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Raiders release Aaron Curry

Aaron Curry, Lito Sheppard AP

The Raiders have released linebacker Aaron Curry, ending an experiment that never paid off for the former fourth-overall pick in the 2009 draft.

After the Seahawks gave up on him, the Raiders acquired him last season for a pair of draft picks, last year’s seventh-rounder and a fifth-rounder next year.

Per Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times, bad knees limited Curry’s effectiveness, as he played in just two games this year, totalling 18 snaps against the Ravens and Saints.

Curry, as is the fashion these days, tweeted out the news a few minutes ago, saying: “No longer a raider! On to my next venture! Expanding Gods territory”

Exclamation marks are a little much, as his time with the Raiders prompted mostly question marks.

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Apparently overdue for a decision on his status, Aldon Smith is ready to go

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Aldon Smith #99 of the Oakland Raiders looks on during the second half of their NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at O.co Coliseum on September 13, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders and defensive end Aldon Smith continue to be at the mercy of Commissioner Roger Goodell, even at a time when Goodell seems to be in violation of the relevant terms of the substance-abuse policy.

For a player who is banished from the league with the ability to apply for reinstatement after one year, the policy itself says nothing about the timetable for making a decision. However, Appendix B to the policy provides in part as follows: “All individuals involved in the process will take steps to enable the Commissioner to render a decision within 60 days of the receipt of the application [for reinstatement].”

Curiously, the policy doesn’t expressly state that a decision will be or shall be made within 60 days after application. Instead, it only requires the persons responsible for setting the table for the Commissioner’s decision to enable him to do so within 60 days after the application.

Aldon Smith applied for reinstatement on October 3. The 60-day deadline (if it’s really a deadline) came and went on Friday, with no decision made. As a result, a source with knowledge of the process tells PFT that a decision is expected soon.

Complicating matters for Smith and the Raiders is the fact that they play on Thursday night, in Kansas City. Smith will be ready to suit up and play, if he’s given the green light to return, a source tells PFT.

Whenever the decision is made, the Commissioner will make it in his “sole discretion.” Given the language of Appendix B, it seems that the decision should have been made already. At a minimum, the league should address whether it believes the 60-day provision requires a decision within that window.

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The Cowboys are going to the playoffs

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:   Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with Gavin Escobar #89 after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

This year’s playoff field has its first entrant.

The Cowboys didn’t play on Sunday, but they have booked a ticket to the postseason. Their win over the Vikings on Thursday night gave them routes into the playoffs with losses by either the Buccaneers or the Redskins.

Tampa rallied to win in San Diego, but the Redskins couldn’t do the same in Arizona. That makes the loss of a divisional rival even sweeter than it might have been under other circumstances.

Another divisional rival lost on Sunday when the Giants saw their six-game winning streak end in Pittsburgh. That means the Cowboys can clinch the divisional crown if they beat the Giants next Sunday night.

It would also give them payback for their only loss of the 2016 season and push them a little closer to the No. 1 seed in the conference, so there’s still plenty to play for with a playoff trip already assured.

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Bucs rally to beat Chargers, move to 7-5

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Melvin Ingram #54 of the San Diego Chargers chases Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the pocket during the first half of a game  at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers dominated the fourth quarter Sunday and scored an important victory over the Chargers, 28-21.

After trailing 14-10 at halftime, the Buccaneers took their first lead on a Lavonte David interception return in the third quarter, then scored the only 11 points of the fourth quarter. Safety Keith Tandy had an interception in the end zone with 3:04 left, and the Bucs successfully killed the clock to lock up their fourth straight win.

At 7-5, the Bucs are now tied with the Falcons atop the AFC South. The teams split their season series.

The Bucs took the lead for good with 9:01 left when Jameis Winston hit tight end Cameron Brate on a 12-yard touchdown. Winston found Mike Evans, who otherwise had a quiet day, for a two-point conversion to make it 28-21.

The Chargers only got the ball one more time and got into Tampa Bay territory before Tandy’s interception.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers followed David’s touchdown by throwing a 40-yard pass to Tyrell Williams for a touchdown to put the Chargers back in the lead, 21-17. It seemed the stage was set for a wild finish, but the Bucs made the biggest plays from there.

The Chargers fall to 5-7 and are probably going to miss the playoffs. All of the Chargers’ games seem to come down to the final minutes, but this time the Bucs delivered in the end.

Winston threw for 280 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Rivers threw for 225 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

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Julio Jones “OK” after lower body injury

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons is tackled by Derrick Johnson #56 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was in and out of the game during the final quarter of Sunday’s 29-28 loss to the Chiefs while getting attention from trainers for what appeared to be a leg injury.

