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Week 12 Thanksgiving 10-pack

Packers Lions Football

We’ve moved the Friday 10-pack to Thursday, since posting it on Thursday puts the Thanksgiving games in play for our 10 takes regarding the coming weekend of games.

I also needed to get it done early because I’ll be spending Thursday night preparing to host The Dan Patrick Show on Friday, a process which may look a lot like achieving and maintaining a turkey-induced stupor.  Primarily because that’s precisely what it will be.

1.  At least the NFL tried to give us good games on Thanksgiving.

Every year, complaints arise regarding the quality of the games played on the fourth Thursday in November.  This year, the NFL did something about it.

Though the Lions continue to have a hammerlock on the early game, the NFL picked the Patriots to be the visiting team.  (Because CBS will televise the game, the road team had to be from the AFC; this year, the choices were the Jets and the Patriots.  Either way, a quality opponent would have been pegged for the game.)

For the afternoon contest, the NFL earmarked a game that, as of April, looked to be one of the 10 best of the year — Saints at Cowboys.  Though the Cowboys’ struggles have made the game less intriguing, the NFL opted not to take advantage of its captive audience by offering up the weakest home game on the Dallas schedule.  (Then again, the Lions already were booked.)

The night game — Bengals at Jets — also looked as of April to be a potentially great game, given that the Bengals and Jets both made the playoffs in 2009.  Who knew that the Bengals would be after 10 games The 2-Ocho Show?

Short of moving Thanksgiving to September, the risk that games that looked great in April will be relevant in November applies to every NFL season.  All we can ask is that the NFL attempt to provide quality games.

Even if the Lions and Cowboys would lose their automatic home games, there’s no way of knowing that the games picked prior to the season will involve quality teams by the time the games are played.  What if the Vikings had “earned” a home game on Thanksgiving as a result of their 2009 performance?  Or the 49ers, based on the widespread belief that they’d be much improved in 2010?

In April, every season is a crapshoot.  At least the NFL has finally decided to shoot for something other than crap on Thanksgiving.

2.  Favre could thrive under Frazier.

The decision of Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier to keep brett Favre at quarterback makes sense.  Frazier will earn the job for 2011 only by winning games, and Farve at quarterback gives Frazier the best chance to do that.

The Vikings don’t need to know what Tarvaris Jackson can do; he had relevance only when a change of quarterbacks may have belped salvage a playoff berth.  And Frazier has no interest in developing Joe Webb to become the possible starter for the next regime.

So what of the notion that Favre will continue to produce more turnovers than a baker on an IV full of Red Bull?  Without former coach Brad Childress peering over Favre’s shoulder and constantly telling him what to do and what not to do, it’s entirely possible that Favre will perform better.

Even though reeling off six in a row likely won’t be enough to edge out one of the three-loss teams currently in position to take both of the wild-card spots, a strong finish to the season would partially rehab Favre’s fading legacy — and it would give Frazier a fighter’s chance at keeping the job.  Having Childress out of the picture will make if easier for Favre to just relax and play.

3.  Delhomme’s revenge.

Earlier this year, the Carolina Panthers discarded quarterback Jake Delhomme like an empty bottle of screw-top wine.  And for good reason.  Ever since the completion of the 2008 regular season, Delhomme had been playing like a guy whose Gatorade had been spiked with a full bottle of screw-top wine.

On Sunday, Delhomme will get his first start since Week One, due to Colt McCoy’s ankle sprain.  Coincidentally, that start will come against the Carolina Panthers.

So the game will provide Delhomme with a shot at redemption, a chance to prove the Panthers wrong.

Then again, given that Delhomme received a contract worth $20 million guaranteed before the 2009 season, it’s the Panthers that should be thinking about revenge.

Either way, the link gives a sliver of meaning to an otherwise meaningless game.

4.  It’s getting no easier for Mike Vick.

If the Eagles and quarterback Mike Vick struggle at Soldier Field on Sunday, it’ll be easy to blame the Sports Illustrated jinx, given that he graces the magazine’s cover this week.  But we’re not much for jinxes, unless the person to be jinxed allows himself to think that the jinx exists.

