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Nicks, Cruz think the Steelers defensive backs get away with holding

Philadelphia Eagles v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Wide receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks got the memo about using the media as a venue to plead for holding calls in advance of games, but someone with the Giants needs to work with them on their phrasing.

Unlike offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and defensive end Justin Tuck, Nicks and Cruz forgot to accuse Steelers defensive backs of getting away with murder when they went public with their feelings that the Steelers hold opposing receivers without penalty from the officials. Nicks said cornerback Ike Taylor was the main culprit in a secondary that grabs “a lot” and Cruz said he expects to be held on every play.

“It’s pretty blatant how they do it,” Cruz said, via Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger. “Some of it’s not being called, and some of it is, so we just have to be prepared to fight through it no matter what happens. And no matter what the down and distance is, expect to be held, expect to be grabbed and just continue to fight.”

Tuck said earlier this week that the Steelers offensive line was getting away with murder by frequently holding defensive players. Gilbride elicited a rather dramatic reaction from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh when he used the same phrase to call attention to the San Francisco defensive line a few weeks ago.

The Steelers are allowing the fewest passing yards per game of any team in the league thus far. They’ve also been penalized seven times per game, more than all but seven teams in the league, and they have been called for defensive holding nine times. That’s the most of any team in the league and the Giants would obviously like to see them add to their lead in that category this Sunday.

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Doug Pederson’s effort remarks lead to “testy” meeting of leaders

Eagles coach Doug Pederson raised plenty of eyebrows this week when he said “not everybody” was playing hard in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals.

And some of those eyebrows were attached to some of the old heads in his locker room.

According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pederson’s weekly Tuesday meeting with his leadership council was “more contentious than others” after calling out their effort.

Pederson twice deflected questions about effort last Sunday, but on the third time came the admission. And whether it was unintended or a veiled shot, the players seem to have been caught off guard by it.

“I think it puts us in a little bit of a tough position as players,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “Because now everybody wants to know who you’re talking about.”

The council of 13 is comprised of one player from each position group, and includes mostly veterans, along with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz.

And according to those who were in the meeting, the topic of effort was one of the main points discussed, with the conversation described as “testy.” When asked Wednesday about the player response to his remarks, Pederson said the response was “great” and “positive.”

But calling out a room full of professionals is a questionable way to get their attention, especially for a first-time head coach who can’t point to skins on the wall.

“Me personally, although I love Doug, he’s not the reason I get up and play and go to work every day,” Jenkins said. “It’s about the guys in the room. I don’t think our effort or how we perform is a direct reflection of Doug.”

Whether it is reflected in their play now that it has been called into question by Pederson remains to be seen.

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Two more Jets fined for unnecessary roughness last week

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:  Anthony Castonzo #74 of the Indianapolis Colts in action against  Buster Skrine #41 of the New York Jets  during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets offensive tackle Breno Giacomini and cornerback Buster Skrine were each fined $9,115 for unnecessary roughness penalties in last week’s loss to the Colts, PFT has confirmed.

As previously reported, Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was also fined for his late hit out of bounds on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Richardson said on Thursday that he’s appealing his fine.

All three penalties came in the first 20 minutes as the game got away from the Jets, who slipped to 3-9.

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NFL declines to fine players who made snow angels

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04:   Rashard Robinson #33 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up prior to the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL says officials have some discretion in determining whether making a snow angel constitutes an illegal celebration. The league also has some discretion in determining whether to fine a player for an illegal celebration.

The league office confirmed today that neither 49ers cornerback Rashard Robinson nor Packers receiver Randall Cobb was fined, even though both players did snow angels as celebrations, and even though the NFL routinely fines players who break the celebration rules.

The officials in Chicago flagged Robinson for his snow angel, but the officials in Green Bay did not flag Cobb for his. The league’s rules are clear that going to the ground to celebrate is a penalty, but the league isn’t always consistent about enforcing that rule.

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Trumaine Johnson, Todd Gurley fined for Week 13 infractions

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Trumaine Johnson #22 of the Los Angeles Rams reacts after an incomplete pass during the fourth quarter of the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

A couple of Rams players heard from the league this week about fines that will add some financial losses to the on-field one they suffered against the Patriots last weekend.

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson has been fined $18,231 by the league for a facemask on Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. Johnson yanked Blount down by the facemask on what looked to be an intentional grab at the tail end of a run late in the first half of the game.

Blount was already down when Johnson pulled on the facemask, although that wasn’t enough to give the game’s officials cause to penalize Johnson on the field.

Rams running back Todd Gurley was fined $9,115 for a chop block on Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower that was penalized. Hightower was shaken up on the play, but returned to help the Patriots finish off a 26-10 win.

