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NFL's salute to military has some moving moments

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The NFL's salute to the military in November includes a call to action for fans to reach out to members of the services, and a Salute to Service Award given to someone in the league.

Partnering with USAA, which provides insurance and financial services to current and former members of the military and their families, the NFL is promoting appreciation for the military in a major way.

Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who won the 1963 Heisman Trophy at Navy and led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles, is urging fans to visit http://salutetoservice.com and honor those in the armed services.

"USAA has a strong relationship with the NFL," Staubach said. "In addition to many gestures of military appreciation at NFL games all season long, SaluteToSevrice.com is really the place to go to look at videos related to military appreciation that are tied in with the NFL. They feature Robert Griffin III, Charles Tillman, Ron Rivera and myself. I am glad to see that companies like USAA appreciate military and veterans as they deserve to be appreciated."

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is one of the 32 nominees for the Salute to Service Award, which will recognize a league member who demonstrates an exemplary commitment to honoring and supporting the military community. He recently posted a blog on sportsblog.com saying, "Growing up in a military community, with the helicopters flying above, seeing my family literally walk through the door every day in their uniforms, you grow up with a sense of pride and respect for the flag."

Rivera also is a finalist for the award, which was won last year by Ravens coach John Harbaugh. USAA contributed $25,000 in his honor to the official aid societies representing all five military branches.

The winner of the award will be announced at the "NFL Honors" awards show on Jan. 31, the night before the Super Bowl. The Associated Press will announce the winners of its eight individual awards that night, including MVP and Coach of the Year.

Also, for every point scored during the NFL's 32 designated Salute to Service games, the league donates $100 to each of its three core military nonprofit partners: the Pat Tillman Foundation, USO, and Wounded Warrior Project.

UNION SUPPORT: The United Auto Workers has sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and New York Giants owner John Mara urging the league to negotiate changes in the personal conduct policy with the players' union.

In the letter from Dennis D. Williams, president of the UAW, Williams says "the UAW believes it is a mistake to exclude player leadership, through their union, from being part of a collectively bargained solution."

Williams calls for a "new, fair and transparent personal conduct policy that NFL fans, sponsors and the women and men of the broader public can believe in."

In the wake of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases, the NFL has come under criticism and heavy scrutiny for its player conduct policy and the punishments handed out. Goodell strengthened the discipline within the policy in August, with first offenses calling for a six-game suspension.

On Thursday, an NFL spokesman said in an email to The Associated Press that the Commissioner's disciplinary authority "is part of the existing CBA and was agreed to in 2011, just as it was agreed to in collective bargaining spanning four decades. The union has proposed changes in the commissioner's disciplinary authority.

"In our discussions with the union, we have talked about a number of possible changes to the disciplinary system, but the NFLPA has refused to seriously entertain any of the NFL's ideas."

STIR CRAZY: Mental reps only go so far.

While rehabbing from left ankle surgery from an injury in the opener, Rams defensive end Chris Long stepped up his output with highly entertaining social media posts.

"When I start power-ranking like the months of the year and stuff, you just start losing your mind," Long said. "My Instagram posts got weirder and weirder. It can get monotonous, so you get a lot of stupid ideas in your head."

Earlier this week on Twitter, Long, whose handle is @JOEL9ONE, mused that he didn't go out much and stared at his phone while drinking IPAs. He also noted, "I'm moderately cool but I'm nearing thirty" and judged his mustache "either a knife fight scar or terrible trimmer work."

Addressing the cold snap, he posted, "I am a 29 year old physically active male. How will the polar vortex affect me?"

Long was the second overall pick in 2008 and had never missed a game before this season. He's on the injured reserve-designated to return list. The Rams began their 21-day window to get him back in the mix Wednesday when he got individual work.

"It felt good to be wearing a jersey," Long said. "It's weird when you're walking around without a helmet and jersey for seven to eight weeks. You feel like a ghost sometimes."

GET CARTER: Coming off a stunning 20-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday, Rex Ryan and the New York Jets played host to a special visitor.

Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter, now an ESPN analyst, stopped by the team's facility on Tuesday and spoke with the players for about 90 minutes. It was a prearranged visit through Carter and the team, and the former NFL star talked about several topics, including leadership and accountability.

Carter, who credits Ryan's father Buddy with helping turn around his life and career, spoke briefly to the entire team and then asked the coaches to leave.

"I was just in there in the beginning of it and that was enough for me," Ryan said. "He was outstanding. Then I left and let them just talk player to player. Part of this game, the beauty of it is there is a fraternity in this business. Obviously, Cris played for my dad. We all know that, it is well-documented. ... From what the players told me, it was fantastic."

Carter discussed the visit on ESPN Radio on Wednesday, saying he shared a personal story about him and the Ryans. Carter played his first three NFL seasons for the Eagles under Buddy Ryan from 1987-89. He also didn't hesitate to offer a critical evaluation.

"I told them flat out what I thought," Carter told ESPN New York 98.7. "I thought they didn't play like the Rex Ryan teams that I used to know. I told them they make too many mistakes, they turn the ball over and they don't have no identity. I said the defensive front seven and the defensive line, if I had a hat on, I'd take it off to you, because you guys do play hard and you have played well. But I said the intensity, I don't see that like the Jets teams that went to the AFC championship several years ago."

Carter added that he recognized that the team is going through a tough season at 2-8.

"If you all think you've got less talent, stop making excuses. Has it been tough conditions you were put under with (John) Idzik and Rex and the contract and all of that talk? Yes, but if you make plays, all of that will go away.'"


AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and Sports Writers Dennis Waszak Jr., and R.B. Fallstrom contributed to this notebook.


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

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