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Jets QB Sam Darnold to remain starter when he returns from injury

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Injured quarterback Sam Darnold won’t start Sunday for the New York Jets, but the struggling rookie will return to the starting lineup as soon as his strained right foot is healed, coach Todd Bowles said Thursday.

Perhaps trying to defuse a potential controversy, Bowles said he will return to Darnold even if veteran Josh McCown, the starter Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, is playing well.

“Sam is our quarterback,” Bowles said.

Pressed further, Bowles added: “Because he’s our starter and he won the job. I feel comfortable with him out there and I feel comfortable with Josh in there.”

Officially, Darnold hasn’t been ruled out of Sunday’s game, even though he missed practice for the second day in a row. Bowles stated the obvious — Darnold won’t start — but he left open the possibility of making him the No. 2 quarterback. That is highly unlikely, as the Jets are expected to promote Davis Webb from their practice squad.

Darnold, who played the entire game last Sunday despite the injury, is considered week-to-week, according to a source.

Bowles committed to Darnold when he made him the Week 1 starter, and he’s not bending even though the offense has become stagnant in recent weeks — only one touchdown in its last 27 possessions.

There’s another layer to the situation. At 3-6, Bowles could be fighting for his job and it could be argued that McCown, 39, gives him the best chance to win. The coach refused to answer when asked about it.

“I’ve got other questions to answer,” he said. “Next question.”

After a promising start, Darnold has thrown seven interceptions over the last three games (all losses), bringing his total to a league-high 14. The former USC star threw four interceptions in last week’s 13-6 loss to the Dolphins. “Stupid football,” he called it.

“We didn’t play well as an offense,” Bowles said. “He didn’t play well last game, but there are a couple of people who have bad games here and there.”

Darnold and McCown are close friends, so there’s no chance of a controversy fracturing their relationship. But it will be interesting how the rest of the locker room reacts, especially if McCown gets on a roll.

Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said the offense plays at a quicker tempo with McCown as opposed to Darnold.

“He sees things a lot quicker,” Kearse said. “Just the mental aspect, he’s a lot further, just with his experience, being in the league, just being able to see things a lot quicker. The tempo kind of picked up a little bit.”

Tackle Kelvin Beachum said of McCown, “I guess it’s like riding an old bike. You know how things go. You know what type of person he is. You know what type of leader he is. He plays with confidence, he talks with confidence and he breeds confidence.”

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Odell Beckham Jr. wants New York Giants to run the table, get to the playoffs

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Odell Beckham Jr. is dreaming big. His goal for the New York Giants in the second half of the season is to win out.

“Win eight games,” Backham said Friday. “Get in the playoffs. Giants been there before — 9-7 got to the playoffs — and I think they did pretty good. So that is the goal.

“It’s not an easy task, but that is the goal. Win every game and do anything I can to help that.”

The Giants (1-7) are coming off their bye week. They play the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

Beckham knows the Giants must play better. It begins, in his estimation, with performing better in the red zone and scoring more points. They’re 27th in the NFL, averaging 18.8 points per game.

But he believes the turnaround can happen.

“You heard Kevin Garnett when he won. ‘Anything is possible,'” Beckham said. “It’s not impossible to win eight games. It wasn’t impossible to lose seven. So, anything can happen. Honestly. But the main focus is just this one game. Treat this game like it’s your last game of the season.

“We want to go out with a win. Let’s say you win that game, all right, now you focus on the next one. This is the last game. Now you have to win it. Everything is a must-win for us. We want to win, obviously. That is going to be the goal going forward is to win.”

The Giants are in last place in the NFC East and tied for the worst record in the NFL. It would be considered a major upset if they turned it around. They are a combined 4-20 over the past two seasons.

Beckham sees the road to recovery.

“Just keep working,” he said. “It’s easy to sit up here and say we want to win eight games. Knowing that it is very tough to do, we have to pull it all together now.”

Beckham has 61 catches for 785 yards and two touchdowns this season. He envisions an even better second half of the season.

The Pro Bowl receiver believes he’s always gotten stronger as the season progressed. Of his 35 touchdowns from 2014-16, 23 came during the second half of the season. He didn’t play the second half of the 2017 season because of a broken ankle.

Beckham feels he’s still in better shape this year after rehabbing vigorously late last year and into the offseason.

“I feel like as the season goes along, I get faster — or maybe I stay the same and other people are slowing down,” Beckham said. “Either way it goes, I feel almost an advantage towards the end of the season.”

Beckham also has positive vibes for Monday night. He remembers having athletic success on or near his birthday throughout his life. He said he scored five touchdowns in a game in high school. He scored five goals in a soccer game in early November when he was five. He scored a pair of touchdowns in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015.

“Around my birthday time, I don’t know what it is, the universal energy what it is, I just play better, do better. It’s still Scorpio season. It’s time to turn up.”

The Giants are going to need it if they have any chance of fulfilling Beckham’s prophecy to win out this season. It’s beyond a longshot.

That doesn’t stop Beckham from believing.

“I know my mentality is not going to be to quit,” he said. “I’m not going to be out there. … I’m trying to go hard every play, any chance that I get. That’s just always how I’m going to be. I know we’re not in a very good situation, but you just try to make the most out of that.”

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Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera to ask NFL about Eric Reid ejection

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera plans to ask the NFL to explain why free safety Eric Reid was ejected for a shoulder-to-helmet hit on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter of Thursday night’s 52-21 loss.

Rivera, however, doesn’t plan to ask the league about Reid’s claim after the game that he was drug tested for “like the fifth time” since he was signed by Carolina in late September.

“They’re not going to catch me on anything,” said Reid, who in May filed a grievance against the NFL in which he claimed collusion to keep him unemployed because his protests against social injustice during the national anthem while with the San Francisco 49ers.

Rivera said the drug testing was not a concern.

“I’ve got no issues on that,” Rivera said Friday. “That has nothing to do with what I have to deal with. I’m not in agreeance with what the decision was [on the ejection]. I get the penalty. I don’t get the ejection. I’m going to ask for an explanation as far as that’s concerned.”

The league does not administer drug tests or select those to be tested. It is done by an independent administrator.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy posted the policy on Twitter on Friday after multiple inquiries following Reid’s comments.

“Each week during the season, 10 players per club will be tested,” the policy says. “By means of a computer program, the policy’s jointly appointed Independent Administrator randomly selects before the game players to be tested.”

The league also has the right to eject a player in its effort to protect the quarterback and crack down on head injuries.

After hitting Roethlisberger at the end of a scramble, Reid was flagged for unnecessary roughness due to forcible contact to the head and neck area of a sliding quarterback.

Reid, who was subsequently disqualified from the game, said he had no intention to hurt Roethlisberger and said that he apologized to him afterwards.

He agreed with Rivera that the ejection was not warranted.

But Reid seemed to take exception with again being drug tested as he took exception to being fined $10,026 by the league for his unsportsmanlike penalty during a 21-17 victory over Philadelphia.

Reid noted Eagles right end Zach Ertz, who also got an unsportsmanlike penalty on the play after throwing Reid to the ground, did not get fined.

Reid also had an interception overturned in the final minutes that he felt was not justified.

Asked then if he felt he was being slighted because of his collusion grievance, Reid said, “It’s interesting. I get fined. I got an interception overturned. We’ll see how this appeal here goes.”

Reid was the first player to join then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the anthem to protest social injustice. Kaepernick, who also has a grievance against the league, remains unsigned.

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Peyton Manning goes deep on Baker Mayfield

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