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Browns rookie WR suspended for final four games

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: A Cleveland Browns helmet rests on the field prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Browns 29-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns rookie wide receiver Jordan Payton has been suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Payton will be eligible to return to the active roster at the conclusion of the regular season.

A fifth-round pick last spring, Payton has played in four games this season and has one reception for three yards.

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DeMarcus Lawrence questionable but expected to play

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 09:  Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on October 9, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys are going to be without a pair of contributors in the secondary, but they should have defensive end Demarcus Lawrence on the field when they try to push their winning streak to 12 against the Giants Sunday night.

Via Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Lawrence will be listed as questionable but is expected to play.

Lawrence was limited Wednesday but didn’t practice the last two days with a back issue. He only has one sack in eight games this season, but the Cowboys need any threat of pass-rush they can find, as they attempt to clinch home field advantage this week (with a win and a little help).

Cornerback Morris Claiborne and safety J.J. Wilcox are out, along with backup tackle Chaz Green.

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Report: Aldon Smith met with Roger Goodell on Friday

Aldon Smith AP

Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith’s push for reinstatement reportedly took another step forward on Friday.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Smith met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who will make the decision about whether Smith will be reinstated from the year-long suspension handed down in 2015 after multiple violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

Smith applied for reinstatement in early October and there’s a loose 60-day window for the league to consider the application. It’s a loose window because the league doesn’t actually require a decision before 60 days are up (as is the case with Smith) but that “all parties make every effort to be in a position” for the league to make a ruling.

There’s no word on when a ruling may come and time’s running short for Smith to make an impact on the Raiders season as Oakland has three games left after losing to the Chiefs on Thursday night.

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Tyrann Mathieu out again Sunday

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 20:  Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates a touchdown by teammate John Brown #12 (not pictured) in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 20, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

A lingering shoulder injury will keep Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu out of Sunday’s game at Miami.

It will be the second straight game he has missed. Mathieu missed two games in November then returned for one game before aggravating the injury.

Mathieu did not practice this week, and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians offered no guess as to when Mathieu might be able to return.

Arians said Mathieu has contemplated surgery but said, “I don’t think that will be necessary.”

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Texans say Jadeveon Clowney will play against Colts

Jadeveon Clowney AP

The Texans played without defensive end Jadeveon Clowney while they slumped to a third straight loss in Green Bay last weekend, but they expect to have him back against the Colts this Sunday.

Clowney is dealing with elbow and wrist injuries and didn’t practice on Wednesday before returning to the field for the final two days of practice this week. Clowney said on Thursday that he felt well enough to rejoin the lineup and coach Bill O’Brien echoed that sentiment on Friday.

“Oh yeah, he’ll play,” O’Brien said.

The outlook isn’t as good for cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who broke two ribs and suffered a bruised lung against Green Bay. O’Brien said there was a “remote” possibility that Joseph could play against Indianapolis, which suggests that the better bet is that he’ll be inactive as Houston tries to get a leg up on the Colts in the AFC South.

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Andy Reid says he has no issue with Jack Del Rio

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, left, and Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio greet each other after an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won 21-13. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) AP

An awkward moment unfolded between Chiefs coach Andy Reid and Raiders coach Jack Del Rio after Thursday night’s game between the two teams. Reid gave Del Rio a glancing pat on the shoulder; Del Rio responded with an icy glare.

So is there a problem between the two men?

“Not at all,” Reid told reporters on Friday. “Jack and I are actually good friends, and I know people don’t like to hear that ’cause it’s the Raiders, but not at all. I know the picture – when we were leaving — I just patted him on the shoulder after we shook hands. There was nothing there, no.”

Some have speculated that an issue has emerged because Del Rio called Reid’s offense “gimmicky” after the Chiefs beat the Raiders in Oakland earlier in the year.

“I don’t worry about all that,” Reid said. “I just worry about the score of the game. Anybody can say anything that they want to say. I’m good as long as we’re taking care of business there.”

The Chiefs have indeed taken care of business. And the best news is that many seem to presume they won’t continue to take care of business. Which makes it easy for Reid to keep his players from getting complacent, and easy for Reid to keep them properly motivated to continue to prove those who aren’t praising them wrong.

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Broncos to make call on Trevor Siemian Saturday

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 27:  Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos in action against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos aren’t ready to name their starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Titans.

Trevor Siemian missed last week’s victory over the Jaguars with a foot injury, but ditched the protective boot he was wearing early this week and split reps with Paxton Lynch at practice this week. There’s been no word of setbacks and it sounds as if the Broncos will put him back in the lineup in Tennessee, although coach Gary Kubiak said that a final determination should come on Saturday.

