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Lions view the salary cap as fluid

Detroit Lions quarterback Stafford looks for his receiver against the Houston Texans during first half of their Thanksgiving Day NFL football game in Detroit, Reuters

The Lions entered the offseason only $3 million under the salary cap, but that wasn’t necessarily a significant concern.

Lions President Tom Lewand says the amount of cap space a team has at any given time is less relevant than how flexible the team is able to be in re-tooling its roster. For instance, the Lions released Titus Young, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Stephen Peterman to save $8.5 million toward the cap, and they believe they have other players under contract who can renegotiate to free up money under this year’s cap if needed.

The cap is fluid,” Lewand told “I’ve used the analogy before that anybody who tells you how much cap room you have is looking at a still from a movie and it doesn’t tell you much about the movie.”

Lewand says he doesn’t have a particular number in mind when it comes to how much he wants to be under the cap. Instead, he just wants to feel like the Lions can make the moves they need to make.

“The optimal range is dependent on the opportunities that exist, not just on the cap space available,” Lewand said. “You’ve got to look at what possible methods of player acquisition are in front of you, what players are available to be acquired, how they fit your system, all of the different things that are involved in the complexity of the system and marry that up to what your available cap room is.”

The Lions were hamstrung by having either the first or second pick in the NFL draft for three consecutive years — the last three years before rookie salaries were finally reined in. That meant Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh were all a big drag on their cap situation.

But the good news is that after years of bad drafting, the Lions have actually gotten production out of those high draft picks. And the Lions got some short-term cap relief by doing a long-term deal with Johnson last year, and they may do the same with Stafford this year. So the Lions think they’re in fine shape, despite entering the year without a lot of cap space.

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Julio Jones’ status to be determined in pregame workout

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Among the players listed as questionable each week are many who are expected to play unless something goes awry in the hours leading up to the game and some who are truly game-time decisions because of injuries.

Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones appears to be in the second category this Sunday. Jones picked up a turf toe injury in last week’s loss to the Chiefs and did not practice all week. He was listed as questionable, but word during the week was that the team was optimistic about his chances of playing.

Things aren’t quite so optimistic now. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team will make its call after seeing Jones run on the grass in Los Angeles during pregame workouts. Rapoport adds that Jones was able to go through the team’s walkthrough on Saturday, raising hope that he’ll be able to go as the Falcons try to remain a leg up on the Buccaneers in the NFC South.

Left tackle Jake Matthews was also listed as questionable by the Falcons. He hurt his knee last weekend and got in a limited practice on Friday.

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Todd Bowles is safe, unless he isn’t

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30:  Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets looks on during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s that time of year, folks. Embattled coaches throughout the NFL are safe, unless they aren’t.

The first guy to firmly fall into this category is Jets coach Todd Bowles. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media delivered moments ago on NFL Game Day First the news that the Jets won’t fire Bowles, unless they do.

Basically, Rapoport says Bowles is safe unless the team continues to perform like it did on Monday night against the Colts. Which is a softer way of saying Bowles is coaching for his job at this point, and that he needs to get a team that seemed to quit six days ago to reverse its attitude and its performance in the final four games of the season.

The report was less equivocal regarding multiple big-name players who may not be part of the effort to turn the franchise around, with receiver Brandon Marshall, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, and cornerback Darrelle Revis specifically mentioned as likely castoffs.

Marshall, whose talent can’t be denied, has been traded three times before. He’s also never made it to the postseason in 11 NFL seasons.

Revis has a $6 million fully guaranteed salary in 2017, and a $2 million roster bonus due in March. So if they make a move with Revis, they’ll likely make it before the extra $2 million becomes due.

The Jets tried to trade Richardson prior to the October deadline for doing so, but they ultimately could find no taker — possibly because they wanted too much. In the offseason, they may have to take whatever they can get if the goal is to move on from the player who once was regarded as the future cornerstone of the defense.

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Jordan Reed expected to play on Sunday

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:   Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins catches a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

It looks like tight end Jordan Reed’s absence from the lineup will come to an end this Sunday.

The Redskins played without Reed last weekend because of a shoulder injury he suffered in the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Cowboys and the team listed him as questionable to play against the Eagles this week. According to multiple reports, Reed will be on the field for that game.

