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Team-by-team look at who would/could/should be tagged

Clady AP

On Monday, the two-week window for using the franchise tag opens.  Every team can use the franchise tag (or the rarely-used transition tag) on one player.

Last year, 21 teams took advantage of the franchise tag, which no longer is based on the five highest-paid players at the position but on a far more convoluted (and club friendly) formula.

It’s not a coincidence.  The new formula makes it much cheaper to keep a player off the open market than it would to pay him a multi-year market contract.

Here’s a look at the team-by-team candidates for the 2013 tag, in alphabetical order.

Arizona Cardinals:  The Cardinals need to keep hard-nosed cover corner Greg Toler, but not at anything close to the eight-figure franchise number.  No other pending free agents have the talent or potential to justify franchise money.  Last year, the Cardinals used the tag on defensive end Calais Campbell; they eventually signed him to a long-term deal.

Atlanta Falcons:  Left tackle Sam Baker, drafted in round one the same year as the man whose blind side he protects, has had good years and bad years.  After starting 16 games in 2012, Baker hits the market on a high note.  Still, the glut of tackles in free agency and the draft will make it hard to justify tagging Baker; if he leaves, the Falcons can find a capable replacement after the market softens.  In 2012, the Falcons used the tag on cornerback Brent Grimes, who tore an Achilles tendon in Week One.  Tagging him would cost $12.48 million for 2013.  It would cost nearly half that amount to tag safety William Moore.

Baltimore Ravens:  It’s not a question of if the Ravens will tag quarterback Joe Flacco.  The only remaining unknown is the level of the tag.  And while a lazy look at the situation would lead to conclusively presuming that there’s no way Flacco leaves Baltimore, there’s a chance (slim, but a chance) that the player and the team could be destined for a game of chicken that would result in both cars flying off the cliff.  The Ravens could opt to go non-exclusive, daring Flacco to sign an offer sheet with another team — and assuming that he never would.  Another team with plenty of cap space could easily craft a front-loaded offer sheet that the Ravens wouldn’t be able to match.  It’s not likely, but anyone who thinks there’s no way Flacco leaves the Ravens hasn’t been paying close enough attention to the far crazier things the NFL has seen in recent years.

Buffalo BillsJairus Byrd has become one on the best free safeties in the league.  With George Wilson gone in a cap move, the Bills need to keep Byrd.  Absent a long-term deal, the tag is the only way to make it happen.  If a long-term deal can be negotiated, guard Andy Levitre becomes a candidate for the tag.  The only impediment would be the fact that interior offensive linemen get the same franchise tender as tackles.

Carolina Panthers:  Their list of potential free agents contains no names that cry out for use of the tag, especially since the Panthers are still dealing with the sins of salary caps past.

Chicago Bears:  The Bears need to keep defensive tackle Henry Melton, but they’ve already got plenty of cap space tied up with defensive players like sackmaster Julius Peppers, cornerback Charles Tillman, and linebacker Lance Briggs.  With Melton regarding himself as the best defensive tackle in the league, a long-term deal could be hard to come by.  Despite his name recognition, linebacker Brian Urlacher isn’t a serious candidate for the tag.

Cincinnati Bengals:  The Bengals are extremely careful with money.  On defense, lineman Michael Johnson is the most obvious candidate to be tagged.  It’s just as likely that the Bengals will be content to go bargain shopping (again) for defensive players to replace their bevy of free agents on that side of the ball, and then hope that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer can whip up another batch of chicken salad.  On offense, the tag could be used to keep Andre Smith, who quietly has overcome his notorious Jello run to develop into an elite right tackle.  Last year, the tag was used on kicker Mike Nugent; tagging him again would cost only $3.48 million.  Which could make him the most likely candidate.

Cleveland Browns:  Kicker Phil Dawson was tagged in 2011 and 2012.  Using it a third time would entitle him to quarterback money.  So if it’s used, it won’t be used on him.  Punter Reggie Hodges is hitting the market after three years with the team.  Though his performance doesn’t cry out “franchise tag,” it could be cheaper to squat on him for a year than to sign a replacement on the open market; that’s why so many punters and kickers have been tagged in recent years.

Dallas Cowboys:  Tagged last year at $10.5 million, linebacker Anthony Spencer still hasn’t had the kind of impact that he should, given that he plays across from DeMarcus Ware.  Spencer isn’t worth $12.4 million for one more year.

