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"Ben Stiller, Dodgeball. Can't you see it?"

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Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger shaved off the beard he's been growing since July on Thursday, grabbing the spare clippers he keeps in his locker after practice.

Tennessee had just announced he will make his first career start Sunday against Houston, and reporters were headed his way. Mettenberger kept a moustache and a soul patch just above his chin, and he wore a red headband, too.

Asked if he shaved because he knew the media was coming, Mettenberger said he thought it would a good look for the front page of the local newspaper. His beard had gotten pretty thick and shaggy, but Mettenberger didn't shave just to avoid a beard comparison with Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"My beard is in the minor leagues compared to his," Mettenberger said. "Yeah, I definitely have a little beard envy toward Fitz."

Mettenberger said he shaved because Halloween is close, so he wanted to go ahead and start looking like the character he plans to be. So exactly what will his costume be?

"Ben Stiller, 'Dodgeball,'" Mettenberger said. "Can't you see it?"

CATCHING ON: Ahmad Bradshaw might not be the most memorable Bradshaw in Pittsburgh. But the Steelers (4-3) know he's someone they must defend Sunday when Indianapolis (5-2) comes to town.

Bradshaw has rejuvenated his career in Indy with his powerful trademark runs — and catching passes. The two-time Super Bowl winner with the Giants started his eighth NFL season with 139 catches, 1,129 yards and five touchdowns. This year, in seven games Bradshaw is averaging 4.8 yards rushing, but with 24 catches, 212 yards and six touchdowns is on pace to shatter his previous career best receiving numbers.

It's not unfamiliar territory for the 5-foot-10, 217-pound power runner.

"I started high school as a receiver backing up my cousin. We ran the wishbone. That year when I finally got to high school we finally opened it up and took WVU's offense and spread it out," Bradshaw said. "From then on, that's when I was able to start catching the ball, becoming a receiver. From then on, I felt that I could be a weapon out of the backfield if I had to. Coming into the NFL, that's just how I saw myself, as a scat type of back."

REDSKINS' RUN WOES: Washington coach Jay Gruden heard the question about the lackluster state of his team's running game and immediately rubbed his eyes, then let out a loud sigh.

"Where do you want to start?" Gruden replied.

His Redskins (2-5) rank 21st in the 32-club NFL with 99.4 yards rushing per game. That's down from the 135.3 yards that Washington averaged last season, and way down from the 169.3 the team ran for per game in 2012, when NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III gained 815, fifth most in a season by a quarterback.

"Right now, we're just not working in concert together the way I think we should," Gruden said. "It's not all the line. It's not all the tight ends. It's not all the backs. It's not all the receivers. It's a combination of everything. We're going to continue to run it, continue to work on it, and hopefully it will click."

With Griffin less of a runner in his second season because of knee surgery — and sidelined since Week 2 in 2014 with a dislocated left ankle — teams have paid more attention to running back Alfred Morris. The third-year player's numbers have slipped across the board.

After rushing for 1,613 yards (100.8 per game) as a rookie in 2012, Morris ran for 1,275 (79.7 ypg) last season, and he's at 440 (62.9 ypg) heading into Washington's game Monday night at the Dallas Cowboys.

Morris has yet to top 100 yards in any game this season, and his totals the past three weeks were 29, 41 and 54 yards. Against the Titans last week, Gruden said, Morris missed a couple of cuts.

"I still think he's the same guy. I think he's a good, productive running back in the NFL. We've just got to get him better looks, and when he has a good look, he's got to make the right reads," Gruden said. "So it's a little bit of a combination of everything. We still like Alfred. We still feel like he's going to carry us to where we need to go."

JON & JAY: The Washington Redskins are playing their second Monday night game of the season, which means a second pregame production meeting between coach Jay Gruden and "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden, his brother.

PHOTO: Indianapolis Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw (44) greets fans following an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Indianapolis. The Colts won the game 27-0. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Indianapolis Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw (44) greets fans following an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Indianapolis. The Colts won the game 27-0. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

"It's entertaining. They ought to film it," Jay Gruden said. "It's always good to see him. We don't get a chance to see each other very much this time of year, obviously, but it's always good to see him. He's a pro at what he does. He'll throw out a couple of ideas to me every now and then."

Jay Gruden's counterpart on Monday night, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, said he's not concerned about a potential conflict of interest.

"I've known coach Gruden and Jay for a long time, and they're certainly professional," Garrett said. "They've demonstrated that throughout their careers. It's something that is kind of part of this game, and it's something that I know we're going to handle the right way, and I'm sure they're going to handle it the right way as well."

LET ME THROW THE BALL: Miami Dolphins wideout Mike Wallace was a bit envious of former teammate Antonio Brown when he saw the Pittsburgh Steelers receiver throw a touchdown pass on a gadget play last week.

Wallace has never attempted a pass in his six-year NFL career and has never thrown for a touchdown, even in high school. He says he's overdue.

"I've got a good arm," Wallace says. "I can throw it 60 yards. I might throw it 80."

Wallace does have five touchdown receptions this year. But for two years he and Ryan Tannehill have struggled to click on deep passes, even though the speedy Wallace frequently gets open.

If Tannehill is open deep on a gadget play, would Wallace hit him?

"I'll get it to him," Wallace said. "I'm nice."

A GAME OF SWITCHEROO: Bubba Ventrone should probably keep his place in the Bay Area and remain on standby for the San Francisco 49ers. Same for quarterback Josh Johnson, back on the team — for this week at least.

Just because the 49ers are on their bye week doesn't mean they're not making what has become a regular, revolving transaction list with a trio of players. It's usually all for the purpose of practice and game planning.

On Tuesday, the Niners re-signed Johnson, who played in college for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at San Diego. Special teams standout and safety Ventrone was released to clear roster room.

Only four days earlier, on Oct. 17, Ventrone was signed and Johnson cut. Three days prior, on Oct. 14, Johnson was signed and Ventrone waived.

Before that, Ventrone was re-signed on Oct. 8 and wide receiver Kassim Osgood was released, then Osgood was back two days later and Johnson cut on Oct. 10.

While Harbaugh hasn't offered specifics into strategy behind the moves, when Johnson has been back during certain weeks the coach said it's to get him ample practice time.

So, is he playing the opponents' quarterbacks on the scout team?

"No, he's a 49ers quarterback," Harbaugh said.


Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner, Teresa M. Walker and Howard Fendrich, and Sports Writers Janie McCauley, Steven Wine, Joseph White and Michael Marot contributed to this story.


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

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