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Carl Johnson is stepping down as head of officiating

CarlJohnson

Via text message received moments ago from NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos comes word that NFL V.P. of officiating Carl Johnson is stepping down, and that he’ll return to being a game official.

Adam Schefter of ESPN has also reported the news, explaining that Johnson will leave the position after the Super Bowl.  Per Schefter, Johnson will be one of the first full-time game officials.

Johnson is in his third season on the job.  Schefter reports that a leading candidate to replace Johnson will be NFL director of instant replay Dean Blandino.

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Latavius Murray exits with possible concussion

Murray Getty Images

On Thursday night, Raiders running back Latavius Murray joined Bo Jackson and Terrelle Pryor as the only players in franchise history with 90-yard runs.  With 112 yards on only four carries, Murray has exited the game with a possible concussion.

Murray took a helmet to the jaw from a Chiefs defender in the second quarter of Thursday night’s game.  It was a legal hit.

After sitting on the bench for a bit, Murray left for the locker room to be fully evaluated.

Murray had 10 yards for 54 yards in the first 10 games of the season.  The Raiders lead, 14-3.

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Jets-Bills game will be on CBS locally, no word on national TV

Michael Vick AP

With this week’s Jets-Bills game moving from Sunday in Buffalo to Monday in Detroit, one question has not been answered: How can Jets and Bills fans outside New York City and Buffalo watch the game?

The NFL has announced that the local CBS affiliates in New York and Buffalo will televise the game, but the NFL has not said whether there will be any way for fans in the rest of the country to see it.

The league is in an awkward situation because this affects three of its television partners: CBS, ESPN and DirecTV. CBS would surely love to be able to show Jets-Bills to a wider audience than just the two local affiliates, but ESPN would cry foul because that could siphon fans away from the regularly scheduled Saints-Ravens game on ESPN Monday night. DirecTV could also make Jets-Bills available to Sunday Ticket subscribers, but that could also siphon viewers away from Monday Night Football. ESPN would love to be able to show the Jets-Bills game on ESPN2 while Saints-Ravens is on ESPN, but CBS would cry foul because that’s taking a game from CBS and giving it to a competitor.

The fairest solution for fans would be to make the game available to DirecTV Sunday Ticket subscribers: If you pay for NFL Sunday Ticket, you’re paying for every game. If you’re a Jets or Bills fan who lives outside New York or Buffalo and you purchased Sunday Ticket specifically to watch your team, you’re getting a raw deal if that game isn’t available on the Sunday Ticket package.

In 2010, when the NFL had to move a Giants-Vikings game to Detroit because snow damaged the Metrodome, that game was available to the local affiliates and on Sunday Ticket.

At the moment the only thing we know is that viewers in New York and Buffalo can watch the game on CBS. The NFL is expected to announce on Friday whether viewers anywhere else can see the game.

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Bills will host Jets on Monday at Ford Field

Lions Getty Images

For the second time since December 2010, a snowstorm has resulted in Ford Field hosting two teams who don’t play in Detroit.

Per multiple reports, and as widely expected, the Jets and Bills will play there on Monday night at 7:00 p.m. ET.

When Ford Field staged the Giants-Vikings game after the roof of the Metrodome collapsed, tickets were free.  Presumably, they’ll be free this time, too.

Also, the Giants-Vikings game was televised regionally by FOX and available via the DirecTV Sunday Ticket package.  Jets-Bills presumably will be televised regionally by CBS, with Ravens-Saints on ESPN shown nationally.

The Lions host the Bears at Ford Field on Thursday.

Darren Rovell of ESPN.com reports that Bills season-ticket holders will receive credit for the game toward their 2015 season tickets.  (Hello, interest-free loan.)  Customers who purchased seats for the Jets game only will receive a full refund to their credit cards.  (Hello, possibly free money if folks who purchased the tickets on the secondary market fail to turn in the tickets.)

