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NFLPA launches pursuit of collusion case with information request

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The NFLPA believes that the league colluded in 2010, and now the players are trying to prove it.

The process of collecting evidence in the two-week-old collusion case began Thursday.  A source with knowledge of the litigation tells PFT that the NFLPA has submitted requests for information and documents to the NFL.

In a normal federal lawsuit, so-called discovery requests can’t be made until after the court conducts an initial status conference.  Since the present action arises from a petition to reopen the Reggie White antitrust lawsuit, the NFLPA presumably believes that the process of collecting information and documents may begin.

Look for the NFL to fight this one, refusing to provide information until Judge David Doty has ruled on the question of whether the collusion claim was waived as part of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement and the settlement of all pending litigation.

In a roundabout way, the union’s strategy could get the case moving at a time when it isn’t.  By trying to take the initiative and gather evidence even though Judge Doty has yet to even acknowledge the new filing, the NFL will file paperwork that forces Judge Doty to dust off the file and get to work.

The NFLPA contends that the NFL had a secret salary cap of $123 million per team during the uncapped year of 2010.  According to the union, evidence of the collusion arose in the aftermath of an agreement between the league and the NFLPA to strip $46 million in salary cap space from the Redskins and Cowboys due to alleged competitive advantages obtained in the uncapped year.

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Rob Gronkowski Gronks his way to the end zone for early lead

Rob Gronkowski AP

Other mortal quarterbacks might need wide receivers.

As long as Tom Brady has Rob Gronkowski, he should be OK.

The Patriots are out to a quick 7-0 lead over the Broncos, after a 23-yard touchdown. It was his 63rd career touchdown, moving him past Shannon Sharpe for third all-time among tight ends, trailing just Tony Gozalez (111) and Antonio Gates (101) on the all-time list. Gronkowski is 26.

The Patriots are without both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola (among others), leaving them with the starting duo of Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin.

Despite that, the Broncos don’t (or didn’t) have multiple defenders draped all over the star tight end, who was able to slip one tackle and get to the end zone.

The Patriots have lost parts consistently over the course of the year, but there are certain constants, and Gronk doing Gronk things chief among them.

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Jimmy Graham tore his patellar tendon

Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham AP

The Seahawks outlasted the Steelers in a thriller on Sunday afternoon, but they lost tight end Jimmy Graham for the rest of the season along the way.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said in his postgame press conference that Graham tore the patellar tendon in his right knee. Graham hurt his knee while trying to catch a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone early in a wild fourth quarter in Seattle.

The severity of the injury isn’t a big surprise as the team’s medical staff immediately immobilized Graham’s knee in an aircast before loading him on a cart to head to the locker room. Graham’s season is over and his availability for training camp and the start of next season will likely be in doubt well into next summer. As we saw with Victor Cruz this year, he’ll also have to watch for other injuries as he tries to make a complete recovery and get back onto the field.

The injury came during what might have been Graham’s best game with the team. He had four catches for 75 yards and the Seahawks passing offense had its best day overall as Russell Wilson spread the ball to seven receivers on his way to a season-best 345 yards and career-best five touchdowns.

Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet are the other tight ends on Seattle’s roster at the moment and they’ll be asked to do more the rest of the way with Graham out of the picture and a playoff berth in the team’s sights.

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Roethlisberger exits Seahawks game for concussion testing

Ben Roethlisberger AP

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made an unexpectedly early exit from Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks. As it turns out, Roethlisberger was being checked for a possible concussion.

So when did he suffer the possible concussion?

Via Ryan Glasspiegel of, the head injury may have happened during the fourth-quarter drive that culminated in the Steelers, who were down by five at that point, opting for a field goal on fourth and goal.

Roethslisberger took a clear blow to the head on a third-down play earlier in the drive, drawing a roughing the passer penalty. He remained in the game for a full nine plays after that.

After absorbing the illegal hit, Roethlisberger was face down for a couple of seconds. He then rolled over onto his back for several more seconds. After he was helped up by teammates, he seemed fine.

Roethlisberger may have said or done something after the drive to prompt the team to take the situation seriously, with a preliminary assessment on the sideline resulting in a decision to conduct a closer evaluation in the locker room.

The situation will be scrutinized given last week’s mishandling of Rams quarterback Case Keenum, but there was nothing glaring about Roethlisberger’s behavior after the play. The broader question is whether the league automatically should check a player for a concussion whenever he takes a clear and potent blow to the head.

