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Martin Mayhew: Lions will be players in free agency, unlike last year

Martin Mayhew AP

Last year the cap-strapped Lions did virtually nothing in free agency, and their 4-12 record suggests that was a problem. This year, Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew says, the Lions expect to bolster their roster with some free agent signings.

“We were non-players in free agency last year,” Mayhew said. “I do think that we plan to make some moves.”

The Lions are about $5 million under the 2013 salary cap after releasing Titus Young, Stephen Peterman and Kyle Vanden Bosch, and they’re hoping to work out a long-term contract with quarterback Matthew Stafford that will lower his 2013 cap number, which under his current deal would be about $20 million. Mayhew knows the Lions have to add players.

“We need to make some changes,” Mayhew said. “Obviously, things aren’t going in the right direction. I don’t think they went in the right direction last year. We’ve got to make some changes and have to improve our roster, and we’ll definitely make some moves in that direction.”

If the Lions don’t make the right moves, this could be Mayhew’s last year of calling the shots in Detroit.

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Whitworth makes the trip to London, hopes to play Sunday

Cincinnati Bengals v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth returned to practice Thursday and made the trip to London with his teammates for Sunday’s game vs. the Redskins.

Whitworth suffered a concussion in last week’s game vs. the Browns. He did not practice Wednesday but was listed as a limited participant Thursday and told reporters he’s hoping to play Sunday.

Whitworth has only missed two games since taking over as the Bengals’ left tackle in 2009.

The Bengals left for London after practice Thursday and were scheduled to arrive there Friday morning.

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Julius Thomas, Tajae Sharpe active

Julius Thomas AP

Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas is active and in the starting lineup for Thursday night’s game at Tennessee.

Thomas had been listed as questionable and limited during the short practice week with an ankle injury. Defensive end Jared Odrick, also listed as questionable with a quad injury, is inactive.

Thomas caught a touchdown pass in both of the Jaguars’ games vs. the Titans last year. This year, he has 16 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

Titans rookie wide receiver Tajae Sharpe will play. He had been listed as questionable with a knee injury and the Titans held off on any decision about his status until Sharpe tested the knee in a pregame workout.

Titans rookie outside linebacker Kevin Dodd and starting safety Rashad Johnson are inactive. Both had been listed as questionable. The Titans previously announced that Brian Schwenke would start at left guard in place of Quinton Spain.

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Ankle injury likely to keep Mangold out Sunday

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Jets Coach Todd Bowles told reporters Thursday “it doesn’t look good right now” for center Nick Mangold’s chances of playing Sunday at Cleveland.

Mangold has missed both of the team’s practices this week and was wearing a protective boot on his injured ankle Thursday. Bowles stopped short of declaring Mangold out, saying he needed another day before making any kind of official declaration.

Mangold has only missed four games in his 11-year career. The Jets list Wesley Johnson as their backup center on their unofficial depth chart.

Bowles has already ruled out rookie linebacker Darron Lee, right tackle Brent Qvalue and linebacker Bruce Carter. After missing last week’s game, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was back at practice Thursday.

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Get ready for Week Eight with the PA and Florio podcast


It’s one of the hottest new podcasts, despite my involvement in it. It’s the PA and Florio podcast, a weekly look at the NFL featuring the voice of the Vikings, Paul Allen, and yours truly.

Episode 2, focusing on Week Eight of the NFL season, is available in various online locations, including iTunes and audioBoom.

Download it or, for faster weekly delivery, subscribe. Also, leave a comment that weaves in one of Paul’s various catch phrases, including “this is not Detroit,” “he’s loooooose,” and/or whatever he said when Blair Walsh missed the field goal against Seattle.

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49ers release Ian Williams from non-football injury list

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 21:  Nose tackle Ian Williams #93 of the San Francisco 49ers walks onto the feild prior to the start of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 21, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the 49ers 23-14.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Shortly after free agency opened in March, the 49ers and defensive tackle Ian Williams agreed to a deal that would keep Williams with the team for five years.

