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Bieniemy could be running backs coach in Kansas City

Bieniemy AP

Eric Bieniemy left an NFL job with the Vikings two years ago to become the offensive coordinator at the University of Colorado.  Now, he could be heading back to the NFL.

John Henderson of the Denver Post reports that Bieniemy “is under strong consideration” to become running backs coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

The move would reunite Bieniemy with head coach Andy Reid; Bieniemy was a player in Philly during Reid’s first year as head coach there.  It also would bring Bieniemy back together with Brad Childress, who hired Bieniemy in Minnesota and who is expected to join Reid’s staff as an adviser.

Bieniemy’s offense at Colorado finished 116th in the nation.

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Calvin Pace says it has “been a pleasure” to play the Patriots

New York Jets v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Patriots turn perceived and/or actual opponent slights into fuel used to stoke their already legendary collective competitive fire. Just last week, they used the Dolphins’ words from September as inspiration, and we know how this turned out for poor Miami.

On Sunday, the 3-11 Jets now get a crack at New England, and it figures to be a tall order for Rex Ryan’s club. But we know this much: the Jets don’t seem to be giving the Patriots much bulletin-board material.

Earlier in the week, Ryan praised coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, calling them “first-ballot” Hall of Famers. And on Friday, Jets veteran outside linebacker Calvin Pace showed further respect to the Pats.

“It’s been a pleasure to play them,” Pace said, according to Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. “They bring out the best in you. Bring your best or they’ll blow you out.”

The suspicion here is the Patriots hold the Jets in similar esteem. When both clubs had their fastball, this was football at its most skilled, its most compelling.

Though the Patriots have won 8-of-12 games vs. the Jets in Ryan’s tenure, his best teams gave New England all it could handle, with New York’s 2010 divisional-round victory in Foxborough the shining example.

With seven seasons in the Jets-Patriots rivalry to his credit, Pace’s words carry a little extra weight. The highs and lows — he’s lived them. And no matter what happens Sunday or what decisions the Jets make after the season, this remains unchanged: the Ryan-era Jets kept the Belichick-era Pats honest like few other clubs.

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Junior Galette not on injury report, but expects limited role on Sunday

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers AP

Saints linebacker Junior Galette had two sacks in 27 snaps against the Bears on Monday night and it sounds like the Saints will be looking for the same kind of efficient production from him against the Falcons this Sunday.

Galette wasn’t on the injury report at all this week, but said Friday that the knee injury he suffered against the Panthers two weeks ago is still troubling him. As a result, he expects to be used in a limited role again this weekend as the Saints try to take another step toward the NFC South title.

“Probably the same thing going into this game. Kind of ease off the knee a little bit,” Galette said, via ESPN.com. “Right now my knee’s not 100 percent. So just being smart and making sure I’m not playing 60 snaps on half a knee.”

Galette leads the Saints with nine sacks this season.

Among players that do appear on the injury report for New Orleans this week, left tackle Terron Armstead (neck) and safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) are both questionable after missing practice all week. Bryce Harris would replace Armstead and Kenny Vaccaro could return to the starting lineup should Sanford miss the game.

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Santana Moss fined $22,050 for abusive language to officials

Santana Moss AP

Wide receiver Santana Moss expressed regret for blowing his top at the end of the first half of last week’s loss to the Giants and he’ll have to make some financial concessions as well.

According to multiple reports, Moss has been fined $22,050 for his abusive language to officials after a replay review wiped out what had initially been ruled a Robert Griffin III touchdown run. Moss was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected from the game.

The play ended the half with the Redskins up 10-7 and the Giants tied the game with a field goal after opening the half with a successful onside kick that got them the ball in Washington territory. Moss apologized “for being wrong” and letting his emotions get the best of him.

After the game, referee Jeff Triplette told a pool reporter that Moss was ejected because he used “very, very inappropriate language” toward field judge Alex Kemp after he’d already gone far enough to draw the flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

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Philip Rivers is probable, but Allen and Mathews out

Philip+Rivers+Seattle+Seahawks+v+San+Diego+_ui9MplvjM6l Getty Images

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will be there.

But two of his most productive teammates won’t be.

The Chargers have officially listed Rivers as probable, meaning there’s a virtual certainty he’ll play Saturday night against the 49ers, after a week of conflicting reports about the health of his back.

But neither wide receiver Keenan Allen nor running back Keenan Allen will join him, which will limit Rivers’ ability to put points on the board.

