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Week Five Friday 10-pack

As the new ’68 VW bus rolls toward the train that will roll me to New York, I justify the write off by banging out the weekly Friday 10-pack.

This week, the write off extends to Tuesday, thanks to the Vikings-Jets Monday night game in the New Meadowlands Stadium.

I’ll be joining Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, and Greg Coleman of the Vikings Radio Network for the third quarter of the game, with the goal of being a little less disastrous than Christian Slater on Monday Night Football in 2006.

And so this week’s edition of the Friday 10-pack puts a little extra focus on the Monday night game.


1.  What will Favre do?

When the Vikings’ offense lines up to play the Jets on Monday night, quarterback Brett Favre will face a dilemma.

When Moss takes off down the field, drawing a cornerback from the line and a safety over the top, will Favre choose to try to be on the front end of one of those legendary rainbows that splash down into Randy’s arms, with Moss somehow securing possession even as he’s draped by two or three men — and possibly an official?  Or will Favre check down to one of the guys who’ll be facing single coverage, like Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, or Adrian Peterson?

Favre acknowledged the dilemma during his press conference on Thursday.

“I’m like everyone else,” Favre said. “I’m watching the Monday night game, and I’m like, ‘He’s only been thrown to one time?’  So what if he’s covered?  That’s the thing about Randy.  So what if he’s covered?  But does that mean you just throw it to him and you got four other guys that are wide open?  There’s this added pressure.  Maybe it’s just I’m getting old.”

Favre needs to forget about the pressure and just play.  And he needs to defer to the coaches when it comes to distributing the football.  In some cases, it will make sense to chuck it deep, even if Moss is triple-covered.  In other cases, the smart move will be to take what the defense gives Favre.

And that’s why Favre is feeling pressure.  He knows his nature meshes with winging it deep, on pretty much every drive.  And in what apparently will be his final season (unless it isn’t), Favre finally has a guy who reliably will be in position to catch one out of every two or three of those bombs.  

How can Favre resist?  

2.  Revis need to zip it.

Earlier this year, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis called Randy Moss a slouch.  In Week Two, that slouch blew by Revis and made a one-handed grab for the ages, as Revis was playing the Al Czervik broken arm routine

Now, with Revis still recovering from a Moss-induced hamstring strain that traces to Revis’ August holdout, Revis again is taking shots at Moss, claiming that Randy shut it down in the second half of Pats-Jets game.  Revis even has influenced Antonio Cromartie, who by all appearances held Moss in check on a day Revis couldn’t, to join in the chorus, even though it minimizes Cromartie’s accomplishment from Week Two.  

Revis, who seems like a smart guy, isn’t smart enough.  He should take a cue from Bill Belichick and smother Randy in verbal bouquets.  Few other players find more motivation from external sources than Moss, and Moss will be even more ready to face the Jets, thanks to Revis and Cromartie.

3.  Pats set a dangerous precedent.

The circumstances were familiar.  A disgruntled receiver who wants more money from his current team or a trade to a new one begins to cause trouble, agitating and distracting until he gets what he wants or the whole thing explodes.

Five years ago, the “original 81″ took that situation to the extreme, pushing the Eagles to the breaking point and beyond after Terrell Owens’ performance against the Patriots in the Super Bowl prompted Owens to push for a new contract.  The Eagles refused to relent, concerned in part that other players could thereafter try to talk their own way out of town.

With the “other 81″ (who is now back to being the “original 84″), the Patriots decided not to dig in their heels, giving Moss what he wanted before the situation involved shirtless situps or press conferences featuring guys saying “next question.”  (OK, the second thing still happened anyway.)

Some will now say that the Patriots have set a dangerous precedent.  And anyone who would say that would be right.  Moss has given any future Patriot who wants a new deal or a trade to a team who’ll give him one a blueprint for getting out.

But here’s the thing.  Moss’ talent level and his accomplishments made the team more likely to relent.  Also, when the Pats acquired him in 2007, the transaction represented at a certain level a deal with the devil.  They knew that, eventually, the Moss who metastasized through the Minnesota and Oakland organizations would return, and they accepted the fact that, when it happens, they’ll deal with it.

Moving forward, the precedent that has been set may not be a problem because the Pats seem to be recommitting to the notion of acquiring only those guys who want to be there.    

4.  Will Cushing be the same?

Though most of the attention in Houston this week centers on receiver Andre Johnson, who’ll be a game-time decision a week after missing a game due to a lingering ankle problem, another player who should be watched carefully going forward is linebacker Brian Cushing, the two-time (literally) 2009 Associated Press defensive rookie of the year.