Reed said during the week that the AC joint separation in his left shoulder was still causing him pain, but he was able to be a limited participant in practice all three days and said he believed he’d be able to go on Sunday.

Last week’s loss left the Redskins behind the Giants and Buccaneers in the race for Wild Card spots in the NFC. They can’t afford too many more before the possibility of a playoff berth goes away for good.

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Snow is in the forecast for multiple games on Sunday

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 22:  A beer sits between snow covered seats prior to the NFL game between the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field on November 22, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last week, snow made an appearance in Chicago and Green Bay. This week, there could be more of it.

Via, snow could be a factor in Buffalo (Steelers-Bills), Cleveland (Bengals-Browns), and Green Bay (Seahawks-Packers). Also, wet snow is possible for the Sunday night game in New Jersey, between the Cowboys and Giants.

As noted by, three years ago this week snow was a major factor in several cities, with Lions-Eagles in Philly, Vikings-Ravens in Baltimore, Dolphins-Steelers in Pittsburgh, and Chiefs-Washington in Maryland all played with significant frozen precipitation in the air and on the field.

Fans typically love it, especially if they’re watching it from the comfort of the inside of their homes. For players, the biggest challenge will be knowing how much is too much when the spirit moves them to celebrate with a snow angel.

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Trevor Siemian to start for Broncos

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 27:  Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos in action against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos have their starting quarterback back.

Trevor Siemian, who missed last week’s game with a foot injury, has been cleared to return today against the Titans.

The Broncos managed to beat the Jaguars last week with rookie Paxton Lynch at the helm, but beating the Titans will be a taller task, and having the starter back on the field will be a boost for the Broncos.

Siemian and Lynch split practice time last week, and Siemian’s mobility may still be limited, but if he’s healthy enough to go he’s the better choice in a game the Broncos need to win as they try to keep pace in the AFC playoff race.

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Lions expecting to have Eric Ebron, Marvin Jones

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 14:  Eric Ebron #85 of the Detroit Lions makes a juggling catch against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 14, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford should have a full complement of targets today against the Bears.

Although tight end Eric Ebron and receiver Marvin Jones are both listed as questionable, both are expected to play, according to multiple reports.

Jones is second on the Lions with 730 receiving yards, and first on the team with a 17.4-yard average. Ebron has 489 receiving yards.

If the Lions beat the Bears they’re assured of at least a two-game lead over the Vikings and Packers in the NFC North with three games to go.

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Mark Davis has yet to reject Oakland proposal

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis stands on the sidelines prior to their NFL game against the Atlanta Falcons at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The last time Oakland released information regarding its plan to build a stadium that would keep the Raiders from moving to Las Vegas, owner Mark Davis quickly made it clear that he’s not interested in deviating from his plan to relocate the team. With Oakland releasing a term sheet that outlines the project, Davis has said nothing, yet.

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a publication owned by casino mogul and potential Las Vegas stadium partner Sheldon Adelson, has published a profile (puff piece) about Davis that doesn’t even mention the effort in Oakland to persuade Davis to stay, or his reaction to it.

The Raiders did not respond to a request for comment on the Oakland proposal submitted early Saturday by PFT.

There’s still no reason to believe Davis will change his mind about moving, and it could be that he has opted to say nothing for now, allowing his partners come to the conclusion that the proposal isn’t as attractive as the Las Vegas plan, which carries with it $750 million in taxpayer money. The Oakland effort would result in a $1.3 billion, 55,000-seat venue, with the city putting up $200 million for infrastructure and site preparation via bond sales (not taxes) and donating $150 million in land. The group led by Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott would contribute $400 million toward the construction of the stadium.

The proposal goes nowhere if Davis wants nothing to do with it. For now, there’s no reason to think he has changed his mind.

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Will any coach be fired during the season?

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars yells out on the sideline during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on November 27, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

In each of the two seasons preceding 2016, a head coach was fired after only four weeks. This year, with four weeks to go, no head coach has been fired yet.

The question becomes whether anyone will be.

