrade for Allison after he missed Wednesday's practice. He's likely to be limited for much of the week but should ultimately suit up for Sunday, Jan. 19's NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. He made just one catch for 11 yards last week against the Seattle Seahawks and isn't worth much more than a desperation flier.
Green Bay Packers TE Jimmy Graham (non-injury) was a limited participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Graham has caught seven of 11 total targets across his last two games, recording 49 receiving yards in each game. He hasn't found the end zone since Week 7 and doesn't possess much touchdown upside, but the Packers have few better options in the passing game outside of WR Davante Adams. He could be a sneaky play at a thin position.
San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (elbow) practiced in full Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: It's Coleman's second straight full practice, and he should be good to go for the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 19. He's coming off one of his best games of the season, and he'll be worth starting once again in all formats.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (calf) was a full participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert's on track to play in the NFC Championship Sunday, Jan. 19. He took a back seat to RB Tevin Coleman in the Divisional Round game against the Minnesota Vikings, but he was still able to rack up 58 yards and 12 carries. He's worth starting, but Coleman should be viewed as the better option.
San Francisco 49ers LB Kwon Alexander (pectoral) and DL Dee Ford (quadriceps, hamstring) were limited in practice Thursday, Jan. 16.
Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) had his relationship with agent Drew Rosenhaus conditionally terminated Thursday, Jan. 16, until the wide receiver seeks counseling, per a source.
Fantasy Spin: While the talent remains alluring, it's become clear Brown is going to have to make some personal changes before he gets a chance to play again the league.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (ankle) was a full participant in practice Thursday, Jan. 16, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Fantasy Spin: Great news for Kittle after he sat out Wednesday's workouts with the nagging ankle injury. Unless we hear of any kind of setback later this week, count on him being good to go for Sunday afternoon's NFC title tilt.
Updating previous reports, Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald's one-year contract for 2020 will include a base salary of $11 million and will have $500,000 in roster bonuses and $250,000 in incentives.
Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr. is the subject of a simple battery arrest warrant issued by the New Orleans Police Department after Beckham appeared to slap a police officer's buttocks in the LSU locker room Monday, Jan. 13 following the College Football Playoff championship game.
Fantasy Spin: While this isn't the most serious of incidents, OBJ continues to make more headlines off the field than on it following his disappointing 2019 debut with the Browns (74 catches-1,035 yards-4 TDs). And if the trend continues, will the new Browns regime say enough is enough for a player brought in by the previous administration?
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has been accused of simple battery after an incident in the locker room following LSU's national championship win over Clemson on Monday night. Beckham was caught on video spanking a police officer on the backside during the post-game locker room celebration. New Orleans police have issued a warrant for Beckham's arrest following the incident. The Browns have since released a statement that they are aware of the issue and that they have been in contact with Beckham and his representatives. This is the second issue to stem from Beckham's attendance at the game on Monday night as he was also caught on camera apparently handing money to LSU players on the field after the win. Neither situation is likely to impact Beckham from a fantasy perspective but it's just another issue for the Browns organization to contend with this offseason.
Tennessee Titans CB Logan Ryan (illness) is expected to return to practice Thursday, Jan. 16, after sitting out the previous day with an illness.
Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry rushed 23 times for 188 yards and two scores in Week 10 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Titans will take on the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 19.
Fantasy Spin: The Titans won that game 35-32 in Patrick Mahomes' first game back from his knee injury. The Chiefs could neutralize him by scoring early and often, but Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three scores, and the Titans remained in it. Henry is arguably the best running back in fantasy remaining in the playoffs.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday ahead of the NFC Championship showdown against the Green Bay Packers. The All-Pro chipped a bone in his left ankle earlier this season and aggravated it during the third quarter of the Divisional Round. A proven warrior, head coach Kyle Shanahan remains optimistic, but Kittles practice regimen the rest of the week should be telling. Used as a blocker last Sunday, Kittle amassed only three touches for 16 yards. Its improbable the injury will sideline him for the biggest game of his career, but wideouts Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders would see a bump in targets if Kittle cant go.
New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara could hold out in hopes of securing a long-term contract extension, in the opinion of ESPN.com's Mike Triplett, who notes that the team's other top contributors from the 2017 draft class can have their fifth-year options picked up, whereas Kamara is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020 season. Triplett also mentions that valuing Kamara may be difficult because despite his versatility he only plays about two-thirds of the team's offensive snaps.
Fantasy Spin: This is pure speculation at this point, but Triplett lays out a compelling case for a contractual impasse. It's just something to file away and keep an eye on once the offseason kicks into high gear.