Cushing returns from a four-game suspension.  Unlike the other high-profile players whose quarter-season banishments have ended (Santonio Holmes of the Jets and Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers), Cushing’s punishment arose from a violation of the league’s policy regarding performance-enhancing substances.

Assuming, then, that Cushing actually cheated and that his multiple excuses (as the league concluded) hold less water than a fettucini strainer, the question will be whether he can play at the same level without the benefit of the steroids he took before chasing them with hCG in order to kick-start his natural production of testosterone, which shuts down during a steroids cycle.

If Cushing merely used steroids to speed the recovery of an injured knee in order to ensure that he’d be able to play in Week One of his rookie year, he should be able to play as well without them.

Until, of course, he gets injured, and he’s forced to rehab without the use of impermissible chemicals.

5.  Eagles are taking a huge gamble.

When the Eagles travel to San Francisco for a Sunday night game against the desperate and thus dangerous 49ers, they’ll have two quarterbacks:  Kevin Kolb and Mike Kafka.

If Kolb should have his helmet planted into the Candlestick turf like the stump of a used Christmas tree, the rookie from Northwestern will be pressed into service.

And so the Eagles are taking a huge gamble by not having on the roster a veteran with knowledge of and experience in the West Coast offense.  Last year, when Donovan McNabb went down and Kolb stepped up, the Eagles brought back Jeff Garcia in an effort to beef up a depth chart that otherwise included only Mike Vick.  How, then, can the Eagles choose to fly blind with the only alternative to Kolb being an unproven, unaccomplished, and (in comparison to Vick) dramatically less talented first-year player?

6.  Door should be open for Kolb.

The Eagles apparently are willing to assume (or at a minimum hope) that they won’t have to resort to Mike Kafka until Mike Vick returns from a rib/chest injury.  But what if Kevin Kolb plays as well as he did when Donovan McNabb had a rib/chest injury in 2009?

Coach Andy Reid
already has said that Vick remains the starter, something Reid said about Kolb when Kolb was injured.  If Vick was able to alter that status quo, it’s only fair that Kolb should be able to do the same thing.

Though Kolb currently is saying only the right things, Kolb has to be thinking that the door is open.  If he plays incredibly well (admittedly a big “if”, but not impossible), he needs to have a chance to take his job back.

And if Kolb doesn’t get the same consideration Vick received, Kolb will have clear cause to be upset.     

7.  Peppers comes home.

Bears defensive end Julius Peppers returns home on Sunday.  The one-time high-profile Carolina rookie has a simple goal — demolish the Panthers’ current high-profile rookie, quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Though the Panthers may not win the game, they’ll surely be obsessed with preventing Peppers from having an impact.  They paid him millions, especially in his final season with the team, and he often complained.  At times, he underachieved.  At other times, it seemed that he didn’t give his all on every play.

If coach John Fox has any desire to finish out the season, he’ll find a way to use Peppers’ past words and actions (or inactions) to fire up the troops to give their best possible effort.  With quarterback Jay Cutler out due to a concussion, the Panthers have a chance to pull this one off.

And if the Panthers were to win only one game this year, like they did in the season that put them in position to pick Peppers, they’d likely want the one win to come against Peppers and his new team.

8.  Keep an eye on Kyle Orton.

When the Broncos traded quarterback Jay Cutler to the Bears for a pair of first-round draft picks, quarterback Kyle Orton was tacked onto the deal as an afterthought.

In his second season with the Broncos, Orton is anything but a forgotten man.

Orton currently leads all quarterbacks with 1,419 yards passing, a pace that would shatter Dan Marino’s all-time single-season record.  Though on one hand it’s not surprising given the extent to which the Broncos have tilted their offense toward throwing the ball, the players still need to execute, and no one ever dreamed that Orton would be able to do it.

If he can fire missiles throughout M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, Orton will move even closer to being regarded as an elite quarterback.

The truth could be that he’s already there.

9.  Colts have no silver lining.

Many league observers assume that the Colts’ slow start (they’re 2-2) represents a major shift from their recent history of 10-0 launches to the season.  The reality, however, is that it’s the second time in three years that the Colts have struggled in September and October.

In 2008, the Colts opened at 1-2 and later slid to 3-4 before catching fire, winning nine in a row.  That year, however, Peyton Manning was hampered in the early going by late-offseason surgery to clean a staph infection out of his knee.