Denver Broncos:  V.P. of football operations John Elway has said that the tag will be used on left tackle Ryan Clady, and for good reason.  Last year, Clady turned down a five-year, $50 million deal.

Detroit Lions:  It’ll take $12.4 million to use the tag for a second straight year on defensive end Cliff Avril, and it won’t be easy for the Lions to round up the kind of cap space necessary to keep him around.  Safety Louis Delmas doesn’t like being labeled as injury prone, but he is.  And the Lions will have to decide whether they want to make a long-term or short-term (via the tag) investment in the guy who could be this decade’s Bob Sanders.  Tackle Gosder Cherilus also could be tagged, but in a buyer’s market for tackles it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do it.

Green Bay Packers:  Receiver Greg Jennings turns 30 in September.  In other words, the Packers won’t be using the tag on Greg Jennings.  The Packers learned while he was injured in 2012 that they can live without him, and they won’t be inclined to invest $10 million in cap space to a guy who plays a position that, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, is virtually interchangeable.  If the Packers wanted to keep Jennings, they’d be trying to sign him.  They’re not, which likely means he won’t be tagged.

Houston Texans:  Last year, the Texans passed on tagging linebacker Mario Williams because of the exorbitant tender that the final year of his first-overall rookie contract would have generated.  With linebacker Connor Barwin, much less cap space would be consumed.  After seeing former Texans receiver Jacoby Jones deliver an MVP-caliber performance in the Super Bowl, G.M. Rick Smith may be a little less willing to let quality players walk away in 2013.  Another possible (and cheaper) candidate for the tag is punter Donnie Jones.

Indianapolis Colts:  The man with the self-styled boomstick can be kept off the market for the low, low price of the punter/kicker franchise tag ($2.9 million).  Absent a long-term deal, it’s hard to envision the Colts moving forward without punter Pat McAfee.

Jacksonville Jaguars:  A roster thin on star power naturally doesn’t create many franchise-tag candidates, especially with a new G.M. and (another) new coaching staff.  If linebacker Daryl Smith didn’t miss most of the season, he’d be a potential candidate.  Fullback Greg Jones would be a candidate, if fullbacks weren’t lumped in with running backs for franchise tag purposes.

Kansas City Chiefs:  The Chiefs are trying to work out a long-term deal with receiver Dwayne Bowe; if they don’t, it would cost $11.4 million to keep him around for a second season via the tag.  But receivers are more plentiful than competent offensive linemen, and new Chiefs coach Andy Reid witnessed the hard way in 2012 the consequences of not having competent blockers.  This reality makes tackle Branden Albert a more likely candidate to be tagged.  Then there’s punter Dustin Colquitt, who like most punters and kickers could be cheaper to keep via the one-year franchise tag.

Miami Dolphins:  Tackle Jake Long’s rookie deal makes the cap number for tagging him way too high to justify, especially in light of the gradual decline in his play.  With cornerback Sean Smith looking for big money, the best move could be to tag him instead of Long.

Minnesota Vikings:  G.M. Rick Spielman wants to keep road-grading right tackle Phil Loadholt.  With left tackle Matt Kalil tied up via an affordable rookie deal, the Vikings can afford to pay Loadholt a large chunk of money for at least the next two seasons, before Kalil will be looking for his second contract.  Whether that large chunk of money equates to the franchise tag for Loadholt is a decision the Vikings have to make in light of the realities of the tackle market — and within the context of the impact of the use of the tag on the expectations of receiver Percy Harvin.  They’d also like to keep fullback Jerome Felton, but there’s no fullback franchise tag; they’d have to tender him at the running back level.

New England Patriots:  The Patriots have a trio of players who are potential candidates for the tag.  Whether it’s receiver Wes Welker, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, cornerback Aqib Talib, or no one, it won’t be an easy decision.  Welker would command $11.4 million, given that he was tagged in 2012.  It would be a shock if they tag him.  Vollmer has Marcus Cannon behind him on the depth chart, plus plenty of other tackles available in free agency.  The Pats could be inclined to let Vollmer leave if someone else is willing to overpay him.  Talib presents the biggest conundrum, given his positive impact on the team’s so-so defense.  They need him, but he present plenty of risk given his history of off-field incidents.