When Jones was in the game, he wasn’t moving with his usual ease and served as a decoy after playing a major role on offense in the first three quarters of the game. Falcons coach Dan Quinn called it a lower body injury after the game and Jones said he’d be fine for their Week 14 trip to Los Angeles.

“It’s football,” Jones said, via ESPN.com. “You’re going to get banged up. You’re going to get little nagging injuries here and there from the game. I’m OK. I’ll be good to go.”

The Falcons also had left tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu depart with injuries during the game. Updates on Matthews’ knee and Sanu’s groin are expected when Quinn meets with the media on Monday.

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Cardinals outlast Washington in a wild one, win 31-23

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs for a touchdown as Washington Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller (38) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) AP

The Cardinals still aren’t .500, but showed signs Sunday that they’re still going to be a tough out for the rest of their schedule.

Led by running back David Johnson’s 175 yards from scrimmage, the Cardinals held off Washington at home for a 31-23 win, moving their record to 5-6-1 and showing they still have some degree of a pulse.

Of course, they need help, but they showed they can be a dangerous team down the stretch.

The game went back and forth in the second half, with Washington taking the lead twice. But each time, the Cards answered, with Carson Palmer’s 42-yard touchdown to J.J. Nelson providing the final margin, and Patrick Peterson’s interception of Kirk Cousins sealing the win.

Palmer finished with an even 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, and Larry Fitzgerald caught 10 passes to move into third on the all-time receptions list.

Washington fell to 6-5-1, leaving them on the fringes of the Wild Card chase, but trailing the 7-5 Buccaneers for the final spot at the moment.

And while they turned the ball over more than they’re accustomed to, the fact they made multiple runs on the road suggests they’re far from finished.

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Steelers stifle Giants offense to move to 7-5

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 04:  William Gay #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a defensive stop with James Harrison #92 in the first half during the game against the New York Giants at Heinz Field on December 4, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants came into Pittsburgh with a six-game winning streak despite some sputtering performances from their offense in recent weeks, but they couldn’t overcome the unit again this week.

The Steelers intercepted Eli Manning twice, sacked him twice and held the Giants to 234 yards of offense in a 24-14 win that moved them to 7-5 on the season. That’s the same record that the Ravens have after beating the Dolphins on Sunday and leaves things tightly knotted at the top of the AFC North with four games left to play.

Lawrence Timmons had the first interception of the game, thwarting a Giants scoring chance and setting the Steelers up for their first touchdown after a long return into Giants territory. Antonio Brown scored that touchdown on a fairly quiet day that saw tight end Ladarius Green lead the team in receiving yards.

Green caught six passes for 110 yards and a touchdown to fill exactly the role that the Steelers had in mind when they signed Green this offseason. Injuries kept him out of the lineup for the first half, but it looks like he’ll be a major part of the offense down the stretch.

Le’Veon Bell chipped in 182 total yards and Ben Roethlisberger completed 24-of-36 passes for 289 yards. Both players turned the ball over in the second half to give the Giants some hope of climbing back into the game, but their offensive ineptitude proved to be too deeply seated for the team to muster much fight as the game wound down.

They’ll need to find their footing this week because a loss to the Cowboys next Sunday will end any hope of contending for the division title while several other teams remain in the hunt for Wild Card spots in the NFC. The Steelers will be in Buffalo and Cincinnati the next two weeks before returning home for a matchup with those Ravens in Week 16.

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Mike Zimmer’s follow-up appointments will determine his status for Week 14

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 1: Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings looks on during the game against the Los Angeles Rams on September 1, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Rams 27-25. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer missed Thursday night’s home game againt the Cowboys. It’s still not known whether he will be available for next Sunday’s visit to Jacksonville.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Zimmer’s recent procedure to repair a detached retina ended in a “good result.” However, follow-up appointments with his physicians will determine whether he’ll be able to coach on Sunday, December 11.

The first question is whether he’ll be able to coach in the game at Jacksonville. The second question is how he’ll get to Jacksonville.

It’s “all to be determined,” the source said, with Zimmer flying to Jacksonville in a pressurized cabin (which could negatively affect the healing of his eye), in a non-pressurized cabin, or by car. Driving would be a major ordeal, with a trip of nearly 1,500 miles each way from Minneapolis to Jacksonville.

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Raiders surge late to beat the Bills, improve to 10-2

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Amari Cooper #89 of the Oakland Raiders dives into the end zone for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills during their NFL game at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

If a team is judged by how it bounces back from adversity, this Raiders team may be something special.

