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Peyton Manning gets a new position coach: Greg Knapp

Greg Knapp AP

Less than three weeks after he was fired as offensive coordinator of the Raiders, Greg Knapp is back in the AFC West.

The Broncos have announced that Knapp is their new quarterbacks coach. Knapp fills the spot on the coaching staff that became vacant when Adam Gase was promoted to offensive coordinator after Mike McCoy left to become head coach of the Chargers.

Greg is a proven, experienced coach with a very impressive background working with quarterbacks,” Broncos coach John Fox said in a statement. “He’s had success with Pro Bowlers and established players while also being instrumental in the development of younger quarterbacks. I’ve coached against him for a number of years and have a lot of respect for him. We are pleased to add someone of his caliber to our coaching staff.”

The 2012 season was Knapp’s second stint as the Raiders’ offensive coordinator, having previously had that job in 2007 and 2008. He’s also been offensive coordinator for the Seahawks (2009), Falcons (2004-06) and 49ers (2001-03), and he has had multiple stints as an NFL quarterbacks coach. Now he becomes the position coach for Peyton Manning.

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Family says Frank Gifford had CTE

Frank Gifford AP

Earlier this year, Hall of Famer Frank Gifford died at the age of 84. His family has now announced that a team of pathologists has determined that Gifford suffered from Chronic Traumatic Encephelopathy.

“While Frank passed away from natural causes this past August at the age of 84, our suspicions that he was suffering from the debilitating effects of head trauma were confirmed,” says the statement from the Gifford family.

“During the last years life Frank dedicated himself to understanding the recent revelations concerning the connection between repetitive head trauma and its associated cognitive and behavioral symptoms — which he experienced firsthand,” the statement adds.

Gifford played decades before the NFL acknowledged the potential problems arising from concussions and subconcussive hit. Gifford once missed more than a full season after being knocked out by Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik.

Under the pending NFL concussion settlement, the posthumous diagnosis makes Gifford’s estate eligible for compensation from a pool that the league has agreed to fund without limitation.

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Malcom Floyd returns to practice

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 1: Wide receiver Malcom Floyd #80 of the San Diego Chargers scores a second quarter touchdown past cornerback Lardarius Webb #21 of the Baltimore Ravens during a game at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chargers have had more bad injury news this season than they’d care to think about, but they got some good news on Wednesday with wide receiver Malcom Floyd’s return to the field.

Floyd suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder while trying to catch a pass in a game against the Bears earlier this month, but has been rehabbing it in hopes of making it back this season. Floyd announced early in the season that this would be his final NFL season and said the plan remains in place after being injured.

It would make for a nice ending for Floyd to be on the field for the final weeks of his career and the Chargers could definitely use all the help they can find for their injury-riddled roster as they try to pull themselves out of a six-game losing skid that has all but guaranteed them an early draft pick next year.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports that defensive end Corey Liuget, safety Eric Weddle and guard D.J. Fluker are all out of practice for the Chargers, who will be in Jacksonville on Sunday.

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Martellus Bennett won’t play on Thursday night

at Qualcomm Stadium on November 9, 2015 in San Diego, California. Getty Images

Running back Matt Forte said that he expects to be in the Bears lineup against the Packers on Thursday night, but tight end Martellus Bennett won’t be joining him.

The Bears ruled Bennett out of the game on Wednesday because of injured ribs. Bennett was listed as a non-participant in Monday’s practice and limited in Tuesday’s session. Zach Miller and Khari Lee are the other tight ends on Chicago’s 53-man roster.

Forte was listed as questionable, as was wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery missed last week’s game with a groin injury and said Tuesday that he hopes to make it back to the lineup on Thanksgiving, although he knows he won’t play “if the training staff sees how I feel and I don’t feel too well.”

Linebacker Pernell McPhee and safety Antrel Rolle are also questionable due to knee injuries. Rolle did not play last week while McPhee returned to the lineup after missing Week 10. Wide receiver Eddie Royal and running back Ka’Deem Carey have been ruled out.

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No practice for Charcandrick West on Wednesday

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 22: Charcandrick West #35 of the Kansas City Chiefs runs with the ball during the second half of a game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 22, 2015 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs will try to keep their four-game winning streak going against the Bills this weekend in a game that looms large for the playoff hopes for both teams.