New Orleans Saints:  Left tackle Jermon Bushrod is the most obvious candidate for the tag.  But the Saints don’t have the cap space to spare.  They easily replaced guard Carl Nicks with Ben Grubbs last year, and the tackle market is far more plentiful in 2013 than the market was for guards last season.  Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis doesn’t project to nose tackle in the team’s new 3-4 defense, but he could be a candidate to play defensive end in Rob Ryan’s defense, if the Saints want to fork over the money necessary to keep him around.  Things would get interesting if the Saints tag Ellis as a tackle despite a desire to move him to end, since there’s a $2.6 million gap between the two tenders.

New York Giants:  But for the likely existence of collusion in the restricted free agency market, the Giants should be thinking about tagging receiver Victor Cruz.  Since teams have abandoned in recent years the pursuit of RFAs, there’s no reason for the Giants to double the compensation they’d get if someone else swipes Cruz.  Left tackle Will Beatty becomes a candidate for the tag, along with safety Kenny Phillips.  The cheapest of all would be tight end Martellus Bennett, who didn’t get the long-term deal he wanted a year ago in free agency, opting instead for a one-year stay in New York and another shot at the market.

New York Jets:  Safety LaRon Landry is the only guy who merits the tag, but his one-year deal from last year expressly prevents the team from using it.  No one else who is due to become a free agent deserves it.

Oakland Raiders:  There’s a major problem with using the franchise tag on punter Shane Lechler, apart from the fact that the Raiders have landed in a salary cap black hole.  While the franchise tag for punters and kickers will be an affordable $2.9 million in 2013, Lechler’s cap number last year was $4.9 million.  Under the CBA, he’s entitled to a 120 percent raise over that number, which translates to a cap number of $5.88 million.  It could be time for the much cheaper Marquette King, a converted receiver who has drawn comparisons to the monster-legged Reggie Roby.  Either way, it’s hard to imagine that the cap-strapped Raiders would pay a punter twice the amount of the base franchise tag for punters.

Philadelphia Eagles:  The Eagles don’t have many looming free agents, which means that they don’t have many candidates for the franchise tag.  Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would be one, if he was, you know, better.

Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers have said they won’t use the franchise tag.  Which means that receiver Mike Wallace will hit the open market.  Which means that someone will overpay him on the first day of free agency.

San Diego ChargersLook at their free agents.  Though cornerback Quentin Jammer has been a mainstay in San Diego since 2002, he’s not worth what it would cost to keep him via the franchise tag.  No one else with an expiring contract justifies the tag, which is one of the reasons why there’s a new G.M. and head coach.

San Francisco 49ers:  Safety Dashon Goldson doesn’t want to be tagged again, but what he wants and what he gets could be two different things.  Absent a long-term deal, the Niners have to keep Goldson around — even if using the tag for a second time virtually guarantees he’ll hit the market in 2014.  If Goldson gets a new deal, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Niners would use the tag on their second-string but highly versatile tight end, Delanie Walker.

Seattle Seahawks:  The ultra-low kicker tag of $2.9 million could be used to keep the strong-legged Steven Hauschka.

St. Louis Rams:  Receiver Danny Amendola has become one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, but his injury history and the eight-figure franchise tender for wideouts likely will scare the Rams away.  Still, if Amendola hits the market, he won’t be there long.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  The Bucs plans to spend on keeping their own guys.  When it comes to using the tag, it’s a toss-up between tackle Jeremy Trueblood and defensive end Michael Bennett, or neither.

Tennessee Titans:  The Titans reportedly are expected to use the tag on tight end Jared Cook, absent a multi-year deal.  Kicker Rob Bironas also is a possibility, but he had a cap number of $3.675 million in 2012.  Which means that the tag would cost the Titans $4.41 million in 2013, $1.5 million more than the base tag for kickers and punters.

Washington Redskins:  With $18 million in missing cap space, the Redskins can’t afford to use the tag.  Especially since tagging tight end Fred Davis again would bump his 2012 tender by 20 percent — a year after he suffered a torn Achilles tendon.  Punter Sav Rocca is a slim possibility, but even the $2.9 million will be more than the Redskins can justify with their cap situation.

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Raiders rule out RB Latavius Murray

Latavius Murray AP

A concussion will keep one of the Raiders’ promising young offensive players out of the lineup Sunday at St. Louis.

