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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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Bucs work out Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor AP

The Bucs may be without quarterback Josh McCown for the next few weeks after he suffered a thumb injury in the team’s blowout loss to the Falcons last Thursday and that may have them in the market for some help at the position.

Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that the team worked out former Raiders and Steelers quarterback Terrelle Pryor on Monday. Pryor was let go by the Seahawks at the end of the preseason after Seattle gave the backup job to Tarvaris Jackson. He started nine games for the Raiders last season, throwing seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions while also running for 576 yards.

Pryor isn’t up to speed on the Buccaneers offense, obviously, so he wouldn’t be an ideal choice if they needed to turn to someone in a pinch behind Mike Glennon. Mike Kafka is on the practice squad, which likely leaves him better suited to role.

Pryor’s athleticism could intrigue the Bucs from a longer term perspective, however, so we’ll see if anything develops for him in Tampa.

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Jarvis Jones placed on injured reserve/designated for return

Jarvis Jones, Jerry Olsavsky AP

The Steelers are losing one of their starting linebackers until at least late November.

The club placed Jarvis Jones on injured reserve/designated for return on Monday, according to the NFL’s transactions.

The Steelers’ starting right outside linebacker, Jones suffered a wrist injury in Sunday’s 37-19 victory at Carolina. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Jones has undergone wrist surgery.

Jones, 24, has notched 14 tackles and two sacks in three starts this season for Pittsburgh. He was the Steelers’ No. 1 pick in 2013. Arthur Moats is the top reserve behind Jones on the Steelers’ depth chart.

Jones will miss at least the Steelers’ next eight games. The earliest he can return to game action is Sunday, November 30 vs. New Orleans.

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Duke Ihenacho joins DeAngelo Hall on IR

Duke Ihenacho AP

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall isn’t the only member of the Redskins secondary that saw his season come to an end during Sunday’s loss to the Eagles.

The team announced that they have placed safety Duke Ihenacho on injured reserve while also officially ending Hall’s season. Ihenacho injured his heel in Philadelphia.

Ihenacho was claimed off of waivers by Washington after he was cut by Denver at the end of the summer. He was a starter in Denver last season, but was playing in a reserve role and on special teams for the Redskins. The Redskins have Akeem Davis and Trenton Robinson as backup safeties now and 2013 fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas is on the practice squad.

There’s an open spot on the roster with cornerback Chase Minniefield coming up from the practice squad, although the team could opt to go with 52 players this week since they face the Giants on Thursday night and then round out their roster at a later date.

The Redskins also announced that they have released linebacker Darryl Sharpton from injured reserve.

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Ravens confirm Dennis Pitta will miss the rest of the season

pittacart AP

Dennis Pitta’s season is over.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh confirmed today that Pitta, the tight end who suffered a dislocated right hip on Sunday, had surgery today and will miss the rest of the season.

This is the second time in the last 14 months that Pitta has suffered a dislocated right hip. He suffered the injury last year in training camp and missed the first 12 games of the season.

Heading into this season, the Ravens thought Pitta was going to be healthy and ready for a big year, and he caught 10 passes in Week One. Now his season is over after Week Three, and he’s left to wonder if his hip is ever going to be healthy enough to withstand an NFL season.

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Antonio Cromartie has bone bruise, day-to-day heading into bye week

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals have some extra time off before they will put their undefeated record to the test against the Broncos and that should bode well for cornerback Antonio Cromartie’s chances of playing.

Cromartie left Sunday’s win over the 49ers with a knee injury, but the team isn’t worried about an extended absence. Darren Urban of the team’s website reports that Cromartie suffered a bone bruise and that he’s day-to-day as the team heads into their bye week. Coach Bruce Arians said he thinks Cromartie will be fine by the time Week Five rolls around.

There’s less certainty when it comes to Carson Palmer. The quarterback has missed the last two games with a nerve issue in his shoulder and hasn’t been able to throw in practice as a result.

Arians said that he’s hopeful Palmer can resume throwing this week, although there’s no real timetable for his return as his efforts to wake up the nerve have not been successful to this point.

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Whisenhunt: Jake Locker has right wrist injury

Tennessee Titans v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Titans’ starting quarterback has an injury to his throwing arm.

Quarterback Jake Locker has an injured right wrist, Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday, according to the club’s official Twitter feed.

Locker had an MRI on the wrist on Monday morning, Whisenhunt said, according to the club. The Titans’ head coach indicated it was not yet known whether Locker would be able to play Sunday at Indianapolis, Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean reported.

Charlie Whitehurst is the Titans’ backup quarterback.

Locker completed just 17-of-34 passes for 185 yards with no TDs and two interceptions in Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati. He also rushed six times for 50 yards. According to Whisenhunt, Locker was having trouble getting a grip on the ball at game’s end because of the injury, the Tennessean reported.

The Titans (1-2) are one game out of the AFC South lead.

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Danny Woodhead out for the season with broken leg

Chargers Bills Football AP

The Chargers can’t keep running backs on the field.

Coach Mike McCoy told reporters that Danny Woodhead suffered a broken fibula in yesterday’s game, and would be placed on season-ending injured reserve.