Of course, they’re playing against a banged up 49ers defense, so it might not matter as much.

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DeAndre Hopkins questionable after sitting out third straight practice

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Texans will wait until Sunday to make a call on wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

After a third straight missed practice, Hopkins (ankle) is listed as questionable on the injury report. According to Drew Dougherty of Texans TV, head coach Bill O’Brien indicated Hopkins’ status will be determined the morning before Houston hosts Baltimore.

The 22-year-old Hopkins has hauled in 69 passes for 1,167 yards and six touchdowns this season. The Texans’ No. 1 pick in 2013, Hopkins has yet to miss a game in his NFL career.

While Hopkins is questionable, wideout Andre Johnson (concussion) is poised to return after a one-game absence. Johnson is listed as probable.

At 7-7, the Texans are two games out of the final wild-card spot with just two left to play.

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Documents show ESPN mischaracterized evidence from Rice appeal

Miller email

Last week, a kerfuffle erupted between the NFL and ESPN regarding an ESPN report that focused on one key portion of the Ray Rice appeal process.  Specifically, the league accused ESPN of distorting the testimony and the evidence.

The fight centered on the impression created by Don Van Natta, Jr. that, only one day before Commissioner Roger Goodell told the owners via memo that the league tried on multiple occasions to obtain the notorious Ray Rice elevator video from law enforcement agencies, the league’s lead investigator, Jim Buckley, wrote in an email to NFL security chief Jeff Miller,  “I never contacted anyone about the tape.”  Last Friday, the NFL said in a statement, “That is a quote not from an email, but from an argument by Rice’s own attorney mischaracterizing the evidence.”

It may look like a Ralph Macchio “I shot the clerk?“-style misunderstanding, but it’s not.  PFT has obtained a copy of the email in question, along with a copy of the key page from the transcript of the Rice appeal hearing.  On this point, the NFL is right.

In the email in question, the NFL’s lead investigator does not say “I never contacted anyone about the tape.”  That quote comes from a question posed to NFL V.P. of security Jeff Miller at the Rice appeal hearing.  The NFL’s lawyer objected to the characterization of the e-mail, and hearing officer Barbara S. Jones said, “I can read them.”

Apparently, no one from ESPN read them.  Again, the email from the NFL’s lead investigator does not say, “I never contacted anyone about the tape.”  Nevertheless, the ESPN article as published (and as still existing on ESPN.com) declares, “The last e-mail on the chain from Buckley says: ‘I never contacted anyone about the tape.’

It’s clear that Van Natta based his assertion not on the email but on lawyer Jeffrey Kessler’s mischaracterization of it.  Indeed, Van Natta tracks verbatim the question posed by Kessler to Miller:  “The last e-mail on the chain says, ‘I never contacted anyone about the tape.'”

ESPN has said on multiple occasions regarding this issue, “We stand by our reporting.”  PFT asked ESPN to release the entire transcript, but ESPN declined to do so.  (PFT also contacted the hearing officer last Friday with a request that the entire transcript plus exhibits be released publicly, but received no response.)

Frankly, ESPN shouldn’t stand by its reporting on this specific point.  Van Natta made a mistake.  ESPN should admit it and fix it.  Unless and until ESPN does, the NFL has a good reason to be upset with the company that once pulled the plug on a popular fictional show about pro football at the behest of former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

In this specific case, the documents PFT has obtained show that the NFL is right, ESPN is wrong, and next year’s Monday Night Football schedule possibly will consist of Titans-Jaguars, multiple times over.

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Washington puts Brandon Meriweather on IR

Meriweather AP

Brandon Meriweather has been dealing with a toe injury that’s kept him inactive the last three weeks, and now it’s going to keep him out for the year.

Washingnton announced that the veteran safety was being placed on injured reserve.

They filled his roster spot with linebacker Steve Beauharnais, promoting him from the practice squad.

Meriweather’s about to turn 31, and will be a free agent this offseason, and the toe injury won’t help his market.

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DeMarco Murray questionable, won’t have to run “gauntlet” to prove he can play

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpty1ntmyodflmzqwmzbiy2viyte1ogrhzmfjnwi3ntez AP

The Cowboys haven’t officially ruled running back DeMarco Murray in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Colts, but things certainly appear to be trending that way.