The Raiders have officially ruled out second-year tailback Latavius Murray, who did not practice Friday after putting in limited workouts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Murray played a major role in the Raiders’ 24-20 Week 12 win vs. Kansas City, tallying a pair of touchdowns. However, he left the lineup after racking up 112 yards on just four carries, and he is not yet ready to return for Oakland (1-10).

With Murray out, veteran Darren McFadden could be the Raiders’ primary tailback against the Rams, with Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcel Reece in reserve.

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Seahawks awarded Loucheiz Purifoy on waivers

Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The Seahawks have added some secondary and special teams depth.

Seattle has been awarded rookie cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy on waivers, the club announced Friday. The Colts had parted ways with the 21-year-old Purifoy on Thursday.

A Florida product, Purifoy (5-11, 188) appeared in all 11 regular season games for Indianapolis, notching five tackles (two solo) on special teams. His addition gives the Seahawks six cornerbacks.

With Purifoy arriving, the Seahawks placed rookie linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) on injured reserve. Pierre-Louis notched 13 tackles in seven games. He had missed the last two contests for Seattle (8-4).

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Baalke apologizes to Roman for daughter’s tweet

Baalke Getty Images

After the 49ers lost to the Seahawks on Thursday night, the daughter of 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke posted on Twitter with the following statement directed at 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman: “The 49ers don’t want you no more.”

Now Baalke has apologized.

“My daughter and I both regret that her feelings got the best of her after last night’s game and that she chose social media as an avenue to express her feelings. We have apologized to Greg for this unfortunate matter. While disappointed, as a father I will use this as a teachable moment to help my daughter grow,” Baalke said in a statement.

Baalke can apologize, but he can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. And whether he likes it or not, Baalke’s daughter’s tweet strongly suggests what she has heard negative things about Roman from her father. Which is one more piece of evidence that there’s a rift in San Francisco between Baalke and those loyal to him, and Jim Harbaugh and those loyal to him. Harbaugh and Roman are close, and have been since before Harbaugh was the coach of the 49ers — Roman was also Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator at Stanford, and Harbaugh brought him along when he took the 49ers job.

Harbaugh may very well take Roman along when he takes another job. Perhaps as soon as a month from now, when the 49ers’ season comes to an end, and Harbaugh and Baalke can go their separate ways.

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Dolphins bring back Don Jones

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Dolphins are reuniting with one of their picks in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Miami has been awarded safety Don Jones on waivers from New England, the claiming club said Friday.

In a corresponding roster move, the Dolphins waived first-year cornerback Lowell Rose.

The Dolphins waived the 24-year-old Jones after the preseason, and the Patriots claimed him the next day. In nine games with New England, Jones was credited with eight special teams tackles, according to club statistics.

The Dolphins selected Jones in the seventh round in 2013. The Arkansas State product has appeared in 25 regular season games, including 16 with Miami as a rookie.

The Dolphins and Patriots meet on December 14 in Foxborough. The Dolphins won the first matchup between the clubs in Week One.

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Ginsberg takes aim at Goodell

Goodell AP

In recent years, lawyer Peter Ginsberg has become a major agitator as it relates to the NFL’s ability to impose discipline against players.  From the StarCaps case to the Saints bounty scandal to the Ray Rice case, Ginsberg has become a fairly large thorn in the NFL’s legal underbelly.

In the wake of the ruling overturning Rice’s indefinite suspension, Ginsberg issued a statement that takes aim at Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“On the heels of Bountygate, Commissioner Roger Goodell has shown once again that he does not follow the rules in his treatment of players and that his judgment cannot be trusted” Ginsberg said.  “Under his leadership, the NFL ignored for years the need to create a stronger and more constructive program to address domestic abuse. As we all know, the Rice incident is not an isolated one.  It was only in the face of a public outcry, however, that the NFL finally took a step in the right direction with its new domestic violence policy.

“But rather than admitting he had been ignoring the domestic violence issue for years, and had failed to subject past violators to real scrutiny, Commissioner Goodell turned his own failings on Ray by punishing him a second time for an offense about which Commissioner Goodell had been fully and completely aware when he imposed the original suspension.  That action threatened to end Ray’s career.  And in so doing, Commissioner Goodell ignored the basic principle that every worker must be treated in a manner consistent with past punishments and in accordance with published procedures.

