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Sebastian Vollmer recently had knee surgery

AFC Champiohship Football AP

When Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer hits the free agent market (or not) next month, he’ll be doing so on a surgically repaired knee.

According to Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald, Vollmer recently had an arthroscopic procedure. He played through back and knee problems last year but only missed one game.

With the degree of the surgery unknown, it’s unclear how it will impact the Patriots’ plans to negotiate with Vollmer.

A one-year franchise tag worth $9.6 million is a steep price, unless they’re confident his health issues aren’t an issue.

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Andrew Luck exits injury report

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 30:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts reacts on the sideline during the second quarter of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts will have quarterback Andrew Luck on Monday night.

Luck doesn’t appear on the final injury report in advance of the game against the Jets, which means that he has been cleared to play, 12 days after landing in the concussion protocol following a win over the Titans.

The franchise quarterback missed Indy’s Thanksgiving night visit from the Steelers, which the Colts lost to fall to 5-6.

Out for the Colts are safety Clayton Geathers (neck), linebacker Robert Mathis (bicep), and cornerback Patrick Robinson (groin).

Questionable for the game are tackle Denzelle Good (shoulder), receiver T.Y. Hilton (back), and defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway (back). Hilton took a hard hit to the lower back from Steelers safety Mike Mitchell in the Week 12 loss.

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Packers scratch T.J. Lang, JC Tretter

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 13:   JC Tretter #73 of the Green Bay Packers gets in position at the line of scrimmage against the Dallas Cowboys in the second quarter at Lambeau Field on December 13, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The good news for the Packers is that quarterback Aaron Rodgers remains on track to play, despite a hamstring injury suffered on Monday night. The bad news for the Packers is that Rodgers won’t have 40 percent of his offensive line.

The Packers have downgraded center JC Tretter and guard T.J. Lang to out for Sunday’s game against the Texans. Tretter has a knee injury, and Lang has a foot injury. Both had been listed as doubtful.

The Packers also added cornerback Damarious Randall to the injury report with a groin injury. He’s questionable for the matchup with the Texans.

Despite being two games behind the 7-4 Lions, the 5-6 Packers have the inside track to the division title. If they pick up one game over the next four weeks (and the Lions play at New Orleans, at the Giants, and at Dallas), the Week 17 game between the Lions and Packers becomes a playoff play-in game.

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Jadeveon Clowney ruled out at Green Bay

Jadeveon Clowney AP

During his first two NFL seasons, Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney missed 15 games with injuries and fell short of expectations. But this year, Cloweny has stayed healthy and become the difference-maker on defense the Texans hoped he’d be.

Unfortunately, now Clowney is hurt again.

The Texans announced today that Clowney’s elbow and wrist injuries are serious enough that he will not travel with the team to Green Bay for tomorrow’s big game against the Packers.

Without Clowney to pressure Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ offense should benefit. And beating the Packers will get that much harder for the Texans.

Tomorrow’s game has playoff implications for both teams. The 6-5 Texans have a half-game lead in the AFC south, while the 5-6 Packers are two games back in the NFC North.

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Charles Clay not on team flight as he awaits birth of child

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 06:  Charles Clay #85 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball against the Houston Texans during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills tight end Charles Clay did not travel with the team to Oakland because he’s expecting the birth of his child soon.

The Bills said Saturday that Clay’s status for Sunday’s game vs. the Raiders is questionable.

Clay has started all 11 games for the Bills. He’s caught 36 passes for 323 yards.

With Clay’s status uncertain, the Bills promoted tight end Gerald Christian from the practice squad and waived kickoff specialist Jordan Gay.

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Reggie Bush will wear cleats that honor Joe McKnight on Sunday

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When Joe McKnight was arriving at USC as the Parade national high school football player of the year, he was often compared to another great USC running back, Reggie Bush. On Sunday, Bush will honor McKnight, three days after McKnight was shot and killed in a road rage incident in New Orleans.

Bush announced on Twitter today that he will wear cleats that honor McKnight when Bush’s Bills play the Raiders in Oakland tomorrow. The shoes will be in USC’s cardinal and gold colors and will feature a picture of McKnight, his name, and his dates of birth and death.

McKnight chose USC in part because he idolized Bush, and Bush wrote on Twitter after McKnight’s death that he was angry to see a promising young life cut short.

