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Jonathan Vilma going ahead with defamation case against Goodell

Bounties Vilma AP

The decision from former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue that Jonathan Vilma will not be suspended for the Saints’ bounty case does not mean Vilma is done fighting.

Vilma’s attorney has already confirmed that the defamation case the Saints linebacker filed against current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will move forward.

“Jonathan intends to continue to pursue the defamation lawsuit in order to reclaim his reputation. We’re pleased that the unjust penalties have been overturned, but this is only one piece in remedying the situation for Jonathan,” attorney Peter Ginsberg told Albert Breer of NFL Network.

That’s no surprise: Tagliabue’s ruling that Goodell was wrong to suspend Vilma is really a separate issue from the question of whether or not Goodell defamed Vilma with his public comments about the bounty case.

And so, while the four players suspended in the bounty case can declare victory in their fight to have the suspensions overturned, the bounty case itself isn’t over. Vilma isn’t backing down from his ongoing fight with Goodell.

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Brian Hoyer not practicing, looks unlikely to go Sunday

Hoyer AP

It looks like the cavalcade of backup quarterbacks starting in Week 17 is going to include Connor Shaw.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer still isn’t practicing because of shoulder and biceps injuries.

That makes it appear extremely unlikely that he’d be able to go in Sunday’s finale.

That would leave Shaw backed up by Tyler Thigpen, who was signed this week when Rex Grossman said no thanks.

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It’s too late for a Kurt Warner comeback

Warner Getty Images

With the Super Bowl Hosting Curse finally destroying the Cardinals’ chance of becoming the first team to play in a Roman-numeralized (probably not a word) football game in their own stadium, there’s even more bad news for a team that apparently will have to enter the postseason with Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas at quarterback:  Kurt Warner is not an option.

Warner isn’t an option, even if he wants to be.  By league rule, the deadline for reinstatement of players on the reserve/retired list came expired on November 28.

Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official website recently reported that Warner remains on Arizona’s reserve/retired list.  Which means that he can’t in 2015.

Warner admitted that he considered unretiring to join the Cardinals after Drew Stanton suffered a knee injury during a December 11 win over the Rams.

“It amazed me I thought about it as much as I actually thought about it,” Warner said on December 14.

There’s a possible path through the maze, if Warner would decide to try to put a cherry atop one of the most memorable stories in NFL history by riding back in from the sunset to save the season.  The theory has been posed to the league office; for now, it can’t happen, even if Warner would want it to.

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Alex Smith out Sunday due to lacerated spleen

Alex Smith AP

The Chargers need a win at Arrowhead Stadium in order to return to the playoffs for the second straight season and they learned Friday that they won’t have to beat a Chiefs team quarterbacked by Alex Smith.

Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder announced that Smith has a lacerated spleen and will not play in Week 17, leaving the Chiefs with Chase Daniel as their starting quarterback. Burkholder said that Smith, who was able to practice earlier this week, doesn’t need surgery to repair the injury, which occurred in last weekend’s loss to the Steelers, but that the injury could get worse if he were to take a shot in the wrong place against San Diego this weekend.

“It wasn’t until after I dressed and adrenaline wore off that I noticed anything. I didn’t relate it to a hit,” Smith said.

It’s the second straight year that Daniel will start against the Chargers in Week 17, although last year’s start came with Smith resting in advance of the playoff opener. Daniel was 21-of-30 for 200 yards and a touchdown in that game, but the Chiefs lost 27-24 in overtime and the Chargers moved on to the postseason.

San Diego would certainly like the same outcome this time, while the Chiefs need a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. If they were to win and get the help they need elsewhere, Daniel would likely be the playoff starter as Burkholder said Smith’s injury typically takes six weeks to heal.

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Calvin Johnson, Joique Bell present at practice

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Lions had nearly perfect on-field attendance for their third major practice in preparation for Sunday’s NFC North title game at Green Bay.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee) was the only Lions player not present at Friday’s workout. Fairley has missed the last seven games with his injury and seems all but certain to miss the season finale as well.

However, while Fairley is likely out, taiback Joique Bell (Achilles) and wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle) look set to play Sunday with their ailments. Bell went through a full practice Thursday, while Johnson was limited.

The Lions’ final injury report will be released later Friday.

The Lions will win the NFC North with a victory or a tie vs. the Packers. Both clubs have 11-4 records. For the moment, Detroit holds the head-to-head tiebreaker on account of its Week Three win vs. Green Bay.

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Julio Jones practices on Friday

Atlanta Falcons v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Falcons have been without wide receiver Julio Jones at practice since he strained an oblique muscle during the team’s December 8 loss to the Packers, but Jones was able to play last Sunday and he’s continued to progress this week.

Vaughn McClure of reports that Jones took part in Friday’s final practice of the regular season, leaving him on track to play against the Panthers this Sunday. If the Falcons lose that game, it will be the last time that Jones or anyone else on the Falcons practices for a long time but a win would put them in the playoffs and give Jones a chances to practice more next week.

