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Mayock “a little bit confused” by Te’o situation

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Of all people in the media, Mike Mayock occupies the most unique position when it comes to the question of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s draft stock in the wake of the hoax that he was or wasn’t involved in.

Mayock is NFL Network’s in-house draft expert, and he also provides on-air analysis during Notre Dame’s home games for NBC.

“Like most of the people that surround the Notre Dame program and all over the country, people that watched those games, I’m a little bit confused right now,” Mayock said Thursday on NFL Network.  “I have a lot of respect for Manti Te’o, I’ve gotten to know him over the last few years and at this point all I can do is what I think NFL teams are doing, which is taking a step back [and] waiting for the facts to come out.  And ultimately these facts will come out.  In addition to the public understanding, I also think that all 32 teams will get ample opportunity to interview this kid.  How he handles this going forward is going to be critical to his future as an NFL player.”

Mayock is right.  But we still don’t know how Te’o will handle it, because he has remained silent in the wake of the news that his deceased girlfriend never existed, but for a written statement in which he claims he was the victim.

He will soon be the victim of a fickle and judgmental public if he doesn’t share his story, especially since the vacuum is being filled with more and more nuggets highlighting inconsistencies and raising questions about whether he truly had no role in the hoax.

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Jordan Cameron practices again Friday, listed as questionable

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The Browns could have tight end Jordan Cameron back in the lineup as they try for their eighth win of the season in Buffalo on Sunday.

Cameron practiced for the third straight day on Friday, leading the team to list him as questionable to play in his first game since suffering a concussion in Week Eight. Cameron has missed four games as a result, although the Browns have won three of those four contests.

Earlier this week, coach Mike Pettine said that Cameron had to string together a few practices without any concussion symptoms before he’d have a chance of playing this weekend. Now that he’s done that, you’d expect to see him on the field come Sunday unless there’s something holding him back from getting the final green light to emerge from the concussion protocol.

If Cameron does play, it will be the first time this season that the Browns will have him and Josh Gordon in the lineup at the same time. That should be a boost to both their offense and their chances of making the playoffs.

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Rice decision could make Mueller investigation moot

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While much remains to be digested from the written ruling issued by former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones and the transcript from two days of testimony that the case has generated, the ultimate result of the Ray Rice appeal says plenty about the NFL’s handling of the Rice case.

Judge Jones likely has concluded that Rice had told the NFL everything the NFL needed to know when suspending him for only two games, and that the NFL didn’t need to see the video.  If that’s the case, the question of whether the NFL knew about the contents of the video doesn’t matter; the knowledge has been imputed to the league based on the reconstruction of the facts over which Judge Jones presided.

In turn, that potentially makes the ongoing investigation from former FBI director Robert Mueller moot.  Mueller has spent weeks exploring what the NFL knew and when the NFL knew it about the incident that ultimately was demonstrated by video evidence to entail a vicious blow to the head that rendered Janay Palmer Rice unconscious.  If Judge Jones has concluded that the league had everything it needed to know when suspending Rice the first time, Mueller’s investigation doesn’t matter.  Judge Jones — a truly independent party whose firm (unlike Mueller’s) has no other connection to the NFL — quite possibly has determined that the league necessarily knew what was in the video.

If that’s what she concluded, it no longer matters whether someone sent the video to the league office, as the Associated Press reported.  It no longer matters whether the NFL should have asked Rice or his lawyer for the video.  It no longer matters whether the NFL should have asked the casino at which the incident occurred for the video.  It no longer matters whether the NFL should have broken out the checkbook and purchased the video, the same way TMZ did.

None of it matters because the NFL necessarily knew that which the rest of the world first saw on the morning of September 8.

There’s one caveat here, which won’t be known until the ruling is fully examined.  It’s possible that Judge Jones found that Rice’s version of the events created ambiguities that the NFL could have resolved by getting the video, and that the NFL should have gotten the video.  While leading to the same result for the purposes of Rice’s suspension, that nuance potentially clears the NFL from a determination that it possessed the knowledge regarding what happened — and that it lacked the sensitivity, common sense, or human empathy to bother to consider what the incident actually looked like on video.

