Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick gets a trim - and his job back

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Houston quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick finally shaved the bushy and overgrown beard he'd been sporting the entire season this week.

And on the day he debuted his closely trimmed facial hair, he scolded reporters for not telling him how terrible his old look was.

"I'm kind of mad you guys didn't tell me I looked like that," he said. "I finally had time to look in the mirror and thought it was disgusting and decided to trim it down a little bit."

He said getting rid of the wild look was not an easy task.

"We had to chop it down piece by piece," he said. "It was definitely a significant amount of time to take it off."

He said a bonus of the change is that his young daughters aren't scared of him anymore. One of his sons remarked that he had "the longest neck in the world."

Fitzpatrick, who was benched two games ago, will return to the starting lineup Sunday at Tennessee with Ryan Mallett out with a season-ending chest injury. Some wondered if he decided to get a new look to go with his fresh start on the field?

"It was more just me getting tired with having to pick corn out of it," Fitzpatrick joked. "When I eat pancakes in the morning with the syrup and stuff, it would be there for days. My wife asks me, 'Did you have pancakes this morning?' (I say) 'No, it was four days ago.' No more of those questions, which will be good."

I KNOW THAT GUY: Zach Mettenberger had an up-close view of Odell Beckham Jr. and his great hands at LSU. For the record, the Titans quarterback wasn't surprised by that three-fingered grab Beckham made Sunday night for the Giants.

"Him and Jarvis (Landry) used to have some pretty cool ones at practice," Mettenberger said of his former teammates. "I knew he could do that."

That was a loaded offense at LSU with Beckham, Landry, Mettenberger and Alfred Blue, who has been filling in for Arian Foster with the Texans. Mettenberger said it's cool to see them all having success now knowing they were all together a year ago.

But for all the great catches Beckham made at LSU, Mettenberger said he hadn't seen anything like what the wide receiver did for Eli Manning.

"He's a really special athlete," Mettenberger said. "Once in a generation really."

Another Manning was very impressed, too.

Peyton Manning studies film like he's cramming for the bar exam. He has a mental rolodex of all the plays and calls and games he's ever experienced or witnessed. And he's as big a student of the game as anybody in the NFL.

He said of all the receptions etched in his memory bank, none beats Beckham's.

"That's as fine a catch as I've seen," Manning said, before deadpanning: "I was watching it on TV and it's just what Newman graduates do. It's what happens."

The Mannings and Beckham all attended Isidore Newman High School in New Orleans.

MORE BECKHAM: Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr isn't the type to shy away from anything reporters want to ask him. But he hasn't taken kindly to questions about Beckham's spectacular catch, even if the Cowboys got a 31-28 win over the Giants last weekend.

Carr was on the wrong side of history on the play, captured in the many images and the viral video stumbling to the ground as Beckham holds the ball in the fingertips of his fully outstretched right hand.

"I don't really get into the hoopla with the media and whatever y'all be talking about," Carr said. "We won the game. In this league, you play long enough, you're on both sides of the fence. You're making plays, you get plays made on you."

By the third question two days after the catch, Carr was on edge.

"I won't address it anymore," he said. "If you all ask me, I'll just go lift weights in like three seconds."

Coach Jason Garrett believes Carr will have the same short memory for Beckham's catch that he's had throughout a seven-year career.

"He's a good football player," Garrett said. "The guys who are mentally strong enough to keep coming back and handle success themselves, but also handle the adversities that happen, are the ones that are the best players."

RUNNING RUSSELL: Before the big NFC West showdown on Thanksgiving night won easily by Seattle, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was comparing mobile, running Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to Barry Sanders.

That's just how hard Wilson can be to stop when he keeps the ball himself.

"When Wilson has the ball in his hand, he's like defending Barry Sanders with his quickness and speed and elusiveness," Fangio said. "He's a tough assignment. He's got more rushing yards than most of the running backs in the league."

"Vic coached against Barry, too, back in the day," Carroll said. "I don't know if there's been a player that made a defensive coach or coordinator cringe more and tense up more. Because he could score from anywhere on the field. I think he's one of the great open-field guys that ever played this game.

"I don't know if Russell's ready for that right now. Every now and then he gets out and makes a few yards and tries to get out of bounds without getting hit. That's not at all like Barry Sanders."

Wilson ran for a team-high 73 yards on 10 carries in last week's 19-3 win against Arizona, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Marshawn Lynch managed just 39 yards on 15 carries.


AP Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner and Arnie Stapleton and Sports Writers Janie McCauley, Schuyler Dixon and Teresa M. Walker contributed to this notebook.


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

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