After falling behind 24-9 midway through the third quarter today against the Bills, the Raiders turned things around with a late-game surge that saw them score four touchdowns in 12 minutes and turn what looked like an ugly loss into an easy win.

With the victory over the Bills, the Raiders improved to 10-2 on the season, tied for the best record in the AFC. Not many people would have predicted before the season that the Raiders would be in contention for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, but that’s exactly where Oakland is.

On a good day for the Raiders on both sides of the ball, the best player on the field may have been Khalil Mack, the pass rusher who first hit Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to force an interception to set up a Raiders touchdown, then on the next possession knocked the ball out of Taylor’s hand and recovered the fumble, clinching the win. Mack is perhaps the most talented of the very good nucleus of young players the Raiders have acquired in the last few years.

The Raiders also have a talented quarterback in Derek Carr and talented receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabrtee, each of whom caught touchdown passes from Carr. Latavius Murray scored two rushing touchdowns on a day when the Raiders got a complete team effort.

The Bills got solid work from LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee in the running game, but otherwise it was a rough day. The loss drops them to 6-6, and realistically it’s hard to see Buffalo making the playoffs. Rex Ryan may not have much of a future with this team.

Jack Del Rio’s squad, however, has a bright future. This is a team that can contend for a Super Bowl.

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Kirk Cousins warms up, Washington takes lead over Cards

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) AP

The league’s top defense held Kirk Cousins in check for a half, but he’s back to November form now.

The Washington quarterback has rushed for a touchdown and thrown another in the third quarter, leading his team to a 20-17 lead over the Cardinals despite a turnover.

Cousins threw for just 89 yards in the first half, but things have loosened up since then, as the lead has bounced back and forth three times already in the second half.

The Cards took advantage of a sack-strip fumble forced by Calais Campbell, and Carson Palmer hit Michael Floyd to reclaim the lead briefly, before Cousins hit Jamison Crowder for a 26-yard touchdown.

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Chargers, Bucs trading touchdowns

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04: Vernon Hargreaves #28 and Noah Spence #57 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers chase Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers out of bounds on a short run during the first half of a game at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers took their first lead of the game after Lavonte David returned an interception for a touchdown with 4:25 left in the third quarter.

The Chargers came right back, with Philip Rivers throwing a 40-yard pass to Tyrell Williams to put the Chargers back in the lead, 21-17.

That drive covered 75 yards in five plays in under three minutes. So, the stage is set for a wild finish.

Both teams need the game badly. The Chargers are 5-6. The Bucs are 6-5 and can catch the Falcons in the NFC South standings with a win.

In the first half Chargers running back Melvin Gordon scored his 10th rushing touchdown of the season. Gordon is over 100 total yards for the game.

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Dolphins struggled with footing in Baltimore

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 4: Running back Jay Ajayi #23 of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by cornerback Jimmy Smith #22 of the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL made a point of promoting today’s “My Cause, My Cleats” day, which allowed NFL players to wear shoes with special messages on their shoes. But in Miami, there are questions about whether some players put on the wrong footwear.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said after his team lost at Baltimore that several players fell down and that the team needs to examine whether it had the right cleats for each player.

“We have to go back and look at that, because we really can’t have that happen. We had a couple chances to make some big plays, and we’ve got guys falling down. . . . We just have to make sure that we have the right equipment,” Gase said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald.

Gase did not blame the special cleats, but it’s fair to wonder whether some players were wearing shoes they weren’t accustomed to, or the wrong length of cleats for the field conditions, because of the “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign. One player who wore the special shoes, Jarvis Landry, changed his shoes during the game. Two other players who wore the special shoes, Andre Branch and Jay Ajayi, said they were having problems with footing, but both of them said that was the result of the field in Baltimore.

“The grass was terrible,” Branch said. “We knew that coming into the game. It’s no excuse at all. But that’s the atmosphere we played in. Those were the elements we had to work with. They played on the same surface as we did.”

Ajayi, who gained 61 yards on 12 carries, agreed.

“It was slick out there. You saw some guys sliding around,” Ajayi said. “There were definitely some people losing traction out there.”

Whether the problem was the cleats or the problem was the quality of the field surface in Baltimore, either way, it’s a problem the NFL needs to monitor.

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Eric Berry “shed a few tears” in return to Georgia

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs walks off the field after their 29-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Berry returned an interception from a failed two-point conversion for two points and the go-ahead score.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chiefs safety Eric Berry grew up in Georgia and returned to Atlanta for treatment after he was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2014, but he never played an NFL game in the state until Sunday.

It was worth the wait. Berry returned an interception for a touchdown in the first half and then became the first player to return an interception for two points when he picked off Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on a fourth quarter conversion attempt. That turned a 28-27 Atlanta lead to a 29-28 Chiefs win and was part of a day that saw Berry “shed a few tears before the game … shed a few during the game and … shed a few after.”