The answer surely resides in the document Judge Jones has written to support her decision.  It’s possible, if not likely, that the written decision proves that there was no need for Mueller or anyone else to investigate what the league knew and when the league knew it.  Judges Jones’ decision could mean that the NFL knew everything, well before TMZ provided all of us with a window into that elevator.

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Jerick McKinnon says he’s out this week

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The Vikings listed running back Jerick McKinnon as doubtful on their Friday injury report, but there’s no doubt in McKinnon’s mind about his status.

McKinnon said Friday that he isn’t going to play against the Panthers this weekend because of the back issues that have plagued him for several weeks.

“It’s going to be hard standing on the sidelines not being able to play in the game,” McKinnon said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I know that Matt [Asiata], Joe [Banyard] and all the other guys are going to do the job, do what’s best for the team and lead us to victory. It’s been lingering a little bit, but it’s nothing I can’t play through. It’s just a matter of taking precaution and doing what’s right.”

Asiata didn’t play last week because of a concussion, but is expected back this week. Banyard had five carries for 26 yards in support of McKinnon against the Bears while Ben Tate didn’t play a snap in his first game as a member of the Vikings. Whoever does get the ball should have some opportunities to make plays against a Panthers team that’s allowing 119 yards per game on the ground.

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Rice ruling produces two key documents that have not yet been leaked

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With former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones scuttling the indefinite suspension of running back Ray Rice, attention now turns to two key pieces of information generated by the Rice appeal.

First, the written ruling may shed light on what the league knew and when the league knew it about the elevator punch that was recorded on video and ultimately acquired by TMZ.  If Judge Jones concluded that the NFL knew or should have known about the video, that will hurt the league both in the court of public opinion and within the confines of the still-ongoing Robert Mueller investigation.

At a minimum, the written ruling will take issue with the NFL’s contention that Rice lied.  The real question is whether Judge Jones has said that the NFL’s contention of untruthfulness was the result of an innocent mistake or deliberate obfuscation.

Second, the transcript of the two-day hearing, which had been zealously guarded by all parties, will now presumably surface.  If/when (when) it does, the transcript will be picked apart for anything that would shed light the NFL’s knowledge or lack thereof regarding the video.  Also, the testimony of Commissioner Roger Goodell could be (and should be) scrutinized carefully for statements that could be used against the league in the confines of other disciplinary cases, including the recent suspension of Adrian Peterson.

So while the decision marks the end of Rice’s appeal, it’s the beginning of the next chapter in much longer tale that could still result in major changes at 345 Park Avenue.

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Aqib Talib practices for Broncos

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The Broncos have had a variety of injuries to monitor this week and Friday brought updates for several players.

On the positive side of the ledger was the return of cornerback Aqib Talib to practice after he missed the first two days of the week because of a hamstring injury that limited him against the Dolphins last week. Talib’s important to the Broncos secondary under any circumstances, but his presence could be even more valuable this weekend with Kayvon Webster ruled out because of a shoulder injury.

Also on the positive side, Linebacker Brandon Marshall returned to practice after suffering a concussion last weekend and is expected to start on Sunday after being listed as probable. The Broncos should benefit from having Marshall available to help face a Chiefs Offense that likes to run the ball.

The negative side of things features tight end Julius Thomas, who was listed as limited despite media reports that he wasn’t doing much more than stretching. Thomas and Talib have both been listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

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As expected, Ray Rice wins the appeal of his suspension

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Now that’s what the NFLPA would call independence and neutrality.

Per a league source, former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones has rejected the NFL’s indefinite suspension of former Ravens running back Ray Rice.  In her designated role as the hearing officer for Rice’s appeal of his suspension, Judge Jones has overturned the suspension.

This outcome, which was expected, presumably means that Rice will be reinstated immediately.  (Unless, of course, the NFL puts him on the Commissioner-Exempt list.)

Rice and the union contended that the league lacked the ability to suspend him a second time for conduct that the NFL already knew about.  The league claimed that Rice had not been truthful in his explanation of the events.

