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PFT Live: Will Romo remain in Dallas after 2013?

PFT Live: Tony Romo’s future in Dallas remains unclear. His contract ends after the 2013 season, when the Cowboys need to make some tough decisions. We take your thoughts in this Wendy’s Rapid Reaction segment.

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League introduces NFL Sportsmanship Award

2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Getty Images

The NFL has announced that a new annual Sportsmanship Award, to be determined by a player vote, will be given out on the day before the Super Bowl.

The announcement comes at a time when the league is eager to promote its high-character players while ugly cases of off-field misconduct have cast the NFL in a negative light. The Sportsmanship Award will join the league’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which recognizes good works off the field, in putting a spotlight on those players who conduct themselves the right way.

Other leagues including the NBA and the NHL already have awards for sportsmanship, but this will be the first season in which the NFL gives such an award.

Each team will nominate one player from its own team for the Sportsmanship Award. The league has appointed a panel of former players — Warrick Dunn, Curtis Martin, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler — to take the list of 32 nominees and come up with a list of eight finalists. Then the active players will vote among the eight finalists at the same time that they vote on the Pro Bowl rosters.

The recipient of the Sportsmanship Award will get a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice from the NFL Foundation.

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Eagles getting some bodies back in practice, including Darren Sproles

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Eagles got some needed rest over the bye week, and they got some guys back on the practice field today.

According to Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com, the Eagles got center Jason Kelce, running back Darren Sproles and linebacker Mychal Kendricks back on the practice field today.

While that’s no guarantee they’ll play this week against the Cardinals this week, it’s still a good sign for a team that has played well through injuries this season.

Sproles sprained his MCL two weeks ago against the Giants, and the thought was he might miss some time but that it wasn’t that serious.

Kelce’s been out after sports hernia surgery, and was originally targeting a Week 10 return.

Kendricks has been out since Week Two with a calf injury, so today’s work might be the beginning of easing him back into the lineup.

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Bears fan beaten, critically injured while tailgating

Seahawks Bears Football AP

Another NFL fan has been the victim in an ugly incident of apparent violence before a game.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that a 57-year-old man is in critical condition after he was beaten up in a parking lot near Soldier Field while tailgating on Sunday morning.

Police say the man got into “an argument that turned physical” and was found near his SUV with trauma to the head and face. The victim was found to be “heavily intoxicated.”

The man is currently at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. No arrests have been made.

As the NFL continues to say it wants to make attending games a better experience for the fans, making the stadiums safer should be a high priority. This is the second case this month of a fan being seriously injured in an altercation before a game even started; a 49ers fan who was beaten up before a game at Levi’s Stadium was left partially paralyzed.

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A Week Eight look at the state of the playoff race

Indianapolis Colts v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Is Week Eight too early to talk about the NFL playoff race? Probably. But we’ll do it anyway.

AFC West: First place in the division is on the line Thursday night, when the 5-2 Chargers visit the 5-1 Broncos. The Broncos are currently the favorites in the division, but the Chargers could change that with a road win. Denver also owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Indianapolis, which may turn out to make a difference in home-field advantage in the playoffs.

AFC South: The 5-2 Colts already have a two-game lead and a head-to-head tiebreaker edge over the second-place 3-4 Texans. It will be a big surprise if Indianapolis doesn’t win this division.

AFC East: The 5-2 Patriots have a one-game lead over the second-place Bills, and have beaten the Bills head to head. New England will likely win this division for the 12th time in the 14 seasons since Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe in 2001.

AFC North: The 5-2 Ravens lead the 3-2-1 Bengals and 4-3 Steelers in a division that could turn out to be a three-way race. (Any thoughts that the 3-3 Browns could make it a four-way race probably went out the window with Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars.)

AFC wild card: The second-place teams in the AFC West and AFC North (currently the Chargers and Bengals) would appear to be the most likely wild-card contenders, and the third-place teams in those divisions (Chiefs and Steelers) may be contenders as well. The Bills and Dolphins are also in the mix, while the Texans may be contenders solely because they still get four games against their terrible division rivals, the Titans and Jaguars.

