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Andre Johnson brings Christmas to 12 Houston kids

Andre Johnson Pic Getty Images

Christmas came early for 12 children in Houston today, when they were treated to Toys R Us shopping sprees courtesy of Texans receiver Andre Johnson.

At an annual Christmas event organized by the Andre Johnson Charitable Foundation, the kids were given shopping carts and told they had 80 seconds (for Johnson’s jersey number) to fill the carts with whatever toys they wanted.

“You hear a minute and twenty seconds and you don’t think that’s a long time, but you’d be surprised by what these kids can put into their buckets,” Johnson told the Texans’ website.

Johnson’s foundation gladly picked up the tab (which came to $19,521) for the 12 kids, who were chosen by Houston’s Child Protective Services department. All of the children have been taken out of their homes because of parental abuse. Johnson, who has been footing the bill for the annual shopping spree for years, said he has been particularly touched to see that the kids aren’t just thinking of themselves as they grab all the toys they can.

“All the kids that have been here every year have gotten gifts for their brothers and sisters or cousins or whoever,” he said. “It just shows what they go through that they think about others. It shows what type of kids they are.”

And this shows what type of man Andre Johnson is.

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Bisciotti shrugs at possibility he’d be forced to sell over Rice situation

Bisciotti AP

In the aftermath of Friday’s ESPN report regarding the alleged mishandling of the Ray Rice investigation, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti met for 47 minutes with the media to answer many questions about the report and the investigation.

Informed that a Forbes article has raised the possibility of Bisciotti being forced to sell the team, Bisciotti said, “If they force me to sell, then I guess I’ll sell.”

He then added that, because he doesn’t work very hard as owner of the team, he really wouldn’t have a major void in his life.

Bisciott’s version of the situation, as articulated at the press conference and set forth in the the lengthy statement from the team, could be interpreted as Bisciotti believing that he did nothing that would justify a decision to force him to sell the team.  Ultimately, the decision regarding what the Ravens knew, when they knew it, and what if anything they did wrong will be made by former FBI director Robert Mueller, who is conducting an investigation of the entire situation.

And that’s when things could get even more interesting.  If Bisciotti disputes Mueller’s version of the events, will Bisciotti change his mind regarding whether any employees of the team should no longer be employees of the team?  Or will Bisciotti dispute Mueller’s report the same way Bisciotti disputed the ESPN report?

That’s an angle that, like so many other issues in this situation, the NFL and the Ravens possibly haven’t thought all the way through.  Are the league office and the Ravens prepared to accept Mueller’s conclusion, or will they reserve the right to disagree, like Goodell did when former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturned the suspensions imposed by Goodell in the Saints bounty scandal?

Ultimately, Mueller’s investigation could result in many eye-opening conclusions.  At this point, nothing should be ruled out.

Included a possible decision by ownership that Bisciotti should sell the team.  If that happens, it sounds like he’ll go more quietly than Donald Sterling did.

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Reports: James Harrison to rejoin Steelers

James Harrison AP

Less than a month after retiring, James Harrison is set to rejoin the club with whom he’s had his greatest success, per multiple published reports.

The Steelers will sign the 36-year-old Harrison this week, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported Monday.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Harrison will meet with the Steelers on Tuesday and is on track to sign, barring any snags.

Long-time Steelers beat reporter Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also reported that Harrison will rejoin the team after a season away.

And on Instagram, Harrison posted a video suggesting he would be returning to Pittsburgh.

The Steelers are in need of outside linebacking depth after Jarvis Jones was placed on injured reserve/designated for return on Monday, and Harrison is well-versed in Dick LeBeau’s defense. The 36-year-old Harrison played 10 seasons for Pittsburgh (2002, 2004-2012), recording 64 sacks. He played 10 games for Cincinnati in 2013.

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Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery all active tonight

Eric Decker AP

Three starting wide receivers were listed as inactive for tonight’s game. They’ll all play.

Jets receiver Eric Decker and Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are all active. They may not be 100 percent healthy — Decker’s hamstring in particular has caused some concerns — but they’re all going to play.

Inactive for the Jets is cornerback Dee Milliner, meaning the Jets’ secondary will have a tough task against Marshall and Jeffery.

The Jets’ other inactives are defensive tackle T.J. Barnes, offensive tackle Dakota Dozier, linebacker A.J. Edds, defensive end Ikemefuna Enemkpali, receiver Walter Powell and offensive tackle Ben Ijalana.