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Broncos-Patriots can be seen on NBC Sports Live Extra

DENVER - NOVEMBER 28:  Wide receiver Ashley Lelie #85 of the Denver Broncos brings in a catch against cornerback Phillip Buchanon #31 of the Oakland Raiders on November 28, 2004 at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 25-24.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The excellent Dark Sky app tells me that light snow will be starting soon in Denver. And it will be great to see that on TV, during the Sunday Night Football game on NBC.

But you can still see it, even if you’re not near a TV.

The game between the 10-0 Patriots and 8-2 Broncos can be seen at NBC Sports Live Extra. You also can watch the game by downloading the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

Meanwhile, it would be another great night to check the PSI of the footballs at halftime; it’s currently 23 degrees and falling.

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Doug Baldwin’s third touchdown caps Seahawks victory

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 29:  Wide receiver Doug Baldwin #89 of the Seattle Seahawks scores a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers at CenturyLink Field on November 29, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks and Steelers traded haymakers all afternoon in Seattle, but the Seahawks struck last and that made them winners when the clock ran out.

On third-and-9 from their 20 just before the two-minute warning, Russell Wilson hit Doug Baldwin crossing the field for a first down but Baldwin shook off Steelers tacklers as he turned upfield and sprinted for an 80-yard touchdown that put Seattle up 39-30 after Steve Hauschka’s extra point.

It was Baldwin’s third touchdown on a day when he caught six passes for 145 yards. It was also Wilson’s fifth touchdown pass of the day, setting a personal record and tying the franchise record. Wilson was 21-of-30 for 345 yards overall, marking the first time that he’s been over 300 yards this season and the Seahawks surely hope to see more of the same in the weeks to come.

The Seahawks also set a franchise record for passing yards allowed as Ben Roethlisberger rolled up 456 yards through the air on a day when both passing offenses were clicking. Roethlisberger wasn’t around for the final two minutes of the game, however. He went to the locker room shortly after Baldwin’s touchdown to be evaluated for a concussion.

All of the big plays made for a wild second half as the lead swung from the Steelers to the Seahawks back to Pittsburgh before the Seahawks took command for good. There were strange decisions, questionable officiating and a huge performance by Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton mixed in along the way, making for a long and entertaining ending to the afternoon’s contests.

Roethlisberger’s final play was a six-yard scramble from the Seattle 10-yard-line, after which Mike Tomlin elected to kick a field goal and give his defense a chance to get the ball back. They weren’t able to do it and a Landry Jones throw to Martavis Bryant down the sideline with 1:37 left was intercepted by Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. Tomlin will likely face questions about the decision to kick rather than go for it, especially after he eschewed three points in the first half in favor of having Jones pass out of what was initially a field goal alignment.

That pass was picked off, one of four Seattle interceptions on the day, and the Steelers are left to rue the missed opportunities on their flight back to Pittsburgh. They’ll host the Colts next Sunday night in a game that they’ll need to solidify their Wild Card chances.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, will take their 6-5 record to Minnesota for their own game with major playoff implications. The Cardinals win on Sunday means that the Wild Card remains their best chance of getting to the postseason, something they may need to pull off without the help of tight end Jimmy Graham after he was hurt on Sunday. If Wilson can keep putting up big numbers while the defense finds ways to take the ball away, their chances of doing it will look much stronger.

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Vikings mum on whether Irvin was recruited to help Patterson

Cordarrelle Patterson AP

On Sunday morning, Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin said on NFL Network that he’d been asked by Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner to work during the past offseason with receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

After Sunday’s 20-10 win over the Falcons, coach Mike Zimmer was asked whether Irvin was the possible mentor Zimmer had mentioned at the end of the 2014 season.

“I don’t know,” Zimmer said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’ll leave that to Michael.’’

Tomasson also notes that he asked Patterson about Irvin’s comments, and that Patterson walked away without answering.

Irvin prefaced his remarks by suggesting that he possibly was “talking out of school.” Based on the reactions from Zimmer and Patterson, Irvin apparently was.

Patterson had no catches during the game. For the year, he has two.

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Roughing call helps Cardinals drive for late victory

Carson Palmer AP

The Cardinals drove 85 yards for the game-winning score Sunday, then sealed a 19-13 win at San Francisco with a defensive stand.

A controversial roughing the passer call on Quinton Dial on a second and 10 from the Cardinals’ 32 extended the winning drive, then Carson Palmer hit Larry Fitzgerald and J.J. Nelson on big passes to keep the Cardinals moving.

An 8-yard scramble by Palmer provided the winning touchdown with 2:28 left and capped a 14-play drive. The 49ers had tied the game late in the third quarter on a 33-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.