Best guess seeds: 1. Denver, 2. Indianapolis, 3. Patriots, 4. Ravens, 5. Chargers, 6. Bengals.

NFC West: The 5-1 Cardinals have a game and a half lead over the 4-3 49ers and a two-game lead over the 3-3 Seahawks, and the Cardinals are also the only team in the division that hasn’t lost a game within the division yet. It sounds crazy to say, but the Cardinals may now be the division favorites.

NFC East: At 6-1, the Cowboys have the best record in the NFL. Dallas meets 5-1 Philadelphia twice late in the season (on Thanksgiving in Dallas and December 14 in Philadelphia), and those look like the games that will decide the NFC East, with the team that doesn’t win the division having a good chance at a wild card.

NFC North: The 5-2 Lions and 5-2 Packers are tied atop the division, with the Lions currently owning the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to a win at Ford Field. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Week 17 rematch in Green Bay decide the division winner, with the second-place team having a good chance at a wild card.

NFC South: Well, someone has to win this division. It might turn out to be a team with a losing record, maybe the Panthers at 7-8-1 or the Saints at 7-9, but someone will win it.

NFC wild card: You’d think that if the Cardinals end up winning the West that the Seahawks and 49ers would be wild card favorites, but the schedules for the NFC North second-place team and the NFC East second-place team may turn out to be more favorable. It wouldn’t be surprising to see both of last year’s NFC Championship Game participants on the outside looking in come playoff time.

Best guess seeds: 1. Dallas, 2. Arizona, 3. Green Bay, 4. Carolina, 5. Philadelphia, 6. Detroit.

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Week Seven power rankings

Jerry Getty Images

1. Dallas Cowboys (No. 2 last week; 6-1):  “Glory days, well they’ll pass you by.”  Maybe sooner than later.  But not yet.

2. Denver Broncos (No. 3; 5-1):  The Broncos are proving that they can play with the best the NFC West has to offer during the regular season, which bodes well for their ability to face the best the NFC has to offer come February.

3. Arizona Cardinals (No. 4; 5-1):  The next five games (Eagles, Cowboys, Rams, Lions, Seahawks) will tell us plenty about whether the Cardinals are viable Super Bowl contenders.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (No. 5; 5-1):  Philly returns to Arizona for perhaps the biggest game there since the Cardinals beat the Eagles in the 2008 NFC title game.

5. San Diego Chargers (No. 1; 5-2):  Well, at least Peyton Manning won’t set the passing touchdown record against them.

6. Green Bay Packers (No. 7; 5-2):  Either defenses still aren’t taking Jordy Nelson seriously, or they are and it doesn’t matter.

7. Indianapolis Colts (No. 8; 5-2):  Nineteen years after they nearly secured a Super Bowl berth in Pittsburgh, the Colts return with a chance to prove that they’re legitimate Super bowl contenders.

8. Baltimore Ravens (No. 10; 5-2):  It’ll be four more years until the next Flacco vs. Ryan debate.  Hopefully.

9. New England Patriots (No. 12; 5-2):  As Jason Taylor noted on last night’s PFT on NBCSN, Tom Brady apparently honed his flopping skills while attending World Cup matches in Brazil.  (Or maybe while playing Madden.)

10. Detroit Lions (No. 14; 5-2):  On that long touchdown play, Golden Tate was running like Percy Harvin was chasing him.

11. Seattle Seahawks (No. 6; 3-3):  In the same week the Vikings were faced with the 25th anniversary of the Herschel Walker trade, the Seahawks admitted that they were on the wrong end of its modern-day equivalent.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (No. 9; 3-2-1):  With three home games in 11 days, plenty of people won’t be witnessing whether the Bengals can turn things around.

13. San Francisco 49ers (No. 11; 4-3):  Good news, Colin Kaepernick outplayed Denver’s quarterback.  Bad news, the one he outplayed was Brock Osweiler.

