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Goodell suggests Thursday night football is here to stay


In his prepared remarks at the Harvard School of Public Health, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said nothing about the impact of short-week football upon the league’s unprecedented push for safety.

The topic came up in the post-speech question-and-answer session.

“We have to look at the data and see if there’s a higher frequency of injuries,” Goodell said regarding Thursday games, via Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe.  “We have not seen that.  If we did, we would certainly evaluate that.

“[The players], actually, in most cases, like the Thursday night game.  They don’t practice much the week of the game, and they get 10 days off after that.  They enjoy that aspect of it.  The reaction, while always mixed, right now has been quite positive from a players’ standpoint.”

While the thumbs ups may exceed the thumbs down, one very influential player previously has given the approach two thumbs way down.

“You have to ask yourself a real question when you schedule games like this:  Who does it help?  Because it doesn’t help the players,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said in 2010.  “That turnaround is just too quick.  You go from playing a physical game on Sunday and you have less than four days before you have to physically get back up again.  It takes a week for guys to really heal. . . .  I don’t know when they put it in but I’ve never liked it.”

Since the most recent CBA, at which time the players had a chance to scuttle Thursday night football completely, short week games have grown, with every team now playing once per year a game on a Sunday followed by a game on a Thursday.  And while that make it fair from a competitive standpoint, it doesn’t make it right.

That said, the Cowboys and Lions have been playing one annual short-week game every year for decades.  And there have been few complaints about it.

Moving forward, the players can complain all they want.  With the current labor deal lasting until 2021, it’s highly unlikely that anything will change any time soon.

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Jordan Cameron present at practice Friday

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One of the AFC’s Pro Bowl performers from a season ago has returned to practice after more than a three-week absence.

Browns tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion) was on the field Friday as the Browns worked out ahead of Sunday’s matchup at Atlanta, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer observed.

The 26-year-old Cameron has missed the last three games after suffering his third concussion in less than two years in the October 26 win vs. Oakland. Overall, he’s hauled in 13 passes for 250 yards and one touchdown in six 2014 contests. Earlier in the campaign, Cameron was plagued by a shoulder injury, further hurting his production.

The Browns’ offense is already slated to have wideout Josh Gordon back in the lineup on Sunday after a nine-game suspension. The Browns’ final injury report, posted later today, could tell us more about Cameron’s status for Week 12.

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Jonas Gray not at practice Friday

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One of last Sunday’s breakout performers wasn’t spotted at practice Friday.

Patriots tailback Jonas Gray was not seen working out with New England this morning, Lee Schechter of reported.

Gray was not on the injury report on Wednesday or Thursday. He rushed for 201 yards on 37 carries in New England’s 42-20 victory at Indianapolis on Sunday night.

The Patriots’ final injury report will be released later Friday. New England (8-2) hosts Detroit on Sunday.

Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, James White and the newly signed LeGarrette Blount are the Patriots’ other backs.

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Steven Jackson, Julio Jones practicing Friday

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Two of the Falcons’ key skill-position players returned to the practice field Friday.

Wide receiver Julio Jones and tailback Steven Jackson were both spotted at the club’s Friday workout, Vaughn McClure of reported.

The Falcons’ leading receiver, Jones (67 passes, 912 yards, three TD receptions) had missed the first two practices of the week because of illness, while Jackson (128 carries, 467 yards, four rushing TDs) was also out sick on Thursday.

On Thursday, coach Mike Smith had indicated Jones would play vs. Cleveland on Sunday even if he missed Friday’s practice.

The Falcons (4-6) share the NFC South lead with the Saints.

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Bills fans having a hard time getting refunds for Sunday’s game

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At a time when the NFL has made plenty of missteps, the league did the right thing by moving Sunday’s Jets-Bills game to Detroit.  Now, the onus falls on the Bills to do the right thing by the customers who bought tickets to the game that won’t be used.

For season-ticket holders, the money will be credited to next year’s invoice — unless a refund is specifically requested by December 2.  While convenient to accept the credit, it amounts to a potentially massive no-interest loan to the Bills, who will retain the use of the cash for several extra months.  (The Bills also will likely receive a large insurance payment for the interruption to the business resulting from the loss of a home game, which when combined with the interest earned on the money retained from season-ticket holders could give the Bills a net financial gain.)