Murray has been listed as questionable for the game, which will kick off less than a week after he had surgery on a broken bone in his left hand. Murray said that the decision to play with a protective shell on his hand will rest with him, something owner Jerry Jones confirmed on Thursday, and  coach Jason Garrett said Friday that the team isn’t going to force Murray to prove his hand can take a beating in order to put him in the lineup.

“We’re not going to create a situation where OK, go through the gauntlet and everyone is going to beat on your hand,” Garrett said, via the Dallas Morning News. “We ain’t doing that. But hopefully when you see him practice he looks like himself. His feedback matters. His mindset, his mentality matters, it matters more than anything else. But then we’ll look at it and see if he’s looking like himself.”

If Murray really is going to make the final call, it is hard to believe he’ll choose not to play. Whether for individual reasons associated with showing toughness or impending free agency or because it’s a crucial game for the team, players typically want to play and nothing Murray’s done this week suggests he feels otherwise.

Right guard Zack Martin is questionable and right tackle Doug Free is doubtful after a week spent tending to ankle injuries. Jermey Parnell will likely start in Free’s place.

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Bryan Bulaga questionable due to concussion

New England Patriots v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Packers may need to turn to J.C. Tretter at right tackle again this weekend.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is questionable to play in Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers after suffering a concussion in last Sunday’s loss to the Bills. Tretter replaced him and struggled against the Bills defensive line during his time in the game, including a play that saw defensive end Mario Williams beat him for a sack and fumble of Aaron Rodgers that turned into a safety.

The Packers didn’t hold a formal practice on Friday, but coach Mike McCarthy said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette, that Bulaga would have been limited if they did because he remains in the concussion protocol. McCarthy did say that Bulaga was making process, so he could still get out of the protocol in time for kickoff against the Bucs.

Cornerback Davon House has been ruled out again this week because of a shoulder injury and the team is hopeful that he’d be able to return for a possible playoff game in a couple of weeks.

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Ryan Lindley will start regardless of Drew Stanton’s status

Drew Stanton AP

The Cardinals are holding out hope that quarterback Drew Stanton’s knee will feel well enough for him to suit up on Sunday, but they aren’t wavering from their plan to start Ryan Lindley even if Stanton can play.

Coach Bruce Arians said Friday, via Darren Urban of the team’s website, that Stanton will be a game-time decision on Sunday after getting some practice time in during the week. Arians added that Stanton will be backing up Lindley in the event that decision leads to Stanton being in uniform.

If Stanton isn’t well enough to start, it’s a bit perplexing that the Cardinals would put him into the game at any point since they already have Logan Thomas on the roster to serve as relief for Lindley. Playing a rookie like Thomas against a defense like Seattle’s is hardly an ideal place to find yourself, but neither is playing a balky Stanton when you’ve already booked a ticket for the playoffs.

The Cardinals ruled out guard Jonathan Cooper because of a wrist injury. Paul Fanaika, who missed the last two games with an ankle injury, is expected to return to the lineup.

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Testimony suggests other NFL players drugged drinks

Sharper AP

The criminal cases involving former NFL safety Darren Sharper contain some of the most disturbing allegations ever made against a current or former pro football player.  Testimony generated in connection with one of the criminal cases suggests that other NFL players may have done some of the same things Sharper allegedly did.

Sharper is accused of being a serial rapist, using drugged drinks to incapacitate his victims.  Via Adam Grimm of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, an FBI agent has testified at a pre-trial hearing that one of Sharper’s co-defendants, Brandon Licciardi, told federal agents that, at a Las Vegas convention attended by multiple NFL players, one player told Licciardi that drinks had been spiked with drugs.

The FBI agent declined to name any of the involved players Licciardi mentioned.

“It’s possible I could mess it up,” FBI Special Agent Robert Blythe testified. “There are a couple.”

Blythe said that none of the other players are being investigated — yet.

“There could be investigations going forward.  There’s not currently,” Bythe testified.  “If given time, I intend to look into those allegations.”

Blythe also testified that Licciardi referred to the drugged drinks as “horny juice.”

Another agent, DeWayne Horner, testified that Sharper bet on football and baseball games.  Sharper allegedly lost $25,000 to Russians in California — and stiffed them.  (If that’s true, Sharper probably is far safer in prison.)

Apart from Sharper’s case raising the very troubling question of whether other players are rapists, it highlights the naivete that the league, fans, and the media display when assuming players aren’t betting on football, playing high-stakes fantasy football, or otherwise doing things that could, directly or indirectly, undermine the integrity of NFL games.