For Vick, the bigger concern should be opposing defenses studying ever bit of tape from his performances to date, building on game plans that slowed him down and trying to devise the one tactic that will shut him down and/or knock him out.

Though the Bears present the latest challenge, a pair of games against the Cowboys, a rematch with the Giants, and a date with the Vikings remain.  With each passing week, defenses will be trying even harder to be the team that solves the Vick riddle, preferably by putting him back on the injury report.

Look for the Bears, mired in a seven-quality-teams-but-only-five-spots chase for the postseason, to pull out all the stops.

5.   Monday night loser could still be alive.

Thanksgiving weekend wraps up with a Monday night game between the 49ers and Cardinals.  It presents a rare stinker on ESPN’s 2010 slate.  But it’s not as bad as it appears, if we ignore the fact that each team has a record of 3-7.

If the 5-5 Seahawks lose on Sunday against the Chiefs, the loser of Monday night’s game will remain only two games out of first place with five games to play.

Sure, the loser will be a woeful 3-8.  But if we can get past that won-loss record, the reality is that the loser can still get hot in December and steal the division and reset its record to 0-0 in the single-elimination tournament that will commence with the NFC West champion hosting a playoff game.

6.  In Atlanta, home-field advantage possibly hangs in the balance.

The game of the week undoubtedly occurs in the Georgia Dome, where the red-hot Packers take on the red-hot Falcons.

Under quarterback Matt Ryan, the Falcons have won 18 games and lost only one at home.  Under quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have scored a total of 76 points in consecutive games against the Cowboys and Vikings.

The Packers are more than a good offense; their defense has allowed only 10 points in three games, including the pitching of a shutout of the Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

With these two teams destined to play beyond January 2, this game will go a long way toward determining where the second game may occur.  And regardless of what happens this time around, the location of a January rematch will have a lot to do with its potential outcome.

7.  Keep an eye on Tom Brady’s foot.

Vikings quarterback Brett Favre has no qualms when it comes to talking about his injuries.  Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is more apt to talk about his hair.

And so it’s impossible to know the exact diagnosis of and prognosis for Brady’s current foot injury, which caused him to miss practice on Tuesday and Wednesday and to be listed as questionable for Thursday’s game, a rare departure from his usual designation as probable.

Sporting a defensive line that could give the Patriots flashbacks to Super Bowl XLII and a Detroit team that is otherwise irrelevant in NFL circles, it’ll be interesting to see whether these Lions use their rare national spotlight as an occasion to roar, by pouncing on Brady’s bum foot.

8.  Colts are suddenly in trouble.

If the season ended today, the Colts’ season would be over.  And while they’ll play four of their final six games at home, the Colts face the prospect of missing the playoffs — and of winning fewer than 10 games — for the first time since Jim Mora refused to use the “P” word.

The slide very well could continue on Sunday night, when the surging Chargers come to town.  The Chargers have played the Colts well in recent years, providing Indy with a consistent thorn in their side.

And while both of the quarterbacks have had to overcome injuries to their supporting cast on offense, the Chargers are getting healthy a lot faster than the Colts.  And the Chargers will have receiver Vincent Jackson back, for the first time all year.

It could spell trouble once again for the Colts.  At 6-5, the Colts would have to make like the Chargers and finish strong in order to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

9.  Bucs get their chance to impress.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have handled every team they’ve faced, with the exception of the three elite franchises they’ve played — the Steelers, Saints, and Falcons.

This weekend, the Bucs draw the Ravens.  On the road.

On paper, this is another game that Tampa should lose.  If the Bucs find a way to win, it’ll be time to take this team seriously.

Actually, it’s already time to take this team seriously.  With upcoming games against the Redskins, Lions, and Seahawks, 10 wins could be in the offing.  With the Ravens, Falcons, and Saints also on the docket, victory in any one of those games will help the Bucs do the unthinkable — nailing down coach of the year honors for Raheem Morris, and possibly executive of the year recognition for Mark Dominik.  With a roster devoid of pricey veterans, the Bucs are one of the few teams that is playing like a true team.