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Bills hope to get to game site on Friday

Bills AP

The NFL possibly will announce a new location for the Jets-Bills game as early as Thursday night.  The Bills hope by Friday to be able to travel from Buffalo to the place where the game will be played.

“It would be optimal to fly out and practice at the potential location if we can,” Brandon told reporters on Thursday, via the team’s official website.  “We’re not in a situation where we could hold practice here at this time. The Fieldhouse and the lots and everyone who is here working we’re sort of buried in here.  It would be very difficult to practice here.

“We’d like to get to the airport which is in a much better situation in the Northtowns and try to get to that location if possible.  But again we’ve got so many different scenarios in play right now that we’re just trying to be nimble and work through whatever is presented to us.”

The challenge primarily arises from the fact that portions of the Buffalo area remain squarely buried under seven feet of snow.

“Logistics are very difficult,” Brandon said.  “We’re trying to target all our guys that are in very difficult situations.  Some of our guys have been in apartment complexes where there is no plowing and it’s very difficult to get out.  We’re trying to assess each player and the difficulty in getting to the facility and the airport.  Not an easy task.  Hopefully we can get out sometime [Friday].  It may not be feasibly possible.  It’s an ever changing and evolving process.”

The game between the Jets and Bills likely will be played in Detroit, possibly on Monday night.  The extra day would help the Bills be better prepared.

“We played a Thursday night game,” Brandon said. “We had very little time in the building on Friday. The players were off on Saturday and Sunday and had a light work day on Monday. Tuesday was their normal off day and then not being able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday there certainly is a disadvantage.”

The advantage comes from playing the 2-8 Jets.  Earlier this month, the Bills hammered the Jets at MetLife Stadium.

UPDATE 8:56 p.m. ET:  Per multiple reports, the game will indeed be played at Ford Field in Detroit.

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Could tonight be the night? Raiders take early lead

raiderfan AP

The Oakland Raiders haven’t won a game in more than a year. Could tonight be the night?

It can be if the Raiders can play for 60 minutes like they did for the first 10.

Oakland jumped out to an early 7-0 lead over Kansas City thanks to an 11-yard touchdown run by Latavius Murray that came at the end of an eight-play, 60-yard drive. It was the first rushing touchdown the Chiefs’ defense has allowed all season.

The Chiefs’ offense went three-and-out on each of their first two possessions. This doesn’t look like it’s going to be an easy night for the Chiefs.

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Gabe Jackson among Oakland’s inactives

Oakland Raiders v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

As expected, the Raiders will be without their starting left guard on Thursday night vs. Kansas City.

Rookie Gabe Jackson (knee) is among the seven inactives announced by the Raiders for Week 12. Head coach Tony Sparano had indicated Jackson, who is missing his third straight game, would be held out on Thursday night.

With Jackson sidelined, veteran Khalif Barnes would seem likely to get another start at left guard.

Also inactive for the Raiders are tight end David Ausberry (foot), offensive guard Tony Bergstrom, cornerback T.J. Carrie (ankle), safety Jonathan Dowling (back), quarterback Matt McGloin and cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee). Ausberry, Carrie, Dowling and Rogers had been ruled out.

The other players listed on the Raiders’ injury report — quarterback Derek Carr and middle linebacker Miles Burris — are active for Oakland (0-10).

The Chiefs’ inactives are wide receiver Donnie Avery (groin), offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, cornerback Jamell Fleming (hamstring), wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (shoulder), center Eric Kush, quarterback Aaron Murray and cornerback Chris Owens (knee). Avery, Jenkins and Owens had been declared from the game on Wednesday, while Fleming was questionable.

Every other player on the Chiefs’ injury report is active, including tight end Anthony Fasano, who was questionable.

The Chiefs (7-3) will move into first place in the AFC West with a victory on Thursday night.

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Titans to wear white jerseys for rest of season

Pittsburgh Steelers v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

If you like the Titans’ white uniform tops . . . well, here’s another reason to perhaps tune in as 2-8 Tennessee plays out the string.