This year, Manning is fine, notwithstanding rumors of lingering nerves problems in his neck.

So if we accept the fact that Manning is firing on all cylinders (and his numbers suggest that he is), the Colts have no reason to think things will get much better as the season unfolds.  It could be, then, that the pack finally is catching up to the Colts, and that the days of 12-or-more-win seasons are done.

At least for 2010.

10.  Uprising of the winless teams?

In one of the most parity-driven seasons since former Commissioner Pete Rozelle decided that seeing the Steelers, Cowboys, and Raiders competing for every Lombardi Trophy, four teams have been unable to navigate the first four weeks of the season with a win.

This week, each of the four winless teams could change the “0” to a “1” in the win column.

In Buffalo, the Bills welcome the up-and-down Jaguars, who probably are feeling a little too good about themselves after pulling off an unlikely win over the Colts.  In Detroit, the close-but-no-cigar Lions could have an exploding stogie in store for the Rams, who probably are feeling a little to good about themselves after winning two games in eight days.  In Charlotte, as mentioned earlier, the Panthers welcome Julius Peppers home, without having to face Jay Cutler.  And in San Francisco, the better-than-their-record Niners get an Eagles team that won’t have Mike Vick.

Don’t be shocked if each of these four 0-4 teams find a way to further prove the parity premise by pushing the bottom of the pack a step closer to the front.

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Why aren’t other teams lining up for Jason Garrett?

Garrett Getty Images

Rarely if ever does a head coach become a free agent.  Rarely if ever does a free-agent head coach find a high demand for his services elsewhere.  Usually, it’s because the free-agent coach is a free agent for a reason.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, whose contract expires after the season, could be the most desirable lame duck to ever hit the market.  With 11 wins and a division title while working under General Manager Jerry Jones, why isn’t Garrett showing up on the short list for other teams?

Sure, Garrett generated mediocre results during his first three years on the job, struggling at times to juggle the micro of play calling and the macro of, you know, not icing his own kicker with a time out.  But Garrett has found his way in 2014 (he no longer calls the plays on offense), presiding over a team that arguably has exceeded expectations more than any other — which should put Garrett in line for coach of the year consideration.

But Garrett isn’t being mentioned as a candidate for looming or possible vacancies in San Francisco, Oakland, New York (Jets or Giants, though a Tom Coughlin termination seems like likely), Chicago, and Atlanta.  Maybe it’s the perception that Garrett doesn’t want to leave Dallas.  Maybe it’s the belief that there’s already a wink-nod extension in place.  Or maybe he’s just not getting the credit he deserves.

Every year, the coordinators of the best teams land on the A- or B-list for coaching vacancies.  Shouldn’t the head coaches of the best teams be there, too, in those rarest of circumstances when the head coach of one of the best teams has a contract that’s about to expire?

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49ers’ Anthony Davis seems to have a problem with Greg Roman

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

As the 49ers’ season comes to a close and the team prepares for a big shakeup in the offseason, offensive tackle Anthony Davis sounds like he hopes he’s not coached by offensive coordinator Greg Roman next season.

Davis went on Twitter today and seemed to take a shot at Roman, recalling a time when Roman first became offensive coordinator that Roman said something that got under Davis’s skin.

“Greg Roman to me when I was 21: ‘You know we can get someone off the street to do what you do,'” Davis tweeted.

Davis then tweeted, “The irony.” Perhaps he was suggesting that the 49ers are about to get someone off the street to do what Roman does, although Davis later deleted that tweet, so it’s not quite clear what he was trying to say.

In any event, Davis seems to have some kind of a problem with Roman, the kind of problem that could fester on a team — except that Roman is probably only going to coach Davis for one more game before they go their separate ways.

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Mike Pettine: Our first-round picks aren’t busts

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Much has been written and said about Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel over the course of his rookie season, culminating in his brief stint in the starting lineup and questions about whether he’d ever be the long-term quarterback that the Browns have been seeking since their re-entry into the NFL.

Manziel was just one of two Browns first-round picks this year, however. Cornerback Justin Gilbert may have drawn less attention than Manziel, but he didn’t play any better and didn’t convince too many people that he’ll be the kind of standout player you’d like to get at the top of the first round. Gilbert’s professionalism has been publicly criticized by veterans Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner, something that Pettine has heard from those players and seems to agree with even as he says that no one is giving up on either player after their rookie seasons.