For those who had purchased tickets to only the Jets game, refunds will be provided.  According to the Buffalo News, however, the Bills have given the wrong phone number to call in order to obtain a refund.

“Information on the Bills Website instructs ticket holders to call 1-877-228-4357,” writes Tiffany Lankes of the Buffalo News.  “But that’s actually the phone number for a domestic violence crisis center in Ohio, which has been receiving a barrage of calls from Bills fans.”

The Bills’ website, as of this posting, is still displaying the wrong number.  The correct number to call is 1-877-228-4257.  The Bills’ ticket office will reopen on Monday.

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PFT Live: Browns talk with Mary Kay Cabot, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Josh Gordon AP

The Browns welcomed wide receiver Josh Gordon back to the team this week as his 10-game suspension came to an end in time for him to help their push for a possible division title or playoff spot in the final six weeks of the season.

On Friday’s edition of PFT Live, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer will join Mike Florio to talk about what kind of impact people should be expecting from Gordon this weekend. Beyond the specific questions about what Gordon can do after such a long spell away from the field, they’ll also talk more generally about what the Browns need to do in order to get a win that would give a healthy boost to their postseason chances.

Florio will also be taking questions from PFT Planet, so send them in on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or give a call to 888-237-5269 during the show to let us know what’s on your mind this Friday.

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

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Belichick: LeGarrette Blount’s role is “totally up to him”

LeGarrette Blount AP

Running back LeGarrette Blount is back in New England as the newest member of a deep group of running backs.

The Patriots have last week’s hero Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, James White and James Develin in the backfield along with Blount, who was released by the Steelers on Tuesday after leaving the Patriots to sign with them as a free agent in the offseason. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked how Blount, who had 266 yards on 65 carries for the Steelers would fit into that mix.

Belichick was circumspect about specifics, but said that how much Blount plays will ultimately be up to Blount.

“That’ll be up to him, just like everybody else,” Belichick said, via “When he gets an opportunity, how much he can take advantage of it, how much he can be productive, what he can do with those opportunities will determine how many more there are. It’s totally up to him. He knows that. We’ve talked about that. He knows that’s the way it is and I think he’s excited about it.”

Blount knows as well as anyone how running backs can fall into and out of favor in New England. There were 10 weeks last season, including the playoffs, that saw Blount get 10 or fewer carries and eight weeks when he had 11 or more so there’s little reason to believe anyone has much of an idea about how Blount’s return to New England will play out at this point.

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DirecTV announces Jets-Bills is available on Sunday Ticket

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Monday night’s Jets-Bills game will be available to NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers, as well as on the local CBS affiliates in the Buffalo and New York City markets.

DirecTV announced this morning that Jets-Bills, which was pushed back from Sunday afternoon to Monday night because of the snowstorm in Buffalo, will be on NFL Sunday Ticket. That only makes sense, as Sunday Ticket subscribers are paying for the privilege of seeing every NFL game. It wouldn’t be fair to Jets or Bills fans who live outside New York that they wouldn’t be able to see the game.

However, it took a bit of maneuvering to reach this point. In fact, DirecTV was telling customers this morning that they wouldn’t be able to see the Jets-Bills game on Sunday Ticket, before reversing course and saying the game would be on Sunday Ticket after all. But now it’s official: If you have DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket, you can watch Jets-Bills on channel 706 on Monday starting at 6 p.m. Eastern.

The NFL’s contracts with CBS, ESPN and DirecTV made it a bit difficult, as ESPN pays for the exclusive right to televise NFL football on Monday night. ESPN probably isn’t thrilled that some viewers of its regularly scheduled Ravens-Saints game will be siphoned off and will be watching Jets-Bills instead.

This was the right call. Fans who pay for Sunday Ticket are paying a lot of money because they want to see every NFL game. This morning’s announcement ensures that they can.

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Jay Cutler wants to keep on rolling (out)

Jay Cutler AP

When the Bears self-scouted over the bye week, they realized that quarterback Jay Cutler was a bit of a sitting duck.

So last week against the Vikings, they rolled him out more and used more shotgun formations, and being able to throw on the move helped him get back on his feet.

It was a subtle change, but one Cutler hopes they stick with.