The Titans will wear their white jerseys for their final six regular season games, Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean reported on Thursday. Paul Lukas of Uni-Watch.com reported Wednesday that the Titans would go with the white shirts the rest of the way.

The Titans are also planning to declare their navy uniforms as their “primary” jerseys in 2015, according to Wyatt. Via Lukas, Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com has also noted the team will be making the navy jerseys one of their regular uniforms next season.

The Titans have largely had the same uniforms since 1999. They wore blue in Super Bowl XXXIV.

And finally, since we’re on the subject of uniforms — the Oilers, now they had outstanding white uniform tops.

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Fitzgerald still optimistic he’ll play

Fitzgerald Getty Images

Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald has a Grade 2 sprain of the MCL.  That will make it difficult for Fitzgerald, who played on Sunday after suffering the injury, to suit up and play at Seattle in three days.

According to John Weinfuss of ESPN.com, Fitzgerald remains “optimistic” that he’ll be able to play.  Fitzgerald also said that the knee is feeling better as the week unfolds.

On Wednesday, coach Bruce Arians described Fitzgerald as “iffy” for the NFC West showdown with the Seahawks.  A more formal label will be applied to Fitzgerald in Friday’s injury report.

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Bills add TE MarQueis Gray on waivers

Minnesota Vikings v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

On a day in which the NFL announced Sunday’s Bills-Jets game would not be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium because of heavy snow, the Bills still went about the business of tweaking their roster.

According to the league’s transactions, the Bills were awarded tight end MarQueis Gray on waivers from Minnesota on Thursday.

A collegiate quarterback at the University of Minnesota, the 25-year-old Gray has played tight end in the pros, appearing in 12 games with the Browns in 2013 and eight games with the Vikings this season. The addition of Gray (6-4, 242) gives the Bills four tight ends on the roster.

To make room for Gray, the Bills waived backup tailback Phillip Tanner.

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DeSean explains his recent social media message

DeSean AP

On Monday, Washington receiver DeSean Jackson posted the following message on social media:  “You can’t do epic sh-t with basic people.”

He has explained it by saying, essentially, “if the sh-t fits . . . .”

“Whoever feels like it’s directed at him, that’s who it’s directed at,” Jackson said Thursday, via Rich Tandler of CSNWashington.com.

Jackson opted not to elaborate.

“I’m not talking about last week, I’m not here to talk about last week,” Jackson said.  “It’s a new week, we’ve got a new team to play and that’s who the focus is on.  Whoever thought I was talking to them, they can take it how it was taken.”

So, basically, it’s still not clear who is precisely keeping Jackson from doing “epic sh-t.”  On Sunday, chances are it will be one or more members of the San Francisco defense.

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Mark Davis: Reggie McKenzie has gotten us in “really good shape” to build

Reggie McKenzie AP

The Raiders make their 11th bid for their first victory of 2014 against the Chiefs on Thursday night with an interim head coach and a 16-game losing streak that had led to plenty of speculation about the future of General Manager Reggie McKenzie.

Raiders owner Mark Davis didn’t make any concrete statements about what the future will hold for McKenzie during a conversation with Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, though he did have plenty of complimentary things to say about the job that McKenzie has done over the last three years. Those things haven’t been reflected in the team’s record, of course, but  Davis focused on the way McKenzie got the team out from under a dreadful salary cap situation.

“We are in really good shape, based on the way Reggie put all the contracts together and everything else,” Davis said. “We’re not settled with a lot of upside-down situations anymore. The situation he walked into originally was pretty tough. The deconstruction phase of that went very, very well. I think we’re a pretty desirable place for someone that wants to come in and build.”

Davis also pointed to the additions of quarterback Derek Carr and linebaker Khalil Mack as pieces that leave the Raiders “in position to start moving forward.” He feels that will appeal to someone, presumably a permanent head coach, “that might want to be a part of bringing the Raiders back to greatness.”