The Bears’ inactives are center Roberto Garza, tackle Charles Leno, linebacker Shea McClellin, cornerback Sherrick McManis, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, defensive end Trevor Scott and guard Matt Slauson.

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Clay Matthews: “Hard to answer” if groin injury will keep him out

Clay Matthews AP

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews wasn’t on the field for the final minutes of his team’s 19-7 loss to the Lions on Sunday because of a groin injury.

Matthews got hurt while trying to avoid a cut block by Lions wide receiver Golden Tate and said after the game that he wasn’t sure how severe it might be. He didn’t have a much clearer idea on Monday either.

“It’s hard to answer that right now,” Matthews said, via ESPN.com. “Obviously I think it’s something I can play with, but you’ve got to make sure you’re operating at a high level. That will be the biggest obstacle, not obstacle but thing to find out, and I think we’ll know more on Wednesday or Thursday.”

Injuries have cost Matthews, who has a sack in three games this year, nine games over the last two seasons and the Packers have suffered when he’s been out of the lineup. Matthews did say that he feels good a day after the game and his condition will be updated once the Packers start practicing later this week.

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Peyton Manning: Overtime rules put a premium on the coin toss

peytoncarroll AP

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning led his team to a stunning comeback in Seattle on Sunday, tying a game in the final minute after it appeared to be lost. Then Manning made a mistake that cost his team the game: He called tails.

After the Broncos lost the overtime coin toss, Manning could do nothing more than stand on the sideline and watch as Russell Wilson led the Seahawks down the field toward a game-winning touchdown. After ending the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion pass, Manning never touched the ball in overtime.

As Manning noted afterward, that coin toss loomed large.

It puts a premium on the coin toss,” Manning said. “I called tails at the beginning of the game, and went with it again in overtime. It was heads, and it proved to be a significant call. But that’s the way it is. And you’d like to not leave it to that, leave it to get to that situation.”

For years, overtime in the NFL was true sudden death, with the first team to score winning. The newer rules make the coin toss a bit less important, as a team can’t win with a field goal on the first possession. But the coin toss still matters. Some fans prefer the college format, where teams alternate possessions from the 25-yard line, but winning the coin toss matters in college, too, as it’s advantageous to win the toss, play defense first and then know on the subsequent possession whether to play it safe for a field goal or whether a touchdown is necessary. An auction-style overtime rule, where the teams would “bid” on a yard line to start from in overtime, could eliminate the coin toss but has never really caught on.

The NFL probably won’t change the rules on overtime any time soon, if ever. So players who don’t want to deal with a rule that puts a premium on the coin toss will just have to win the game in regulation.

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Bucs work out Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor AP

The Bucs may be without quarterback Josh McCown for the next few weeks after he suffered a thumb injury in the team’s blowout loss to the Falcons last Thursday and that may have them in the market for some help at the position.

Field Yates of ESPN.com reports that the team worked out former Raiders and Steelers quarterback Terrelle Pryor on Monday. Pryor was let go by the Seahawks at the end of the preseason after Seattle gave the backup job to Tarvaris Jackson. He started nine games for the Raiders last season, throwing seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions while also running for 576 yards.

Pryor isn’t up to speed on the Buccaneers offense, obviously, so he wouldn’t be an ideal choice if they needed to turn to someone in a pinch behind Mike Glennon. Mike Kafka is on the practice squad, which likely leaves him better suited to role.

Pryor’s athleticism could intrigue the Bucs from a longer term perspective, however, so we’ll see if anything develops for him in Tampa.

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Jarvis Jones placed on injured reserve/designated for return

Jarvis Jones, Jerry Olsavsky AP

The Steelers are losing one of their starting linebackers until at least late November.

The club placed Jarvis Jones on injured reserve/designated for return on Monday, according to the NFL’s transactions.

The Steelers’ starting right outside linebacker, Jones suffered a wrist injury in Sunday’s 37-19 victory at Carolina. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, Jones has undergone wrist surgery.

Jones, 24, has notched 14 tackles and two sacks in three starts this season for Pittsburgh. He was the Steelers’ No. 1 pick in 2013. Arthur Moats is the top reserve behind Jones on the Steelers’ depth chart.

Jones will miss at least the Steelers’ next eight games. The earliest he can return to game action is Sunday, November 30 vs. New Orleans.

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Duke Ihenacho joins DeAngelo Hall on IR

Duke Ihenacho AP

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall isn’t the only member of the Redskins secondary that saw his season come to an end during Sunday’s loss to the Eagles.