“RIP my brother Joe McKnight this one hurts bad,” Bush wrote. “He didn’t deserve to die that way! And then this man stands over him and shoots him again like some kind of wild animal! Sickening. Pulling a gun out to kill someone doesn’t make you tough. At what point did we just lose our ability to handle differences like men and talk out our problems! What happened to that?”

Players are usually not allowed to put personal messages on their uniforms, but the NFL is allowing all players to wear customized cleats this week to recognize causes they care about.

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Alan Branch avoids four-game suspension

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01:   Alan Branch #97 of the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots won’t have to worry about losing defensive tackle Alan Branch for four games. At least not this time.

Branch’s agent, Blake Baratz, declared on Twitter that Branch’s suspension was “rescinded.”

“The NFL doesn’t always do the right thing, but they did this time,” Baratz said.

Baratz’s tweet suggests the NFL backed down short of a final decision on appeal. However, ESPN’s Field Yates has reported that Branch actually won his appeal.

Starting in 2014, most cases under the substance-abuse policy became eligible for neutral arbitration. So if Branch actually won his appeal, the NFL didn’t do anything — other than agree to neutral arbitration more than two years ago.

Because the NFL uses progressive discipline in the substance-abuse policy, the outcome doesn’t mean Branch will never be suspended. Depending on his current status in the program and the potential consequences of a failed test or a missed test, Branch could be one strike away from an absence.

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Jeremy Maclin out at Atlanta

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 23: Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin #19 of the Kansas City Chiefs walks on to the playing field to start an offensive series against the New Orleans Saints at Arrowhead Stadium during the second quarter of the game on October 23, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jason Hanna/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Chiefs will continue to have a big absence on their offense during tomorrow’s big game in Atlanta.

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin will miss tomorrow’s game against the Falcons, the Chiefs announced today. Maclin has previously been listed as questionable but is not making the trip to Atlanta with the team.

There had been optimism coming out of Kansas City after Maclin was back on the practice field this week. But he’ll need another week to recover from a groin injury.

After back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons the last two years, Maclin has just 376 yards in this injury-plagued year.

The Chiefs also announced that cornerback Phillip Gaines has a knee injury and is questionable.

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Saturday one-liners

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A Cleveland weatherman won’t shave until the Browns win.

Bengals LB Karlos Dansby wore an Alabama T-shirt after his college team, Auburn, lost to the Tide.

Ravens KR/PR Devin Hester is getting healthier, which means it could be just a matter of time before he gets his 35th career return touchdown.

Steelers WR Antonio Brown wants to be known as “Ronald,” for some reason.

The Bills plan to make Oakland receivers work for their catches on Sunday.

The Dolphins may be relying a lot on their young receivers at Baltimore.

TE Rob Gronkowski is gone, but FB Glenn Gronkowski is back with the Patriots, for his fourth stint on the practice squad.

Jets QB Christian Hackenberg is content to watch and wait, at least for now.

 

The Texans practiced in the rain in order to prepare for their game at Green Bay.

Colts P Pat McAfee hosted his sixth annual Holiday for Heroes event on Friday.

For the Jaguars, it’s five weeks of playing spoiler.

Titans OT Taylor Lewan keeps a stuffed beaver in the locker room. (His name is Steve, and he wears a hat.)

Cut three times by Jacksonville, Broncos LB Brandon Marshall looks forward to showing them how far he has come.

For plenty of Chiefs, Sunday’s game at Atlanta is a homecoming.

The jerseys of Raiders QB Derek Carr and DE Khalil Mack are selling like proverbial hotcakes.

CB Casey Hayward has impressed the Chargers with his study habits.

After three wins in 12 days, the Cowboys now have 10 days to get ready to play the only team that has beaten them.

Giants WR Victor Cruz relishes playing meaningful December football for the first time in a long time.

Washington QB Kirk Cousins is the face of Virginia’s effort against distracted driving.

Eagles RB Wendell Smallwood says he stopped feeling like a rookie in Week Three.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer addressed his team on Thursday morning, even though he wasn’t able to coach them on Thursday night.

Bears WR Josh Bellamy is trying to move on from his drop of a potential game-winning touchdown pass against Tennessee.

Lions P Sam Martin has a net average of 45.4 yards through 11 games — a whopping 1.2 more than the all-time record.

With the season on the line, the Packers are giving first-season players less playing time.

Falcons assistant G.M. Scott Pioli shared inside information about the Kansas City team he helped build with Falcons coach Dan Quinn.

Buccaneers P Bryan Anger is happy to have a low profile.

