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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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Philbin absent from Dolphins for family matter

Philbin AP

As the Dolphins prepare to host the Chargers on Sunday, coach Joe Philbin has been absent from the team for the last two days.

According to the Associated Press, Philbin is dealing with a family matter.

Gone from practice on Thursday and Friday, Philbin is expected to rejoin the team before the game against San Diego.

Hired in 2012, Philbin has a record of 19-20 in two-plus seasons.

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The Eric Dickerson trade turns 27

Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Getty Images

Friday is the 27th anniversary of the Los Angeles Rams trading Eric Dickerson to the Indianapolis Colts, something Dickerson himself pointed out this afternoon.

This was no small trade. According to NFL records, it involved the fourth-most players/picks in league history. The deal also looped in a third team, the Buffalo Bills.

All three clubs came away with their own presumed pot of gold.

The Colts got Dickerson, in his prime at age 27 and the league’s leading rusher the previous season.

The Bills received linebacker Cornelius Bennett, the second overall pick in the 1987 draft.

The Rams got a bushel of draft picks — three first-rounders and three second-rounders. They also received tailbacks Greg Bell and Owen Gill.

Dickerson, for his part, rushed for nearly 4,000 yards in his first three seasons in Indianapolis, including 1987, when the Colts made the postseason. In his lone playoff game with the franchise, Dickerson racked up 115 combined yards and a caught a TD pass, but Indianapolis fell 38-21 to Cleveland. In all, Dickerson would play 61 games for the Colts before being dealt to Oakland in 1992.

Bennett, meanwhile, was a five-time Pro Bowler for Buffalo, a key part of a club that made four straight Super Bowls.

So what about the Rams’ draft pick haul? As it turns out, they drafted just one Pro Bowler — tailback Gaston Green. And Green’s Pro Bowl season came with Denver, not Los Angeles. The veteran Bell, though, was a starter on the Rams’ 1988 and 1989 postseason entrants.

But the Herschel Walker trade it was not for the Los Angeles Rams, who would, in time, move to St. Louis. Dickerson, in time, would become a Hall of Famer. The Hoosier Dome, where Dickerson played his home games in Indianapolis, is gone, and no NFL team plays on Astroturf anymore.

Well, so not all change is bad, but the days of teams getting together to construct 10-player/pick deals are probably gone. And that’s no fun.

Well, at least we have Twitter.

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Week Nine skill-position injury report — final

Carolina Panthers at Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Here are the skill-position players in Sunday games who are listed on the Week Nine injury report. Key fantasy starters are bolded. All information was furnished by the NFL.

Inactives are announced 90 minutes before game time. A final injury report for Monday’s Colts-Giants game will be released Saturday.

Teams on bye in Week Nine: Falcons, Bills, Bears, Lions, Packers, Titans.

OUT

Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (hip).

Broncos RB Montee Ball (groin).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion).

Buccaneers WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring).

Cardinals RB Stepfan Taylor (calf).

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee).

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery (groin).

Dolphins TE Dion Sims (toe).

Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot).

Raiders WR Vincent Brown (hamstring).

Ravens WR Michael Campanaro (thigh).

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

DOUBTFUL

Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (ankle).

QUESTIONABLE

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe).

Broncos TE Virgil Green (calf).

Browns WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Cardinals TE Troy Niklas (ankle).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin).

Jets QB Geno Smith (right shoulder).

Patriots WR Matt Slater (shoulder).

Ravens TE Owen Daniels (knee).

PROBABLE

Broncos K Brandon McManus (right groin).

Broncos RB Juwan Thompson (knee).

Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (shoulder).

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson (rib).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Cardinals WR Michael Floyd (knee).

Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion).

Chiefs QB Alex Smith (right shoulder).

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (hand).

Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles (back).

Chiefs TE Anthony Fasano (shoulder).

Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (ribs).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring).

Eagles RB Darren Sproles (knee).

Eagles TE Brent Celek (back).

Eagles TE Charles Clay (knee).

Eagles WR Jeff Maehl (foot).

Jaguars WR Allen Hurns (ankle).

Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (groin).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Jets TE Jeff Cumberland (finger, shoulder).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Jets WR Greg Salas (ankle, wrist)

Jets WR Jeremy Kerley (illness).

Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle).

Raiders RB Jamize Olawale (shoulder).

Raiders RB Marcel Reece (quadricep).

Raiders WR Kenbrell Thompkins (not injury related).

Rams WR Kenny Britt (hip).

Ravens RB Justin Forsett (ankle).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (not injury related).

Seahawks WR Bryan Walters (concussion).