Williams’ history of ankle injuries and surgeries led to his failure to pass a physical with the team, however, and the deal was scrapped in favor of a one-year pact. Williams never made it onto the field with the team this season as he landed on the non-football injury list at the start of training camp and now his time with the team has come to an end.

The league’s daily transaction wire brings word that the 49ers have released Williams from the NFI list with an injury settlement. The move leaves Williams free to sign with any other team, although the same health concerns that scuttled his deal with the 49ers may remain a stumbling block.

Williams started all 16 games for the 49ers in 2015 and played in 15 other games with them between 2011 and 2015.

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Vikings, Brad Childress: No truth to Artis Hicks’ bounty allegation

EDEN PRAIRIE, MN - OCTOBER 7:  Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress answers questions from the media during a press conference at Winter Park on October 7, 2010 in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

In an interview for a biography about Brett Favre, former Vikings offensive lineman Artis Hicks told author Jeff Pearlman that coaches on the Vikings had a bounty program similar to the one that landed Saints coach Sean Payton, current Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and others suspensions from the NFL after the 2009 season.

Hicks alleged the Vikings, who faced the Saints in that year’s NFC title game and saw Favre get battered over the course of the contest, had their program in place that year as well. Linebacker Ben Leber was also on that team and said he was unaware of such activities as did defensive end Bryan Robison, adding that he thought Hicks was “trying to bring attention” to himself.

The Vikings released a brief statement on Thursday — “There is no truth to it” — and then-Vikings coach Brad Childress, who testified in the Bountygate appeals hearing, also added his own denial.

“I had a great opportunity to coach a lot of great people there, including Artis Hicks, at the Minnesota Vikings,” Childress said, via “I have too much respect for the Wilf family [and] professional football to have anything to do with a bounty system. I’m going to let it stand at that.”

There’s been no word from the NFL about plans to look into Hicks’ comments. The league’s suspensions of Payton, Williams and other coaches from the Saints stood, but four players suspended by the league had the penalties overturned in an appeal heard by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

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Packers release Abbrederis with injury settlement

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 20:  Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis #84 of the Green Bay Packers brings in a 15-yard pass against safety Charles Woodson #24 of the Oakland Raiders in the third quarter on December 20, 2015 at Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Packers won 30-20. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers have waived wide receiver Jared Abbrederis with an injury settlement.

Abbrederis had been placed on the team’s injured-reserve list Wednesday due to a thigh injury.

The settlement makes Abbrederis subject to the league’s waiver system. If he clears waivers he’ll be a free agent and eligible to sign with any team when he’s healthy. He wouldn’t be able to re-sign with the Packers for six weeks.

A fifth-round pick in 2014, he missed his rookie season and played in 14 games over the last two seasons, catching 10 passes for 119 yards. He had just one reception this season.

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C.J. Anderson: I don’t know if I’m done for the season or not

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 13:   C.J. Anderson #22 of the Denver Broncos warms up before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

Broncos running back C.J. Anderson denied a report this morning that he is telling people his season is over. But he’s not denying that his season is over. He’s just saying he’s not sure yet.

Anderson clarified on Twitter this afternoon that he is having knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and won’t know until after that surgery how much time he’s going to miss.

“We will not know til after the procedure if I am done for the season or if I can come back to help my team,” Anderson wrote. “I will grind and push to be the best always and be stronger than I was before.”

Anderson is the Broncos’ leading rusher with 110 carries for 437 yards and four touchdowns this season. While he’s out the Broncos will turn to rookie Devontae Booker as their starting running back. Kapri Bibbs will move up to No. 2 on the depth chart, and Juwan Thompson could be called up from the practice squad.

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Report: NFL interviewed Ezekiel Elliott about domestic violence allegation

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 16:  Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Lambeau Field on October 16, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

In early September, the Columbus (OH) City Attorney’s Office released a statement saying that they were not pursuing domestic violence charges against Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott.