The 49ers got to the Cardinals’ 30 on their final drive before giving up a sack and then coming 2 yards short on fourth down.

Palmer was 24-of-40 for 271 yards. 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert was 25-of-36 for 318 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception.

The Cardinals won in San Francisco for the first time since 2008. The Cardinals move to 9-2, while the 49ers fall to 3-8.

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Evan Mathis, Keshawn Martin active for Sunday night

Greg Toler, Keshawn Martin AP

We knew most of the big names that wouldn’t be playing for the Patriots and Broncos well before they handed in their list of inactives on Sunday evening, but there were some question marks lingering on both sides.

For the Patriots, wide receiver Keshawn Martin is active after being listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. Martin will help fill in for the absences of Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, both of whom were ruled out well ahead of kickoff. Linebacker Jamie Collins won’t play after being listed as doubtful as he returns from an illness.

Defensive lineman Trey Flowers, defensive back Justin Coleman, safety Jordan Richards and tight end Michael Williams round out the New England inactives.

Left guard Evan Mathis was also listed as questionable for the Broncos, but he’ll play despite an ankle injury. Max Garcia will start ahead of him, however. Quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Christian Ponder are both inactive, leaving rookie Trevor Siemian as the backup to Brock Osweiler. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware, wide receiver Jordan Norwood, cornerback Lorenzo Doss, tight end Richard Gordon and offensive lineman Sam Brenner are also inactive.

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Seahawks grab lead, Jimmy Graham carted off

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 29:  Tight end Jimmy Graham #88 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a catch against cornerback Ross Cockrell #31 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third quarter at CenturyLink Field on November 29, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks are trying to come back from an 18-14 halftime deficit to beat the Steelers, but they’ll have to go without tight end Jimmy Graham for the rest of the afternoon.

Graham stayed down with what appears to be a right knee injury after a Russell Wilson pass sailed incomplete in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Trainers immediately immobilized Graham’s leg and loaded him onto a cart to head back to the locker room.

Graham had four catches for 75 yards before getting hurt in one of his most productive days as a member of the Seahawks. It’s speculative at this point, but the reaction to his injury suggests it might be a while before he gets a chance to top this outing.

Jermaine Kearse caught a touchdown a few plays later to give the Seahawks a 26-21 lead. A two-point try was unsuccessful when Kevin Smith caught a Russell Wilson pass out of bounds.

The drive was set up by Richard Sherman’s first interception of the year as he ran down a deep ball intended for Antonio Brown, who fell down with a little help from Sherman’s hands as they went downfield. The Seahawks picked up 15 yards on their first offensive play when officials determined that Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons pushing Wilson while the quarterback was in bounds constituted unnecessary roughness.

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NFL won’t discipline officials for latest Monday night mistakes

Gene Steratore AP

Earlier this year, a pair of Monday night officiating errors resulted in extra discipline from the league. The most recent Monday night game, which included a pair of officiating blunders, will not lead to a similar outcome.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL will not suspend or reassign any of the officials from referee Gene Steratore’s crew for the inadvertent whistle during a Patriots offensive play or the faulty decision to keep the clock running after Bills receiver Sammy Watkins caught a pass and rolled out of bounds with two seconds left in the game.

Following a Monday night game in San Diego, side judge Rob Vernatchi was suspended with pay for a week after failing to notice that 18 seconds accidentally had been allowed to run off the clock before the final offensive drive by Pittsburgh. Likewise, back judge Greg Wilson was reassigned away from a Sunday night game between the Patriots and Colts after he failed to call an illegal bat on Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright during a Monday night game between Detroit and Seattle.

As to the latest Monday night mistakes, the NFL said this regarding the officials, in an email to PFT: “Their performance was evaluated, just as it is for officials every week.”

In the aftermath of the Vernatchi and Wilson punishments, PFT reported that the NFL and NFL Referees Association were talking about adopting a specific formula for imposing suspensions with and without pay for officials who make mistakes. That process wouldn’t be launched until 2016.

For now, it appears that the NFL has decided not to continue to take specific action against officials who make mistakes, beyond the grading process.

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Rex Ryan unhappy Chiefs’ video board didn’t show some replays

Rex Ryan AP

After his team lost at Kansas City today, Bills coach Rex Ryan was unhappy with someone you might not expect: The Chiefs’ video board operator.

Ryan said after the game that today’s game was the first time he ever experienced an inability to get another look at a close play by looking up at the Jumbotron. Ryan seemed to think the Chiefs weren’t showing close plays to avoid helping the Bills decide whether to challenge.