It doesn’t sound like running back Charcandrick West has a high likelihood of helping the Chiefs in their effort. West, who took over the lead role in the run game after Jamaal Charles was lost for the season, injured his hamstring in last Sunday’s rout of the Chargers, didn’t return to the game and didn’t take part in the team’s practice on Wednesday.

Coach Andy Reid said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, that West has “a chance” of playing against Buffalo while adding that he has full confidence in Spencer Ware and Knile Davis handling the workload in the backfield. Ware did a lot to create that confidence by running 18 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns last Sunday.

Guard Ben Grubbs, defensive end Allen Bailey, linebacker Dee Ford and wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas also missed Wednesday’s practice.

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AFC playoff picture: Patriots closing in on clinching

Bill Belichick AP

The Patriots haven’t clinched a playoff berth just yet, but they may do it as soon as Sunday. And they may clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs soon after that.

At 10-0, the Patriots have a whopping five-game lead in the AFC East, and a two-game lead over the rest of the conference. New England can clinch the AFC East with a win and a Jets loss on Sunday, and New England can also open up a three-game lead in the conference with only five games to play, if the Patriots beat the Broncos and the Bengals get upset by the Rams.

So barring something unforeseen, the road to the Super Bowl in the AFC will go through New England. Here’s how the whole conference shapes up:

1. Patriots (10-0): They may not go 16-0, but they’ll be heavy favorites in all of their remaining games.

2. Bengals (8-2): Cincinnati owns the conference record tiebreaker with the Broncos for now, but the real tiebreaker between the two will be settled when they meet on December 28.

3. Broncos (8-2): The Broncos’ schedule isn’t easy, with remaining games against the Patriots, Bengals and Steelers.

4. Colts (5-5): Indianapolis has the head-to-head tiebreaker edge over Houston in the AFC South.

5. Steelers (6-4): Pittsburgh probably can’t catch Cincinnati in the AFC North, but the Steelers have the inside track on the wild card race.

6. Chiefs (5-5): Kansas City wins the tiebreaker over Houston and Buffalo based on winning percentage in conference games.

7. Texans (5-5): Houston has looked like a mess for much of this season, but the Texans still have a real shot at winning the AFC South.

8. Bills (5-5): Buffalo owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets.

9. Jets (5-5): After winning four of their first five, the Jets have now lost four of their last five.

10. Raiders (4-6): A three-game losing streak has Oakland looking like a long shot.

11. Jaguars (4-6): Jacksonville is only a game out in the AFC South and has an easy schedule the rest of the way. It wouldn’t be a shock to see a playoff game in Jacksonville.

12. Dolphins (4-6): Their brief turnaround under interim head coach Dan Campbell now feels like a long time ago.

13. Ravens (3-7): The Joe Flacco injury ends any glimmer of hope they had of a late-season playoff push.

14. Browns (2-8): Just playing out the string, and now they won’t even get a long look at Johnny Manziel.

15. Chargers (2-8): At this point San Diego is just trying to get enough healthy players to finish the season.

16. Titans (2-8): Tennessee is only three games out in the AFC South, but there’s no realistic chance of the Titans making the playoffs.

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Ernie Accorsi will consult on Lions G.M. search

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16: The Detroit Lions helmet on the field before their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on September 16, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

In a press conference last week, new Lions president Rod Wood said that the team would bring in an outside advisor to help them in their search for a new General Manager.

The team revealed their choice for that role on Wednesday. Former Colts, Browns and Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi will consult with the team about the hire, something he has also done for the Panthers and Bears in recent years. Accorsi also serves on the NFL’s career development advisory board.

“We are most pleased that Ernie Accorsi will serve as consultant for our G.M. search,” Wood said in a statement. “Ernie’s reputation is impeccable. Not only did he succeed as a General Manager in the NFL, but his work as a consultant with teams like Chicago and Carolina is well documented.”

Accorsi will be charged with leading a search for a new head of the Lions personnel department. Interim General Manager Sheldon White will be part of the group under consideration for the job and the Lions could also bring in execs like Marc Ross, Chris Ballard, Brian Gaine and Lake Dawson as they’ve been up for other G.M. jobs in recent years.