“Second punishments for the same conduct are unprecedented and not permitted as a matter of basic and fundamental principle. Perhaps now, finally, NFL owners will give real thought to whether the ‘NFL shield’ should tolerate a leader who fails to lead in important areas like domestic violence and who time and again ignores the League’s workers’ due process rights and the right to be treated with fundamental fairness. There are many lessons to be learned from this unfortunate event – Ray is well on his way to learning his from this awful event.  Time will tell whether the NFL and NFL owners are learning theirs as well.”

It’s unclear whether the Rice ruling will trigger specific action by NFL ownership.  However, the decision sets the stage for a potentially scathing report from former FBI director Robert Mueller, whose analysis could end up wreaking real havoc at 345 Park Avenue.

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Lance Briggs goes to IR, and his days in Chicago may be over

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs is done for the season. And perhaps done for Chicago.

Briggs, the veteran who has spent his entire 12-year career with the Bears and been chosen to seven Pro Bowls, was placed on injured reserve today. That means the groin injury that has hampered him this season will now end his season.

It may also end his tenure with the Bears. There was already talk in Chicago that he wasn’t always seeing eye to eye with coach Marc Trestman and his staff, and at age 34 Briggs is not the same player he once was. Briggs, who is in the final year of his contract, acknowledged early this month that he’s probably not long for Chicago.

“I know the reality of it and I’m proud of all the years I’ve had here. It’s been great. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation,” Briggs said.

Now it’s time for Chicago to say goodbye to Briggs.

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Week 13 injury report roundup

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week 13 of the 2014 season.

Chargers at Ravens

The Chargers should have running back Ryan Mathews (shoulder, probable), but defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) is out and linebacker Andrew Gachkar (knee) is doubtful after missing practice all week. Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) is questionable after missing the last three games. Linebackers Pernell McPhee (elbow) and Terrell Suggs (foot) are both probable.

Browns at Bills

Linebacker Karlos Dansby (knee) will miss another game for the Browns, who are hopeful that tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion, questionable) can play for the first time since Week Eight. Wide receiver Marlon Moore (hamstring) and safety Tashaun Gipson (knee) are also out, while defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (back) and linebacker Jabaal Sheard (foot) are questionable. Defensive end Jarius Wynn (knee), safety Bacarri Rambo (hamstring), tight end Chris Gregg (knee) are out for Buffalo, which brings an otherwise healthy group into Sunday.

Titans at Texans

Titans linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (hamstring) is out. Four players — tackles Taylor Lewan (ankle) and Michael Oher (toe), safety Michael Griffin (shoulder) and defensive back Marqueston Huff (hamstring) — are questionable. The Texans expect running back Arian Foster (groin) back in the lineup, but linebacker Jadeveon Clowney will miss another game with lingering knee pain resulting from his torn meniscus earlier in the season. Linebacker Akeem Dent (neck) is questionable.

Redskins at Colts

Washington brings a slew of questionable players with them to Indianapolis. Tackle Trent Williams (knee,ankle), tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring), defensive end Jason Hatcher (knee), safety Ryan Clark (stinger) and cornerback E.J. Biggers (concussion) are the notable members of that group. Colts tight end Dwayne Allen (ankle) is out again this week and he’ll be joined on the sideline by guard Hugh Thornton (knee), linebacker Andy Studebaker (hamstring) and tackle Xavier Nixon (foot). Cornerback Darius Butler (knee) is questionable after popping up on the injury report on Thursday.

Giants at Jaguars

Offensive lineman Adam Snyder (knee), defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion/shoulder) are all out for the Giants. Right tackle Justin Pugh (quad) and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (knee) are questionable. Linebackers LaRoy Reynolds (neck) and Jeremiah George (hamstring) are questionable for the Jags and defensive end Andre Branch (groin, probable) is on track to return.

Panthers at Vikings

The Panthers listed Amini Silatolu (knee) as doubtful, but they’ve already announced Mike Remmers will get the start at right tackle. On the defensive line, Star Lotulelei (ankle) is doubtful and defensive end Charles Johnson (illness) is questionable. The Vikings listed running back Jerick McKinnon (back) as doubtful, but McKinnon ruled himself out on Friday. Tight end Chase Ford (hamstring, foot) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) are questionable.

