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Terrell Thomas restructures contract with Giants

Victor Cruz, Terrell Thomas AP

Cornerback Terrell Thomas hasn’t played in a game for the Giants in two years, but he’ll have a chance to play for them in 2013.

Thomas, who tore his ACL for the second straight year and third time overall, last summer sent out a tweet on Monday asking “Guess whose (sic) back???” and several Giants beat writers have confirmed that Thomas has agreed to a one-year deal with the Giants. The Giants had a $6 million option for Thomas’ services that needed to be exercised in March, but there wasn’t much expectation that they were planning to do that for a player with Thomas’ injury history.

Restructuring is a win-win for the Giants and Thomas since the team will get a potential contributor at a reduced cost while Thomas will have a chance to prove he’s healthy enough to up his compensation in 2014. He may also get to prove his versatility. There’s been talk about Thomas moving to safety, something that might make it easier for him to get back on the field than being on an island on the corner.

Thomas has been running and is on track to be healthy enough to give it his best shot at camp this summer. If he makes it back, he’ll join Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis as three-time ACL losers who were able to resume their careers.

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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, with Washington as the other (but not necessarily good) possiblity.

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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Washington, Pittsburgh aren’t options for Jets-Bills

Pitt Getty Images

Earlier today, PFT reported that the three primary alternative locations for the game between the Jets and Bills are Detroit, Toronto, and New Jersey.

ESPN also has identified a trio of venues, but with only one common place:  Detroit.  Per ESPN, the other choices are Pittsburgh and Washington.

A league source tells PFT that Washington and Pittsburgh are not options.  And that makes plenty of sense; both fields consist of grass, and both grass fields have in the past demonstrated problems with behaving like, you know, grass.

While both seem to be better (or at least not as bad) as in the past, it makes no sense to play an extra game on a grass field when the extra game can be played on FieldTurf at Ford Field.

For other reasons, Detroit is the best choice of any of the available options.  And it won’t be a surprise if, come Friday, the announcement is made that the game will be played in Detroit.

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Raiders fans buy newspaper ad calling for return of Hue Jackson

Hue Jackson AP

The Raiders aren’t getting much else done, but at least they’re sparking the local economy.

Via CSNBayArea.com, a group of Raiders fans bought a quarter page ad in the Oakland Tribune, asking for the team to bring back Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson as the team’s next head coach.

“Ever since our Super Bowl loss in 2002, our beloved Raiders organization has been having unsuccessful, losing seasons,” the ad read. “In 2010, we hired Coach Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator, who came in to work alongside then Head Coach Tom Cable. He aided the franchise to bounce back from a 4-12 record to an 8-8 record. Hue Jackson was promoted to Head Coach. Our players were motivated and wanted to play for Coach Jackson, and there was a huge shift in culture within the Raiders locker room. That season, our team went 8-8, just missing the playoffs. This success was in spite of the 132-day NFL lockout, losing our starting quarterback Jason Campbell to injury, and then losing our running back Darren McFadden. In addtion, our legendary, trendsetting, trailblazing owner, Al Davis passed away. Mark Davis assumed ownership while grieving his loss and it was Hue Jackson’s loyalty to the franchise that saw him take on more responsibilities.

“Despite the firing of Coach Allen, our record as of print is 0-10 and 0-16 over two seasons! Our team was in a better position with Coach Hue Jackson. Raiders Nation let your voice be heard; hire Hue Jackson in 2015!”

While a group of disgruntled fans buying ads (or airplane banners, or billboards) might not create fundamental change, it at least shows a degree of passion for a team that has done everything possible to kill it.

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Justin Blackmon pleads no contest to pot charge

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When last we heard about suspended wide receiver Justin Blackmon, he was in a voluntary treatment program as he tries to tackle the substance abuse issues that have forced him to miss more than a year’s worth of game while seeing out an indefinite ban from the league.

Blackmon was in a courtroom in Oklahoma Thursday to deal with a marijuana possession charge. Blackmon was arrested in July when police officers found three grams of marijuana in Blackmon’s car after stopping him for a traffic violation.

Blackmon pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge, which the Oklahoman reports will be dropped to a count of disorderly conduct if he doesn’t commit any crimes in the next six months. He also told the judge that he had completed his rehab program.

“I don’t anticipate [Blackmon] will have any problems,” Blackmon’s attorney Robert Gray said. “He’s going back to training and hopefully looks forward to reinstatement.”

Blackmon could be reinstated for the 2015 season and the Jaguars maintain the rights to their former first-round draft pick.

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Peterson appeal focuses on change in policy

Peterson AP

On Tuesday, the NFL suspended Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  On Wednesday, the NFLPA appealed the suspension on his behalf.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA raises two primary arguments in support of the appeal.  First, the union argues that the NFL has applied a different standard to conduct that occurred before the NFL revised the domestic violence and sexual assault policy on August 28.  Attorneys call that ex post facto lawmaking, Latin for “after the fact.”

Second, the NFLPA describes the punishment of Peterson as “wildly disparate” in comparison to past punishments imposed on other players.  The union points to the six-game suspension imposed Tuesday and the nine games missed while on paid leave.

The union also has asked that Commissioner Roger Goodell recuse himself as the appeal officer in the case, pointing to alleged partiality and bias.  Specifically, the NFLPA contends that the criticism that has been directed to Goodell and the NFL in recent months regarding the handling of off-field misconduct makes it impossible for him to be properly objective and unbiased.

