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Report: Texans inquire about Peyton

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Well, well, well.  Plenty of Texans fans think I’m nuts to even suggest that the Texans would be nuts not to pursue Peyton Manning.

I still may be nuts, but at least the Texans-Peyton theory no longer is evidence of it.

Mike Klis of the Denver Post reports that the Texans recently inquired about Manning.  The Texans are now regarded as one of the six teams alive in the Peyton chase, along with the Broncos, Dolphins, Cardinals, Titans, and 49ers.

The Texans and 49ers should have been at the front of the line from the start for Peyton.  Either team would instantly become the odds-on favorite to win their conference championship with a healthy Peyton in the fold.

Klis also reports that, along with other teams, the Broncos have been talking generally about a contract for Manning with agent Tom Condon.

Previously, the Texans had said they have no interest in Manning.  Their interest possibly has been sparked by the Titans’ interest.  If nothing else, the Texans need to make it look like they tried to get Peyton, in the event he ends up with the Titans and lead them to the AFC South title.

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A.J. Green out sick on Thursday

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Bengals were without their best wide receiver in practice on Thursday.

Concern about A.J. Green missing Monday’s game against the Broncos isn’t high, however.

Green missed Thursday’s session with an illness that Geoff Hobson of the team’s website reports isn’t believed to be serious. Green is expected back at work on Friday, leaving him ample time to prepare for Denver’s visit for a game that the Bengals need to assure themselves of top position in the AFC North heading into the final week of the regular season.

Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur also missed practice with a hamstring injury, but “looked ready to rehab” according to Hobson. Assuming Lamur plays, he’ll likely play a part in the team’s plan for slowing both running back C.J. Anderson and tight end Julius Thomas come Monday night.

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McDonald case reconfirms NFL teams do whatever they want to do

Indianapolis Colts v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

So why did the 49ers stand steadfastly behind defensive lineman Ray McDonald when he was arrested but never charged with domestic violence but summarily dump him after a search warrant was served in connection with a rape investigation?

Short answer:  NFL teams do whatever they want.

That’s the only way to reconcile the team’s loud adherence to due process in one case, and it’s lightning-fast discipline in another case.

What’s that, you say?  McDonald created multiple distractions?  So did Aldon Smith.  And he’s still employed.

He’s still employed because he’s a much better player.  If McDonald had played better this year, or if the 49ers still had a shot at getting to the postseason, McDonald would still be employed, too.

Excuses are made for the players deemed valuable to the team.  Examples are made of the scrubs.  That’s the way it will remain, even under the new personal conduct policy.

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George Iloka: We can’t do what we did last week and apply it to Peyton Manning

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Some people might worry about overconfidence on a defense that’s coming off a shutout, but it doesn’t look like it will be a problem for the Bengals this weekend.

Safety George Iloka was asked Thursday what the team could carry over from their 30-0 win against the Browns and scoffed at the premise of the question. Iloka said it would be “foolish” of the team to think they could “take the things we did” to shut down Johnny Manziel and apply them to stopping the Broncos.

“It’s Peyton Manning and it’s Johnny Manziel,” Iloka said, via ESPN.com. “He’ll be a good quarterback one of these days, but let’s not put him in the same type of category right now. The only thing we can take from last week is how fired up we came, how intense we were and try and come out the gate the same way.”

There’s not much to add to Iloka’s point about the two quarterbacks other than to say that he’s absolutely correct. Monday night will be miles away from Week 15 in Cleveland for the defense literally and figuratively.

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Cutler says he was “shocked” and “disappointed” to lose job

Chicago Bears v New England Patriots Getty Images

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said he was “shocked at first, then disappointed” to lose his job, but he didn’t lose his sense of humor.

The local media descended to today’s press conference about his benching, after most of them missed his post-game remarks Monday.

“I’m glad you guys could make it,” Cutler said as he took the podium. “I missed you after the game.”

Jokes aside, Cutler made it clear he wasn’t expecting being benched for Jimmy Clausen, but said he thought he did have a future in Chicago.

Asked directly if he could play for coach Marc Trestman again next year, Cutler replied: “Yes, . . . I think I could. I definitely could.”

A moment later, he said “I think we’d have to figure some things out in the offseason.”

He went on to call Trestman “a heck of a quarterback coach.”

But he also acknowledged that the contract he received last season made that complicated.

“There’s a lot of money in my contract,” he said. “And that comes with a lot of expectations.”

None of which he’s met this year, which is why he’s holding court in an unusual press conference. He admitted he might not have handled things well yesterday upon hearing the news, but he’s handling this press conference better than many in his career.

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Seahawks extend K.J. Wright

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Seahawks have locked up a young starter on their stellar defense for the next four years.

K.J. Wright, the 25-year-old linebacker who has started all 14 games this season, has signed a four-year extension.

