- Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2015

X’s and O’s … and a few Zzzz’s, too.

The New York Jets brought in a sleep specialist to try to help players prepare for the five-hour time difference when they play the Miami Dolphins in London on Sunday. Rookie Leonard Williams should have no trouble keeping up with his sleep.

The first-round draft pick dozed off during the presentation by the specialist.

“I was kind of nodding off in that meeting, to be honest,” a smiling Williams said. “The guy was telling us it’s all right to go to sleep. He shouldn’t have said that - and then he turned off the lights. I was trying to pay attention.”

Well, at least he passed the snooze test.

“The main thing I got out of it was he said we should try to go to sleep a little earlier than we have been,” Williams said, “and wake up a little earlier than we have been because it’s going to be a big time difference. And, we’re going to be kind of jet-lagged.”

Some of the other suggestions by doctors and trainers to the players included not having caffeine too late in the day, staying well-hydrated, and providing orange light-blocking glasses to every player to help them fall asleep easier after using their tablets and smart devices.

Some players might want to bring the sleep specialist along, too.

“He turned off the lights,” Williams said. “I think he did it on purpose, to be honest, because he had a few things where people had to raise their hands. He was like, ‘The only people not raising their hands are the people asleep.’”

Sleep tight, Leonard.


COACHING REUNION: For the second time already this season, Oakland coach Jack Del Rio will be matching wits with an old friend.

After losing the opener to his former fellow Baltimore assistant Marvin Lewis’ Cincinnati’s team, Del Rio gets a shot against Chicago’s John Fox this Sunday.

Del Rio has served four seasons as Fox’s defensive coordinator in Carolina and Denver, and said its extra motivation to go up against an old friend.

“I wish it could be him and I wrestling on the 50, but that’s not going to come down,” Del Rio said. “I think ‘Foxy’ might still take me, he’s a pretty tough guy. It’s going to be our two teams going at each other and it should be a good battle.”

With 10 coaches on Oakland’s staff having played in the NFL, quarterback Derek Carr said he’d like his team’s chances if it came down to a battle of coaches.

“I would take our coaches in a fight,” Carr said. “I think a lot of people would, too.”


QB READY WHEN CALLED: Matt Cassel doesn’t know if he’ll be active as the backup to Brandon Weeden in his second week with Dallas since a trade that brought him from Buffalo after Tony Romo’s collarbone injury.

He does know he’ll be ready to play whenever the time comes.

“I think as a player you always come in with the mindset that you have to be ready to play at any given time,” Cassel said. “Whether that opportunity comes, you don’t know. That’s a coach’s decision. But at the same time, I think for me as a competitor, you have to get yourself ready to play.”

Cassel was inactive last week against Atlanta, and Kellen Moore was Weeden’s backup. Moore, in his fourth season, has never played in a regular-season game. And Weeden has a nine-game losing streak going back to his time in Cleveland, the longest skid among current NFL starters.

“They told me that Brandon’s the starter and obviously he has the full support of the organization, the team and everybody else,” said Cassel, who helped New England finish 11-5 filling in when Tom Brady was lost for the season to a knee injury in the 2008 opener. “With that being said, they said you’ve got to come in and work hard and let’s see what happens.”

As usual, coach Jason Garrett hasn’t offered any indication publicly of whether Cassel will be active at New Orleans on Sunday night. “Kellen is a few weeks ahead of Matt in terms of understanding our system,” Garrett said. “That’s one of the reasons why he was the No. 2 last week, but Matt’s learning quickly.”


BAIR ESSENTIALS: After waiting a long time to make his first career start, 30-year-old defensive lineman Brandon Bair was impressive in Philadelphia’s 24-17 win at the Jets.

The 6-foot-6 Bair batted down three of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s passes, including one that bounced into Jordan Hicks’ hands for an interception. Bair also had five tackles filling in for injured starter Cedric Thornton.

“When he gets in front of the quarterback and gets his hand up and attacks their throwing arm, he really does make a difference in a quarterback’s ability to throw downfield,” defensive coordinator Billy Davis said.

Bair played for Chip Kelly at Oregon, but started college late after going on a two-year Mormon mission following high school. The Chiefs signed him as undrafted rookie in 2011, but he didn’t play in a game in two seasons in Kansas City. He spent time on Oakland’s practice squad in 2012 before coming to the Eagles in 2013 after Kelly became the coach. Bair blocked a field goal in his first NFL game in Week 1 last year, and blocked an extra point later in the season.

He’s getting a chance to start now because Thornton broke a bone in his hand in Week 2.

“Our system fits his skill set better than anything else out there in the NFL,” Davis said. “He is great at striking and pressing a block, getting off and playing the inside run.”


HONORING THE BUS: The high school Jerome Bettis attended in Detroit has closed, so another site was chosen this week to honor the Pro Football Hall of Fame 2015 inductee as part of the hall’s Hometown Hall of Famer program.

More than 1,000 students were on hand at Renaissance High School - Bettis attended McKenzie High - for the celebration. The Bus was serenaded by the school choir, swarmed on stage by the football team, and joined by 30 family members, including his mother, Gladys.

“When you have the Gold Jacket it gives you, the phrase I like to use is ‘permanent relevancy,’ and it’s how the message is that much stronger. People listen that much closer to the message because they understand that success was possible through me,” Bettis said. “I was able to reach the highest of the highs in my particular profession.

“I want this plaque to be an everyday reminder that dreams are possible. Here is a kid from the west side of Detroit that had dreams of wanting to be one of the best football players.”

Also in attendance were all of Bettis’ coaches from McKenzie, and longtime NFL guard Reggie McKenzie, who anchored the Buffalo Bills’ “Electric Company” offensive line of the 1970s. It was at a football camp run by McKenzie in Detroit that a young Bettis first was inspired to play the game.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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