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Calvin Johnson says he has been dealing with nerve damage

Chad Greenway,  Calvin Johnson AP

If Calvin Johnson keeps talking, the Lions eventually will be making a $20,000 contribution to the Human Fund.

With four NFL teams already fined that amount this season for violating the league’s injury-reporting rules, the Lions could be in line for a similar sanction, for failing to list Johnson on the injury report due to the consequences of a hard hit he absorbed earlier this year from Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway.

Johnson previously said he suffered a concussion on the play; the team denied it.  Now, via Paula Pasche of the Oakland Press, Johnson said he believes the concussion also may have caused nerve damage.

“Actually I had some nerve damage that was kind of messing up my grip a little,” Johnson said. “Not to blame that, but I think that the concussion could have had something to do with some of that damage I had going on.”

Johnson has missed plenty of practice time in recent weeks with a knee injury, but he hasn’t been disclosed this season as having a concussion or nerve damage.

Last week, Ravens coach John Harbaugh complained that players who are able to practice and play with injuries may not want their conditions to be publicized.  For players like Johnson and Bills defensive end Mario Williams, the injuries are being disclosed not by the team, but by players who may be trying to explain diminished performance.

That’s why teams tell players not to talk about injuries — and it’s why the Lions could eventually find themselves getting fined for what Johnson has said.

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Report: Patriots extend Matthew Slater’s contract through 2016

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The Patriots switch up offensive and defensive game plans as much or more than any team in the league, which leads to a fair amount of turnover at some positions as the Pats look for the right mix for each and every situation.

Special teams work doesn’t fluctuate as much, which means the job profile for players on those units doesn’t change much from game-to-game or season-to-season. Wide receiver Matthew Slater has filled one of those roles quite well for the last seven years and the Patriots have reportedly moved to make sure he’s filling them for a few more.

Field Yates of ESPN reports that Slater, a 2008 fifth-round pick and the son of NFL Hall of Famer Jackie Slater, and the Patriots have agreed on a contract extension that runs through the 2016 season. Slater, who could have become a free agent after this season, will reportedly stand to earn $4 million over the course of the extension.

Slater has made 99 tackles over his seven years with the team and has been named a team captain for the last four seasons.

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Jets wouldn’t let Rex talk about Buddy’s health situation

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Leave it to the Jets to be dysfunctional even in the process of disintegrating under the weight of dysfunction.

According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, the Jets blocked coach Rex Ryan from talking to Mehta about a bye-week visit to his ailing father, legendary NFL defensive guru Buddy Ryan.  Buddy, who rose to prominence as defensive coordinator of the ’85 Bears and then coached the Eagles and Cardinals, is battling cancer.

“Ryan was happy to discuss the visit, but a media relations official intervened presumably because of the News’ critical stories about Idzik,” Mehta wrote.  “Asked who made the decision to prevent a willing Ryan from sharing stories about his father, the media relations official said, ‘I don’t have to tell you.'”

Mehta interprets the muzzling of Rex Ryan as proof positive that, once the season ends, Ryan will no longer be the team’s head coach.  Apparently, the team fears that Rex would become more sympathetic in the eyes of the fan base if he’s dumped by the team at a time when his father is fighting a serious illness.

That sounds more than a little goofy, but why else would the Jets not let Ryan talk about his father, especially when his father is a famous former NFL coach?

The disclosure comes as part of a broader column in which Mehta goes all in against G.M. John Idzik, arguing that Idzik should be fired, too.  Although an unlikely upset of the Steelers seemed to go a long way toward saving Idzik, a 35-point Monday night blowout loss to the Bills may have pushed the needle the other way.

With Ryan surely done, the question becomes whether he’ll win enough games down the stretch to save Idzik.  If it was Idzik who gave the order to keep Rex from talking about Buddy, Rex should mail in the last five.

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Jamal Anderson charged with DUI in Atlanta

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Former Falcons running back Jamal Anderson has landed in some legal hot water in Atlanta.

Anderson was arrested and charged with DUI last Friday evening after an off-duty police officer found him passed out behind the wheel of his car in the travel lanes of I-85. The officer called Georgia State Police and a state trooper said he found Anderson “unsteady on his feet” with bloodshot eyes.

“I asked Anderson why he was stopped in the middle of the interstate, noting that it was extremely dangerous and asked him if he was trying to hurt himself,” the trooper said in the police report, via the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “He stated that he wasn’t trying to hurt himself and didn’t really have a good explanation as to why he had parked in the middle of the interstate.”

Anderson told officers he had been drinking the night before, but refused to take a field sobriety test. He was arrested, charged with DUI and improper stopping in the roadway and booked into Gwinnett County jail.

