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NFL REPORT

Pacman is not all that special on punt returns

September 28, 2008|From the Associated Press

Part of the reason the Dallas Cowboys wanted Adam "Pacman" Jones was for his dazzling punt returns.

Through three games, he's yet to dazzle.

Jones has a total of 32 yards on eight returns, an average of 4.0. The longest went 8 yards. He's also fumbled one away.

"We have a guy back there that can make things happen," coach Wade Phillips said. "That is an area we need to keep working on to get him loose, to give him an opportunity and for him to get a feel for where we are setting up the blocks and so forth."

Over two years in Tennessee, Jones averaged more than 10 yards per return and scored four touchdowns. He was so convinced his game-breaking skills would return even after a yearlong suspension and a change of teams that he donned the No. 21 worn by Deion Sanders when he was a cornerback-punt returner for the Cowboys.

Phillips said the Cowboys are learning to adjust to Jones' tendency to improvise -- say, taking it left even though his blocking is set up to the right, or not following his lead blocker because he saw an opening elsewhere.

"He likes to just have man on man and find a hole," Phillips said. "I think you have to have both. And if you can get him to the wall, he's gone. We just need some work on it and we need him to feel better about where the blocks are going to be."

Bad habit

Bengals running back Chris Perry is trying to break a bad habit.

The first-round draft pick from Michigan in 2004 has spent more time recovering from injury than playing in the NFL. He looked so good in training camp that the Bengals released Rudi Johnson in their final roster cut, giving the starting job to Perry.

So far, he's had mixed results.

Perry ranks 20th in the NFL with 180 yards in three games, averaging 3 yards per try. Against the Giants last Sunday, Perry ran for 54 yards in the first half and finished with 74 on 20 carries during a 26-23 loss in overtime.

"At least in the first half, I felt I was more patient," Perry said. "Now I just need to make sure I keep my head up. The weird thing about an injury, especially with your ankle, is you tend to look down at the ground to make sure nothing's there when you make that step. It takes your eyes away from looking up the field and making your next move."

Perry dislocated his right ankle and broke the bone just above it during a 2006 game against the Browns. He missed all of last season while recovering from the career-threatening injury. He's still getting in sync with the offensive line and trying to get rid of that one bad habit he's developed.

He can't look down.

"That's something I've been doing that I have to stop," he said.

Tackling problem

Colts coach Tony Dungy laments the missed tackles he's seen over the past three weeks. He's not the only one. Whether it's New England or Indianapolis, the art of tackling has become a hot topic this season.

Dungy believes one explanation is that offensive players have simply gotten more adept at making defenders miss.

Indianapolis (1-2) is one example.

After allowing only two 100-yard rushers last season, the Colts have allowed four in the first three weeks this year, including an incredible 34-yard run from Fred Taylor on Sunday. Taylor ran into a logjam behind the line, then spun away, reversed field and broke two more tackles as he started to race down the sideline.

But as bleak as things sometimes appear, Dungy added some perspective to the Colts' plight.

"I remember a game when I was in Minnesota where we had 25 missed tackles against Barry Sanders and we had seven on one play," he said, drawing laughter. "So I can't say that 12 or 15 or however many we had in the game against Jacksonville was a world record. In fact, I think that play we had seven missed tackles on went for 4 yards."

Boomerang Ben

Ben Graham was hoping for a call from an NFL team. He just didn't expect it to be from the New York Jets.

After all, they had just cut the punter a few days earlier and Graham was at a high school field in San Diego to work out with fellow Aussie and friend Darren Bennett, a former NFL punter.

"They tried to contact me, my agent and Darren," Graham said. "As it turned out, they contacted Darren's wife. She came racing down to the high school field and she said, 'You better answer the phone.' It's quite the turn of events."

That's for sure. The Jets released Graham, in his fourth season with New York, after a poor outing in a loss to the New England Patriots.

The team signed journeyman Reggie Hodges to the active roster and rookie Waylon Prather to the practice squad the next day.

"The Jets wanted to move me and that's understandable," the former Australian Football League star said. "I had a bad game against the Patriots. I went back preparing for the next opportunity."

After Hodges strained his left thigh in practice and Prather proved he wasn't ready to play in the NFL, the Jets came calling on a familiar face in time for the game Monday night against the Chargers.

Graham dropped his only two kicks against San Diego inside the Chargers 20-yard line with no returns, and is expected to be the Jets' punter again Sunday at home against Arizona. Hodges is still sidelined, and Prather was released Wednesday.

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