Steelers TE Heath Miller (not injury related).

Steelers TE Matt Spaeth (hamstring).

Texans RB Alfred Blue (ankle).

Texans RB Arian Foster (knee).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Vikings TE Chase Ford (foot).

Washington QB Robert Griffin (ankle).

Monday night

Colts at Giants

DID NOT PRACTICE

Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee).

FULL PARTICIPATION

Colts RB Ahmad Bradshaw (not injury related).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow, not injury related).

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Week Nine injury report roundup

New Orleans Saints v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week Nine of the 2014 season.

Jaguars at Bengals

The Jaguars ruled out cornerback Will Blackmon (finger) and defensive end Andre Branch (groin) and linebacker Dekoda Watson (hamstring) is questionable. Cincinnati expects to have wide receiver A.J. Green (toe, questionable) back in the lineup, but they won’t have running back Giovani Bernard (hip) or linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee). Cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hamstring), linebacker Rey Maualuga (hamstring) and guard Kevin Zeitler (calf) all drew the doubtful tag, which is actually a step forward for Maualuga after he missed multiple games.

Buccaneers at Browns

The Buccaneers don’t expect to have tackle Anthony Collins (foot, doubtful) and running back Doug Martin (ankle, doubtful). They definitely won’t have kick returner Trindon Holliday (hamstring) or linebacker Brandon Magee (knee), but it could go either way with defensive end Michael Johnson (hand, questionable). The Browns ruled out tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion) and defensive end Phil Taylor (knee) will miss another game. Wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring) is questionable.

Cardinals at Cowboys

Safety Tony Jefferson (concussion) is questionable for the Cardinals, while cornerback Patrick Peterson (concussion) is probable. Running back Stepfan Taylor (calf) has been ruled out and tight end Troy Niklas (ankle) is questionable. The Cowboys will let us know if quarterback Tony Romo (back, questionable) is playing on Sunday behind an offensive line that could be without guard Ronald Leary (groin, questionable). Tackle Doug Free (foot) will miss another week.

Eagles at Texans

The Eagles expect center Jason Kelce (sports hernia surgery, probable), running back Darren Sproles (knee, probable) and guard Todd Herremans (biceps, probable) to be in the lineup. Safety Nate Allen (hamstring, questionable) will wait to have his fate determined over the weekend. The Texans listed linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (illness) as questionable, although coach Bill O’Brien’s tone was doubtful while discussing Clowney’s availability. Linebacker Brian Cushing (knee) is also questionable after missing last week’s game.

Jets at Chiefs

The already skeletal Jets cornerback corps should be without Darrin Walls (calf, knee) after the team listed him as doubtful. Quarterback Geno Smith (shoulder) is questionable on the injury report, but the team has moved on to Michael Vick either way. Chiefs coach Andy Reid said safety Eric Berry (ankle, probable) will play for the first time since Week Two. So will quarterback Alex Smith (shoulder, probable), but wide receiver Donnie Avery (groin), cornerback Jamell Fleming (hamstring), linebacker Josh Martin (hamstring, knee) and cornerback Christopher Owens (knee) are all out.

Chargers at Dolphins

Linebacker Manti Te’o (foot), cornerback Jason Verrett (shoulder) and running back Ryan Mathews (knee) are all out, although Mathews did practice on Friday. Safety Jahleel Addae (concussion) is doubtful and linebacker Jerry Attaochu (hamstring) is questionable after missing the last two games. The Dolphins are holding out hope for guard Daryn Colledge (illness, back) and linebacker Koa Misi (ankle) after listing each of them as questionable, but tight end Dion Sims (toe) won’t play.

Redskins at Vikings

As you’ve likely heard, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (ankle, probable) is expected to return to the starting lineup. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland (knee) is questionable after getting hurt at Friday’s practice. Tight end Kyle Rudolph (sports hernia surgery) remains out for the Vikings, cornerback Jabari Price (hamstring) is questionable and everyone else on the 53-man roster is healthy enough to play.

Rams at 49ers

The Rams won’t be taking defensive tackle Aaron Donald (shoulder), linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar (toe), cornerback Janoris Jenkins (knee) or safety Rodney McLeod (knee) with them to St. Louis. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson (knee, probable) is expected to play for the first time this year. Toe injuries have left 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis and cornerback Tramaine Brock questionable to play in the NFC West matchup.