“Are we ready to write both of those players off as busts because they didn’t produce as rookies?” Pettine said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’m not anywhere near that point. That’s just a knee-jerk. Some rookies come in and play right away. Others it takes some time.”

Conversations about whether either of your first-round picks will ever pay off aren’t ones any team wants to have at the end of the season and they certainly aren’t ones the Browns want to have after years of losing. They’ll probably need at least one of Manziel or Gilbert to break through to end that cycle, which makes it a big offseason for both players.

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John Harbaugh disputes report that Jim’s family is pushing him to Michigan

John Harbaugh, Jim Harbaugh, Jack Harbaugh AP

Jim Harbaugh reportedly is “torn” between taking the job at Michigan and staying in the NFL.  Harbaugh’s “family and friends” reportedly are urging him to return to his alma mater.  His brother, John, disputed that on Wednesday.  Strongly.

“My dad and I both . . . I will say this:  The report that said that his family is encouraging him to go to Michigan by Adam Schefter is absolutely incorrect,” the Ravens coach told reporters Wednesday.  “There has been no family that I know of that has given him any advice at all because that’s a personal decision.  It’s his to make, and that’s just absolutely false.  I don’t know where that came from, but it didn’t come from the Harbaughs.  My dad and I both said, ‘Hey, don’t tell us.’  If something gets out, we don’t want the finger pointed at us.  Just leave us out of it, and don’t tell us what you’re going to do.  I think he’s just trying to figure out what the next thing is for him, and more than anything, trying to have a great game on Sunday.”

Still, it sounds like John appreciates the fact that he’s not the Harbaugh making headlines.

“I open up my [computer] and you look at Google and it’s Jim Harbaugh,” John said.  “Perfect.  Perfect, it’s all Jim.  I will say this: I’m just proud of him.  I think he’s handled this.  He’s been a giant through all of this uncalled-for type of media onslaught sometimes that takes place.  Not anybody’s fault, just the nature of the business.  I think he’s handled it just perfectly.”

A reporter then seized on the word “giant” as a clue that Jim could be succeeding Tom Coughlin in New York.

“See, that’s what happens right there,” John said, laughing.  “That will be a headline.  No, that’s not what I said.”

If John is telling the truth (and there’s no reason to think he isn’t), he’s been saying nothing to Jim about Jim’s next job.  Regardless, John’s comments make it even more clear that there will indeed be a “next job” for Jim, sooner than later.

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Fletcher Cox was initially mad about Pro Bowl snub, now he’s not

Fletcher Getty Images

Anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and acceptance represent the typical stages of grief.  When it comes to not qualifying for the Pro Bowl, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has short-circuited that process to anger and acceptance.

“Dude, I mean, I was mad all last night, kind of mad this morning,” Cox said Wednesday, via Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com.  “Then I finally realized there was nothing I could do to change it or say anything about it.  Good luck to the guys, everybody that’s in it.  I wish them the best.

“Maybe I wasn’t good enough.  And I’m not in it and that might be a reason why, I’m not good enough and I’ll try again next year.”

Coach Chip Kelly also disagreed with the snub.

“I don’t know the exact formula and how it was picked,” Kelly said.  “I thought he had a Pro Bowl year.  He’s the one guy that when I was handed the results last night so I could call our players, that I was like, ‘Wow.’  That was the one that kind of surprised me.

“I think he’s been our top player.  He’s been really unblockable at times.  I think he’s a very disruptive force.  But sometimes you make the Pro Bowl, I guess, on reputation.  But I hope people recognize him and maybe like [first-time Pro Bowl center Jason] Kelce, where it’s probably a year later than he should have gotten it, Fletcher will get it next year.  But I know he may be our most valuable player overall to be honest with you.”

Part of the problem comes from the categorization of players for Pro Bowl purposes.  Defensive ends in the 3-4 scheme still fall within the “defensive end” category, even though they’re actually interior defensive linemen.

“Do I think [it was a factor]? Yes,” he said.  “There’s nothing I could do it about it.  Just move on, get ready for Sunday, man.”

It’s the right attitude.  Besides, this year’s Pro Bowl isn’t in Hawaii.  It’s in Arizona.  Nothing against Arizona, which is great.  But it’s not Hawaii.

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Peyton Manning has no plans to retire this offseason

Denver Broncos v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Since all he has to do is hand off and throw interceptions, of course Peyton Manning isn’t going anywhere.