It was great,” Cutler said, via John Mullin of “We got to keep doing it. We got to keep doing it in different ways, showing different looks, get off the spot as much as we possibly can because it helps with everything. It helps the pass rush, get some easy balls out to the flat, out on the outside lets the guys run, it’s got to be something in our offense that we do more of.”

Cutler was sharp as ever last week, completing 72.1 percent of his passes.

Of course, the challenge this week is repeating against guys who know his weaknesses well.

Against former Bears head coach Lovie Smith and former Vikings head coach and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, he’s facing two coaches who will instruct the Buccaneers everything they learned from years of coaching with and against Cutler.

Frazier’s Vikings sacked Cutler often, but Smith probably has even more valuable insight as to which buttons to push against his former quarterback.

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New Jersey sports betting ruling could come Friday

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With New Jersey temporarily prevented from launching sports betting until a final ruling comes in the challenge filed by five major sports leagues against the plan, that final ruling could be coming as soon as Friday.

Via Brent Johnson of, Judge Michael Shipp heard oral arguments on Thursday regarding New Jersey’s latest effort to circumvent federal law that prohibits the expansion of sports betting beyond states that had sports betting prior to 1990, like Nevada.  After New Jersey’s first attempt to legalize sports betting failed, New Jersey passed a law that simply decriminalizes the state’s existing ban on sports betting.

Among other things, the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA contend that legalized betting will create open the door for some games to be “fixed.” That seems to be a flimsy contention; with millions already changing hands illegally, the temptation to fix games already exists.

The bigger concern for the NFL likely flows from the reality that legalized gambling would put more pressure on the league to do everything it can to get all calls right, from using full-time officials to using instant replay in all circumstances to putting chips in footballs to show when the ball has cross the goal line to anything and everything else that potentially would push the error rate to 0.0 percent.  It also would compel the league to adopt a more meaningful and exacting injury-reporting system, so that anyone and everyone would have complete information about a player’s health — and that there would be no inside information of any kind.

Whatever Judge Shipp decides, the loser certainly will appeal the case to the next level.  If New Jersey ultimately prevails, it’s unlikely that the Super Bowl would ever return there.  It also would potentially take New Jersey out of play for the next home of the Giants and Jets when MetLife Stadium inevitably becomes obsolete in another 15 or 20 years.

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Drew Brees is 0-for-Baltimore, Ravens don’t want to hear it

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Drew Brees has done a lot of amazing thing on the football field.

But he’s never beaten the Ravens.

Granted, he’s only played them three times, but has lost all three, once with the Chargers and twice with the Saints.

“I am aware. I played them in ’03, ’06 and ’10. Thanks for reminding me,” Brees said, via Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Every time I step on the field, I want to win. But certainly, you want to say that you’ve beaten every team.”

Likewise, Saints coach Sean Payton hasn’t checked the Ravens off his list yet, but Ravens players don’t want us discussing it.

“Didn’t I tell you all about the no-hitter?” outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “You guys are the worst. I don’t even know to answer that.”

While the small sample size skews the data, he has completed just 59.6 percent of his passes against the Ravens, his second-lowest of any opponent. He has six touchdowns and seven interceptions against them, far beyond his normal ratio.

Of course, he’s nearly 10 points off his passer rating from last year as well (from 104.7 to 95.9), in part because he’s not getting the big chunk plays he has in the past. Losing Brandin Cooks for the season isn’t going to help that, or necessarily help against a team with a vulnerable secondary.

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Marvin Lewis: Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you go to the top

Marvin Lewis AP

The Bengals and quarterback Andy Dalton made the rebound they needed to make between Weeks 10 and 11, putting a dreadful performance against the Browns behind them in time to come up with a comfortable win in New Orleans last weekend.

It’s the kind of swing that can drive fans mad, especially when there were already doubts about whether Dalton, who posted a 2.0 quarterback rating against the Browns, can be consistent enough to win a playoff game for the first time in decades. Coach Marvin Lewis said Friday that the blame for that loss should be spread far beyond Dalton while also saying that it is sometimes darkest before the dawn.

“Sometimes you gotta hit rock bottom before you can go all the way back up to the top, and we certainly were at rock bottom a few weeks ago on Thursday night,” Lewis said on NFL Network.