The letter initiating the appeal also includes a lengthy summary of the facts, which includes a contention that executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told both Peterson and his agent (presumably Ben Dogra) that “the time Mr. Peterson agreed not to be on the football field would be considered ‘time served’ if and when the NFL assessed discipline against Mr. Peterson.”  This expands the potential dispute over what Vincent did or didn’t say from one-against-one to two-against-one.

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Karlos Dansby is loading up on mashed potatoes — and lobster

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

While the rest of us will be loading up on turkey for the next week, Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby has a different meal in mind.

Dansby, who doesn’t seem likely to make it this week because of a sprained MCL, has a unique way of eating while he’s rehabbing.

According to Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dansby was singing the praises of of eating lobster and mashed potatoes.

I’m feeding like a vampire drinking blood,” Dansby said. “I’ve got to feed it. For a vampire to bounce back, he’s got to get his blood and I’ve got to keep getting the lobster mash in my body right now. I’m eating a lot, man.”

Whatever the healing properties of lobster and mashed potatoes might be, Dansby might be on the cutting edge of medical and culinary technology.
If he’s able to get back for Sunday’s game at Atlanta, however, the Browns will doubtless be serving it up to all their injured players.
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Justin Pugh misses second day of practice

New York Giants v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Geoff Schwartz may be making his Giants debut at right tackle.

Justin Pugh, the Giants’ usual starter at the position, missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday with a quad injury that forced him out of last Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. Coach Tom Coughlin said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, that the team has two or three options to fill in for Pugh against the Cowboys on Sunday night and they were looking at them in practice.

Schwartz was originally signed to play guard, but he’s one of those options after missing the first 10 games of the season with a toe injury. Charles Brown replaced Pugh last weekend and is presumably another one of those options, although Coughlin quite accurately said that Brown did not play well when asked about Brown’s rough outing against the Niners.

Vacchiano reports that James Brewer is the third option and that Schwartz would likely replace John Jerry at right guard if he doesn’t get the call to replace Pugh.

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Soldier Field: Problem with clocks has been rectified

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears Getty Images

During last Sunday’s Bears-Vikings game, the game clocks at Soldier Field malfunctioned during the Vikings’ final drive and officials kept the official time on the field.

After his team lost, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was upset about the problem and the Bears said technicians weren’t yet sure what went wrong. The Bears play at home again this Sunday against Tampa and the team says that the problem has been rectified.

Soldier Field spokesman Luca Serra said a team from Daktronics, the scoreboard manufacturer, was on site this week working to correct the problem. Serra didn’t specify the problem, but says the company assured the issue has been rectified.

“That was a first,” Serra said, via the Chicago Tribune, “and we’d like to say a last. But the [clocks] are ready for Sunday.”

The company ran game simulations with the scoreboards on both Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the repair process, but offered no word on whether the Bears were able to extend their winning streak in those virtual contests.

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Detroit, Toronto, New Jersey are primary alternatives for Jets-Bills

FordField Getty Images

If the Week 12 game between the Jets and Bills can’t be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, it will be played at a different location.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the three options for an alternative venue are Detroit, Toronto, and New Jersey.

A decision currently is expected to be made by Friday afternoon.

If the game remains in Buffalo, it most likely would be played on Monday or Tuesday night.  Even though the snow won’t be falling by the time Monday and Tuesday roll around, the snow still needs to be cleared — and it will be difficult to have police and emergency personnel present for the game.

Detroit makes the most sense as an alternative destination.  Logistically, it could be difficult to get two teams and their personnel clearance for a quick trip to Canada, and it would be competitively unfair to give the Jets an extra home game.  With Detroit being the hometown of the late Ralph Wilson, who founded the Bills in 1960, it would be fitting for Detroit to host a Bills game in the same year he passed away.

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Norv Turner: Jerick McKinnon is “our running back”

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Vikings claimed running back Ben Tate off waivers on Wednesday, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Thursday that his arrival was not going to result in a change at the top spot of their depth chart.

Turner said that the team saw an opportunity to add a back they liked with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both out of practice because of injuries. Asiata is unlikely to play because of a concussion, but Turner said McKinnon is still the team’s top back if his lower back injury allows him to play.

“We’re excited about Jerick and what he’s done and I see him as our running back,” Turner said, via the Pioneer Press. “He’s been limited in practice last week and couldn’t practice [Wednesday]. So you got to protect yourself, obviously with Matt not being able to practice [Wednesday] and in doubt as to whether he’ll play or not.”

McKinnon said it was good to know that Turner has that kind of faith in him and that he doesn’t expect the injury to keep him out of practice the entire week or out of the game on Sunday.

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Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas remain out of practice

Denver Broncos practice at Dove Valley Getty Images

The Broncos Offense is coming off their lowest point total of the Peyton Manning era and it’s still looking decidedly questionable whether they’ll have wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Julius Thomas with them as they try to put up a more robust showing against the Dolphins this weekend.

Sanders and Thomas were on the sideline at practice Thursday, just as they were on Wednesday, due to injuries suffered against the Rams last weekend. Andrew Mason of the team’s website reports that both players are wearing jerseys and taking “mental reps” as their teammates work out.

For Sanders, that’s certainly better than being kept inside as part of the concussion protocol although it doesn’t offer any insight into his chances of getting cleared to either practice or play in time for Week 12. Thomas has called himself “day-to-day” as a result of his ankle injury, which should keep the possibility of a quick return to the field alive into the weekend even if he doesn’t practice on Friday.

A depleted receiving corps for Peyton Manning isn’t going to make things any easier for the Broncos, although a full deck might not help them all that much if their struggling offensive line isn’t able to stand up to a good Dolphins defensive front.

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