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Alex Smith trade not done ’til it’s done

Yogi Getty Images

With apologies to Yogi Berra, no NFL trade is done until it’s actually done.

In the case of the trade that will send quarterback Alex Smith from San Francisco to Kansas City, the deal won’t be done until it’s done.  And it can’t be done until March 12 at 4:00 p.m. ET.

“No trade is official until the league office receives notification from both clubs,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora told PFT via email.   “That cannot happen until the trading period begins at the start of the league year.”

Thus, in theory, either team could renege on the deal.  The Chiefs could get cold feet.  The Niners could get a better deal.

While possible, it’s not likely.  A failed trade would create very hard feelings between the franchises and the coaches.

That said, a glitch isn’t unprecedented.  Two years ago, the Bears failed to call in a trade with the Ravens during the first round of the draft, the trade didn’t go through, the Ravens weren’t happy, but there was nothing the league could do because a trade isn’t done until each team calls it in.

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Latavius Murray practicing after last week’s concussion

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Raiders running back Latavius Murray had an eventful Thursday night against the Chiefs.

Murray saw his profile grow exponentially when he scored on 11- and 90-yard touchdown runs in the first half of the Raiders’ nationally televised first win of the 2014 season. Just as a wider group of people were getting to know who Murray was, things took a negative turn when Murray was forced out of the game with a concussion.

Sunday’s game against the Rams won’t have quite as big a viewing audience, but it looks like there’s a good chance that they’ll see Murray. According to multiple reports from Oakland, Murray was on the field and taking part in the team’s first practice of the week. That doesn’t mean he’s cleared to play Sunday, but it puts him on the right track to follow up on his four carry,112 yard breakout.

The Raiders also announced a roster move on Wednesday. Tight end David Ausberry was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury and promoted defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin from the practice squad. Ausberry had two catches in six games this season and missed all of last season.

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Devon Still refutes claims he’s not paying child support

Atlanta Falcons v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Bengals defensive tackle Devon Still has responded to a report that he wasn’t paying child support for his daughter Leah, but said he didn’t want to get into the details of the case.

The report in this morning’s New York Daily News said that Still hasn’t paid any child support since August 2014, while Leah has become a national storyline during her battle with cancer.

“My daughter’s battle with cancer has been inspirational to many all over the world,” Still said in a statement released by the team, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “When she gets older, I want her to be able to look back and read about her positive impact on the world, not about the private issues her parents were going through. I am not going to retaliate against the mother of my daughter, and the untruthful reports in the New York Daily News article, by criticizing her character. I am going to continue to allow the court system to handle this matter, as it has been doing these past couple of months.”

The Bengals are circling the wagons around Still, after more than $1.3 million was raised through sales of his jersey to benefit children’s cancer research.

Coach Marvin Lewis said he met with Still Wednesday morning, and remains “very confident” in his defensive tackle.

“We’re not privy to all the facts of it,” Lewis said. “But Devon is very confident that he’s taking care of business the right way and eventually, at some point, if there’s things that need to be done through the legality through the courts, that all would come out that way. We’re going to continue to support him. We’re very confident in the things he’s done. . . .

“Devon has grown up so much through this unfortunate illness that his daughter’s dealing with. It’s really grown him as a man and as a person. I told him that just today how he’s handled everything. I’m so impressed.

“He’s really a beacon for a lot of people. He will be for a lot of young guys as they face different trials and tribulations as an NFL player. There are the outside pressures that no one understands that guys go through. There’s the pressure of playing, the pressure of performing. All those things that occur, and this one is really outside of football.”

The hope is that the legal fight doesn’t take away from Leah’s continuing battle, and that the adults in this situation resolve things with her welfare in mind.

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Dominic Raiola fined for hit to the head, not for hit to the knees

Dominic Raiola AP

Lions center Dominic Raiola was fined for a cheap shot against the Patriots on Sunday. Just not the cheap shot everyone has been talking about.

Raiola, who admitted he took a shot at Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore’s knees on the final play of the game, was not fined for that. But he was fined $10,000 for taking a swing at Moore’s head on another play.