Saints DT Nick Fairley looks forward to facing the team that drafted him.

Playing in Seattle won’t make things any easier for the Panthers’ offensive line.

Rams RB Todd Gurley, who played at Georgia, had to wear Georgia Tech gear after his Bulldogs got ramblin’ wrecked.

For 49ers WR Torrey Smith, the “go” routes are long gone.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians calls 2016 a lost season for Tyrann Mathieu (which means that he won big by getting his second contract when he did).

The Seahawks will place no restrictions on RB Thomas Rawls on Sunday night.

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Vikings may drive Mike Zimmer to next game . . . in Florida

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It would be the most significant car ride since Brad Childress picked up Brett Favre at the airport, if it happens. And it could.

If coach Mike Zimmer can’t fly for the Week 14 game, the Vikings may drive him. To Jacksonville.

That’s a 1,472-mile drive. At an average speed of 65 miles per hour, it’s a 22-hour trip.

Flying could be a problem due to the pressure on Zimmer’s surgically repaired eye. If so, driving becomes the option for getting Zimmer to the game.

And the 22-hour trip to Florida would also entail a 22-hour trip back to Minnesota, which would limit his availability to the team both in preparation for the Jaguars game and in preparation for the Week 15 home game against the Colts.

Why would Zimmer do it? Apart from the fact that he’s as committed as any coach to his craft, the Vikings aren’t dead, yet. If they run the table (which would include a win over the Packers in Green Bay) and if the Lions lose three of their final five games (they play at New Orleans, at the Giants, and at Dallas), Minnesota would win the division.

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With Boswell injured, Steelers add a kicker

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 27: Randy Bullock #4 of the Houston Texans misses a filed goal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second quarter on September 27, 2015 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Steelers made an emergency kicker move Saturday morning, signing Randy Bullock.

The Steelers added kicker Chris Boswell to their injury report as questionable with an abdominal injury on Saturday. Though the move would indicate that Boswell will miss Sunday’s game with the Giants, the team doesn’t have to decide until 90 minutes before kickoff.

Bullock kicked for the Giants in the season opener and has been on the workout circuit since looking for an opportunity. He kicked for the Texans from 2013 until being released last season, then kicked in eight games for the Jets last season. He made 14-of-17 field goal tries for the Jets.

He kicked in one game for the Texans at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, which has been one of the league’s toughest stadiums for kicking conditions.

Boswell is in his second season kicking for the Steelers. He’s been perfect on extra-point kicks and is 12-of-16 on field goals this season.

Cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz was released to create a roster spot for Bullock.

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Steelers add kicker to injury report

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 29:  Kicker Chris Boswell #9 of the Pittsburgh Steelers kicks a field goal against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on November 29, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Steelers have added kicker Chris Boswell to their injury report as questionable with an abdominal injury.

Though the Steelers don’t need to decide on Boswell’s status for Sunday’s game vs. the Giants until 90 minutes prior to kickoff, if the Steelers need to add a kicker to their roster they have until 4 p.m. Saturday to make such a move.

Boswell is in his second season kicking for the Steelers. He’s been perfect on extra-point kicks and is 12-of-16 on field goals this season.

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Jarran Reed denies spitting on Joe Hawley

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Defensive tackle Jarran Reed #90 of the Seattle Seahawks during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals and Seahawks tied 6-6.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bucs center Joe Hawleythinks” Seahawks defensive lineman Jarran Reed spat in Hawley’s face last Sunday. Reed denies that he supplied any saliva.

“First of all, we play in between the lines,” Reed said, via Curtis Crabtree of KJR (and PFT). “You can go back and watch the film. You will see that. If he thinks he’s a clean player, then I don’t know what he’s seeing. But as far as the allegation of me spitting in his face, that’s not true at all. I mean, show me the play, show me where I did it, then you can say something. Other than that, I just think it’s funny.”

There’s not much that’s funny about Reed’s attitude toward the Buccaneers or fans that have been criticizing him on anti-social media for spitting.

“I definitely saw it earlier on my Twitter account,” Reed said. “I guess the Buccaneers nation is pretty pissed. But I really don’t care. I don’t care for him or their organization or about the comments he made. That’s really it. They can keep talking about it all they want to.”

As Crabtree notes, Hawley became irate at Reed after the first play of the fourth quarter. But the TV broadcast of the game was not focused on the two men before it became clear Hawley was upset. So why was Hawley mad, Jarran?