The Broncos quarterback said Wednesday that he planned on playing for the Broncos next year, assuming they want a 39-year-old quarterback.

I certainly plan on being back if the Broncos will have me,” Manning said, via Mike Klis of the Denver Post. “At this point I’m thinking about Oakland. I know this is the time when there are conversations about what coaches are going to return.

“For some reason I guess I get to fall into that category because maybe I’m closer to the same age as some of the coaches. But I have no plans along those lines. I’m enjoying playing and looking forward to Sunday’s game and the game to follow that.”

There was plenty of speculation prior to last year’s Super Bowl about his future, and whether he’d ride off into the sunset with a win. The Seahawks made that a moot point, but it will be interesting to see how long Manning hangs on.

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Joe Flacco: Nothing to do but go out and win the next one

Joe Flacco AP

The Ravens need to win and get help from the Chiefs this weekend in order to make the playoffs, something they could have avoided with a win against the Texans last weekend.

They lost 25-13, however, and quarterback Joe Flacco’s dreadful game was a big reason why they lost. Flacco was 3-of-18 for 27 yards and threw two interceptions during the first half as the Texans ran out to a 13-0 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. It’s not the first time that Flacco has turned in a stinker, which leaves him with a clear handle on the best way to proceed.

“There’s not really too much you can do about it at this point. You just have to have confidence in yourself, confidence in yourself as a group, and go out and win the next one,” Flacco said, via the team’s website. ““We’re all adults out here. We’ve all been through tough situations and tougher situations and we’ll continue to go through situations like we had on Sunday and like we’re dealing with now. We’ve just got to pick ourselves up and move on.”

Flacco has bounced back from bad outings already this season, including a five-touchdown game against the Buccaneers a week after he played poorly in a loss to the Colts. The Ravens could use something similar this weekend, even if it won’t erase the sting from last week if the Ravens win and still miss the playoffs.

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Jurrell Casey won’t go to Pro Bowl as an alternate

Jurrell Casey AP

Because of the number of Pro Bowlers who won’t play in the game because of the Super Bowl, injury or disinterest, a lot of alternates annually make the all-star game.

But one of those alternates has no plans to accept any invitation that might come.

According to Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com, Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey said he was a second alternate, but wouldn’t play if two backed out.

First team or not at all,” he said.

It’ll be interesting to see if Casey’s virtue holds. Among the six defensive tackles chosen, at least one (Gerald McCoy) is injured, and another is in the playoffs (Ndamukong Suh) and could work his way out of the game.

The fact the game is in Glendale, Ariz., rather than Hawaii makes it a less attractive option, but I hope my kids behave a little more graciously in the morning when they open the Nintendo 64 I got them for Christmas.

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Aaron Rodgers “got done what he needed to get done” on Wednesday

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The Packers didn’t have quarterback Aaron Rodgers at practice for a full session on Wednesday, but they had him long enough for coach Mike McCarthy to feel positive about his quarterback’s condition.

Rodgers injured his calf against the Buccaneers last weekend, forcing the Packers to change their offensive plan because of the limits that the injury placed on Rodgers’s mobility. Rodgers is still getting treatment, but McCarthy sounded like all was well when Rodgers was on the field with his teammates.

“Aaron’s plan today, he did all the pre-practice work and no-huddle, and then we had a segment he was able to get some rehab done,” McCarthy said, via the team’s website. “Then he went back outside for the team [11-on-11] stuff. He got done what he needed to get done today. He’s getting better. He threw the ball around.”

With a division title on the line, it would take a pretty serious injury for Rodgers to miss Sunday’s game against the Lions. There’s no sign that this calf issue is that kind of injury, which is great news for the Packers’ chances of a fourth straight NFC North crown.

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Reggie Wayne needs offseason triceps surgery

Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne AP

Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne’s production has dropped off a cliff of late.

Wayne has 15 catches for 93 yards in his last five games and coach Chuck Pagano said this month that the Colts’ all-time leader in games played is being hampered by a torn triceps.

Wayne hasn’t missed a game, but said Wednesday, via Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.net, that the injury will require him to have surgery once the season comes to an end. The Colts don’t know when that will be with a playoff berth waiting for them as the AFC South champions and their chances of extending their run will go up if they can find receiving options other than T.Y. Hilton to replace what’s been missing from Wayne in recent weeks.

Surgery isn’t the only thing waiting for Wayne in the offseason. He’ll be a free agent and said Wednesday that he plans to keep playing as long as “it doesn’t feel like a job,” something that could be the case if teams don’t want to pay more than the minimum for a 36-year-old wideout coming off of triceps surgery.