The team announced that they have placed safety Duke Ihenacho on injured reserve while also officially ending Hall’s season. Ihenacho injured his heel in Philadelphia.

Ihenacho was claimed off of waivers by Washington after he was cut by Denver at the end of the summer. He was a starter in Denver last season, but was playing in a reserve role and on special teams for the Redskins. The Redskins have Akeem Davis and Trenton Robinson as backup safeties now and 2013 fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas is on the practice squad.

There’s an open spot on the roster with cornerback Chase Minniefield coming up from the practice squad, although the team could opt to go with 52 players this week since they face the Giants on Thursday night and then round out their roster at a later date.

The Redskins also announced that they have released linebacker Darryl Sharpton from injured reserve.

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Ravens confirm Dennis Pitta will miss the rest of the season

pittacart AP

Dennis Pitta’s season is over.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh confirmed today that Pitta, the tight end who suffered a dislocated right hip on Sunday, had surgery today and will miss the rest of the season.

This is the second time in the last 14 months that Pitta has suffered a dislocated right hip. He suffered the injury last year in training camp and missed the first 12 games of the season.

Heading into this season, the Ravens thought Pitta was going to be healthy and ready for a big year, and he caught 10 passes in Week One. Now his season is over after Week Three, and he’s left to wonder if his hip is ever going to be healthy enough to withstand an NFL season.

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Antonio Cromartie has bone bruise, day-to-day heading into bye week

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals have some extra time off before they will put their undefeated record to the test against the Broncos and that should bode well for cornerback Antonio Cromartie’s chances of playing.

Cromartie left Sunday’s win over the 49ers with a knee injury, but the team isn’t worried about an extended absence. Darren Urban of the team’s website reports that Cromartie suffered a bone bruise and that he’s day-to-day as the team heads into their bye week. Coach Bruce Arians said he thinks Cromartie will be fine by the time Week Five rolls around.

There’s less certainty when it comes to Carson Palmer. The quarterback has missed the last two games with a nerve issue in his shoulder and hasn’t been able to throw in practice as a result.

Arians said that he’s hopeful Palmer can resume throwing this week, although there’s no real timetable for his return as his efforts to wake up the nerve have not been successful to this point.

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Whisenhunt: Jake Locker has right wrist injury

Tennessee Titans v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Titans’ starting quarterback has an injury to his throwing arm.

Quarterback Jake Locker has an injured right wrist, Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday, according to the club’s official Twitter feed.

Locker had an MRI on the wrist on Monday morning, Whisenhunt said, according to the club. The Titans’ head coach indicated it was not yet known whether Locker would be able to play Sunday at Indianapolis, Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean reported.

Charlie Whitehurst is the Titans’ backup quarterback.

Locker completed just 17-of-34 passes for 185 yards with no TDs and two interceptions in Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati. He also rushed six times for 50 yards. According to Whisenhunt, Locker was having trouble getting a grip on the ball at game’s end because of the injury, the Tennessean reported.

The Titans (1-2) are one game out of the AFC South lead.

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Danny Woodhead out for the season with broken leg

Chargers Bills Football AP

The Chargers can’t keep running backs on the field.

Coach Mike McCoy told reporters that Danny Woodhead suffered a broken fibula in yesterday’s game, and would be placed on season-ending injured reserve.

That’s a huge blow for a Chargers offense that was already without Ryan Mathews.

They’ll have to make do with Donald Brown now, and after he touched the ball 36 times yesterday, he’s clearly ready for a heavy workload.

The only hope for the Chargers is that he holds up until Mathews returns.

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Bisciotti says no one at Ravens will lose job

Bisciotti Getty Images

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti met with the media on Monday, roughly 15 minutes after the Ravens disseminated a thorough, detailed response to the ESPN report accusing the Ravens of mishandling the Ray Rice case.

The press conference would have been a lot more efficient if the release had come earlier.  At one point, Bisciotti reminded someone off camera that Bisciotti had suggested sending it out sooner.

As to the Rice situation, Bisciotti said plenty of things.  Most importantly, he said that no members of the organization will lose their jobs as a result of the Rice investigation.

He also attributed much of the ESPN report to sources with ties to Rice, and the agendas that naturally flow from it.

“The majority of the sources are people who work for Ray,” Bisciotti said.  “It’s Ray’s attorney, it’s Ray’s agents, and Ray’s friends.”

Bisciotti attributed the comments to a simple motivation.

“They are building a case for reinstatement,” Bisciotti said.  “The best way to build a case for reinstatement is to make everyone else make look like they were lying.”