Anderson faced a DUI charge in 2012 as well and wound up pleading guilty to a charge of reckless driving. His sentence included a fine, probation and court-mandated attendance at a drunk driving impact panel.

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Lance Briggs expects groin injury to keep him out “a few weeks”

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Longtime Bears linebacker Lance Briggs knows the clock is ticking.

And his time in Chicago might be even shorter than he imagined, thanks to a groin injury picked up last week.

Briggs said during his weekly show on CSN Chicago that his groin issue would likely keep him out “a few weeks.”

While originally mentioned as a game-time decision for Thursday’s game with the Lions, that likely knocks him out for the game.

With only four games left, it’s unclear how many times Briggs will suit up for the Bears again, since he’s accepted the fact he’s probably not going to do it in Chicago next season.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

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Bills WR Robert Woods made the Jets pay for single coverage.

The Dolphins have had some bad luck.

Patriots QB Tom Brady and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers have never started against each other, until Sunday.

The latest “Fire John Idzik” billboard tells Woody Johnson to sell the Jets if he’s not going to make a wholesale change.

The Ravens’ Monday night win gives their playoff hopes a shot in the arm.

Cincinnati needs OT Marshall Newhouse to step up in place of OT Andre Smith.

The Browns have a meaningful game with the Bills in late November. Who saw that coming?

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says the team just needs to take care of business: “If we do what we need to do on a week-in and week-out basis in terms of our business in our stadium, then it’s not going to be required that we look around. We play some significant people moving forward.”

Texans DE J.J. Watt delivered some pizza to Houston police officers and firefighters.

Will running woes plague the Colts in the playoffs?

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley bristled at questions about whether his assistant coaches are getting the job done.

Members of the Titans are volunteering to feed the homeless this Thanksgiving.

Said Broncos coach John Fox of getting LB Danny Trevathan back from a knee injury, “We won’t give him a lot of work because we’re not getting him game ready yet. He hasn’t played football for a while. He will participate in individual drills and probably some scout-team work just to get him back into playing shape.”

The Chiefs added DL Nick Williams to the active roster to replace S Eric Berry.

Said Raiders coach Tony Sparano of FB Marcel Reece, “The thing that I’ve noticed is that he’s a guy who, when given the opportunity to run the football, makes yards that way, no matter when.”

The Chargers helped get 1,000 people to donate blood in San Diego.

Said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett of Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense, “It certainly challenges you. It’s different than what the NFL has seen for a number of years, but it’s been in place here for a little bit. You have to be ready to play an up-tempo style of offense and you have to be able to get yourself lined up and play sound defense against it.”

Eagles QB Mark Sanchez and Cowboys QB Tony Romo are both hoping to re-shape their reputations with a run to the playoffs this year.

Here’s a look at some of the Giants who should be part of the franchise’s future.

Is Jay Gruden doing what Dan Snyder hired him to do?

Bears DE Willie Young is excited to return to Detroit.

His numbers are way down, but Lions WR Calvin Johnson says he’s the same guy he’s been for years.

As the Packers prepare for the Patriots on Sunday, are they also preparing for their Super Bowl opponent?

A bum knee is bad news for Vikings LT Matt Kalil.

The Falcons are leading a historically awful division.

It may be Amini Silatolu’s turn at right tackle for the Panthers.

If the Saints get to six wins, is that enough to get to the playoffs?

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown says the defense played well enough to win on Sunday.

Said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians of his rookie defensive lineman, “Josh Mauro would have gotten a game ball if we would have won the game. He played his tail off, stout at the point of attack. Really, really nice surprise.”

Rams WR Stedman Bailey is finally emerging as a part of the passing game.

The 49ers say they’re not seeking revenge against the Seahawks on Thanksgiving.

The Seahawks have generally kept 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick from using his big arm to his advantage.

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J.J. Watt, human being, thanks cops and firemen with free lunch

J.J. Watt AP

Proving it’s possible to be a star player, be in many commercials, and still be a human being, J.J. Watt continues to impress on and off the field.

Via the Houston Chronicle, Watt had pizzas delivered to police and a fire station in Houston, thanking them for their service.

“You show up day in and day out, never knowing what the day might hold and never getting enough thanks for what you do, yet you still continue to put others ahead of yourselves,” Watt said in a hand-written note.

While the gesture is impressive, Watt’s handwriting is also perfect, which is one more reason to wonder if he’s a real person, or was born on Krypton and sent to save the planet Earth.

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Jim Caldwell: Lions have no comfort zone on offense

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots Getty Images

Going two weeks without a touchdown is a sign that things aren’t working for your offense, but the signs were there for the Lions even before they lost their last two games while scoring a total of 15 points.