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NFL not pushing back against networks airing Concussion ads

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwqwntgzyjhkmzq3nmu5m2q2yjrjogqwnjvhowexmtkx AP

On Monday night, ESPN’s Monday Night Football coverage included at least one commercial for Concussion, the film that director Peter Landesman has touted as a “shot between the eyes of the NFL.”

When it comes to the promotion of said shot, the NFL isn’t flinching.

While the league office had no comment on ESPN’s decision to allow the anti-NFL film to be promoted, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the league gave ESPN no resistance.

As a result, get ready to see even more Concussion commercials during NFL coverage.

“ESPN called us early wanting our ads,” Landesman recently told the Hollywood Reporter. “All the networks have accepted our ads for football for Thanksgiving. Because network TV is usually the canary in the coal mine, I have a feeling that the country is really ready to accept this story, even the NFL broadcast networks.”

Landesman is exaggerating the connection between a network accepting a studio’s money and the network providing its imprimatur to the subject matter of the film. Plenty of crappy movies are advertised on TV all the time; it doesn’t mean the network is endorsing the movie. The network is simply providing the space and cashing the checks.

So look for more Concussion commercials in the coming days and weeks, and the NFL’s approach apparently will be to ignore them — which could be the NFL’s approach to the film itself.

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Bills bring back Thigpen, cut Herron

Marcus Thigpen AP

The Bills announced four roster moves Wednesday, most notably the signing of wide receiver Marcus Thigpen.

A veteran of 46 career games, Thigpen previously spent time with the Bills last season and earlier this season. He figures to be given a chance to help in the return game.

The team also signed guard Ryan Groy off of the Buccaneers’ practice squad. Groy started three games for the Bears last year and has also been with the Patriots, who traded for him last summer.

Running back Boom Herron and wide receiver Denarius Moore were released.

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Marshawn Lynch’s surgery successful, expected return by end of year

Marshawn Lynch AP

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch hopes to be back on the field by the end of the year after surgery today.

Lynch’s sports hernia surgery was completed this morning and went fine, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. He and the Seahawks hope Lynch can be back in late December.

The good news for the Seahawks is that Lynch’s backup, undrafted rookie Thomas Rawls, has been everything they could have asked for in a backup and more. Rawls has 101 carries for 604 yards, with a 6.0-yard average that’s better than Lynch has ever had. Lynch’s career-high rushing average was 5.0 yards a carry in 2012.

If Lynch is back to full speed by the end of the season, the Seahawks will have a 1-2 running back combination as good as any in the league. The problem is that at 5-5, the Seahawks are at risk of not having anything to play for by the end of the season. The Seahawks will have to win without Lynch before they’re in a position to win anything meaningful with Lynch.

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Pettine on Manziel’s future in Cleveland: This is a hurdle, not a dead end

of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the Cleveland Browns during the game at Heinz Field on November 15, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Getty Images

The Browns knocked Johnny Manziel down to the third string on Tuesday after pictures and videos of his bye week partying popped up on social media, ending Manziel’s run as the team’s starting quarterback a week after coach Mike Pettine moved him to the top spot on the depth chart regardless of Josh McCown’s health.

Pettine said Tuesday that Manziel “violated the trust” that the team put in him and said it again during a Wednesday press conference that was heavy on Manziel discussion. Pettine said it was “made reasonably clear” to Manziel what the team expected of him during the time off, but added that there was “no personal rift” and that the demotion did not close the door on a future for the 2014 first-round pick with the Browns.

“We certainly hope not,” Pettine said, via Mary Kay Cabot of “He’s made progress. We told him, ‘this isn’t a dead end. It’s a hurdle. … This is a healthy dose of adversity. Let’s see how he handles it.”

With six weeks left in the season, it’s hard to imagine that Manziel can do enough to win back the trust that he violated to move back into the starting role unless the Browns want to make this stand look like a particularly toothless one. Where that will leave him for the future is anybody’s guess since the Browns may be making changes on the coaching staff and/or in the front office at the end of another disappointing season, but it’s just as hard to imagine Cleveland or any other team yoking the future of their organization to Manziel at this point.