Bisciotti also pointed out that ESPN worked on the report for 11 days, but gave the Ravens only a couple of hours to respond to ESPN’s questions before publication.  He questioned whether ESPN was even concerned about the team’s position, claiming that co-author Kevin Van Valkenburg teased a “bombshell” report on Twitter before the report was published.

Bisciotti also disputed the notion that he offered future employment to Rice as “hush money” aimed at getting Rice to go along with the notion that Rice had lied to the team about what he did.

Bisciotti vowed that changes will be made if/when future situations like this arise in the future, and that he harbors no animosity toward the league for its handling of this situation.  But he said that, if the league handles a similar case in the same way in the future, he’d lose faith in the league’s ability to address such issues.

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Ravens dispute the key allegations in the ESPN report

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Friday’s report from ESPN says many things about the manner in which the Ravens handled the Ray Rice investigation. The Ravens have now responded to it, with a detailed, written statement addressing numerous contentions contained in the story.

The most important allegations related to Ravens director of security Darren Sanders and Ravens president Dick Cass. The statement contains responses from both men.

As to Sanders, he reportedly had the contents of the elevator video described by an Atlantic City police officer within the hours after the incident occurred.

“I did not receive an account of what happened in the elevator ‘within hours’ of the incident,” Sanders said. “Within a couple of days, I asked the casino and the Atlantic City Police Department for a copy of any videotape of the incident. They said they could not release a copy of the videotape to me. Some days later — I believe it was on February 25 — I spoke to an Atlantic City police official again, asking again whether I could get a copy of the tape or, if not, whether I could come to his New Jersey office and view it. He said I could not, but he did offer to view the tape and describe what he saw. (As I understand it, he was describing a raw video, not the ‘cleaned up,’ ‘smoothed . . . out’ version that appeared on TMZ.) He said that Ray and Janay both appeared to be intoxicated, and that they were involved in a heated argument that began outside the elevator and continued inside. As he described it, Janay appeared to initiate the altercation, but they both spit at and struck each other, resulting in Janay falling and hitting her head against the wall railing. The officer could not tell from the video whether Ray slapped or punched her, but Ray told me very clearly that he did not punch her. It was not clear from the officer’s account whether it was being intoxicated, being hit, or hitting her head against the railing that caused Janay’s apparent unconsciousness.”

Cass reportedly was told by Rice’s criminal defense lawyer that the elevator video is “f–king horrible” and that he “knocker her the f–k out.” Cass also reportedly lobbied for the placement of Rice in a pretrial intervention program, partially in order to keep the video from public view.

“I believe Ray’s criminal defense attorney mentioned the video to me in late May around the time that the court granted Ray’s application for pretrial intervention,” Cass said. “I don’t recall his precise words, but he did say the video looked terrible. I did not ask Ray’s attorney for a copy of the video. I assumed the video would be terrible, because it would show a man striking a woman. But I also thought the video would show a physical altercation where Ray was defending himself with an open hand. My view about the video was also influenced by the fact that the prosecutor and the judge agreed to the ultimate dismissal of all charges against Ray after seeing the video. We had decided several months before to leave fact finding to the court system and the League. As we have said, that was a mistake, and I regret it.

“I did not urge Ray’s defense attorney to follow any particular course of action. I told his attorney that he should do what he felt was in the best interest of his client. I had never even heard of ‘pretrial intervention’ until Ray’s attorney explained it to me. So yes, I agreed with him that pretrial intervention was in Ray’s best interest. Who wouldn’t? It meant the ultimate dismissal of all criminal claims without a trial and the risk of a guilty verdict. Of course, I did not want a criminal trial because of all the adverse publicity associated with a celebrity trial. But I did not think that pretrial intervention would prevent the video from becoming public. I assumed that would eventually occur in any event.”

So while it took three days for the Ravens to respond, Sanders and Cass have provided a potent and pointed response to the ESPN report.

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Bruce Arians called hit on his QB a “cheap shot”

Drew Stanton, Michael Wilhoite AP

The Cardinals were already on their backup quarterback.

But they almost lost Drew Stanton, on a vicious hit from 49ers linebacker Dan Skuta.

Monday, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made no bones about it, calling it a “cheap shot.”

“No doubt he was sliding,” Arians said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “That could have ended his career.”

Arians said the fact Stanton was wearing a mouth guard helped lessen the seriousness of the injury.

But he clearly thinks Stanton wasn’t at fault.

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