In light of the league’s new personal conduct policy, the situation gives rise to another important question.  Will the league affirmatively investigate the vague allegation that other players put drugs in women’s drinks?

UPDATE 3:16 p.m. ET:  “We would look into any information of this nature,” the league office told PFT in response to a request for comment.

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Just like old (sad) times: Buccaneers double-digit home underdogs vs. Packers

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Given the franchise’s many losing seasons, the Buccaneers being 12-point home underdogs to Green Bay on Sunday probably doesn’t rank as an all-time indignity for Tampa Bay.

That said, the Buccaneers haven’t often been home underdogs of this many points.

According to point spread records kept by Spreadapedia.com, the Buccaneers have only been home underdogs of 12-plus points on two other occasions since 1978. (The site’s records don’t go back any farther than ’78; it’s quite possible the ’76 and ’77 Bucs were major home underdogs at some point, too.)

In 1993, the Buccaneers were 14.5-point underdogs vs. visiting San Francisco, which shook off an early Tampa challenge to pull away for a 45-21 victory. And in 2009, the Patriots (-15.5) knocked off the Buccaneers 35-7 in London.

The 1993 Buccaneers were coached by Sam Wyche, who never had a winning record in his four seasons on the job (1992-1995). However, in his final year, the Buccaneers drafted Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, cornerstones for the franchise’s most successful stretch in history.

The 2009 Bucs, meanwhile, were coached by Raheem Morris, who led the Buccaneers to a 10-6 record in his second season. But in Year Three, the Bucs fell apart, and Morris lost his job.

While the 2014 Bucs are 2-12, eight of their losses are by eight points or less. Improvement in Lovie Smith’s second year on the job wouldn’t be a surprise, especially with the Bucs’ NFC South competition having its own problems. Nevertheless, this has been a trying season for the Buccaneers, and Sunday’s point spread, in its own way, tells a little of that story.

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Troy Polamalu not expected to play on Sunday

Troy Polamalu AP

The Steelers host the Chiefs on Sunday in a game that’s vital for both team’s chances of making the playoffs and it looks like the Steelers are going to have to try to win it without safety Troy Polamalu.

Polamalu has been out of practice all week after hurting his knee against the Falcons in last weekend’s Steelers win and the team listed him as doubtful for the matchup with Kansas City. By definition, that means he has a 25 percent chance of getting on the field although his lack of practice time and previous knee issues this season likely drop that even lower.

Polamalu missed two games earlier this year because of knee problems and he’s generally looked like a less effective player this year than he has over the course of his career. That may lead to some tough decisions about his future come the offseason as Polamalu is signed for two more years at salaries calling for more than he’s shown this season.

Cornerback Ike Taylor is also doubtful because of a variety of injuries and tight end Matt Spaeth is questionable because of an elbow injury.

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T.Y. Hilton is questionable, but they’re not ruling him out

Indianapolis Colts v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Colts are listing wide receiver T.Y. Hilton as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, and he has taken the designation to heart.

Hilton told Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star that he felt “50-50,” in reference to his hamstring injury, and he hasn’t practiced all week.

But Colts coach Chuck Pagano wasn’t ready to rule him out, saying “this guy is pretty special.”

Hilton leads the Colts in receptions and receiving yards, and they’ve already clinched their playoff berth via the AFC South title. So there’s a clear temptation to let him rest and recover for the postseason.

Right tackle Gosder Cherilus is officially out with his groin injury. Veteran wideout Reggie Wayne was held out of Friday’s practice, but it was for rest and he’s listed as probable.

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Anthony Barr done for year with knee surgery

Barr AP

Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury, will miss the final two games of the season due to that injury.

Coach Mike Zimmer announced on Friday that Barr, the ninth overall pick in the draft, will have surgery on the knee.

“He played great,” Zimmer said of Barr.  “Played great.  And he’s a great football player.  Good kid.  Studies hard, does everything right.  He’s very conscientious, hard working. . . .  He’s already excited about getting back, getting this fixed and getting going.”

Zimmer called the procedure “very minor” before making an obvious observation that ranks among our favorites:  “Again, minor procedure.  When it’s on somebody else.”  But Zimmer added “it should be nothing” and later called it a “slight meniscus tear.”

Barr’s impact was a lot more than nothing in 2014.  He had four sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and the NFL equivalent of a partridge in a pear tree — a forced fumble, fumble recovery, and fumble recovery return for a touchdown in overtime as the Vikings beat the Bucs for what was Minnesota’s third win of the season.

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