10.  Chargers are following form, and will likely continue to do so.

After the Chargers lost five of their first seven games, we said (one or twice, or more often) that the team eventually would try to follow a slow start with a fast finish — and fail.

But the Chargers have shown that they can do it again, reeling off three wins and moving to within a game of first place in the AFC West.  And they’ll likely continue their climb to the playoffs.

Where they’ll likely lose in one of the first two rounds.

While, as mentioned above, they match up well with the Colts, the Chargers eventually would face the Patriots, Jets, Ravens, or Steelers.  And with five losses already in the standings, the Chargers will have to take their pass-first offense to an open-air stadium in the Northeast.  In the middle of January.

Moving forward, and as our friend Scott Caplan of XX 1090 in San Diego pointed out during our weekly Wednesday morning radio visit, the Chargers should redouble their efforts to figure out why they can’t win more games in September and October.  If they could emerge into November and December with a better record, they’d be able to force some of the other elite teams to San Diego in January.

Hey, at least the Chargers wouldn’t have to face a long flight home after losing.

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Harvin doesn’t show up on the Jets’ injury report

Harvin AP

Former Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin had been battling a thigh injury for the couple of weeks before he was traded to New York.  Or maybe it was a “thigh” injury.  As in not an injury at all but just an excuse to not practice.

Either way, Harvin didn’t show up on his first injury report as a member of the Jets.  So his thigh — or “thigh” — injury has healed — or “healed” completely.

Is it fair to suggest Harvin was perhaps embellishing an injury to justify missing practice?  Yes, given that one of his disputes with former Vikings coach Brad Childress happened when Childress questioned whether Harvin’s ankle injury was an “ankle” injury.

Regardless, Harvin launches his time in New York at 100 percent.  We’ll see how long he stays there.

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Jimmy Graham limited at Saints practice

Jimmy Graham AP

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham wound up in the lineup against the Lions last week after several days of uncertainty because of his shoulder injury, but he only played a limited number of snaps and didn’t have a catch as the Saints blew a lead in the fourth quarter.

The Saints got back to practice on Wednesday to start their preparation for facing the Packers on Sunday Night Football and Graham remained a limited participant in the action for New Orleans. Barring a setback, his presence last week suggests he’d be in the lineup again this week in a game that the Saints could really use to give themselves boost in the struggle for playoff spots in the NFC. The question will be how effective Graham can be, but it’s not one that will be answered on the practice field.

Running backs Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas both missed practice, which was no surprise in Thomas’s case as he’s expected to miss a couple of weeks because of a shoulder injury. Robinson is dealing with a forearm issue, which he said, via the Baton Rouge Advocate, was just “a little boo-boo.”

Center Jonathan Goodwin was also out of practice for the Saints and the team’s move to add Eric Olsen to the roster could be an indication that he’s going to miss his first game of the season.

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Report: Bill Belichick sent Darrelle Revis home for being late

New York Jets Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Getty Images

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has sent players home for being late during blizzards.

So it’s no surprise that the same rules apply to the Island.

According Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, the absence of cornerback Darrelle Revis from Tuesday’s practice was because Belichick sent him home for being late.

The report said Revis arrived late to the team facility, and Belichick sent him away rather than allow him to participate in meetings or practice.

Players had the weekend plus Monday off after last Thursday’s win over the Jets, with instructions to return Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. There was no word how late he was.

A source close to Revis said he accepted responsibility for his tardiness, and he was back at work Wednesday.

Given the hot-and-cold nature of Revis’s relationships with employers, this one is worth filing away.

It’s also an important play for Belichick in establishing control, proving to his roster that no star is beyond the rules (though we wonder what would happen if Tom Brady had a flat tire).

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West says Jaguars simply wanted it more than the Browns

West Getty Images

So how did the previously 0-6 Jaguars upend the previously 3-2 Browns by a score of 24-6?  Chalk it up to good, old-fashioned motivation.