14. Buffalo Bills (No. 16; 4-3):  The Bills will face Percy Harvin at the worst possible time — when he’s on his best behavior and without any idea how he’ll be used.

15. Carolina Panthers (No. 13; 3-3-1):  They’re up, they’re down, and somehow they’re still in first place in the NFC South.

16. Kansas City Chiefs (No. 20; 3-3):  In 16 games after the bye week, Andy Reid has broken down the wall 14 times.

17. Cleveland Browns (No. 15; 3-3):  The Browns hobble with one less appendage toward Trap Game No. 2.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 19; 4-3):  There’s nothing like three straight home games to commence the process of turning around a struggling Steelers team.

19. Miami Dolphins (No. 23; 3-3):  Here’s what really unacceptable — The Bears made Ryan Tannehill look like a combination of Dan Marino and Larry Csonka.

20. New Orleans Saints (No. 17; 2-4):  How do “decoy” snaps get characterized for the purposes of the franchise tag?

21. Chicago Bears (No. 18; 3-4):  Apparently, Brandon Marshall going berserk in the locker room after a home loss to the Dolphins isn’t unacceptable to the head coach.

22. Houston Texans (No. 21; 3-4):  Can Jadeveon Clowney play quarterback?

23. New York Giants (No. 22; 3-4):  Two straight losses, three straight wins, two straight losses . . . three straight wins?  With the Colts, Seahawks, and 49ers up next, bet the under.

24. St. Louis Rams (No. 28; 2-4):  All those empty seats at the Edward Jones Dome will have a great story to tell their grandkids about the day the Rams beat the defending champs.

25. Atlanta Falcons (No. 24; 2-5):  Maybe Matt Ryan won’t have to use the silent count for their “home” game in London.

26. New York Jets (No. 25; 1-6):  Percy Harvin wasn’t traded.  He was exiled.

27. Washington (No. 30; 2-5):  Maybe they can get a first-round pick for Colt McCoy.

28. Tennessee Titans (No. 26; 2-5):  Charlie Whitehurst’s passer rating is in the 90s.  Which finally has convinced me of the worthlessness of that statistic.

29. Minnesota Vikings (No. 27; 2-5):  Isn’t it better to just get blown out than to lose a winnable game late?

30. Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 31; 1-6):  Could this be the best 1-6 team in NFL history?

31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 29; 1-5):  If the Bucs can win a couple of games, they could still become contenders in a watered-down NFC South.

32.  Oakland Raiders (No. 32; 0-6):  Raiders fans no longer need to check the newspaper to see the team’s won-loss record.  Just ask Darnell Dockett.

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PFT Live: Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, Redskins talk with Rich Tandler

Tennessee Titans v Washington Redskins Getty Images

The Redskins are preparing to start their third quarterback of the season this weekend with Colt McCoy in line to get the nod unless Robert Griffin III is deemed healthy enough to make his return.

Rich Tandler of CSN Washington will join Mike Florio on Tuesday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss the revolving door at quarterback and when Griffin will be able to walk back through it. They’ll also discuss whether the team should start their preferred quarterback or keep him on the bench until the second quarter given the fact that the Redskins have only won games this season when they’ve replaced their starting quarterback.

Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times will also be on the show to talk with Florio about the latest developments regarding a team finding its way to the City of Angels.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Ahtyba Rubin may need ankle surgery

Cleveland Browns v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Browns have had a hard time stopping the run all season, including last Sunday when former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson went over 100 yards while helping the Jaguars to their first win of the season.

It hasn’t helped that they’ve been missing nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin for the last couple of weeks and their chances of getting him back for this week’s game aren’t looking great. Rubin is headed for another opinion on his injured ankle and coach Mike Pettine suggested that Rubin might need surgery before he can return to the lineup.

“We did get another opinion,” Pettine said, via the Akron Beacon Journal. “We’re just awaiting word back on it. I haven’t heard [surgery] brought up yet, but I’m assuming that could be the case.”