Returning to practice could be a sign that he’s healthier than he was for the game against the Saints, but Jones still probably won’t be 100 percent come Sunday. Jones had seven catches for 107 yards, though, and his presence alone is enough to occupy the attention of the Carolina defense.

Running back Steven Jackson remained a non-participant in practice Friday and isn’t expected to play as the Falcons and Panthers square off for the NFC South title.

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Drew Stanton’s infection believed to be from outside treatment

Drew Stanton AP

The infection that could derail Drew Stanton’s potential return for the playoffs may have created a problem beyond the immediate.

A league source explained to PFT that the infection he was treated for this week is believed to be the result of treatment he was getting for his knee injury outside the team facility.

When Stanton suffered a grade two MCL sprain on Dec. 11, he didn’t need surgery, and was recovering with treatment and rest. The hope was that he’d be able to return for the postseason.

But this week, his knee began to swell, and team doctors diagnosed him with an infection. However, the fact he didn’t have surgery or any treatment from the team that would lead to such an infection has them believing it stemmed from a treatment they didn’t perform.

He underwent an arthroscopic procedure Wednesday, and is being treated with antibiotics now.

What isn’t known is the nature of the outside treatment, or whether he’ll be able to make it back for the playoffs.

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A.J. Green present at Cincinnati’s Friday practice

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

As the Bengals embarked on their final on-field work of the week, their go-to receiver was among those dressed to work out.

Wide receiver A.J. Green (biceps) was seen at the club’s Friday practice in uniform, Geoff Hobson of reported.

Green suffered the arm injury in the Bengals’ Monday night win vs. Denver. He did not practice on Wednesday, but he was able to go through a limited workout on Thursday.

The Bengals (10-4-1) will capture the AFC North with a win or tie at Pittsburgh on Sunday night (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

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Report: Drew Stanton being treated for infection

Arizona Cardinals v St Louis Rams Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals, who seemed to have perfected the art of “next man up,” suddenly can’t catch a break.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, quarterback Drew Stanton had to have an arthroscopic procedure to fight an infection, and may be done for the year.

That’s bad news for the Cardinals hopes for anything beyond simply making the postseason, such that Stanton himself was the answer.

They were planning to bench Ryan Lindley in favor of rookie Logan Thomas, but Thomas got the quick hook this week in practice.

Of course, it’s worse news for Stanton, who suffered a knee injury and then an infection.

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Antrel Rolle knows finishing well no guarantee 2015 will be any better for Giants

Odell Beckham AP

The Giants have found a winning formula over the last three weeks, bumping their record to 6-9 and raising hopes that they can ride a strong finish into a better 2015 season.

With rookies and young players like Odell Beckham, Jonathan Hankins and Devon Kennard stepping up in the second half of the year, it’s easy to understand why the Giants would feel like better things await in the new year. As Paul Schwartz of the New York Post points out, however, the Giants have now played four straight games in which neither team had any hope of making the playoffs and will close out the year with another one against the Eagles.

Winning those games is certainly better than losing them, but they aren’t any more predictive of future success than closing out last season 7-3 turned out to be. Safety Antrel Rolle has been around for a long time and knows that each season tends to be independent of the one that came before.

“Each and every year presents its own different year and own different set of challenges,” Rolle said, via the New York Post. “I would love to say yes, but knowing how this game is and knowing how things shake out, that’s not a guarantee. I think the future for this team is very promising. I think all the injuries and allowing all the younger guys to step in and play and to get their feet wet and understand what it takes to actually produce in this league, I think it’s definitely helped them out a lot, helped our team out a lot.”

Rolle’s view on the promise of the future is on target, but history is littered with teams that showed promise in December before failing to make good on it the next time around. It is a long time between games and the Giants need to spend a good portion of it improving on the areas that led them to start the year with nine losses in their first 12 games.

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Torrey Smith: “Horrible feeling” that this could be last game with Ravens

Kareem Jackson, Torrey Smith, Whitney Mercilus AP

The Ravens need a win and some help to make the playoffs, which means that Sunday’s game against the Browns could wind up being their final game of the 2014 season.

If that’s the case, it will be time to start making plans for the offseason. One of the decisions that the team will have to make concerns wide receiver Torrey Smith, whose contract expires after the end of the season. Smith said this week that he would like to remain with the Ravens.

“As bad as it is not going to the playoffs, that’s a horrible feeling knowing that it’s a possibility that I might not be here next year,” Smith said, via “But I’m not really worried about that. I’m trying to win this game and see what happens.”

Smith lamented how inconsistent he’s been this season on the way to 45 catches, 684 yards and 10 touchdowns and vowed that next year will be different whether he’s in Baltimore or on another team. That inconsistency won’t help him a top-tier contract, but it might wind up helping his chances of staying with the Ravens if the team also wants to continue the relationship.