They wanted it more than we did,” rookie running back Terrance West said Tuesday, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“We looked like the 0-6 team, and they looked like the 3-2 team,” West said.  “That was the big difference.  They just had more plays.  The team that had the better plays, big plays are going to come out with a win, and that’s what happened yesterday. Their fans, they were in the game.”

Some think the absence of center Alex Mack, who suffered a season-ending broken leg the prior Sunday, kept the Browns from winning.  West disagrees.

“I think we probably would’ve had more rushing yards if Alex Mack’s there, but the way the Jaguars played us, they wanted it more,” West said. “He probably wouldn’t have made a difference.”

The Browns face another winless team on Sunday who may want it more, especially since the Raiders face a murderer’s row of opponents for most of the rest of the season.  Playing a team that just lost to the 0-6 Jaguars could give the 0-6 Raiders some real hope.

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Sam Shields, James Starks and Morgan Burnett miss practice

Carolina Panthers v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Packers got back on the practice field on Wednesday without several regulars in their lineup.

Cornerback Sam Shields, safety Morgan Burnett, running back James Starks and defensive end Datone Jones were all held out of practice as they recover from injuries. Shields missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury and the Packers have a bye after they face the Saints on Sunday night, but coach Mike McCarthy said that the team wasn’t going to let that keep Shields out against Drew Brees if he’s given the green light to play.

“I don’t keep players out for games,” McCarthy said, via the team’s website. “If a player can play, he plays. Sam is going through medical situation and if he’s ready to play, he’ll play.”

Jones also missed the victory over the Panthers, which made it two straight weeks out of the lineup because of an ankle injury. Starks is also bothered by an ankle injury while Burnett is nursing a calf problem, but McCarthy said that all three were moving well during their rehab work.

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Brandon Flowers officially out for Thursday night

New York Jets v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

Once cornerback Brandon Flowers was diagnosed with a concussion last Sunday, it became doubtful that he’d be able to play against the Broncos on Thursday night.

The Chargers confirmed that the short turnaround wasn’t enough time for Flowers to get cleared on Wednesday by ruling him out of the contest. With the extended break before Week Nine, Flowers should have a decent chance of making his return when the team travels to Miami.

Flowers may not be the only cornerback out on Thursday. Jason Verrett missed last week’s game after limited practices all week because of a shoulder injury and he’s questionable after another week of limited practice. Steve Williams is also listed as questionable because of a groin injury. If neither can go, the Chargers will be down to Shareece Wright, Richard Marshall and Chris Davis at the position.

Linebacker Jerry Attaochu is doubtful with a hamstring injury despite getting in some practice time the last two days while running backs Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown and linebacker Manti Te’o have been ruled out once again.

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L.A. may have gone from luxury to necessity for NFL

melonheads-e1326850808645-2 Getty Images

Nearly 20 years ago, the Rams and Raiders left Los Angeles.  Since then, talk has persisted regarding a potential return.  Primarily because talk of teams moving to Los Angeles often helped certain teams get public money for new stadiums.

Meanwhile, the NFL stubbornly has waited for the right deal to emerge in L.A.  Which is a simple way of saying an opportunity pursuant to which the NFL will make a ton of money and whoever builds the stadium or otherwise helps pony up the cash needed to lure the league back will possibly lose a ton of money.

But there’s been, as Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times put it during a recent visit to PFT Live, a paradigm shift.  Instead of L.A. being a luxury, it’s becoming a necessity.  And that’s because a trio of franchises with obvious connections to Los Angeles (indeed, the Rams, Raiders, and Chargers each previously resided there) that have substandard stadium situations and easy escape routes, a sense of inevitability has emerged.

For plenty of other details from the guy who is as plugged in as anyone on the issue of the NFL in L.A., click the thing below and listen.

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Jets playing keep-away with new acquisition Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin AP

Given his background, his ability, and the timing of his acquisition, there’s plenty to ask new Jets wide receiver Percy Harvin.

But he won’t be getting asked until later in the week.