That’s a huge blow for a Chargers offense that was already without Ryan Mathews.

They’ll have to make do with Donald Brown now, and after he touched the ball 36 times yesterday, he’s clearly ready for a heavy workload.

The only hope for the Chargers is that he holds up until Mathews returns.

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Bisciotti says no one at Ravens will lose job

Bisciotti Getty Images

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti met with the media on Monday, roughly 15 minutes after the Ravens disseminated a thorough, detailed response to the ESPN report accusing the Ravens of mishandling the Ray Rice case.

The press conference would have been a lot more efficient if the release had come earlier.  At one point, Bisciotti reminded someone off camera that Bisciotti had suggested sending it out sooner.

As to the Rice situation, Bisciotti said plenty of things.  Most importantly, he said that no members of the organization will lose their jobs as a result of the Rice investigation.

He also attributed much of the ESPN report to sources with ties to Rice, and the agendas that naturally flow from it.

“The majority of the sources are people who work for Ray,” Bisciotti said.  “It’s Ray’s attorney, it’s Ray’s agents, and Ray’s friends.”

Bisciotti attributed the comments to a simple motivation.

“They are building a case for reinstatement,” Bisciotti said.  “The best way to build a case for reinstatement is to make everyone else make look like they were lying.”

Bisciotti also pointed out that ESPN worked on the report for 11 days, but gave the Ravens only a couple of hours to respond to ESPN’s questions before publication.  He questioned whether ESPN was even concerned about the team’s position, claiming that co-author Kevin Van Valkenburg teased a “bombshell” report on Twitter before the report was published.

Bisciotti also disputed the notion that he offered future employment to Rice as “hush money” aimed at getting Rice to go along with the notion that Rice had lied to the team about what he did.

Bisciotti vowed that changes will be made if/when future situations like this arise in the future, and that he harbors no animosity toward the league for its handling of this situation.  But he said that, if the league handles a similar case in the same way in the future, he’d lose faith in the league’s ability to address such issues.

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Ravens dispute the key allegations in the ESPN report

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Friday’s report from ESPN says many things about the manner in which the Ravens handled the Ray Rice investigation. The Ravens have now responded to it, with a detailed, written statement addressing numerous contentions contained in the story.

The most important allegations related to Ravens director of security Darren Sanders and Ravens president Dick Cass. The statement contains responses from both men.

As to Sanders, he reportedly had the contents of the elevator video described by an Atlantic City police officer within the hours after the incident occurred.

“I did not receive an account of what happened in the elevator ‘within hours’ of the incident,” Sanders said. “Within a couple of days, I asked the casino and the Atlantic City Police Department for a copy of any videotape of the incident. They said they could not release a copy of the videotape to me. Some days later — I believe it was on February 25 — I spoke to an Atlantic City police official again, asking again whether I could get a copy of the tape or, if not, whether I could come to his New Jersey office and view it. He said I could not, but he did offer to view the tape and describe what he saw. (As I understand it, he was describing a raw video, not the ‘cleaned up,’ ‘smoothed . . . out’ version that appeared on TMZ.) He said that Ray and Janay both appeared to be intoxicated, and that they were involved in a heated argument that began outside the elevator and continued inside. As he described it, Janay appeared to initiate the altercation, but they both spit at and struck each other, resulting in Janay falling and hitting her head against the wall railing. The officer could not tell from the video whether Ray slapped or punched her, but Ray told me very clearly that he did not punch her. It was not clear from the officer’s account whether it was being intoxicated, being hit, or hitting her head against the railing that caused Janay’s apparent unconsciousness.”

Cass reportedly was told by Rice’s criminal defense lawyer that the elevator video is “f–king horrible” and that he “knocker her the f–k out.” Cass also reportedly lobbied for the placement of Rice in a pretrial intervention program, partially in order to keep the video from public view.

“I believe Ray’s criminal defense attorney mentioned the video to me in late May around the time that the court granted Ray’s application for pretrial intervention,” Cass said. “I don’t recall his precise words, but he did say the video looked terrible. I did not ask Ray’s attorney for a copy of the video. I assumed the video would be terrible, because it would show a man striking a woman. But I also thought the video would show a physical altercation where Ray was defending himself with an open hand. My view about the video was also influenced by the fact that the prosecutor and the judge agreed to the ultimate dismissal of all charges against Ray after seeing the video. We had decided several months before to leave fact finding to the court system and the League. As we have said, that was a mistake, and I regret it.

“I did not urge Ray’s defense attorney to follow any particular course of action. I told his attorney that he should do what he felt was in the best interest of his client. I had never even heard of ‘pretrial intervention’ until Ray’s attorney explained it to me. So yes, I agreed with him that pretrial intervention was in Ray’s best interest. Who wouldn’t? It meant the ultimate dismissal of all criminal claims without a trial and the risk of a guilty verdict. Of course, I did not want a criminal trial because of all the adverse publicity associated with a celebrity trial. But I did not think that pretrial intervention would prevent the video from becoming public. I assumed that would eventually occur in any event.”