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Charles Tillman doubtful to face Dallas

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 08:  Charles Tillman #31 and Roman Harper #41 of the Carolina Panthers react after forcing a fumble by the Green Bay Packers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers have turned in their final injury report before Thursday’s game against the Cowboys and it leaves them likely to play the game without cornerback Charles Tillman.

Tillman missed last week’s game because of a knee injury and he’s been listed as doubtful to play this week for the same reason. Tillman was listed as a limited participant in practice the last two days, which may wind up serving as groundwork for a Week 13 return although Tillman said, via Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, that he’ll be making the trip to Texas.

Wide receiver Philly Brown was also out against the Redskins last weekend and has been listed as questionable because of a shoulder injury. Brown said Wednesday that he feels good enough to play while noting that the decision won’t be his to make.

Long snapper J.J. Jansen is probable after being added to the injury report during the week with a head injury, which likely means that the Panthers won’t need to use the newly signed Danny Aiken in his place on Thursday.

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Jason Kelce, Sam Bradford listed as questionable by Eagles

Kelce Getty Images

Jason Kelce’s mystery knee injury has left him a 50-50 call for Thanksgiving.

Via Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Eagles have listed Kelce, quarterback Sam Bradford and tackle Jason Peters as questionable for tomorrow’s game with the Lions.

Kelce wasn’t listed on Monday’s injury report at all, but didn’t practice Tuesday because of a knee injury, and the fact it’s progressed to this point suggests it might be serious enough to create doubt about his availability.

So unless Sam Bradford surprises his teammates, backup Mark Sanchez will be out there taking snaps from someone who may or may not be Kelce.

Also, tight end Zach Ertz and running back Ryan Mathews are listed as out because of concussions.

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Report: Broncos signing Christian Ponder

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 03:  Quarterback Christian Ponder #9 of the Oakland Raiders warms up prior to the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 3, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos announced Tuesday that they would be working out quarterback Christian Ponder on Wednesday and it appears they liked what they saw from the former Vikings first-round pick.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team will add Ponder to their roster to give themselves more depth at quarterback while Peyton Manning is sidelined by a foot injury. There’s no word on what the corresponding move would be to get Ponder on the roster.

According to Rapoport, Ponder will start as the No. 3 quarterback behind Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian and focus on learning the offense before the team thinks about putting him directly under Osweiler on the depth chart.

Ponder made one start for the Vikings last season and 36 over four years in Minnesota. He spent the offseason with the Raiders, but has not been on a roster since the start of the regular season.

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Devonta Freeman still in concussion protocol

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwrimjm3mzi3ogqzmtezytnhmwnjodyyztazngm1nwvk AP

The Falcons will practice Wednesday without running back Devonta Freeman.

Falcons Coach Dan Quinn told reporters that Freeman remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol. He left last Sunday’s game vs. the Colts after three carries.

Freeman is fifth in the NFL with 764 rushing yards and leads all runners with 9 touchdowns.

Rookie Tevin Coleman is next up if Freeman isn’t cleared in time to play Sunday vs. the Vikings.

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NFL has conference call to remind all teams of concussion protocol

Case Keenum, Courtney Upshaw AP

After last week’s mistakes in letting Rams quarterback Case Keenum continue to play after he suffered a concussion, the NFL is trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The league just put out a statement, saying that a mandatory conference call was held last night with the head athletic trainers of all teams. The call also included NFLPA Medical Director Dr. Thom Mayer, and was led by NFL Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Betsy Nabel, Head, Neck & Spine Committee Co-Chairman Dr. Hunt Batjer, NFL Physicians Society President Dr. Robert Heyer of the Carolina Panthers, and PFATS President Rick Burkholder of the Chiefs.

“During the call, the team medical staffs discussed the events that led to the failure to remove St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum from Sunday’s game, and reviewed the proper implementation of the league’s concussion protocols to ensure that players are removed from the field for a medical evaluation as required by the protocols,” the statement read. “Medical experts from the league and the Players Association will continue to review the protocols and make improvements as necessary to protect the health and safety of NFL players, including consideration of discipline for future violations of the protocols.”

The failure to protect Keenum was startling and sad, considering the amount of scrutiny the league has come under regarding concussions, and the steps they had previously taken to prevent such a situation.

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