Per multiple tweets from the Jets beat writers, Harvin was surrounded by reporters today, but said he was not allowed to talk until Friday. He spoke Monday after his first practice with the team since they acquired him in trade from the Seahawks, but shielding him from questions today seems a bit, ahem, protective.

That will allow the week to settle into a rhythm without him talking about his new team (or more specifically, more about why he’s a former member of his old team).

Of course, the Jets PR department is smart enough to know that the same questions will await Harvin Friday, even if they come from a slightly smaller crowd.

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Erik Walden fined $27,562 for contact with official

Erik Walden, Andy Dalton AP

It doesn’t look like Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly will be fined for the contact with an official that led to his ejection from last Sunday’s game against the Packers, but Colts linebacker Erik Walden wasn’t so lucky.

Walden was ejected for the same infraction in Indy’s shutout of the Bengals and has been fined $27,562 as a result. Walden shared the letter from the league with Mike Chappell of RTV6 in Indianapolis and it specifically charges Walden with shoving the umpire’s arm when the umpire tried to prevent a confrontation with another player.

The letter also informs Walden of his right to appeal the fine to the league office. Chappell reports that Walden called the fine “nonsense” and said to tell NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that “I appreciate it,” but didn’t say whether he’ll exercise that right before handing over any money.

The difference between the Kuechly case when it comes to the fine is likely that Walden’s contact came while he was facing the official whereas the official was behind Kuechly in the Panthers game.

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Brett Favre: Austin Davis can be “next Tom Brady or Kurt Warner”

Austin Davis AP

The most accomplished Southern Mississippi quarterback in NFL history is a fan of the only current Golden Eagle quarterback in the NFL.

Brett Favre likes what he’s seen from Rams quarterback Austin Davis, the only other alum of the school to start more than one game in the NFL, and thinks that he can follow in the footsteps of a couple of Super Bowl winners who didn’t enter the league with a lot of fanfare.

“Austin can definitely play at this level,” Favre said, via Ed Werder of ESPN. “Not to sound off my rocker, but [Davis] — in my mind — can be the next Tom Brady or Kurt Warner. [Brian] Hoyer as well. Austin, like those mentioned, just needed a legit opportunity.”

As you’d imagine given Favre’s admission that he might sound off his rocker, the comparison to Brady and Warner is a stretch but being impressed by Davis’s work is perfectly reasonable. He’s completing 66 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and four interceptions in his six appearances this season and led the Rams on an 80-yard scoring drive after the Seahawks drew within two points last Sunday.

If he keeps up the same kind of work during a three-game road swing through Kansas City, San Francisco and Arizona, those comparisons will still be premature but the Rams will be thrilled all the same.

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Bill Polian, Ron Wolf selected as contributor candidates to Hall of Fame

Bill Polian AP

The Pro Football Hall of Fame added a new contributor category to help deserving non-players make their way to Canton, and the first two candidates have been chosen.

Via Jim Trotter of ESPN, a member of the nine-person committee, former Raiders and Packers executive Ron Wolf and Bills, Panthers and Colts General Manager Bill Polian are the first two contributor candidates.

Much like seniors committee candidates to the Hall, they will need 80 percent of a yes/no vote to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

The addition of those candidates won’t take away from the five spots reserved for modern-era candidates.

Wolf turned the Packers into contenders in the 1990s with the additions of coach Mike Holmgren and quarterback Brett Favre, and by wooing free agent Reggie White to Green Bay. The Packers were 92-52 during his stint as G.M.

Polian helped build the Bills into a four-time Super Bowl team, then authored a quick-build in Carolina which saw the Panthers make the NFC Championship Game in their second year of existence. He then failed to screw up the Peyton Manning-Ryan Leaf decision, setting the stage for the Colts to be perennial contenders.

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Vikings expect John Sullivan, Vlad Ducasse back this Sunday

Detroit Lions v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Vikings lost a pair of offensive linemen to injury during last Sunday’s loss to the Bills, further compromising an offense that has struggled to put points on the board over the last two weeks.