“It’s me watching him come out of practice today more than anything,” Kubiak said, via Mike Klis of KUSA. “See how he feels tomorrow, soreness or those type of things. But it was good [in practice]. He did everything we asked him to do yesterday. Did a little bit more today — we’re still repping Paxton. We’ll see if we can get there on game day.”

At 8-4, the Broncos head into the weekend in the sixth and final playoff position in the AFC. A win against the Titans would ensure they’re no lower than that heading into Week 15.

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Kenny Vaccaro dropping appeal of four-game suspension

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 06:  Kenny Vaccaro #32 of the New Orleans Saints celebrates after recovering a fumble against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 6, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro has dropped the appeal of his four-game suspension, the New Orleans Advocate reported Friday.

Vaccaro’s suspension will begin immediately, and he will miss the rest of the regular season.

The suspension, for a violation of the league’s performance-enhancing substance policy, was first reported in early November, before Vaccaro even knew about it. He decided to appeal and continued to play.

Vaccaro missed a game early in the season due to injury but has made 11 starts. He has two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery on the season. The Saints exercised the fifth-year option on Vaccaro’s rookie contract last spring, keeping the former first-round pick under contract through 2017.

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Joe Haden not happy with suggestion that Alabama would beat the Browns

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on in the second half against the Florida Gators during the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs have generated a record of 20-3 in their last 23 games; the Browns over that same span are 1-22.

In 2016, the Browns are 0-12. Their run of futility now stands at fifteen straight losses.

The run of futility has sparked plenty of criticism and cracking wise about the Browns, including a suggestion that Alabama could beat them. Browns cornerback Joe Haden doesn’t like that, at all.

It’s a smack in the face. It makes you very upset,” Haden said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “That’s a slap in the face, it doesn’t make any sense. Alabama’s a great program, they’ve got amazing players, they’ve got players that are going to play in the NFL. We’ve got a team full of NFL guys. Comparing college team vs. NFL team is disrespectful.”

Haden also doesn’t like hearing the jokes from late-night comedians and the plans for an 0-16 parade.

“Oh, man, this is terrible,” Haden said. “This is terrible. You’re talking about an 0-16 parade. It’s very, very tough and it hits you right between the eyes because I’m on the team, there’s something I can do about it and that’s why I’m playing. But when you get all that talk . . . . The worst thing I’ve ever seen is us getting beat 34-0 to ‘Bama. Once I’ve seen that, there was just nothing else to talk about.”

Haden remains pragmatic about the team’s predicament.

“Everybody’s giving it to you,” Haden said. “There’s really nothing you can do but go win.”

He’s right. And the problem comes from the fact that they Browns haven’t won. Week after week after week. After week.

No, Alabama wouldn’t beat the Browns. But when a team is terrible for such a long period of time, those and similar comments are going to be made, repeatedly, until the team wins.

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Jordan Reed questionable for Washington

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 09:  Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins runs with the ball in the third quarter during a football game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 9, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) Getty Images

There’s at least a chance Washington tight end Jordan Reed is back on the field, after missing last week with a separated shoulder.

Reed has been listed as questionable for this week’s game against the Eagles, after participating in practice throughout the week. Washington coach Jay Gruden told reporters they wanted to put him through pre-game warmups to make sure he’s ready.

Reed finished the Thanskgiving Day game against the Cowboys after the injury, but was inactive last week.

Washington will be without safety Will Blackmon (concussion/thumb) center Spencer Long (concussion) and defensive end Anthony Lanier (shin), as they try to hang onto their Wild Card chances.

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Chuck Pagano: Participation trophies “ain’t real life”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 30: Chuck Pagano, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, watches from the sidelines during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

If the Colts want to win the AFC South this season, beating the Texans this weekend would be a pretty good way to kick off the final four weeks of the regular season.

That was the point that Colts coach Chuck Pagano was presumably trying to make on Friday when discussing the fact that only one team in the division is going to wind up in first place and, barring total collapses by several other AFC teams, in the playoffs.

“There’s no trophies for second place, right? Saw a good YouTube video of a basketball coach explaining that, I think it was the women’s basketball coach from Louisville,” Pagano said, via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “He was talking about our society today and everybody gets trophies. I thought it was pretty good. You can finish fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and everybody goes home happy. That ain’t real life. There’s only one trophy. There’s only one division champ. That’s how they’re treating it, and that’s how we’re treating it.”

Pagano certainly isn’t the first person in the NFL to bemoan the presence of participation trophies in American society. He’s probably the first who could have delivered his diatribe in front of a banner lauding the Colts for participating in the AFC title game after the 2014 season.

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