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Despite No. 1 pick, Lovie won’t look at a loss as a good thing

Lovie Smith AP

If the Buccaneers lose on Sunday, they get the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Bucs coach Lovie Smith isn’t looking forward to that.

Smith sounds offended at the mere thought that he might see some benefit in losing, let alone that the Bucs would actively try to tank the season so they can land the first pick, which they’ll presumably spend on either Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota or Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

“I’ve kind of answered that question a few times. I think we’re going to end up in good position to get some good players. So to me, that can’t even come into the equation,” Smith said.

Smith said his players were playing hard last week against the Packers, will play hard this week against the Saints, and will never think about losing as a good thing.

“They weren’t thinking about that pick or anything like that. This week we’re going to do the same thing,” Smith said.

There may be times when it’s good for a franchise to lose. But players and coaches aren’t wired to lose intentionally. The Bucs are trying to win, even if they’re not very good at it.

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Preston Parker fined $15,000 for role in brawl with Rams

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A late hit by Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree last Sunday touched off a brawl with the Giants that led to three ejections.

One of the players ejected was Giants wide receiver Preston Parker and Parker said Wednesday, via Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, that he has been fined $15,000 by the league for throwing the punches that led to his ejection. Giants defensive end Damontre Moore and Rams defensive end William Hayes were also ejected from the game.

Another Giant player also revealed a fine from Sunday that wasn’t associated with the brawl. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins revealed that he was fined $16,537 for roughing Shaun Hill and he said on Twitter that he’s “glad to see the league’s stance on violence is still a priority.”

“So I just got fined more for roughing the passer than anyone who was in the fight. Even players who got ejected. So I should just fight then,” Jenkins wrote.

Moore and Hayes haven’t talked about their fines, but they surely received them and there could be more coming. Ogletree’s hit and a kick to the face of a Rams player by Giants kicker Josh Brown are two other plays from a chippy game that might catch the attention of the league office.

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Victor Cruz walking on treadmill, aiming for training camp

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Victor Cruz has been watching Odell Beckham along with everyone else for the last two months and the rookie wide receiver’s exploits have added some extra motivation to his rehab from a torn patellar tendon.

Cruz spoke to the media on Wednesday and talked about how much he’s looking forward to playing with Beckham next season. Cruz said he is “pretty much fully mobile” and has started walking on a treadmill in addition to doing exercises to strengthen his knee. He said he’s targeting training camp to make his return to action and expects to back to form once he does get back on the field.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll return to form and be the player I was in years past,” Cruz said, via ESPN.com. “I’m just excited to get myself together and play next to that kid next year.”

Cruz was injured in Week Six against the Eagles, which was only Beckham’s second game of the season. The prospect of having both wideouts up to speed for next season is an appealing one for a Giants Offense that has looked much different with the rookie playing a full role in the second half of the season.

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Andy Dalton sent home from Bengals practice due to illness

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bengals opened the week with some concern about wide receiver A.J. Green’s health after Green injured his arm in Monday night’s victory over the Broncos.

Now the guy who throws Green passes is also dealing with a medial issue. Quarterback Andy Dalton was sent home from the team’s Wednesday practice because he’s ill.

Coley Harvey of ESPN.com reports that coach Marvin Lewis isn’t too worried that the illness will hinder Dalton for Sunday’s matchup with the Steelers to decide the AFC North champion. Lewis’s confidence may have something to do with Dalton’s ability to lead the team to a win against the Buccaneers while dealing with an illness earlier this month.

Dalton didn’t play too well in that game — 19-of-27 for 176 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions — but he was able to play and the Bengals would surely prefer having him in the lineup again this weekend as they try for their second straight division title.

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Griffin has a shoulder injury

Griffin Getty Images

Robert Griffin III is playing again.  Which mean he’s likely injured.  Again.

Griffin was limited in Wednesday’s practice due to a right shoulder injury.  Coach Jay Gruden said Griffin has a sprained shoulder, but that it doesn’t appear to be serious.

The 2012 NFL offensive rookie of the year played well on Saturday against Philadelphia, and he surely hopes to finish the season strong, creating optimism for 2015.

Griffin also wore a playcalling wristband for the first time in his NFL career on Saturday, evidence of a tangible effort to better learn Gruden’s offense.  If “protect yourself” isn’t on the wristband, maybe it should be.

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