Center John Sullivan suffered a concussion and right guard Vlad Ducasse hurt his knee, leaving the Vikings with Mike Harris playing guard for the first time and no offensive linemen left on the bench. On Wednesday, coach Mike Zimmer said that he expected to have a fuller hand at his disposal against the Buccaneers.

“I think they both should be fine,” Zimmer said, via the Pioneer Press. “[Sullivan] passed his first protocol test. I would assume he would be fine.”

The Vikings have gained just 488 yards over the last two weeks while scoring 19 points in a pair of losses. A healthy Sullivan and Ducasse won’t lead to fireworks, but it’s better than the alternative for a team with another other problems to sort out.

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No practice for A.J. Green, no decision for Sunday

A.J. Green, Jason McCourty AP

The Bengals are 0-2-1 in their last three games and getting wide receiver A.J. Green back in the lineup would be a good way to increase the chances that their winless streak ends at three games.

Green said Tuesday that his injured toe feels better, but it wasn’t feeling well enough for him to practice with the team on Wednesday. Geoff Hobson of the team’s website reports that Green worked on a rehab field while his teammates went through their first practice ahead of Sunday’s crucial matchup with the Ravens in Cincinnati.

Coach Marvin Lewis said before practice that Green wouldn’t play until he is “significantly healed,” but left the door open for Green to play even if he couldn’t go the distance.

“It’s hard for me to put a guy out there Sunday that I don’t think can last a full game,” Lewis said. “If we have A.J. for part of the game doing certain things, that would be great. I think we could operate offensively … I guess we’ll cross that bridge when the time comes.”

Given the importance of this game to the Bengals, 20 plays with Green sounds a lot better than zero plays with Green but it will likely still be a few days before we know if that’s a possibility.

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Forte, Bradshaw flirting with running back receiving records

forte AP

DeMarco Murray isn’t the only NFL running back on a record pace this season.

Murray, the Cowboys running back who is threatening the NFL’s single-season records for carries and yards, is having the best season of any back in football. But Bears running back Matt Forte and Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw are both threatening to break NFL records for running backs as well.

Forte is leading the league in receiving, with 52 catches, which puts him on pace for 119 catches this season. That would blow away the previous record for catches by a running back, set in 1995 when Cardinals fullback Larry Centers caught 101 passes. Forte is also threatening to become just the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Forte currently has 448 rushing yards and 436 receiving yards, putting him on pace to finish the year with 1,024 and 997, respectively. Only Roger Craig in 1985 and Marshall Faulk in 1999 have managed 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving in the same year.

Bradshaw has six receiving touchdowns through seven games this season, putting him on pace for 14 by the time the year is over. No running back in NFL history has ever had double-digit receiving touchdowns. Faulk had nine receiving touchdowns in 2001, and running backs Leroy Hoard, Chuck Foreman, Bill Brown and Billy Cannon all had nine-touchdown seasons as well. Bradshaw has a good chance of becoming the first running back ever to get to 10.

At a time when running backs are being devalued in the NFL, Murray is showing how big an impact a workhorse back can have for his team. But Forte and Bradshaw may be showing the future of running backs in the NFL: In a passing league, the best backs may be the ones who have the biggest impact on the passing game.

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Zimmer has second kidney-stone procedure

Zimmer Getty Images

Unlike his two predecessors in Minnesota, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t have to deal with a hemorrhoid named Harvin.  But Zimmer nevertheless has been dealing with a medical condition that can cause even more discomfort.

Zimmer has kidney stones.  According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Zimmer underwent a second procedure on Tuesday to remedy the situation.  The procedures have now concluded.

“I’m definite,’’ Zimmer said Wednesday regarding his status for Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay.

“[It] was not pleasant at all,” Zimmer said of the procedures, one of which caused him to miss practice on Friday. “[Vikings trainer] Eric Sugarman was talking to the team and I told them to get the video of the procedures that I had done and we’d show the team.  I think there would have been some throwing up.”

Who says Zimmer’s too blunt?

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