Broncos at Patriots

Safety Quinton Carter (hamstring), tight end Virgil Green (calf) and linebacker Steven Johnson (ankle) are all questionable for the Broncos, who will play without running back Montee Ball (groin) again this week. Running back Ronnie Hillman (shoulder, probable) looks good to go, however. Defensive end Chandler Jones (hip) is out for New England. Defensive lineman Dominique Easley (knee), safety Nate Ebner (finger), tackle Cameron Fleming (finger) and wide receiver Matt Slater (shoulder) have been listed as questionable.

Raiders at Seahawks

The Raiders don’t expect cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee, doubtful) to play. If he doesn’t, he’ll join tight end David Ausberry (foot), wide receiver Vincent Brown (hamstring), cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) and cornerback Keith McGill (groin) on the sideline. The Seahawks ruled out defensive tackle Jordan Hill (ankle), safety Jeron Johnson (concussion), cornerback Byron Maxwell (calf), tight end Zach Miller (ankle), linebacker Malcolm Smith (groin) and linebacker Bobby Wagner (toe). Questionable tags were placed on safety Kam Chancellor (groin), tackle Russell Okung (calf), center Stephen Schilling (knee) and center Max Unger (foot), which could make for a lot of street clothes if game-time calls go the wrong way.

Ravens at Steelers

Baltimore will roll into Pittsburgh without wide receiver Michael Campanaro (thigh) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot). They’ll hold off on decisions about defensive end Chris Canty (wrist), tight end Owen Daniels (knee) and guard Marshal Yanda (knee) after listing them as questionable. Cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) and safety Ross Ventrone (hamstring) were ruled out by the Steelers, whose injury report is otherwise comprised of probable players.

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Brandian Ross fined for hit that concussed Jordan Cameron

brandianross AP

Browns tight end Jordan Cameron will miss Sunday’s game after suffering a concussion last week. The Raiders safety who gave Cameron the concussion has now been disciplined by the NFL.

The league office has confirmed that Brandian Ross was fined $22,050 for hitting a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area.

The hit also drew a 15-yard penalty during the game, and resulted in Cameron staying down on the field for a minute before he was eventually able to get up, looking unstable as he walked slowly to the locker room.

Cameron has now suffered three concussions in the last two years.

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Kam Chancellor, Russell Okung will be game-time decisions

Seattle Seahawks v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

The Seahawks have injury concerns at several positions heading into Sunday’s game with the Raiders, with safety near the top of the list.

Kam Chancellor was listed as questionable on Friday because of a groin injury and coach Pete Carroll said, via PFT teammate Curtis Crabtree, that he will be a game-time decision. Chancellor’s backup Jeron Johnson was ruled out with a concussion, leaving Earl Thomas, Deshawn Shead and Steven Terrell as the team’s healthy safeties heading into Sunday.

Center is another spot where the Seahawks could find themselves in a bit of trouble on Sunday. Neither Max Unger nor Stephen Schilling have been ruled out and coach Pete Carroll expects them to dress on Sunday, but both are listed as questionable and third option Patrick Lewis has played only a handful of snaps.

Elsewhere on the offensive line, Carroll said left tackle Russell Okung will also be a game-time decision as he deals with a calf injury. Should the calls on Chancellor, Okung and the centers go the wrong way, the Seahawks will have a lot of holes to fill.

The Seahawks came into the week knowing that linebacker Bobby Wagner would miss another game with a toe injury and ruled Malcolm Smith out on Friday because of a groin injury that will likely keep him out for multiple weeks. They will reshuffle their linebacking corps to put rookie Brock Coyle in the middle with K.J. Wright moving outside across from Bruce Irvin. Kevin Pierre-Louis, who saw time in place of Smith after his injury last week, is another option against Oakland.

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Gilbert, Smith campaign looms

Gilbert Getty Images

As the players on each NFL team elect their representatives, a process that happens every two years and has been unfolding for the last two months in cities throughout the league, no clear indication has emerged regarding whether the new board of player reps will favor keeping DeMaurice Smith as executive director of the NFL Players Association or replacing him with former NFL player Sean Gilbert.

In March, the representatives will have to decide whether they want Smith, Gilbert, or someone else to hold the job for the next three years.  Gilbert’s platform emanates from the argument that the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement must go; if elected, he plans to file a collusion claim that would invoke the union’s right to terminate the deal, which otherwise expires seven years from now, in 2021.

With Smith presumably content to stand pat, it’s possible for the looming election to be couched in the following terms — by voting for change, there’s no downside.  If Gilbert wins the election, tries to negotiate a new deal, and fails, the players will finish in the same position they’d be in if Smith wins the election.

Of course, there’s a chance an effort by Gilbert to blow up the CBA eventually will trigger another lockout, one that causes games to be wiped out and forces players to sacrifice game checks.  The players would have to be willing to assume the risk of a potential work stoppage, if they go along with Gilbert’s plan to seek premature termination of the labor deal based on collusion.