“In the offseason, we identified K.J. as one of our core players moving forward and aimed to keep him as a part of the Seahawks family for a long time,” G.M. John Schneider said in a statement. “The timing of this signing gives us the ability to keep as many of our core players together as we possibly can. Since Day One, K.J. has been a true professional in his daily approach and we are excited for K.J., his family and the 12s to keep him in the organization.”

The Seahawks drafted Wright with the 99th overall pick in 2011 and he became a starter as a rookie. He’s a big part of the Seahawks’ defensive success and would have been a big target of other teams in free agency next year, but now he’s in Seattle for the long haul.

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Murray returns to practice field

Murray AP

Unofficially, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray practiced on Wednesday, two days after having surgery to repair a broken hand.  Officially, Murray didn’t practice.

On Thursday, Murray was back on the practice field.  It’s unclear whether that means he officially practiced.

Via ESPN.com, Murray engaged in warm-ups, caught passes, and took handoffs.  Which sounds like what he was doing Wednesday, before the Cowboys declared he did not practice.

On Friday, the Cowboys will apply a label to Murray’s availability.  The team has been optimistic, and Murray wants to show he can suit up for all 16 regular-season games — that’s something he hasn’t done in his NFL career.

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Marc Trestman thinks Jay Cutler can benefit from benching

Trestman AP

Bears coach Marc Trestman took to the podium for the first time since benching quarterback Jay Cutler, and said he discussed the switch with the players involved before going upstairs.

Trestman told reporters that he met with Cutler and Jimmy Clausen before discussing it with General Manager Phil Emery, making it clear that it was his decision.

Trestman trotted out the old “best interest of the football team,” line in discussing the swtich, and said he thinks Cutler will be better for it in the long term.

“I’ve seen careers revived from moments like this,” Trestman said. “And I really feel like Jay will do that.”

Of course, all the early speculation is that Cutler’s next start will come for another team, and that they’re protecting him to trade.

Trestman said he “changed my mind,” when asked about previous support of Cutler.

Clausen took the first reps in practice today, and Trestman said this decision only pertained to this week. He said that Cutler would be active and be Clausen’s backup.

“I think we need a lift at quarterback, we need a spark,” Trestman said. “The weight of the world should not be on Jimmy Clausen.”

Nor should the burden of a collapsing franchise.

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Ron Rivera: Cam Newton “probably” starts on Sunday

Cam Newton AP

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton increased his workload in practice on Thursday and seemed fine on the field as he works toward a full return to action after suffering two transverse process fractures in his back in a car accident last week.

That’s left the Panthers feeling pretty good about Newton’s chances of starting against the Browns. Coach Ron Rivera said, via Steve Reed of the Associated Press, after Thursday’s practice that the team isn’t naming a starter yet because they are “trying to make sure we go through the process” but answered “probably” when asked if he expected Newton would ultimately be the choice.

For his part, Newton said he is not experiencing any pain and that he wants to play if he’s able to play. He added that he doesn’t want to be a “distraction” and that he won’t try to be tough while playing through an injury if it would hurt the team, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case with no signs that Newton’s presence would be a negative for the Panthers before or on Sunday.

Given all of that, it looks like it would be a surprise if anyone other than Newton starts as Carolina tries to win another game and stay alive in the hunt for the NFC South division title heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

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Philip Rivers back at practice

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Adam Schefter of ESPN reported Thursday that Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has a “more severe” back injury than the team has let on, which created some worry about his status for Saturday’s game.

Rivers, who is also listed as having a chest injury, didn’t practice on Tuesday or Wednesday, although neither he nor coach Mike McCoy expressed much concern about his ability to play against the 49ers. That position got some support on Thursday when he returned to the practice field.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that Rivers “didn’t do cartwheels” during the session, but that he stood in the pocket and made throws without difficulty. Since his job calls for him to do the latter and not the former, it would seem that he’s on track to play this week regardless of the condition of his back.

Defensive end Corey Liuget and tight end Lardarius Green also returned to practice for the Chargers, while running back Ryan Mathews remained sidelined by the ankle injury that kept him out of last week’s game.

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LeSean McCoy OK with ceding goal-line work to Chris Polk

Chris Polk AP

The Eagles scored three rushing touchdowns in short yardage against the Cowboys last Sunday night, but none of them were scored by LeSean McCoy.

Chris Polk scored twice and Darren Sproles scored once, leaving McCoy with four rushing touchdowns in 2014 after scoring nine times on the ground last season. The decision to go with other backs didn’t get the Eagles a win, but it did help boost their lagging red zone production and McCoy says he’s fine handing off those carries to Polk if it helps the club.