When Dennis Allen was fired, McKenzie said he would be the person to hire that coach. Davis’s comments make it look like he’s got a good chance of being correct, which may turn out to be better news for him than those looking for Hue Jackson’s return to Oakland.

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Bills and Jets won’t play in Buffalo Sunday

Wintry Weather AP

The league has now confirmed what anyone with two eyes (and/or a snow shovel) realized.

They’re not playing football in Buffalo Sunday.

League spokesman Michael Signora has confirmed that they’re not playing the Jets-Bills game in Buffalo Sunday, and are looking for a place to play it.

As we’ve pointed out, that’s most likely to be Detroit.  But at least now we know where it’s not going to be.

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So why didn’t the NFLPA reduce Goodell’s power in 2011?

nfl_a_upshaw_275 AP

A common theme has emerged in recent days regarding the suspension imposed by the NFL on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  And it goes a little something like this:  “The NFLPA has no room to complain because the NFLPA gave the Commissioner the power to do whatever he wants.”

While it’s true that the NFLPA gave the Commissioner the power to determine discipline under the personal conduct policy and in turn to resolve the appeal, those powers must be exercised properly and responsibly.  Failure to do so arguably has contributed to the current problems the NFL faces as a result of the Peterson case and, more importantly, the Ray Rice case.

It’s also important to consider the broader context.  In 2007, the late Gene Upshaw agreed to give the Commissioner broad authority to discipline players for off-field misconduct.  The league unveiled the revamped policy in connection with the suspensions of Adam Jones and the late Chris Henry.

In 2011, the NFL and NFLPA returned to the bargaining table for the negotiation of a new labor deal.  The primary struggle at that point related to money.  While the quality of the financial package remains the subject of periodic debate, the NFLPA also achieved unprecedented limitations on offseason workouts, training camp practices, and in-season practices.

If (and that could be a big if) the Commissioner would have traded his power over the personal conduct policy for the practice limitations, should the NFLPA have done that?  Doesn’t it make far more sense to achieve protections that directly benefit all players in lieu of protections that, as a practical matter, will help only a few?

Sure, all players are subject to the arbitrary application of the personal conduct policy, where the rules are whatever the rules have to be in order to reach the predetermined outcome.  But only two or three players find themselves caught in the gears of the personal conduct policy every year.  Every player experiences the impact of reduced practice time and less intense practice sessions.

The next time the NFL and NFLPA try to hammer out a new labor deal, that same question will emerge.  How much of the protections for the many will be sacrificed to ultimately protect a few?

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Falcons sign James Anderson

Chicago Bears v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Falcons placed running back Antone Smith on injured reserve earlier this week, but they didn’t fill his roster spot with another running back.

They announced Thursday that they have signed linebacker James Anderson, who was a member of the Titans until earlier this week. Anderson had five tackles in seven games for Tennessee before they parted ways with him.

Anderson started 16 games for the Bears last year and spent the summer with the Patriots before being a somewhat surprising cut as the Pats pared down their roster in August. Anderson spent the first seven years of his career with the Panthers, who made him a third-round pick in 2006.

Assuming Anderson sticks on the roster, he’ll get a chance to square off against his former team in Week 17 in a game that could wind up determining the winner of a rather unspired race for the NFC South division crown.

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Matt Tobin returns to practice, may not return to starting lineup

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

On Wednesday, it looked like the Eagles might have to make a change to their starting offensive line because of right guard Matt Tobin’s concussion.

Tobin was cleared to return to practice on Thursday, but it looks like change may be coming to the Philly line anyway.

Tobin, who has been filling in for Todd Herremans was lost for the season with an arm injury, said, via Reuben Frank of CSN Philly, that Andrew Gardner took all of the reps at right guard with the first team during Thursday’s session. Gardner has seen time at both tackles and right guard this season as the Eagles have shuffled people around to fill in for the four presumed starters that have missed time at various points this season.

The resulting lack of continuity hasn’t helped the offense and may be part of the reason why LeSean McCoy’s production has slipped despite his belief that he’s the same player that he was in 2014.

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