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Louis Murphy gets three-year extension from Bucs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

There’s not much to look back fondly on for the Buccaneers this year. But they found another part they want to keep around.

The Buccaneers announced they signed wide receiver Louis Murphy to a three-year contract extension.

The journeyman wideout caught 31 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games, before they put him injured reserve with an ankle injury.

He’s always teased teams with his deep speed, and this was his most productive season since 2010, when he caught 41 balls for the Raiders.

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Mark Ingram pleased he showed he can handle big workload this season

Mark Ingram AP

Drew Brees remains confident in the direction that the Saints are taking as a franchise despite a disappointing 2014 season and he’s not the only member of the team looking ahead to better days.

Running back Mark Ingram is wrapping up the final year of his contract with the team and preparing to head into free agency after his best NFL season. Ingram missed three games early in the season, but has since held up well under a heavy workload caused by injuries other backs. Ingram has set career highs in attempts, yards, receptions and touchdowns and thinks he’s sold himself well in the process.

“Yeah, I think that’s a good thing, seeing that I could carry the ball and be out there doing whatever they ask me to do for a stretch of time and be healthy,” Ingram said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Running backs have not found a friendly market in free agency in recent years, so Ingram will have to buck that trend to land a big contract. That will be tough in a year when DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, C.J. Spiller and Frank Gore are also set to make up a crowded free agent market at the position, but coming off his best pro season shouldn’t hurt when it comes time for Ingram to talk contract.

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40 days and no NFL arrests


In early 2007, at a time when more and more players seemed to be getting arrested more and more frequently (which would result in the April 2007 unveiling of a new personal conduct policy), PFT decided to start keeping track of the arrests — and to adopt a twist on a device commonly used in workplaces to track the numbers of days without an injury.

At first, I was concerned that the “days without an arrest” tracker didn’t allow for three digits.  For a while, however, it rarely needed a second digit.

Today, for the first time since its debut, the tracker has hit 40.  (Former 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald, cut last week after his home was searched reportedly in connection with a rape accusation, has not yet been arrested, and currently is not in the NFL.)  Whether that’s cause for celebration (you did it!) or a golf clap is a matter of debate.  As a matter of fact, the tracker is now less than two months away from finally needing that previously unneeded triple digit.

Maybe it’s a fluke.  Maybe I just jinxed it by pointing it out.  Or maybe players have realized through the experiences of Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy and others that real consequences arise when misbehavior happens.

The chances of misbehavior increase as of Monday, when the offseason begins for 20 teams — and when all players are left to their own devices into April.  Here’s hoping that the few who make the many look bad will take advantage of the various resources available to NFL players in order to avoid trouble for as long as possible into 2015.

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Jim Caldwell: No concerns about starting a rookie center

Detroit Lions Rookie Minicamp Getty Images

The Lions will take another shot at ending their long Lambeau Field losing streak on Sunday afternoon without starting center Dominic Raiola.

Raiola has been suspended one game after stepping on Bears defensive lineman Ego Ferguson in last weekend’s game, leaving the Lions to start Travis Swanson at center for the first time in his NFL career. Swanson said that he’s been getting help from Raiola and other veterans on the offensive line as he prepares to face the Packers and coach Jim Caldwell said Thursday that he has no concerns about how Swanson will handle his responsibilities.

“I have none,” Caldwell said, via the Detroit Free Press. “I have none at all. I’ve been different places where, you know, I’m always drawing up on old experiences, where we’ve had guys in the first part of the season that were young players, rookies that stepped in and played for us on some very good teams. I think for the most part, we expect him to be good, we expect him to get his job done just like we did when [rookie tackle Cornelius] Lucas stepped in there very early. … We’re expecting the same thing from Swanny. He’s got a great work habit. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect by any stretch of the imagination. You can’t be perfect in this league.”

Swanson isn’t totally without experience after making three starts at guard earlier this year, but there are still adjustments that will have to be made as he moves into the lineup at center. Making them as painless as possible will be important to the Lions’ chances of becoming the first team this year and the first Lions team in decades to earn a win in Green Bay.

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Roethlisberger’s knee apparently is fine

Ben AP

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethsliberger gave Pittsburgh fans a scare on Sunday when a leg whip from a Chiefs lineman resulted in the oversized quarterback crumpling to the ground and heading to the locker room — after delivering a touchdown pass.

Roethsliberger eventually didn’t miss any time, but the question of whether he’d emerge from the game with a possible problem as Week 17 approached hovered over a team that otherwise would be entrusting the position to Bruce Gradkowski.

Wednesday’s initial injury report from the Steelers didn’t contain Roethlisberger’s name, which means he fully participated in practice with no injuries or ailments or problems.

The Steelers host the Bengals on Sunday night; the winner captures the AFC North, and the loser goes on the road in wild-card weekend.

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