In July, Elliott had been accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend, but the statement said they were declining to press charges against Elliott because their investigation turned up “conflicting and inconsistent information.” While the City Attorney opted not to pursue the matter, the NFL did not rule out disciplinary action against Elliott.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that investigators from the league recently interviewed Elliott as part of their own investigation into the allegations. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy did not confirm the interview, but did say the league was still actively reviewing the issue.

News of the interview comes at a time when the league’s handling of domestic violence cases is back in the spotlight because of their decision to suspend Giants kicker Josh Brown for one game as a result of his 2015 arrest on domestic violence charges. Brown ultimately was not charged and the league’s handling of the case has been criticized in light of the release of documents showing written admissions by Brown that he abused his now ex-wife during their marriage.

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Wilkerson back at practice, listed as limited

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 13: Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson #96 of the New York Jets celebrates after sacking quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth quarter during a game at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2013 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Steelers defeated the Jets 19-6. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was back at practice Thursday after missing time due to ankle injury.

The Jets listed Wilkerson as a limited participant. He didn’t practice Thursday and missed last week’s game vs. the Ravens.

Wilkerson spent most of the offseason rehabbing the broken leg he suffered in the final game of the 2015 season and said last week that the ankle has been an issue for a few weeks. The Jets signed Wilkerson to a big-money extension last summer, and he’s been an impact player on their defensive line since being drafted in the first round in 2011.

Last week marked just the fourth game he’s missed in his six-year career.

The Jets also got wide receiver Brandon Marshall and Bilal Powell back as limited participants on Thursday after they sat out Wednesday’s practice.

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Ben Leber denies existence of bounty program for 2009 Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 27: Glen Coffee #29 of the San Francisco 49ers is stopped by Ben Leber #51 of the Minnesota Vikings along with teammate Pat Williams #94 at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on September 27, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the 49ers 27-24. (Photo by Genevieve Ross/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 2009 Vikings had a bounty program of their own. Unless they didn’t.

Former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber has strongly denied a claim for former Vikings guard Artis Hicks that the team victimized by the Saints’ bounty scandal had a bounty program of its own.

“I never heard of any bounty program existing within Vikings locker room,” Leber tweeted. “We had incentives for big plays, not injuries.”

Whether it’s a matter or semantics or fundamental differences, it doesn’t matter. The NFL made a conscious decision four years ago not to explore the rabbit hole but to plug it with cement, even as multiple players who served under former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams came forward to say he had bounty programs in other cities.

For the league, it wasn’t about resolving a cultural problem. It was about catching a culprit, punishing them dramatically and publicly, and scaring everyone else straight.

So, basically, unless there’s proof of a bounty scandal in or after 2012, the NFL won’t be doing anything.

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Chip Kelly runs NFL’s fastest offense, just not as fast as before

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach Chip Kelly of the San Francisco 49ers reacts to a play during the third quarter of the game against the Seattle Seahawksat CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle,Washington. The Seahawks won the game 37-18.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chip Kelly became famous for the fast-paced offense he ran at Oregon, and in all four of his seasons as an NFL head coach his offenses have had the fastest pace in the NFL. But Kelly doesn’t think his offense is really all that fast.

I don’t think we’re playing fast right now,” Kelly said. “So if someone said, ‘How are you playing offensively?’ I don’t think we’re playing fast offensively. I think we’re just not going back [to huddle]. We’re saving seven yards of run time for our offensive line because they don’t have to run back in the huddle, get a play called and then do it. We’re just calling it at the line of scrimmage. So I think it’s a lot of what Denver used to do when Peyton [Manning] was there. But there’s a lot of times that we’re under 15 seconds when we’re snapping the ball and getting the play off. So we’re not playing fast and we’re not calling tempo-type plays in those situations. We’re just calling plays.”