They are scoring their fewest points per game since the 2009 season, haven’t run for a touchdown since the seventh week of the season and they’ve had to patch together an offensive line around injuries that have sapped the unit’s effectiveness. According to quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is coming off a career-low in completion percentage in Week 12, it’s left the team “trying to figure out what we’re really, really good at.”

Coach Jim Caldwell believes there’s nothing the team is really, really good at right now, however.

“We have no comfort zone,” Caldwell said, via “We have no area that we are comfortable with at this point in time with our offense.”

That’s clearly not where you’d like to find yourself heading into the final month of the regular season, especially since the offensive issues have been widespread enough that it’s hard to believe everything is just going to click into place all of a sudden.

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Jets name Geno Smith starting quarterback

Geno Smith AP

Geno Smith is back as the Jets’ starting quarterback.

The Jets announced this morning that Smith, not Michael Vick, will start on Monday night against the Dolphins.

Jets coach Rex Ryan met with both Smith and Vick this morning and informed them that he has made the switch. Vick had a disastrous game against the Bills on Monday night, and Smith was slightly better after Vick was benched, so that may have been what made Ryan make the decision.

It’s also possible that the decision wasn’t up to Ryan. Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reported that Ryan preferred Vick — but that the decision might be taken from Ryan by G.M. John Idzik and owner Woody Johnson.

Regardless, the Jets are going nowhere this season. And the quarterback to lead them in the future probably isn’t on the roster right now.

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Math, trustworthy, shows Washington better with Luck not RG3

Griffin and Luck shake hands at midfield after their NFL preseason football game in Landover, Maryland Reuters

In the 2012, the Colts had a choice — Stanford’s Andrew Luck or Baylor’s Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.

Washington was going to take the other one.

And with Griffin benched, it looks like this is shaping up like another Colts draft call — when they took Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf.

But the numbers show that if the roles were reversed, RG3 might not be as big a disaster as he is now.

The website ran 50,000 computer simulations which put Luck in Washington and Griffin in Indianapolis. The verdict’s hardly surprising.

“If Luck were the starter all season in Washington, the Redskins would be projected to win the NFC East with a 10-6 record. Indianapolis, with RG3 would finish second in the AFC South behind Houston with a projected 7.5 wins.

Luck would be projected to throw for 4,529 yards, 34 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in Jay Gruden’s offense. RG3, assuming a full healthy season, would be projected to throw for 2,994 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a Colt.”

Washington would probably have taken that kind of line out of Griffin, and he might not have been benched if he were playing that well.

We already know the Rams are glad to have traded with Washington, so there are at least two teams grateful for how this one has turned out.

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Aaron Rodgers: It’s not me against Tom Brady

Aaron Rodgers AP

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have both been around the NFL long enough that they are running low on new things to experience in the professional ranks.

One of the few things left on each man’s list will get checked off on Sunday when Brady and the Patriots hit Lambeau Field to face the Packers. Brady and Rodgers have never started the same game, adding some intrigue to a game that already had plenty by pitting the two hottest teams in football against each other.

Rodgers, who missed a 2010 matchup with the Patriots because of injury, is focusing on the team part of things this week instead of on his matchup with a player who won’t be on the field at the same time or the lack of a foil like Peyton Manning has been to Brady over the years.

“I have a ton of respect for them in their careers, but again I don’t ever look at it like it’s one quarterback against another. It takes 11 every single play to be effective. We play against some great teams in the NFC all the time. They’ve spent their careers in the AFC and that’s kind of the way it’s gone,” Rodgers said on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show. “I’d like to think that at some point by the end of my career, I’ll have a number of matchups against a quarterback in the NFC who they like, much in the way that they like Brady and Manning, and they can make some comparison there, but I won’t have any void from not playing those guys. I’d rather not; they’re great players.”

Rodgers is right about it being 11-on-11 obviously, but it’s a quarterback-driven league and the fact that we’ve never seen Brady and Rodgers in the same game means that it’s an angle that will get played heavily between now and Sunday’s kickoff. And the accompanying noise will only grow should the teams remain hot and force a second meeting that comes much quicker than the first.

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Jason Avant compares himself to NBA great Tim Duncan

Carolina Panthers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

It’s hard to remember a player who has sounded so relieved at getting fired.

But Jason Avant, cut by the 3-7-1 Panthers after he made some comments critical of the offense, is now back in an offense he knows and loves and trusts. He said he wanted to sign with coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs this offseason, yet he ended up in Carolina, where he was little more than a stable pony.