Sunday brings a date with the Texans, who brought the Bengals to rock bottom in the playoffs in each of Dalton’s first two seasons. Dalton threw four interceptions and no touchdowns in those games and he also lost his lone regular season game against Houston in his rookie season, so this would be a good time to show that he can put together a string of good performances for the Bengals.

If things go the other way, Lewis will have a hard time convincing people that rock bottom is a way station on the road to anything other than another disappointing loss.

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Dez Bryant: We didn’t work hard enough during 8-8 seasons

Dez Bryant, Johnathan Cyprien AP

The Cowboys return from their bye with a game against the Giants on Sunday night and they’ll be trying to take another step toward the playoffs when the game kicks off.

If the Cowboys can make it to the postseason, it will snap a three-year run of 8-8 records that culminated with the division title on the line in Week 17. The Cowboys lost all those games, including a loss to the Eagles last December that inspired wide receiver Dez Bryant to get an early start on preparations for the 2014 season. That experience has left Bryant with the feeling that the Cowboys weren’t working hard enough over the last few years.

“I’m going to give you my honest opinion. The years that we did go 8-8, I think — me, because this is just how I am — I don’t think we worked hard enough,” Bryant said, via “I’m not saying we didn’t work, like, I mean the offseason, during the OTAs — not the coaches. That’s on us. The first thing that I did right after the game, we lost to Philadelphia, my brother will tell you — I was working out the next day. Just because I felt like ‘Damn, we didn’t do enough.’ Obviously we didn’t do enough, they was the better team. It feels different, it’s a lot different — it’s a lot different from last year. We’re more together, we want it more, we’ve got the same vision, and that’s kind of hard when you’ve got a team like that.”

Bryant had a huge second quarter against the Jaguars in the Cowboys’ last game, but it’s been an otherwise quiet stretch for the wideout of late. He’s had catches in just three of the last 12 quarters the team has played, something that will have to change if the Cowboys are going to finish the job in front of them in the regular season. An injury-riddled Giants secondary might be just the thing to get him back on track.

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Raiders win makes nexts Friday’s PFT on NBCSN a little more interesting

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We close every in-season Thursday edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN by picking the winner of the Thursday night game.  Last night, it was presumed the Chiefs would win.  So the question was a little different.

What would you do if the Raiders beat the Chiefs?

Former NFL running back Brian Westbrook said he’ll catch the first plane to Buffalo and start shoveling snow.  I said that, on next Friday’s edition of the show, I’ll do the entire show dressed as Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

Does anyone have a really big red jacket?

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Bills planning Friday night practice at Detroit’s facilities

Calvin Johnson AP

The Bills are slated to practice at the Lions’ practice facilities at 7:15 p.m. Eastern on Friday night, the club announced this morning.

The NFL has moved the Jets-Bills game from Orchard Park, New York on Sunday afternoon to Detroit on Monday night because of heavy snow in the Buffalo area. This allows the Bills to get in two practices and a walk-through, a customary work schedule for NFL clubs.

The Bills’ travel plans for Friday are not known, and the practice information is tentative, the club said. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport was operational as of this morning.

The Lions’ headquarters are in Allen Park, Michigan, about 15 miles to the southwest of Detroit. The Lions play at New England on Sunday afternoon. Detroit typically practices on Friday morning during game week, which ostensibly would leave Buffalo the space and time it needs to work out later today.

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Glenn Dorsey may not make his return this weekend

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The 49ers activated defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey from injured reserve on Monday, leading many people to suspect that Dorsey will be part of the defensive line mix against Washington this weekend.

It might be a bit premature for Dorsey to get back on the field, however. Dorsey didn’t practice on Thursday and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said that his recovery from a torn biceps hasn’t progressed quite far enough for Dorsey to feel totally comfortable on the field.

“I think Glenn’s at a point where he’s kind of stuck. I don’t think he’s taken any steps backward. Nothing negative has happened. Just hasn’t taken that next step yet to where he feels like he can go out there and cut it loose yet,” Fangio said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don’t think he feels he’s close to being 100 percent to use it, the way you need to be able to use it down there in the trenches.”

If Dorsey can’t go, Quinton Dial would start for the second straight week as Ian Williams has been placed on injured reserve with a fractured fibula. Dial didn’t play much in last week’s win against the Giants, however, as the Niners opted for more nickel looks in their 16-10 victory.

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