Saints at Steelers

The Saints ruled out linebacker Kyle Knox (hand) and running back Khiry Robinson (forearm). Cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee) is probable for the reunion with his previous team. Safety Troy Polamalu (knee) and cornerback Ike Taylor (arm) are probable to return to the lineup for Pittsburgh, although linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee) is less certain to return after being listed as questionable. Cornerback Cortez Allen (thumb) and defensive tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) are both out this week.

Raiders at Rams

There were some encouraging signs earlier in the week, but the Raiders have ruled out running back Latavius Murray (concussion). Safety Jonathan Dowling (back), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee) and cornerback Neiko Thorpe (hand) have also been ruled out and guard Gabe Jackson (knee) is questionable. Rams cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle), while defensive tackle Alex Carrington (thigh) and safety Lamarcus Joyner (groin) are both questionable. The Rams have not activated defensive end Chris Long (ankle) from injured reserve and will make a call on his status this weekend.

Bengals at Buccaneers

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee) will spend another week on the bench for the Bengals. Defensive end Margus Hunt (knee) is also out and linebacker Nico Johnson (illness) is questionable. So are Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (hamstring), center Evan Dietrich-Smith (illness), defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (hamstring), tight end Brandon Myers (calf), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back), tight end Luke Stocker (concussion) and safety Major Wright (shoulder).

Cardinals at Falcons

It’s a game-time decision for Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee,questionable). Linebacker Kenny Demens (hamstring) and defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) are out. Defensive tackle Paul Soliai (not injury related) and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle) are both questionable for the Falcons, who won’t have cornerback Robert Alford (wrist) this week.

Patriots at Packers

The Patriots listed long snapper Danny Aiken (concussion), guard Dan Connolly (ankle), defensive end Dominique Easley (knee), tackle Cameron Fleming (ankle, finger), defensive end Chandler Jones (hip), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (shoulder), running back Shane Vereen (ankle) and linebacker Chris White (ankle) as questionable. No reason to worry about Tom Brady (ankle), though: He’s probable. Cornerback Jarrett Bush (groin, questionable) and linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder, questionable) are the only injury concerns for the Packers.

Broncos at Chiefs

Cornerback Aqib Talib (hamstring) and tight end Julius Thomas (ankle) are questionable after doing limited practice work this week. Running backs Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) will miss another week and cornerback Kayvon Webster (shoulder) joins them on the sideline. The Chiefs won’t have wide receiver Junior Hemingway (concussion), but Donnie Avery (sports hernia surgery, probable) should be back after a long absence from the lineup. Cornerback Christopher Owens (knee, abdomen) and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (calf) are both questionable.

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Lardarius Webb fined $16,537 for horse-collar tackle

Joe Morgan, Lardarius Webb AP

On the second play of Monday night’s Ravens win over the Saints, Baltimore cornerback Lardarius Webb saved a touchdown by dragging Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan down on the 2-yard-line with a horse-collar tackle.

The play was flagged as a personal foul and Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that Webb has been fined $16,537 by the NFL for the infraction. It’s a tidy sum of money, but well spent from the Ravens’ perspective.

The Ravens Defense was able to stop the Saints on four straight plays after Webb’s tackle stopped Morgan after a 67-yard run on an end around. The Ravens drove for a touchdown on the ensuing possession, putting them up seven points on the way to a 34-27 victory.

Wilson also reports that neither Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith nor Saints safety Kenny Vacarro were fined for an altercation that saw Vacarro penalized during the game. Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata also avoided a fine for a roughing the passer penalty.

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Ray Rice thanks judge, apologizes to his wife

Ray Rice, Janay Palmer

The NFLPA has every reason to gloat, for what is clearly a big win for the union with the reinstatement of former Ravens running back Ray Rice.

Rice, on the other hand, needs to show a bit more contrition since this whole deal began with him punching his wife in the face.

In a statement sent out by the union, Rice again expressed remorse for assaulting his wife Janay.

“I would like to thank Judge Barbara Jones, the NFL Players Association, my attorneys, agents, advisors, family, friends and fans — but most importantly, my wife Janay,” Rice said. “I made an inexcusable mistake and accept full responsibility for my actions. I am thankful that there was a proper appeals process in place to address this issue.