So while it took three days for the Ravens to respond, Sanders and Cass have provided a potent and pointed response to the ESPN report.

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Bruce Arians called hit on his QB a “cheap shot”

Drew Stanton, Michael Wilhoite AP

The Cardinals were already on their backup quarterback.

But they almost lost Drew Stanton, on a vicious hit from 49ers linebacker Dan Skuta.

Monday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made no bones about it, calling it a “cheap shot.”

“No doubt he was sliding,” Arians said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “That could have ended his career.”

Arians said the fact Stanton was wearing a mouth guard helped lessen the seriousness of the injury.

But he clearly thinks Stanton wasn’t at fault.

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Niners hopeful Vernon Davis will return next Sunday

San Francisco 49ers v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The 49ers are hopeful tight end Vernon Davis‘ absence will span just one game.

According to the club’s Twitter feed, head coach John Harbaugh said he was “optimistic” Davis would be able to suit up for Sunday’s matchup against 3-0 Philadelphia.

Davis exited the Week Two loss to Chicago with knee and ankle injuries. He was inactive for Sunday’s defeat at Arizona, as was second-string tight end Vance McDonald (knee).

The 30-year-old Davis is a key part of the 49ers’ offense. Long one of the game’s fastest tight ends, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Davis can give safeties, linebackers and cornerbacks fits.

The Niners (1-2) are two games back of the Cardinals and one game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West.

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DeAngelo Hall confirms his season is over

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

All indications on Sunday were that cornerback DeAngelo Hall was done for the season with a torn Achilles tendon and the veteran confirmed it on Monday.

Hall isn’t wasting any time when it comes to getting his rehab organized. He said that he’s already started reaching out to others, including Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who have suffered the injury to get their advice on the best way to progress.

“I’ve spoke to a couple other athletes, who have had this similar injury. I’m just trying to do my homework, my due diligence make sure I pick the right place [to have surgery],” Hall said, via the Washington Post. “I’m not a spring chicken, so I’ve got to make sure I get it done it the right way. I’ve got to be as patient as possible, attack this rehab and get back out on the field.”

He’ll turn 31 in November and it’s no sure thing that rehab will be a smooth one. Hall signed a four-year deal with the Redskins this offseason, which should afford him every chance to show he’s back to form in 2015.

The Redskins will promote Chase Minniefield from the practice squad to take Hall’s spot on the roster.

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Chip Kelly doesn’t think his practices are a problem

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams raised a few eyebrows Sunday when he followed up an Eagles win by going public with his feelings that the Eagles practiced too hard during the week and that “you can’t continue to run your team into the ground and expect great results.”

Williams said that other members of the Eagles felt the same way, which all but guaranteed that coach Chip Kelly would be asked about it on Monday. Kelly was asked about Williams’s comments and if he thought the team felt they were being worked too hard in practice.

“No,” Kelly said, via the Philadelphia Daily News. “I know we ask our guys to run a lot during practice. I met with Cary just a little while ago, he came in on his own today … I think he was frustrated. I understand that. Cary’s a competitor. I got no issues with Cary.”

Kelly added that he wasn’t bothered by Williams airing his feelings to the media, which should put a pin in this story as long as the Eagles don’t lose a game in which they look exhausted at the opening kickoff.

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Ravens schedule press conference for 4 p.m. ET

Steve Bisciotti AP

The Ravens are ready to talk about the “numerous errors, inaccuracies, false assumptions and, perhaps, misunderstandings” that they believe were included in the ESPN report about their handling of the Ray Rice case.

The team announced Monday afternoon that owner Steve Bisciotti will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. ET in Baltimore. The above quote was included in the Ravens’ statement about the report on Friday, but the team said they would not address what any of them were until after the team played the Browns on Sunday.

Predictably, coach John Harbaugh was asked about the report following that game and said that the team was united in their decision-making in response to a question about the report’s claim that he wanted to cut Rice after the running back was arrested in February. The Ravens parted ways with Rice two weeks ago after the video of him punching Janay Palmer Rice was released by TMZ.

The team took a page out of the NFL’s playbook for Friday’s Roger Goodell press conference by scheduling the press conference for a short time after they made the announcement. We’ll see if the strategy works out any better for them than it did for the Commissioner.

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Report: Kyle Rudolph needs sports hernia surgery

Kyle Rudolph, Jerraud Powers AP

It doesn’t look like Teddy Bridgewater will have tight end Kyle Rudolph to lean on when he makes his first start at quarterback for the Vikings.

Rudolph left Sunday’s loss to the Saints with a groin injury and was expected to have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the damage. Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that Rudolph will need to have sports hernia surgery and is expected to miss about six weeks while he recovers.

If that’s the case and the timeline is in the neighborhood that Breer reported, he could be a candidate for injured reserve with the designation to return as the Vikings haven’t used it yet this season.

The Vikings have targeted Rudolph 17 times this season, just behind Greg Jennings for the most of anyone on the team. That would make for a significant absence that the Vikings will try to fill with Rhett Ellison and MarQueis Gray.

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