Some of the short-yardage stuff, Polk’s obviously a little bit more powerful back, so they’ve been giving him some of the runs in short-yardage in a couple games, especially last game,” McCoy said, via CSNPhilly.com. “He’s not getting all of them, but if it helps the team, that’s what I’m going to do. There’s just some plays on 3rd-and-1 type of situations where I probably wouldn’t have gotten it, where I see him kind of hit a guy, drag a guy and get in there. It’s hard to be selfish with a player like Polk to use him to do those type of things.”

McCoy was careful to say that he feels capable of handling the role and he’s scored on 3-of-10 carries from inside the 5-yard-line this season, but the Eagles feel Polk is a better fit for the job right now. That trumps anything else when vying for a playoff spot in the final weeks, something McCoy seems to understand well.

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Weatherspoon predicts a sweep of the “Aints”

Weatherspoon Getty Images

A torn Achilles tendon has kept Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon from making an impact on the field this season.  On Thursday, Weatherspoon made some waves away from it.  Thanks to (what else?) Twitter.

“The Aints are way too sorry to have our names in their mouth!” Weatherspoon posted on Twitter.  “Our team will be bringing a broom to the bayou!

He wasn’t finished.  In his next twist of the Saints’ tail, Weatherspoon also tweaked his own team.

“They won’t let me talk to the media but they don’t know my Twitter password!” Weatherspoon said.  “Been apart of this division for 5 yrs, won the division twice!”

And then Weatherspoon clarified the motivation for his missive.

“That last tweet was for you Aints fans that act like they have just kicked our ass since 2010!” Weatherspoon said.  “GOMD!”

I didn’t instantly realize what “GOMD” means.  And then I had an idea what it means.  And then I went to UrbanDictionary.com to confirm it.

The Saints and Falcons play Sunday in New Orleans.  The winner takes a major step toward winning the NFC South, even though both teams are under .500.

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Peyton Manning ducks out of practice for treatment

Denver Broncos practice at Dove Valley Getty Images

The Broncos have downplayed it, but Peyton Manning’s injury is at least significant enough to keep him off the practice field.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Manning went through stretching with his teammates before practice, then went indoors to get treatment on his injured thigh.

It’s likely no cause for panic (Who are we kidding, PANIC EVERYBODY!!!), but it’s worth noting that the normally meticulous Manning has had his routine changed.

If nothing else, it’s worth giving more reps to backup Brock Osweiler, but it keeps the Broncos even with Philip Rivers, who didn’t practice yesterday with a back problem.

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Cam Newton takes first-team reps, throws 65-yard pass

Cam Newton AP

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton appears good to go.

Newton, who missed last week’s game after suffering a back injury in a car crash, took the first-team reps at practice today. Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer reports that Newton threw a 65-yard pass, and it would be a shock if Newton doesn’t start Sunday.

The Panthers are still in the hunt for the division title in the terrible NFC South, and although they can credit backup quarterback Derek Anderson for playing well in his two starts, they’d much prefer to have Newton on the field with the season on the line.

It appears that the Panthers will have Newton on the field against the Browns. If Carolina wins, it improves to 6-8-1 and remains in contention for the NFC South.

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Unnamed Bears “confused and uncomfortable” with benching Cutler

Jay Cutler AP

Because it’s the Bears — and because it’s rapidly turning into a tire fire — it was inevitable that some unnamed sources checked in.

And they’re not necessarily thrilled with the benching of quarterback Jay Cutler.

According to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com, a pair of unnamed players said that part of the locker room was “confused and uncomfortable” over the way Cutler was benched.

Dickerson referred to them as “a pair of accomplished and respected Chicago Bears players,” which shortens the lists of suspects considerably.

But after offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer ripped Cutler anonymously, then outed himself by virtue of apology with no evident repercussions, the players seem conflicted.

Neither player had performance-based objections (since Cutler has been really bad this year), but didn’t like the disparity in punishment (since there was none for Kromer).

The Bears are rapidly descending chaos, and players and coaches are all beginning to act in ways to cover their own backsides for the future.

So it’s no wonder that Trestman doesn’t have a mandate in the locker room, after making an odd decision to start Jimmy Clausen this week.

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Case Keenum looks like the Texans’ starter, by default

Houston Texans v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Texans have no good options at quarterback this week, as injuries have already cost them their original starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, their second starter Ryan Lindley, and their third starter Tom Savage. So who will their fourth starter be?

It looks like Case Keenum, by default. Although Texans coach Bill O’Brien may not announce whether it’s Keenum or Thad Lewis until Sunday, Jason La Canfora of CBS reports that there’s every expectation Keenum will be the guy.

The difference between Keenum and Lewis is that Keenum, who initially signed with the Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2012, has been with the Texans and spent the whole offseason learning coach Bill O’Brien’s offense. Lewis arrived in Houston less than a month ago and doesn’t have as much time in the system.

Either way, the Texans will struggle against a good Baltimore defense. They’ll just hope Keenum is the better option of the two not-so-good options they have.

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