“I will continue working hard to improve myself and be the best husband, father and friend, while giving back to my community and helping others to learn from my mistakes.”

Whether he plays another down of football, fixing that relationship will be his biggest priority.

Rice said previously that at some point he hoped to be able to become an advocate in the fight against violence toward women.

Today clearly puts him a step closer to that, but only time will tell if his actions match his words.

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NFLPA hopes Rice decision helps “fix a broken process”

Super Bowl XLVIII NFLPA Press Conference Getty Images

Let the gloating begin.

In the wake of Judge Barbara Jones reinstating former Ravens running back Ray Rice, the players union has responded to what it views as a big win.

“This decision is a victory for a disciplinary process that is fair and transparent,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “This union will always stand up and fight for the due process rights of our players. While we take no pleasure in seeing a decision that confirms what we have been saying about the Commissioner’s office acting arbitrarily, we hope that this will bring the NFL owners to the collective bargaining table to fix a broken process.

“It is clear that this decision should force the NFL to embrace neutral arbitration as part of a necessary due process in all cases. The players thank Judge Barbara Jones for her time and thoroughness in this matter.”

While the players had the opportunity to bargain collectively for changes to this system previously, it’s clear that it will be a big issue next time they negotiate, and they’ll use this as evidence that Goodell has too much power.

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Janay Rice: My apology followed the Ravens’ suggested script

Ray Rice, Janay Rice AP

One of the many ugly elements of the Ray Rice domestic violence case was the way the victim, Janay Rice, was treated in some quarters like she deserved blame for the incident. That was exemplified by a press conference hosted by the Ravens in which Janay apologized for her role in the attack, an apology that was promptly trumpeted by the Ravens on Twitter.

The Ravens’ tweet, reading, “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident,” became a symbol of the tone deaf way the Ravens and the NFL handled the Rice case in particular and domestic violence generally. Now Janay Rice has come forward to say it was the Ravens who scripted the apology in the first place.

Janay Rice and ESPN’s Jemele Hill have collaborated on a first-person account of Janay’s perspective of everything that has transpired since the night Ray assaulted her. In that first-person account, Rice says that the Ravens didn’t make her say anything she didn’t believe, but the Ravens did suggest a script, and that when she was apologizing for her role, she was following the Ravens’ suggestion.

“When it was my turn to speak, I said I regretted my role in the incident,” Janay Rice says. “I know some people disagreed with me publicly apologizing. I’m not saying that what Ray did wasn’t wrong. He and I both know it was wrong. It’s been made clear to him that it was wrong. But at the same time, who am I to put my hands on somebody? I had already apologized to Ray, and I felt that I should take responsibility for what I did. Even though this followed the Ravens’ suggested script, I owned my words.”

Janay Rice also said the press conference was something the Ravens wanted, although she also was glad that people could get an image of her other than the only one they had, which was that of her being dragged out of an elevator by Ray.

“The Ravens just said it was something that they felt we should do,” Janay Rice says of the press conference.

That doesn’t speak well of the Ravens. If Janay Rice wanted to speak about this case, she should have been made to feel free to do so in whatever setting she wished. She should not have been pressured by the Ravens to give a press conference at their headquarters, in which they suggested the script.

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Tom Brady is probable for Green Bay, because he always was

Tom Brady AP

Sometimes it seems like the Patriots only bother monkeying around with the injury report for big games.

So naturally, with the Packers this weekend, something has to be wrong with Tom Brady.

The venerable quarterback is listed as probable for Sunday’s trip to Green Bay with an ankle injury, which means of course he’s playing.

The rest of the Patriots injury reports lists defensive lineman Chandler Jones as questionable, along with running back Shane Vereen, wide receiver Brandon LaFell and guard Dan Connolly.

It’s hard to gauge on Jones, who has missed a month with a hip injury, and was considered borderline for this game. So making him 50-50 on the report is about as much intrigue as we’ll actually have.

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Potential landing spots hard to find for Ray Rice in 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Judge Barbara Jones has reinstated former Ravens running back Ray Rice from his indefinite suspension after finding that Rice did not mislead the NFL about striking Janay Palmer Rice and knocking her unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator earlier this year.