The numbers, however, say Kelly’s 49ers still have the fastest offense in the NFL. tracks the offensive pace of each team, adjusted to account for situations when teams are running a particularly fast pace because they’re trailing late in the game or a particularly slow pace because they’re leading late in the game. And by those stats, the 49ers rank first in the NFL in pace, at 23.95 seconds per play. That is slower, however, than Kelly’s Eagles last year (22.21 seconds per play) or in 2014 (21.95 seconds per play) or in 2013 (23.38 seconds per play.) And Kelly’s NFL teams have always run a slower pace than his Oregon teams.

So it’s true that by Kelly’s standards, the 49ers are not running a particularly fast pace. But by the standards of any other NFL team, the 49ers are running a very fast pace.

The problem for Kelly is that NFL defenses seem to have figured out how to account for Kelly’s fast pace. Although the Eagles’ offense was excellent in Kelly’s first season in Philadelphia, it declined in his subsequent seasons as opposing defenses got a handle on it, and this year in San Francisco Kelly has one of the worst offenses in the NFL.

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Jarvis Landry: No fine yet for Aaron Williams hit

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 23: Jarvis Landry gives his gloves to a fan following the game against the Buffalo Bills on October 23, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Sunday, Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry drew a flag for a big hit on Bills safety Aaron Williams. On Thursday, Landry told PFT Live that he was not fined for the hit.

In an interview to be aired on Friday’s show, Landry explained that he has not yet received the standard fine letter from the league office. Typically, those letters are sent no later than Tuesday. On Friday, the league office will disclose on specific request whether and to what extent a given player was fined.

Landry was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the play. NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino, while explaining the reasoning for not ejecting Landry, suggested earlier this week that a fine could be imposed.

“It’s certainly a foul,” Blandino said. “It’s certainly something that we’ll review for potential discipline, but it’s still a football play, and it’s tough to read intent there. That’s why the officials kept him in the game. It’s not an automatic ejection. It’s up to the discretion of the crew and they didn’t feel like it was flagrant enough to throw the player out of the game.”

The fact that Landry has yet to receive a fine letter doesn’t mean he never will. Usually, however, players are aware of any fines by the Thursday after a given game.

UPDATE 4:09 p.m. ET: A source with knowledge of situation says that, because of the bye week, it’s possible Landry hasn’t learned of the fine yet, and that a fine is still quite possible if not probable.

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Josh Norman, Jordan Reed traveling to London

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 9: Cornerback Josh Norman #24 of the Washington Redskins looks on prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 9, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Redskins head to London on Thursday night to get acclimated ahead of Sunday’s game against the Bengals and both of the key players who have spent time in the concussion protocol this week will be joining them.

Head coach Jay Gruden said at his Thursday press conference that both cornerback Josh Norman and tight end Jordan Reed have been cleared to make the flight. Reed said earlier in the day that he’s back to 100 percent after missing the last two games, but Gruden said that determinations about their status for the game will wait until after they practice in London on Friday.

“Signs are looking better,” Gruden said.

That’s not the case when it comes to running back Matt Jones. Jones missed a second straight practice due to a knee injury, raising the chances that the Redskins will have to go with Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson out of the backfield against Cincinnati. Having Reed and Norman in the lineup would be a good counterweight to anything they might lose if Jones doesn’t get the green light.

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Rex Ryan: No doubt there are long-term concerns about Aaron Williams

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 23:  Aaron Williams #23 of the Buffalo Bills leaves the field injured in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills safety Aaron Williams missed a second straight day of practice on Thursday as he continues to deal with the neck injury he suffered when taking a high block from Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry in last Sunday’s victory.

This isn’t the first time that Williams has dealt with a neck injury. He was limited to three games last year after hurting his neck severely enough that he needed fusion surgery. That led to doubts about his ability to resume his football career and obviously makes any new injury in the area a serious concern for the Bills and Williams.

“Yeah, I think so,” head coach Rex Ryan said, via the team’s website. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that there are some long term concerns there.”

Ryan didn’t delve deeper into what kind of outlook Williams is facing or when the team might have an idea about a return timeline. The Bills are going to have to look for others to fill in at safety against the Patriots this week and for as many weeks as it takes to figure out what will happen with Williams.

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