“The last time I came home during the season, it was to get chemotherapy and then this time it was actually to play the game,” Berry said, via ESPN.com. “I was just thankful for the opportunity. I take pride in a lot of things people take for granted so when opportunities come my way I cherish them and try to make the most of them.”

Berry did just that on Sunday and the Chiefs are 9-3 as a result.

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Jeff Fisher press conference excerpts regarding contract extension

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Jeff Fisher of the Los Angeles Rams looks on during the game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) Getty Images

[Editor’s note: On Sunday morning, multiple reports surfaced regarding a two-year contract extension for Rams coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher confirmed the extension after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. The questions and answers from his press conference on this subject, as prepared and circulated by the Patriots, appear below.]

Q: Jeff, some news broke today that you got a contract extension, and I wonder if you’ve done enough to warrant a contract extension?

JF: You know, the discussion started at the end of the year, last year. Then they moved into the offseason, so I agreed with the organization well before the season started.

Q: Was there a contract extension during the summer?

JF: Yes, sometime in the offseason. It’s not my personal position to go ahead and release that stuff, so I was very appreciative with respect to Stan [Kroenke], knowing what we were going through. And you know, it somehow got out. So, I am expecting to be the coach of the franchise; however, I fully understand that the wins and losses fall on my shoulders. You know, that is the fact of our business. And I get that. And as I said, I’m not looking over my shoulder, I’m doing everything I can, on a daily basis, to get this team to win football games.

Q: What would you say to fans in Los Angeles who are kind of scratching their heads asking how they could give Jeff Fisher a contract extension?’

JF: Well, I would tell them the truth, that this was done well before the season started. It was done well before we had 90,000 people in the [Los Angeles] Coliseum for our first preseason game. And you know, we’re just moving forward, that’s what we are doing. Trying to put our product on the field, we’ve lost some close games, you know, and we are struggling offensively. That’s where it is at. That stuff is out of my control.

Q: Jeff, why do you think they announced it?

JF: I don’t know, it is out of my hands. You know, we had a lot going on this offseason. A lot of stuff going on, so I don’t know. It’s not my place to make that announcement.

Q: Was it difficult for you as we were asking you week after week and you told us there was an understanding with the owner? Were you getting anxious that no one has announced this at all?

JF: No, I wasn’t at all. Again, it was not my place to announce it. And I don’t know where it came from and how the timing, it just ended up coming out today. Yes, I am confirming it. And again, I am excited about this opportunity. Stan knows what we have been through and he knows the direction we are headed as a franchise.

Q: Is it signed or is it still just an agreement?

JF: I’m not going to go into detail. OK?

Q: I mean, if it’s not signed, then it’s not done.

JF: It’s been signed.

Q: Jeff, do you expect to be the coach in 2017?

JF: Yes, I do. I’ve got some work to do here to finish up strong. You know, we have some personnel issues to deal with and get better. And we have some issues to deal with from an offensive side of the ball.

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NFL already has the right to hire up to 17 full-time officials

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 27:  Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Denver Broncos tries to talk to a referee in the second half of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

Much was made this week of the comment from NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent that the league may hire up to 17 full-time officials. The reality is that, for four years, the league has had the power to do it.

Per a souce with knowledge of the situation, the labor agreement finalized at the end of the 2012 lockout permits the league to hire up to 17 full-time officials. There was an attempt to do so a few years ago, but the NFL and the NFL Referees Association were unable to agree to terms.

The fundamental problem, as it relates to making a part-time, seasonal employee a full-time, year-round employee, is providing the employee with enough compensation to entice the employee to ditch any other employment. Complicating matters is the fact that having other employment gives the official financial security in the event that the officiating assignment evaporates due to poor performance.

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Jason Pierre-Paul out with a groin injury

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) is tackled by New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (90) and linebacker Jonathan Casillas, left, during the first half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Jared Wickerham) AP

The Giants are losing to the Steelers by 14 points in the third quarter and they’ve lost one of their best defensive players.

Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was the NFC defensive player of the week for Week 12, will not return after sustaining a groin injury late in the first half. Pierre-Paul needed to be helped off the field and went directly to the locker room with the help of the Giants medical staff.

The Giants also lost defensive back Coty Sensabaugh, who has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation of a rib injury.

The losses on the defense won’t help the Giants, but they won’t matter if the offense doesn’t get in gear. The Giants had five first downs in the first half and their first drive of the third quarter didn’t add to that total after a James Harrison sack on third down forced a quick Giants punt.

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