Eligible to play or not, it’s unlikely that teams will be lining up to sign Rice.  For starters, it’s unknown what kind of shape he’s in.  Also, his age, wear and tear, and the distractions inherent to his domestic violence situation will make it harder to justify adding him to a team.

Then again, teams that find themselves in the running for a playoff berth could decide to set aside principle in the hopes of reaching for a silver trophy.

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Falcons activate safety William Moore from IR/designated for return

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At the moment, the Falcons are in pole position in the NFC South.

And unlike some of their rivals, they’re actually getting players back on the field.

The Falcons announced that safety William Moore was activated from IR/designated for return today. To make room for him on the roster, they released tackle Cameron Bradfield.

Moore has been out since injuring his shoulder Week Four.

While he might not be the biggest difference maker in the secondary, anything might help in the league’s weakest division.

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Manziel on fight: He came at me “very aggressive” and “very intoxicated”

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Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel hasn’t played in weeks, but still landed in the news recently because of his involvement in an altercation early last Saturday morning outside an elevator at a hotel/apartment complex in Cleveland.

Manziel and his “entourage” were accused of assaulting a man named Chris Gonos who asked Manziel for a hug upon seeing him waiting for the elevator, but allegedly received a punch to the jaw instead. Manziel’s agent Erik Burkhardt said this week that Manziel and his roommate were defending themselves after being “accosted” by Gonos and his associates.

Manziel addressed the reports on Friday and painted a similar picture of the interaction. Manziel said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that Gonos was “very aggressive” and “very intoxicated” when he “put his hands on me” to touch off the incident. Manziel said he felt that he and his roommate did their best to defuse the situation and Cabot adds that Manziel’s face showed no signs of being smashed by a punch, as Gonos claimed it was while discussing the incident after the initial reports broke.

Browns General Manager Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine both took issue with the fact that Manziel was out at 2:30 in the morning, but there doesn’t appear to be any disciplinary action coming from either the team or the league as a result of the incident.

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Fletcher Cox finally gets noticed

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Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has said the team’s defensive line hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.  As a result of a dominant performance in Dallas on Thursday, that will no longer be a problem.

I would say it’s one of my best games,” Cox said after the 33-10 win, via Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com.  “It comes off guys doing their jobs.  Trent [Cole] setting the edge and Connor [Barwin] setting [the] edge and Bennie [Logan] stuffing the middle.  It’s not just me, it’s guys around me doing their jobs, and they made it kind of easy for me.”

A first-round pick in 2012, Cox notched his third sack in four games.  He has only three for the year.  Per Mosher, teammates previously credited Cox for forcing the quarterback to move, making it easier for others to get sacks.

“Early in the year [people asked], ‘When are the sacks going to come?’ Cox said. “Hey, I got three and I just want to keep working man.”

Those teammates now think a Pro Bowl berth should come.

“Fletcher Cox is great every day,” Barwin said.  “He’s a Pro Bowl player.”

On Thursday, Cox was disruptive all day.  It happened on the kind of stage that will make it hard for folks to continue to think that the Eagles are simply a high-powered offense and a competent defense.  Against the Cowboys, the defense dominated one of the best and most balanced offenses in the league.

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Muhammad Wilkerson likely out on Monday, doesn’t need toe surgery

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The Jets don’t have many building blocks for the future on their roster at the moment, so they’d like to see the ones they do have avoid any serious injuries.

It’s good news, then, that coach Rex Ryan said Friday, via Kimberley Martin of Newsday, that defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson doesn’t need surgery to repair the toe injury that’s kept him out of practice this week. Ryan said he hopes that Wilkerson can return this season, although they’re likely to be without him on Monday night against the Dolphins. That’s hardly ideal but is a lot better than having your best defensive player facing an extended rehab because of surgery.

Whether Wilkerson plays again this year or not, the Jets have some decisions to make about a contract extension for the 2011 first-rounder this offseason. They exercised their fifth-year option on Wilkerson’s contract so there’s no immediate fear of losing him as a free agent, but they held onto a lot of cap space this year and keeping cash on hand to fund an extension for Wilkerson is one of the best reasons for that approach.

Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Coples are expected to be at defensive end in Wilkerson’s place as the Jets attempt to play spoiler to the Dolphins’ playoff hopes for the second straight season.

 

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Rex Ryan “anticipates” Geno Smith starting the rest of the year

rexgeno AP

There are reports that would indicate that Jets coach Rex Ryan neither anticipated or wanted Geno Smith to start at quarterback this week.

But now, he’s expecting that to be the case the rest of the year.

Ryan wouldn’t specify to reporters this afternoon that Smith would start the rest of the year, but did say: “I would anticipate that and hope that’s the case.”

Gosh, it’s almost like Ryan isn’t on the same page as team management, which seems ready for the “What the heck?” portion of the season to begin, so they can get on with the “What do we do now?” portion of the offseason.

Ryan also said backup quarterback Michael Vick became ill sometime during the team’s walk-through this morning.

Probably the part when they were putting in the offense, no doubt.

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Roddy White questionable, but Falcons expect him to play

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Falcons wide receiver Roddy White didn’t practice on Friday, making it a full week without on-field work for the veteran as he deals with an ankle injury.

That won’t rule him out of Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, however. Coach Mike Smith said that White’s lack of practice time during the week isn’t an obstacle to playing him if White feels good on gameday.

“Because Roddy studies the game and understands how people are going to try to defend him. And he’s been in this league for over 10 years. We’ve done it multiple times last season in terms of him not being able to get out on the practice field,” Smith said, via ESPN.com. “He did work with our [athletic performance] people today and got good reports on where he was in terms of moving around. I feel confident, still, that he’ll play on Sunday.”

White, who is officially listed as questionable, and the Falcons had the same kind of confidence in Week Three when White missed practice time with a hamstring injury, but he wound up inactive in that game. Given the significance of this game to the Falcons, however, you’d expect White to have every opportunity to get on the field Sunday so the Cardinals can’t focus too much of their defensive attention on Julio Jones.

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Panthers starting something called Mike Remmers at right tackle

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If you had Mike Remmers in the pool, you win.

Unless you’re Cam Newton, of course.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Remmers would start at right tackle this week, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review.

Who is Mike Remmers, you might ask? (And trust me, you did.)

Remmers was one of the Vikings’ final cuts this preseason. He was on the Rams practice squad since then. He’s been a Panther since Oct. 28, and was also a Charger (where he played his one career game) and a Buccaneer and a Bronco at different points in his career. He was originally an undrafted rookie from Oregon State. He likes to hunt moose in his spare time and his favorite color is blue (both those facts are totally made up).

The Panthers are clearly desperate at the position, as they have been all year.

His inclusion into such an illustrious club means the Panthers will have started seven different combinations of offensive linemen in as many weeks.

That, as much as anything, explains why they’re 3-7-1.

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Lavonte David practices Friday

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One of the NFL’s leading tacklers was back on the practice field on Friday.

Buccaneers weak-side linebacker Lavonte David was taking part in the club’s workout, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reported.

David had missed the previous four practices with a hamstring injury, and he was also held out of Sunday’s loss at Chicago.

David shares the league lead in tackles with Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly and Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy (116). However, David has tallied his tackles in one fewer game than Kuechly and two fewer than Levy. The 24-year-old David has recorded at least 10 tackles in 7-of-10 games for the Buccaneers, who host the Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

According to Pro Football Focus, David has been on the field for all but 15 defensive snaps in the games in which he’s played, and 13 of those missed reps came in a blowout loss at Atlanta.

The Buccaneers’ injury report will be released later Friday.

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Michael Vick is sick, and not just of watching Jets

Michael Vick AP

Somebody ate too much turkey yesterday.

Or is at least sick of being the patsy for one.

OK, maybe it’s neither, but the timing is coincidental.

Jets quarterback Michael Vick isn’t practicing today because of an illness, via Darryl Slater of NJ.com.

Of course, you wonder if he’d have been able to plow through whatever malady it is if he were still starting, rather than being replaced by Geno Smith as the Jets play out the string.

They’re such a disaster now it doesn’t matter, but if he can’t go Monday against the Dolphins, they’d have to turn to Matt Simms to back up.

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