“I mean, I don’t know, I guess because he couldn’t block a rookie the way he wanted to,” Reed said. “So I’d be pretty pissed too. I guess you need to do a better job. . . .

“Nobody said nothing after the game. It was all cordial. Nobody was mad or anything. Now all of the sudden . . . I thought we were all grown men. I think it’s pretty funny. He sounds like a 14-year old girl running to everybody, ‘Oh, he spit in my face’ and all that. Anyways, next.”

“Next” is probably the most accurate assessment, from the league’s perspective. If the NFL would be punishing Reed for the incident, it would have happened before Friday. It’s unknown whether the Buccaneers specifically complained to the league office about it.

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Man who killed Joe McKnight previously cited for battery at same intersection

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 23:  Joe McKnight #30 of the Kansas City Chiefs is tackled after making a catch by Audie Cole #57 of the Minnesota Vikings  at Arrowhead Stadium on August 23, 2014 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The man who shot and killed former NFL player Joe McKnight over an apparent traffic incident had previously been cited for battery over a confrontation at the very same intersection where he killed McKnight.

The New Orleans Advocate reports that Ronald Gasser, who admits he shot and killed McKnight on Thursday, was issued a misdemeanor summons for simple battery in 2006, after another motorist called 911 and reported that Gasser had followed him to a gas station and punched him over a traffic dispute. That dispute took place at Holmes Boulevard and Behrman Highway in the New Orleans suburb of Terrytown, the very same intersection where Gasser shot McKnight.

In the 2006 incident, police say the victim had first called a phone number on a pickup truck to report that the truck was being driven unsafely. It turned out that Gasser was the one driving the truck, and the phone number listed on the truck was Gasser’s cell phone. Gasser answered the call for unsafe driving, berated the caller, figured out which nearby car the call was coming from, and followed the man.

Gasser’s misdemeanor battery summons was later dismissed for reasons that the Sheriff’s Office now says are unclear.

After Gasser killed McKnight on Thursday, he stayed at the scene, acknowledged to police that he had committed the shooting, and gave officers the gun. Although Gasser was initially brought to a police station, he was released without charges. Gasser claims he shot McKnight in self defense, and Louisiana law allows people to shoot to kill if they believe they are being threatened.

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Mark Helfrich talked to Chip Kelly about an Oregon return

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03:  Head coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks participates in a post-game press conference after they defeated the Kansas State Wildcats 35 to 17 in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 3, 2013 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

After Oregon fired coach Mark Helfrich, 49ers coach Chip Kelly insisted he’s not interested in returning to the place where he had his greatest coaching success. But the topic has been discussed.

Helfrich himself said on ESPN Radio that he talked to Kelly about the possibility that Kelly would take his place. Helfrich wanted Kelly to know there would be no hard feelings if Kelly decided to return, and in fact Helfrich said he hopes Kelly does succeed him because Kelly would be more likely to keep some of his assistants in place than a new coach who would clean house.

However, Helfrich said he thinks Kelly is committed to remaining coach of the 49ers.

“I think he wants to make it right in the NFL. I think he wants to win at that level. He’s had a rough go of it this year, but he’ll make it right,” Helfrich said of Kelly.

All indications are that Kelly prefers coaching in the NFL to coaching in college, in large part because Kelly dislikes recruiting. The question, however, is whether Kelly may soon find himself unable to land an NFL job. After getting fired in Philadelphia last year, he’s 1-10 in San Francisco this year. If he gets fired by the 49ers, he might return to college because he has no job available to him in the NFL. But it sounds like it would have to reach that point before Kelly would consider leaving the pros.

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Jerry Jones expects La’el Collins to be back this year

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys passes while teammate offensive guard La'el Collins #71 blocks against the Washington Redskins in the first quarter at FedExField on September 18, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys’ already good offensive line may soon get better.

La’el Collins, who has been out since Week Three with a foot injury, is expected to return soon. Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 The Fan that the Cowboys plan to use their return designation on Collins, allowing him to be the one player on injured reserve to come back and play this year.

What remains to be seen is whether Collins returns to the starting lineup. Although he was the starting left guard before he got hurt, Ron Leary has played so well in Collins’ absence that Leary may keep the starting job.

“So that gives us depth going into the playoffs. We’ve got the quarterbacks. We’ve got our offensive line,” Jones said. “This thing looks good.”

The Cowboys look very good, and a good player getting back on the field will only make them look better.

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