That logic also overlooks Smith’s efforts to negotiate a substance-abuse policy and a PED policy with more favorable player protections.  Moreover, Smith and the union currently are attempting to negotiate a more favorable personal conduct policy.  It’s unclear whether Gilbert would have similar success on those fronts.

Gilbert’s desire to play 18 games also could work against him, since most players seem to be firmly against it.  Still, as it relates to the basic question of whether the current labor deal can be improved, Gilbert is committed to trying.  On that issue, there’s nothing to lose . . . unless it takes a lockout to ultimately improve the current deal.

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Reports: Bucs waive Trindon Holliday, call up Marcus Thigpen

Trindon Holliday AP

The Buccaneers will have a new kickoff and punt returner.

According to Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports, the Bucs have waived Trindon Holliday with an “injured” designation. Holliday has a hamstring injury.

If Holliday clears waivers, he will take a spot on the Buccaneers’ injured reserve list.

The 28-year-old Holliday returned two kickoffs and two punts in Tampa Bay’s loss to Minnesota on Sunday. He signed with the Buccaneers just 10 days ago. Holliday had replaced rookie Solomon Patton, who was waived after six games as the Bucs’ returner. Patton is now on the Cardinals’ practice squad.

A potential replacement for Holliday could be coming from the practice squad. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports the Buccaneers have called up wide receiver Marcus Thigpen, who returned kickoffs and punts for Miami in 2012 and 2013. Like Holliday, the 28-year-old Thigpen signed with the Buccaneers on Oct. 21.

And now, Thigpen might get a chance to stabilize a problem spot for 1-6 Tampa Bay.

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Judge in NJ gambling case is Marcel Shipp’s brother, which gambling supporters say is a conflict

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Michael Shipp, the judge who granted a temporary restraining order preventing New Jersey from legalizing sports gambling in the state, is the brother of former NFL running back Marcel Shipp. Some supporters of sports betting in the Garden State say that’s a conflict of interest.

Marcel Shipp played for the Cardinals from 2001 to 2007 and has expressed interest in coaching in the NFL (he is currently an assistant at his alma mater, UMass, and has participated in the NFL’s minority coaching fellowship program). According to some advocates of sports gambling in New Jersey, that calls into question the partiality of his brother, the judge who handed down the ruling the NFL wanted to prevent the state from beginning its plan to allow sports gambling at racetracks and casinos.

State Sen. Raymond Lesniak told the Asbury Park Press that Judge Shipp should recuse himself from the sports gambling case because of “a strong appearance of a conflict of interest that could compromise Judge Shipp’s ability to make an objective decision.’’

Gaming attorney Daniel Wallach agreed, saying he’s not accusing Judge Shipp of wrongdoing but is suggesting that it’s reasonable to ask whether the judge can be unbiased given that a close family member may want to work in the NFL.

“It’s not whether the judge is biased, but whether his impartiality can be questioned. That question is clearly there,’’ said Wallach, who has also written about the issue.

The NFL has long opposed any expansion of sports gambling, and Judge Shipp’s ruling was a victory for the league. Supporters of gambling understandably would like to see Judge Shipp benched — even if it sounds like a stretch to suggest that his brother’s connection to the NFL calls his impartiality into question.

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Johnny Manziel is fine sitting and watching for now

Johnny Manziel AP

Apparently, neither of the Fs in JFF stands for “frustrated.”

Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel said Friday that he didn’t necessarily agree with coach Mike Pettine’s assessment that he was getting antsy about not playing.

I don’t necessarily think that’s the right word,” Manziel said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Obviously coming from the situation I’ve been in the past couple years of every rep, every snap, every down of every game, coming into the situation that I’m in now is going to be a lot different for me. So I’m sure there are signs of this being a different situation for me, but I don’t feel frustrated. Obviously, being a competitor I want to play, but there is a difference.”

Manziel said he thinks he’s “in the role that I need to be at this time,” which is backing up Browns starter Brian Hoyer. And he acknowledged that he had a poor camp, when he was given every opportunity to make the job his own.

“I’m still extremely hungry,” he said. “I still feel that obviously coming out training camp, I was disappointed. I wanted to play better and at the same time I am a rookie and I can’t be too hard on myself. I remember thinking back to the days when I was learning the offense at [Texas] A&M. It was frustrating. And it’s like that for everybody coming into a new system and a new place a long way away from home. So there’s a lot of things that were going on in my life at the time. Now I’m a lot more settled in, a lot more comfortable with everything that’s going on in the day-to-day operations.”

