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Doc's NFL Notebook

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The kickoff is dead. Long live the kickoff. As expected, the NFL's decision to move kickoffs to the 35 yard-line produced more touchbacks early in the season. But it did not eliminate the return touchdown.

Eight kicks were returned for TD's in Week 1 (three kickoff returns, five punt returns), marking the most one week in NFL history. Yes, touchbacks were way up as well, occurring on 49 percent of opening week kickoffs, compared to 18 percent in Week 1 of last season. But it was also the first time since 1958 that there were at least three 100-yard kickoff returns, according to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. Don't head for snacks during kickoffs, you may still miss something good.

RIP Zeus
Former Browns and Ravens offensive lineman Orlando Brown passed away in September at the age of 40. Brown played in 11 NFL seasons, including stints with with the original Cleveland Browns and the expansion Browns franchise. He became well-known in 1999 when referee Jeff Triplette threw a BB-weighted flag that hit Brown's eye. He later shoved Triplette, earning a suspension, which was only lifted when it was found that Brown had been temporarily blinded by the flag. Brown sued the NFL, and reportedly settled for between $15 million and $25 million. He returned to the football in 2003, playing three more seasons before his retirement.

Giant Faker
Football is filled with fakes: punt fakes, play-action fakes, pump fakes. But the NFL wants to avoid fake injuries. Following—ahem—“speculation” that Deon Grant of the Giants faked an injury against St. Louis to slow down the Rams' no-huddle offense, the league sent a memo to teams warning that if a player undoubtedly fakes an injury, the league can issue fines and suspensions, or take away draft picks. While there is no specific rule against fake-outs, NFL policy tries to ensure that coaches discourage players from doing so. After all, we know what to call a sport that has athletes are faking injuries just to draw penalties and extra timeouts: soccer.

Hit Report
Dunta Robinson is on top of the early season leaderboard for the largest fine, and he earned it. The Falcons cornerback got hit for $40,000 after he hit Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin helmet to helmet. And there was no doubt: Robinson launched the top of his helmet after Maclin pulled in the catch, and he earned a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Don't be surprised if Robinson becomes Public Enemy No. 1 in Philly: he lit up Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson just last season on a helmet-to-chest hit, one that made him $25,000 poorer. Not that anyone should be concerned about Robinson's bank account: he is set to make $5.5 million from the Falcons in 2011.

North By Defense
Two star defensive players will remain in the AFC North for the foreseeable future. Safety Troy Polamalu, a six-time Pro Bowler, signed with the Steelers through 2014 for $36.5 million. Polamalu, 30, expressed his excitement for the extension on Twitter, writing, "I am happy to say that I will retire a Pittsburgh Steeler!" The Baltimore Ravens locked up their own defensive stalwart in DT Haloti Ngata, an All-Pro each of the last three seasons. Ngata inked a five-year, $61 million contract with the Ravens.

Jackson Hole
Who knows what David Garrard is doing now after he was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was a pretty good quarterback, averaging 7.0 yards per attempt and compiling a fine 89-54 TD-INT ratio in 86 games with the Jaguars. But more than that, he was not Luke McCown, who may have had the worst quarterbacking game in NFL history. McCown started for the Jags in Week 2 at the Jets. He proceeded to complete just 6-of-19 passes to his teammates, with 4 passes intercepted by defenders. He ended up with 59 yards, good for 3.1 yards per pass attempt and a 1.8 passer rating. Head coach Jack Del Rio wisely benched McCown in favor of rookie Blaine Gabbert in Week 3.

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