There’s been a sense for several weeks that only one embarrassing loss is standing in the way of the Jaguars firing coach Gus Bradley and giving former Bills coach Doug Marrone a test drive for the balance of the campaign. Beyond Bradley, the coaches of the other struggling teams (Browns, 49ers, Bears, Jets) aren’t believed to be in danger of being let go before the day known in NFL circles as Black Monday.

If no coach is fired during the season, it will be only the fourth time that’s happened since at least 2000. Four years ago, no firings happened during the season.

Last year, the Dolphins fired Joe Philbin after a Week Four loss in London. The Titans also fired Ken Whisenhunt, and the Eagles fired Chip Kelly. In all, 27 head coaches have been fired during the season since 2000.

At this stage of the season, it’s smart to wait. Teams that appoint an interim head coach from the surviving staff often see a short-term improvement in performance, as the players try to help the interim head coach shed the temporary label. Otherwise, a new coach will arrive and commence the process of finding new players.

Then, once the interim head coach becomes the permanent head coach, the players can go back to playing the way they did before the prior coach got fired.

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Cardell Hayes insists Will Smith had gun, denies shooting Smith’s wife

Cardell Hayes is placed in an Orleans Parish Sheriff van to be transported back to Orleans Parish Prison as he leaves Orleans criminal court, after the first day of testimony in his trial for shooting and killing NFL star Will Smith, Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in New Orleans. (David Grunfeld/ The Times-Picayune via AP) AP

Trials arising from “stand your ground” incidents will be resolved in large part based upon the credibility of the key witnesses. On Saturday, the man who shot and killed former Saints defensive end Will Smith in April made some incredible claims.

Via the Associated Press, Cardell Hayes testified that Smith had a gun when Hayes opened fire. Smith’s gun however, was found inside his vehicle. Indeed, most accounts and suggestions had been that Hayes shot Smith as Smith was returning to his car to get the gun.

Hayes himself didn’t mention that Smith had a gun to the authorities on the night of the shooting.

“I never gave a full statement to anyone,” Hayes said. (With the case turning on whether Hayes believed he was about to be shot, whether Smith had a gun would seem to be an important detail.)

More surprisingly, Hayes strongly denied shooting Smith’s wife, a contention that flies in the face of the ballistics evidence indicating that the bullets that struck Raquel Smith, who survived the incident, came from Hayes’ gun.

Hayes also denied ramming his vehicle into Smith’s, another contention that contradicts other evidence.

The trial is expected to conclude on Sunday, with closing arguments and the commencement of jury deliberations.

Whatever the outcome, the glitches in the evidence prove how hard it can be for a jury to reconstruct the events that culminate in one person shooting another in supposed self-defense. In this case, however, it may not be all that difficult for the jury to reject Hayes’ testimony regarding the circumstances that led to him pulling the trigger — and in turn to reject the claim that he was acting in self defense.

Unfortunately for Hayes, he may not be lying. It’s possible that he genuinely remembers that things happened in a way that they didn’t, due simply to the stress of the situation.

Which is another reason for states with “stand your ground” laws to reconsider allowing private citizens lacking the training and experience of police officers to attempt to discern in a fog of actual or perceived threats whether it is appropriate to open fire.

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Mike Zimmer will coach from the sideline, with special sunglasses

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 13: Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the Washington Redskins in the second quarter at FedExField on November 13, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the Vikings’ playoff hopes in doubt as four games remain in a season of constant adversity, the team will be getting its coach back for Week 14 — and things will be mostly normal for him.

Via Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mike Zimmer will coach from the sideline on Sunday in Jacksonville. He’ll wear special sunglasses in his first game since multiple additional eye surgeries to repair a detached retina caused him to miss the Week 13 prime-time matchup with the Cowboys.

The glasses will black out his right eye, which still has some double vision.

“We’ll be OK,” Zimmer told reporters when asked about his eye.

Whether the Vikings will be OK is a different issue. From 5-0 to 6-6, the Vikings now need to win games and hope for help to get to the playoffs. That’s a far cry from visions of home-field advantage and a path to Houston for the Super Bowl.

If they get to the playoffs, they’ll be climbing the playoff tree the hard way. Which would be fitting, because little about the team’s 2016 season has been easy.