The ruling frees Rice to sign with any team to continue his playing career, but a return this year doesn’t look particularly promising. In addition to the sizable baggage Rice carries as a result of hitting his now-wife, Rice is coming off a season that saw him run for 3.1 yards per carry and he would be coming in cold to a new team with little time left in the regular season.

In looking at potential landing spots, we’re eliminating teams out of playoff contention since the benefits of adding Rice wouldn’t make much of a difference to them this season when compared to the negative attention such a move would likely create. Among teams with active playoff hopes, one team jumps immediately to mind but, as if to illustrate the difficulties Rice faces getting work this year, they are reportedly uninterested in Rice’s services.

Colts: The Colts lost Ahmad Bradshaw for the season, leaving them with the underwhelming combo of Trent Richardson and Dan Herron at tailback. Rice could give them some of what they lost in the passing game with Bradshaw gone and he knows Colts coach Chuck Pagano from Indianapolis, but, as mentioned, there have already been reports that the Colts are not interested in pursuing Rice.

Cardinals: Arizona currently ranks 31st in the league in rushing yards per game and they signed Michael Bush off the street this week, so they are looking for help alongside Andre Ellington in the backfield. Bush wasn’t any more productive than Rice last season, but he does look like a better fit as a more power-oriented back since Ellington has been fairly effective catching passes out of the backfield.

Falcons: The Falcons haven’t been much better on the ground than the Cardinals, but their issues on the offensive line make it hard to believe that Rice would be able to do much more than Steven Jackson, Devonta Freeman and Jacquizz Rodgers offer the team.

Lions: In the event that Reggie Bush’s ankle injury continues to keep him on the sidelines, the Lions could be in the market for backfield help. There’s no sign that’s the case at this point, however, and Joique Bell and Theo Riddick were effective on Thanksgiving.

Broncos: Continuing along the theme of teams dealing with injuries, the Broncos are waiting to get Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball back in the lineup. Their offense isn’t an easy one to pick up, though, and C.J. Anderson appears to have it down pat, which doesn’t leave much reason to go down the Rice road.

Chargers: The Chargers rank near the Cardinals and Falcons and were once victimized by a Rice catch-and-run on 4th-and-29, so they saw first-hand what he can do with the ball in his hands. They also just got Ryan Mathews back from injury and they have run for 270 yards in the last two weeks, leaving them much less likely to be in the market for backfield help.

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Rice had second video, and NFL never asked for it

Rice

It’s taken nearly three months, but finally a conclusive answer has been provided to one of the most basic questions in the Ray Rice case:  Could the NFL have gotten the elevator video from Rice himself?

Answer:  Yes.

In her 17-page ruling announcing the reversal of Rice’s indefinite suspension, former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones concludes that Rice had obtained the video from the prosecution as part of the discovery process in his criminal case, and that the NFL (which supposedly was doing everything in its power to get the video) didn’t ask Rice for a copy of the video.

From page four of the written decision, “Rice had received this video in discovery during his criminal case, but the NFL never asked Rice for the second video.”

That’s a point that was first raised in this space on August 4, more than a month before the second video was released.  At a time when everyone assumed that the NFL had seen the video of the strike that knocked Janay Palmer Rice out, Jay Glazer of FOX said on The Dan Patrick Show that the NFL hadn’t seen the video.  Alarmed by that disclosure, I determined the NFL hadn’t seen the video, but that it could have gotten the video easily.

The topic was revisited on September 8, after the video emerged, the Ravens cut Rice, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.  But the league had never publicly addressed whether it asked Rice for the video.

Privately, some have pointed to a strong likelihood that Rice’s lawyer wouldn’t have allowed him to produce the tape.  Those concerns appear nowhere within Judge Jones’ ruling, and for good reason.  Rice, as the client, owns the contents of the lawyer’s file.  Rice, as the client, has the power to tell the lawyer what will and won’t be shared with, for example, Rice’s employer.

Regardless of why the NFL didn’t ask for the video, the truth is that:  (1) Rice had it; and (2) the NFL never said the magic words.

That simple failure by the NFL makes everything else regarding the case irrelevant.  Either the league office didn’t want to see the video or it failed to exercise any degree of reasonable diligence in attempting to get it.  Regardless of the explanation, it’s not the kind of outcome that the stakeholders in professional football should expect, or tolerate.

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Jordan Cameron practices again Friday, listed as questionable

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

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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