“That’s the first time you don’t see any plays,” Ryan said, via ESPN. “I think there’s a league rule that you need to usually get to see some. Maybe I’m wrong on that.”

One of the turning points of the game came when the Chiefs hit a 37-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin. Replays appeared to show that Maclin didn’t make the catch, but the officials ruled that he caught it, and Ryan didn’t challenge.

“The 37-yarder, I wasn’t aware of it because again, I wasn’t seeing the video on it, and again, so from my vantage point, I thought he caught the ball,” Ryan said. “That was from my vantage point. Obviously, I would have challenged it if I would have known there was any question whatsoever on a 37-yard play that flipped the game. We were in complete control of that game and then they threw some balls over our heads. Obviously I would have challenged.”

Ryan said he doesn’t have one member of his staff who is tasked with monitoring replays and telling him when to challenge.

“A lot of times everybody will be up there, but I’m not saying anybody in particular is advising me because it never worked out,” he said. “Every decision is my decision, and so it’s my responsibility.”

It’s Ryan’s responsibility, but he also wishes the Chiefs’ video board operator would have taken responsibility for putting all close plays on the big screen.

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Seahawks turn interception into TD, but missed PAT keeps Steelers in front

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 29:  Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse #15 of the Seattle Seahawks is congratulated by teammates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at CenturyLink Field on November 29, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks offense got off to a slow start in the second half against the Steelers, but their defense helped give them another chance in the third quarter.

Russell Wilson made the most of it. Wilson hit Jimmy Graham for a 36-yard juggling catch to the 1-yard-line and Thomas Rawls punched the ball in one play later to draw the Seahawks within a point. That’s where they stayed, however, as kicker Steve Hauschka had his extra point try blocked by defensive end Cam Heyward. It’s the third missed extra point in the last two weeks for Hauschka.

The touchdown was set up by Pittsburgh’s second turnover of the game. Ben Roethlisberger either lost his grip on the ball or tried to pull it back just before it flew into the air and directly into defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin’s hands for an interception.

The Steelers drove to the Seattle 1-yard-line on their first possession of the third quarter, but kicked a field goal after failing to get the Seahawks to jump offside on fourth down.

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Andy Reid: Justin Houston has sprained knee

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 29:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills avoids a sack attempt by Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium during the first quarter of the game on November 29, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs rallied to beat the Bills 30-22 on Sunday, extending their winning streak to five games and improving their record to 6-5 on the season.

The win didn’t come without some setbacks, however. Linebacker Justin Houston was forced out of the game in the first half with a knee injury.

After the game, coach Andy Reid said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, that Houston suffered a knee sprain. PFT has learned that Houston will have an MRI to determine the severity of the injury, but that the team is optimistic that Houston, who walked out of the locker room on his own power, avoided anything too serious.

The Chiefs also lost left tackle Eric Fisher during the game after he suffered what they called a head/neck injury.

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Jeff Fisher says critics of team’s effort can “kiss my ass”

Jeff Fisher AP

Rams coach Jeff Fisher made an early exit from his post-game press conference following Sunday’s 31-7 loss to the Bengals. Before he left, Fisher said something that will generate plenty of attention.

When discussing a four-game losing streak that has seen the team plunge from 4-3 to 4-7, Fisher said, “Anyone who implies that it’s an effort issue and they can kiss my ass, OK? Because there’s no effort problems.”

Whatever the actual problems, there are plenty for the Rams. They looked to be poised to make a run at the NFC West crown after beating the Seahawks and Cardinals. But after convincing back-to-back wins over the 49ers and Browns at home, the Rams have fallen apart.

The struggles have sparked speculation in some league circles as to whether Fisher will survive this season, regardless of whether the team relocates. As the thinking goes, a move to L.A. could require a new coach in order to create buzz in the new market. Staying put, which will require some damage to be undone locally, could compel a coaching change if only to give the folks in St. Louis a reason for hope for whatever future there may be in Missouri.

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Cards lose Powers, two backs to injuries

Chris Johnson, NaVorro Bowman AP

The Cardinals lost cornerback Jerraud Powers and running back Chris Johnson to injuries in the third quarter of Sunday’s game at San Francisco.

Powers suffered a calf injury and team announced his return is doubtful. Johnson has a knee injury and the team announced his return is questionable.

Johnson walked to the locker room escorted by team trainers about midway through the third quarter. Doctors were also examining running back Andre Ellington on the sideline.

The team announced that Ellington’s return is also questionable.

David Johnson scored a touchdown in the third quarter. The Cardinals lead, 13-10.

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