The fact he’s been able to cool off a bit hasn’t hurt either, as being in the center of the social media whirl this summer only added expectations that he wasn’t ready to meet.

So for now, Johnny Football is fine with being a backup, which is a nicer F for a middle initial anyway.

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Owen Daniels questionable for Sunday night

Owen Daniels AP

While Ravens tight end Owen Daniels was able to practice on Friday, his status for Sunday night’s game at Pittsburgh remains somewhat uncertain.

Daniels, who had minor knee surgery last week, is listed as questionable on the club’s injury report. According to the team, Daniels put in a full practice on Friday.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh indicated the call on Daniels will likely be made Sunday.

Crockett Gillmore and Phillip Supernaw are the tight ends behind Daniels, who is second on the Ravens in catches (27) and third in yards (275) and TD receptions (three).

Ravens defensive end Chris Canty (wrist) and left guard Marshal Yanda (knee) are also questionable, but both practiced fully on Friday. Harbaugh appeared to indicate Yanda would play.

“We’ll see how the knee reacts, but he’s a tough guy,” Harbaugh said, according to the club.

The Ravens and Steelers are each 5-3. With a win, Baltimore will sweep the season series with Pittsburgh.

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Reggie Wayne gets in a full practice

Reggie Wayne AP

On Thursday, Colts coach Chuck Pagano said that it was too soon to tell if wide receiver Reggie Wayne will return to the lineup on Monday night after missing last week’s game because of an elbow injury.

Friday brought some positive developments for Pagano to consider while trying to come to a decision. Wayne was a full participant in practice, which gives the team a chance to see if the elbow issue is affecting him on the field. If it isn’t, offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton explained why the team will happily welcome him back to the offense to face the Giants.

“It makes all the difference,” Hamilton said, via the team’s website. “We just finished our third-down practice and having Reggie Wayne available makes it a lot easier for the quarterback. Find Reggie and find a way to get him the ball.”

Saturday will bring another Colts practice and the release of the team’s official injury report for Monday night. Saturday is also when we should get word on the team’s plans for safety LaRon Landry. Landry’s four-game suspension is up this week, but the team doesn’t have to activate him until Tuesday if they decide he’s not ready to help the defense yet.

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Tony Romo thanks his blockers with expensive bags

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Tony Romo wanted to reward the guys who help him with his “pain tolerance,” for the fact he hasn’t had to tolerate as much this year.

According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, a week after taking five sacks and injuring his back, Romo gave tight end tight end Jason Witten and his offensive linemen Louis Vuitton travel bags just before their trip to London Monday.

Appreciate it,” Witten said. “Timing is now for the London trip, I’m assuming. So perfect timing.”

The linemen are cleaning up lately, with running back DeMarco Murray giving them iMac computers after they helped him to six straight 100-yard games.

“They’re taking care of us this year,” left guard Ronald Leary said. “We appreciate it.”

Of course, if they want the tokens of appreciate to continue, they might want to keep Romo on his feet.

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Ryan Mathews practices for first time since knee injury

San Diego Chargers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Chargers won’t have running back Ryan Mathews in the lineup when they play in Miami on Sunday, but it looks like there’s a good chance that he’ll be able to play when they return from their bye in Week 11.

Mathews was a limited participant in Friday’s practice, which marked the first time that he’s been able to practice in any capacity since getting hurt in the second week of the regular season. It’s the first step back toward being active for a game, something coach Mike McCoy suggested would be happening sooner rather than later.

“He’s getting close,” McCoy said, via Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego.

The backfield should have one returning player this weekend even with Mathews ruled out once again. Donald Brown is listed as probable to play after recovering from a concussion, although Branden Oliver will likely continue to be the top option on the ground given how he’s played over the last few weeks.

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Eric Berry set to return this Sunday

Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

The Chiefs have won four of their last five games and they’ll get some help in their quest to make it five of six against the Jets this Sunday.

Coach Andy Reid said Friday that safety Eric Berry will play for the first time since spraining his ankle in September. Berry has missed the last five games while recovering from the injury and Reid said he wasn’t sure what his role would wind up being against the Jets.

“We’ll just see how he does, see how he feels,” Reid said, via Herbie Teope of the Associated Press.

Ron Parker has replaced Berry in the starting lineup during his time on the sideline and done a solid job, so Kansas City will likely find a role for him once Berry resumes a full workload in the secondary.

Cornerback Jamell Fleming, linebacker Josh Martin, cornerback Chris Owens and wide receiver Donnie Avery have all been ruled out.

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