“He’s had big receivers like [Dwayne] Bowe, smaller receivers like DeSean [Jackson], . . . and he’s able to use guys in the right way,” Avant said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star. “He looks at everybody as having an ability. Everyone has a strength and he tries to find that strength and use it to their ability and also to the team’s best interest.

“I’m pretty sure coach Reid is going to move me around as he sees fit. I believe in what he’s preaching. I believe in everything he’s about, so I trust him in whatever that decision is.”

Gosh, when he says it like that, it sounds like he wasn’t a fan of the offensive stylings of Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula.
But Avant was in the mood to take shots during his reunion, he was more interested in explaining how he can play a role for a team that hasn’t gotten the most out of their wide receivers (they’re still waiting for their first touchdown from a wideout this year).

“You see Tim Duncan still play at a high level because he was a fundamental person,” Avant said of the NBA’s best post player for the last two decades. “So when his talent or speed kind of diminished, he was still able to play at a high level because he learned the game the right way. That’s what I want to be as a pro — learn the game the right way and as I get older, I’m still able to perform at a high level.”

The Panthers thought he was far less than Tim Duncan, that’s for sure. So it will be interesting to see if he returns to the productive player he was for Reid in Philadelphia.

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DeMarco Murray has no doubts he can keep up workload

DeMarco Murray AP

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray continues to lead the NFL by a wide margin in both rushing attempts and rushing yards and he also leads the league in questions about whether he can keep up his current pace without slowing down or breaking down.

Murray has run the ball 268 times this season, leaving him on pace for 390 carries after 16 games. Murray said Tuesday that he has no doubts that he’ll be able to continue working at that pace for the rest of the year and that he’s actually feeling better now than he was during the early part of the season.

“As the year goes on, you feel better,” Murray said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I feel like I’ve gotten stronger throughout the year, so I have to continue to work hard during the week and it’ll show up on Sundays.”

Injuries can strike at inopportune moments, of course, but Murray certainly hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down to this point. He keeps churning out similar performances behind the Cowboys’ high-performing offensive line and there’s little reason to predict otherwise as long as those holes keep opening with regularity.

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Rex Ryan sounds like a man who knows what’s coming

Rex Ryan AP

Boastful Rex Ryan is so much more fun, with all his jokes and playoff promises.

Beat-down-by-life Rex Ryan’s kind of depressing, watching him acknowledge that’s almost certainly fired.

Ryan’s tone was downcast when he met with Jets reporters yesterday, following their latest catastrophe, a 38-3 loss to the Bills.

We’re running out of tomorrows,” Ryan said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.

Ryan has to know what’s coming, because he called this a month ago. When the Jets were 1-4, he said in a radio interview that “if… we don’t get this thing on the right track, I don’t think for a minute I’ll be here.”
They’ve gone 1-5 since then.

“My thoughts haven’t changed,” Ryan said Tuesday. “I know we have to clearly get better.”

With the Jets mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and Ryan admitting it’s time to play some younger guys, it’s hard to see how that’s going to happen.

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J’Marcus Webb tweets he’s signing with Vikings

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After hosting free agent tackles J’Marcus Webb and Eric Winston for workouts on Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings have apparently made a decision on their replacement option for injured right tackle Phil Loadholt.

Webb tweeted Tuesday night that he is re-signing with the Vikings.

Webb appeared in eight games for Minnesota in 2013 while making one start. Webb had played his first three seasons for the Chicago Bears before joining the Vikings last season.

The Vikings will likely turn to Mike Harris to take over as the starter in place of Loadholt with Webb replacing Harris as the backup tackle.

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Kam Chancellor hated watching player he was earlier this season

Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor couldn’t stand watching the player he was at times earlier this season.

Bone spurs in his ankle, coupled with a nagging hip issue left him unable to recognize the player he saw on film each week. The enforcer of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” just wasn’t able to be the player he came to expect week in and week out.

“Yeah, definitely. It was tough,” Chancellor said. “I hated watching film. I hated watching myself. Just hated it.”

Chancellor was ultimately sidelined for two weeks due to a groin issue to go along with the ankle and hip injuries he played through the first half of the year. They were only the second and third games Chancellor had missed due to injury since assuming the starting safety job alongside Earl Thomas in 2011.

“It comes with the territory. It comes with football and you’ve just got to find way to get through it and push forward,” Chancellor said.

The silver lining was that the downtime helped alleviate the ankle and hip issues as well for Chancellor. His performance the last two weeks against Kansas City and Arizona appeared to be the best two games Chancellor had played since Seattle’s season opener against Green Bay.

“It definitely helped me out a lot. I feel a lot better (now),” Chancellor said.

Chancellor has 60 tackles in nine games this season with an interception and a forced fumble.

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