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Giants activate Shane Vereen

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 20:  Shane Vereen #34 of the New York Giants in action against the Atlanta Falcons during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants on Saturday activated running back Shane Vereen from their injured-reserve list.

Vereen had been out since September due to a triceps injury. He returned to practice in late November and was activated, as expected, ahead of the deadline for the Giants to make a decision on his status.

Vereen was a valuable and productive pass-catcher out of the backfield for the Giants last season. In three games this season he’s caught eight passes for 75 yards.

Offensive lineman Adam Gettis was waived to create a roster spot for Vereen.

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Jaguars place Thomas, Odrick on IR

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 13:  Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars rushes against  Dwight Lowery #33 of the Indianapolis Colts during the game at EverBank Field on December 13, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars placed tight end Julius Thomas and defensive end Jared Odrick on their season-ending injured-reserve list Saturday.

Thomas has a back injury and has missed the team’s last two games. He finishes 2016 with 30 catches for 281 yards and four touchdowns.

Odrick played in just six games this season due to a shoulder injury.

The Jaguars filled their open roster spots by promoting running back Bronson Hill from the practice squad and activating offensive lineman Luke Bowanko from the physically unable to perform list.

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Pitt’s James Conner declares for the draft

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 25: James Conner #24 of the Pittsburgh Panthers reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the game at Heinz Field on October 25, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Panthers lost 56-28. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images) Getty Images

A year after disclosing a cancer diagnosis, Pitt running back James Conner has declared for the draft.

The redshirt junior, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns, announced his intentions on Twitter.

Conner became the ACC player of the year as a redshirt freshman in 2014. His 2015 season was derailed by a knee injury. Then came the news that Conner has Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

He’ll finish as No. 2 on the all-time rushing list at Pitt with 3,701 yards, behind only Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett. (Making the accomplishment even more impressive is the fact that Pitt has enjoyed the likes of Curtis Martin, LeSean McCoy, and Craig Hayward over the years.) Also, Conner’s 56 touchdowns are an ACC record.

“When they talk about someone who made a positive impact on the program,” Conner said on Twitter, “I hope they mention my name.”

Conner’s college career will conclude later this month in the Pinstripe Bowl, when Pitt faces Northwestern at Yankee Stadium.

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Danny Amendola out, Martellus Bennett questionable for Pats

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Danny Amendola #80 of the New England Patriots is tackled by T.J. McDonald #25 of the Los Angeles Rams during the second half of their game at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Ravens prepare to face the Patriots on Monday night. They won’t have to worry about Danny Amendola. (Or, for that matter, Danny Woodhead.)

Amendola will miss his first game of the season, due to an ankle injury suffered last Sunday in a win over his former team, the Rams.

Questionable for the Patriots is tight end Martellus Bennett, with ankle and shoulder injuries. He became the team’s top option at the position after a season-ending back injury suffered by Rob Gronkowski.

Also questionable for the 10-2 Patriots are safety Jordan Richards (knee), linebacker Elandon Roberts (hamstring), cornerback Eric Rowe (hamstring), and receiver Matt Slater (foot).

The best news for the Patriots is that quarterback Tom Brady has been removed completely from the injury report. He practiced all week without being mentioned in any way on the report. Brady had missed practice time in recent weeks with a knee injury.

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Browns sign Jamar Taylor to three-year, $15 million extension

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 20:  Jamar Taylor #21 of the Cleveland Browns can't make a catch in front of Ladarius Green #89 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor will be sticking around for the rebuilding project in Cleveland.

The Browns and Taylor have agreed to a three-year, $15 million contract, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports.

Taylor arrived in Cleveland in April in a draft-day trade that was for basically nothing: The Browns sent the 223rd pick in the draft to the Dolphins for the 250th pick. For the Dolphins to give up Taylor for that little compensation suggests that they were planning to cut him and were happy to get anything for him.

But in Cleveland this season, Taylor has started 10 games and started to show the promise that the Dolphins thought he had when they drafted him in the second round in 2013. Now Taylor will get paid like a starter and try to help the Browns turn things around, not just this year, but for the coming years as well.

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