The Browns are also playing without defensive end Phil Taylor, who is recovering from knee surgery and is expected to miss a third straight game this week. The Browns are down two starters with Rubin and Taylor out of the lineup, although Oakland’s past performances this season suggest that they might not be able to take full advantage of the missing pieces.

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Reggie Bush says he’s good to go this week

Rafael Bush, Reggie Bush AP

The Lions have had two key offensive players dealing with ankle injuries recently and they got little help from either of them as they came back to beat the Saints in the second half last Sunday.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson never suited up for the game and running back Reggie Bush was mostly relegated to the sideline after returning to the lineup from a week off against the Vikings. Bush played in the first half, but Joique Bell got most of the work down the stretch because Bush’s ankle was bothering him. Bush is adamant that he’ll be back in the lineup for Sunday’s matchup with the Falcons in London.

“I’m fine,” Bush said, via MLive.com. “I mean, I’m not 100 percent. But I haven’t been 100 percent since high school. Got rolled up on a few times and injured in the game. But I felt fine after the game, though. Didn’t have any setbacks, and that’s the most important thing. Looking to just continue to progress every week. I’ll be on the field Sunday.”

Bush had nine touches totaling 32 yards against the Saints and it has been several weeks since he’s given much of a boost to the Lions’ offensive attack. If the Falcons put up the kind of effort we’ve seen from them the last few weeks, Detroit might not need much from Bush to get a win and go on a bye that will give him and Johnson some extra time to get right before the second half of the season.

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Titans to promote running back Antonio Andrews

Titans AP

The Titans had an extra roster spot, created when tight end Brett Brackett was cut on Monday.

So they’ve apparently decided to fill it by promoting one of their own.
According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean, the Titans plan to sign running back Antonio Andrews off their practice squad.
Another team had shown interest in signing him, but he sent out word on Twitter this morning that he was “activated.”
The Titans are carrying five running backs at the moment, but Shonn Greene has missed the last two games with a hamstring injury.
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ESPN confirms that Aldon Smith could be back early

Smith AP

More than a few eyebrows were raised on Sunday night when PFT reported that 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith could be back one or two games early on his nine-game suspension.

G.M. Trent Baalke quickly said he didn’t know anything about it.  On Monday, coach Jim Harbaugh said the same thing.  (Hey, at least Baalke and Harbaugh agree on something.)

On Monday night, Chris Mortensen of ESPN confirmed the PFT report.

Mortensen points out that the move wouldn’t be unprecedented, citing the reduction in Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s six-game suspension to four games in 2010.  But there’s a big difference in Smith’s case.  Roethlisberger — and the rest of the world — knew that his suspension could be reduced.  When Smith was suspended, the NFL said nothing publicly about a possible reduction.

With the 49ers currently on a bye, the NFL doesn’t need to say anything immediately.  Next Monday or Tuesday, the league could say that Smith will be back for the November 2 game against the Rams.  Or the following Monday or Tuesday, the league could say that Smith will be back for the November 9 game against the Saints.

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Reggie Wayne expected to miss a game or two with elbow

Reggie Wayne, Jayson DiManche AP

Apparently, the “adult beverage” wasn’t enough to take the edge off Reggie Wayne’s elbow.

According to Mike Chappell of RTV6 in Indianapolis, the Colts wide receiver is expected to miss a game or two because of an elbow injury suffered early in Sunday’s win over the Bengals.

He fell after a play, bracing himself with his left arm as he fell. He had an MRI yesterday, but no results were announced.

Wayne suggested he wasn’t that concerned after the game.

“I’m good now,” he said. “I just kind of fell on it, fell on my arm. Go home, have an adult beverage and see how it feels in the morning.”

The veteran receiver’s numbers have been down in recent weeks (eight catches for 50 yards the last two games), but he was playing well prior to that (14 for 196 against the Titans and Ravens), an impressive comeback for a 35-year-old who tore his ACL last year.

But if he’s not back for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh, Hakeem Nicks will have to take on a bigger role.

 

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Broncos elevate Kapri Bibbs from practice squad

Kapri Bibbs, Caesar Rayford AP

The Broncos won’t have running back Montee Ball back for Thursday’s game against the Chargers and their backfield will have a different look than it has in the past two games without Ball.

Denver signed running back Kapri Bibbs off of their practice squad and he’ll join Ronnie Hillman, Juwan Thompson and C.J. Anderson at the position. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett was waived to make room for Bibbs on the active roster.

Bibbs signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent in the offseason and ran for 84 yards and three touchdowns on 19 preseason carries. Bibbs played his college ball at nearby Colorado State, where he ran for 30 touchdowns in 2013. Ball and Barry Sanders are the only other players to pull off that feat at the highest level of NCAA football.

That scoring touch may have caught the eye of other teams and led the Broncos to promote Bibbs before someone could sign him away. Mike Klis of the Denver Post reports that other teams had expressed interest in doing just that.

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Kyle Long says he shouldn’t blame fans, blames media instead

Matt Forte, Kyle Long AP

Given some time to stretch, Bears guard Kyle Long was able to reach all the way up to take the foot out of his mouth.

After blaming Bears fans (Yep, it was their fault) in the aftermath of Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, Long came back Monday and told WXRT-FM that “it was wrong for me to point fingers at the fans.”

“I just think [reporters] had asked everybody in the locker room how they felt about [fans booing], and a lot of the guys didn’t take the bait,” Long said, via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “Obviously emotions are running high after a game. Obviously if we were giving them something to cheer about there would be a lot more cheers coming off the field at halftime. Hopefully the score would be a little bit closer as well.

That falls on our shoulders. It’s unfair to put it on the fans. There was a lot of frustration after the game. You work hard all week. You’re trying to string some wins together. You’re at home. You feel like you’re riding some momentum, and to be down 14-0 going into the half, it’s tough. It’s tough on everybody.”

So it’s not solely the fans’ fault. The media is partly to blame too. They must get tired, what with making concussion symptoms linger and now this.

At least Long realized that antagonizing the paying customers wasn’t the right call for a 3-4 team that’s slipping out of contention for the NFC North title.

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Bucs expected to sign Trindon Holliday

Trindon Holliday AP

The Buccaneers worked out kick returner Trindon Holliday on Monday and things appear to have gone well.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the team plans to sign the veteran returner to their 53-man roster. Holliday signed with the Giants in the offseason, but he came down with a hamstring injury in the summer and landed on injured reserve. The Giants released Holliday from injured reserve earlier this month, leaving him free to sign anywhere.

Holliday scored four times for the Broncos over the last two seasons — twice on kickoff returns and twice on punt returns — but also fumbled 10 times, which makes him pretty much the definition of a boom or bust return option. The Bucs will naturally be hoping for more boom, especially with Holliday offering nothing but return work to his team.

There’s no word on a corresponding move, but it’s probably not great news for current Bucs returner Solomon Patton that the team is looking for a new player at his position.

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NFL begins to take temperature of L.A. market

LA AP

Amid plenty of reports and rumors and speculation about the looming relocation of the Rams, Raiders, or Chargers to Los Angeles, the NFL has begun actively exploring what folks in L.A. want from a new stadium.

According to Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times, the NFL will launch a formal assessment of the market.  Specifically, questionnaires will be sent via email to roughly 2,000 potential customers.  The goal will be to gauge the overall demand for an NFL team, along with the expectations regarding stadium, seating, and stadium amenities.

While the potential return of the NFL has been discussed ever since the Raiders and Rams left 20 years ago, Farmer reports that this is the first time since the 1990s that the NFL has comprehensively surveyed citizens in the L.A. market.

Farmer explains that the survey targets folks likely to buy luxury suites, club seats, and season tickets.  One of the best arguments in favor of a return to L.A. comes from the size of the market.  The more people there are, the more likely it is that enough people will buy all of the tickets and club seats and suites on a regular basis.

It makes sense to do some work to confirm that, since it would be embarrassing, to say the least, if the NFL’s return is met with fans disguised as plastic chairs sans butts in them.

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