“Dominic Raiola was fined $10,000 for unnecessary roughness,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said. “Specifically, on a pass play, he unnecessarily struck his opponent, violating Rule 12, Section 2, Article 12(c) of the NFL Rule Book which prohibits ‘striking, swinging at, or clubbing the head, neck, or face of an opponent with the wrist(s), arm(s), elbow(s), or hand(s).’ The play was a third-and-nine from the Detroit 35 with 57 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Again, Raiola was not fined for his block on the final snap of the game.”

That the NFL fined Raiola for that play and not for the cut block to Moore shows that the NFL is a lot more cautious about protecting players’ heads than about protecting players’ knees. Many NFL players, especially defensive linemen, have said that all blocks to the knee should be outlawed. But the NFL is particularly sensitive about hits to the head, and it was a hit to the head that got Raiola fined.

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Emmanuel Acho questionable for Thursday

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Eagles only have one player whose status is in doubt for Thursday’s game in Dallas and it looks like the call on linebacker Emmanuel Acho will wait until the last possible moment.

Acho is listed as questionable because of a groin injury that has left him as a limited participant during the team’s short practice week. Acho said that the nature of the injury was such that he won’t know until Thursday whether he will be feeling well enough to take the field.

“I made major strides from [Monday] to [Tuesday],” Acho said, via the Eagles website. “But with it being on Thursday, I can’t make a call on Wednesday, because who knows how I’ll feel when I wake up Thursday morning. So it’ll probably have to be a Thursday decision.”

If Acho doesn’t go, Casey Matthews will see increased time next to Mychal Kendricks at inside linebacker.

Quarterback Nick Foles (collarbone) is the only player ruled out for Philadelphia. Six other players, including wide receiver Jordan Matthews (knee) and left tackle Jason Peters (quad), are probable.

 

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No practice for Larry Fitzgerald on Wednesday

Larry Fitzgerald AP

The Cardinals played without wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in last Sunday’s 19-3 loss to the Seahawks and they opened this week of practice without him as well.

Coach Bruce Arians said Wednesday, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, that Fitzgerald’s sprained MCL is improving, but the wideout isn’t ready to resume a practice schedule yet.

The Cardinals listed Fitzgerald as questionable after he missed all three days of practice last week, although it doesn’t seem like he was all that close to playing. Arians said after the loss that Fitzgerald couldn’t run during pre-game warmups, which indicates that there’s a lot of room for improvement before Fitzgerald will be given the green light to return to a full workload.

Fitzgerald is tied for the team lead in catches and leads the team in receiving yards. His presence may not have made for a different result last Sunday, but it wouldn’t have hurt the team’s efforts to gain more than 140 yards through the air during the game.

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Bears place Brian de la Puente on injured reserve

Buffalo Bills v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Among the many problems that have plagued the Bears this season is an inability to keep the same offensive line together for long stretches because of injuries.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod has missed two games, left guard Matt Slauson is on injured reserve, center Roberto Garza has missed four games and right tackle Jordan Mills has been out the last two games, leaving right guard Kyle Long as the only player to start every game. More shuffling is coming.

Brian De La Puente, who played center when Garza was out and has been at left guard for the last two weeks, is headed to injured reserve because of an ankle injury. Michael Ola, who has been filling in for Mills, is expected to step in for de la Puente with Mills on track to return to the lineup against the Lions on Thursday.

The Bears signed de la Puente before the start of this season and he can become a free agent next year if the Bears don’t re-sign him before the market opens.

Defensive tackle Brandon Dunn has been promoted from the practice squad to bring the roster back to 53 players.

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Jaguars are the new perpetual underdogs

Bradley AP

When the Giants and former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin head to Jacksonville this weekend, the home team will be on the wrong side of the point spread.  Again.

Via OddShark.com, Jacksonville has been the underdog in 40 straight games.  That’s two-and-a-half seasons of games.

And the Jags haven’t done well with those extra points.  They’re 2-10-2 in the last 14 games against the spread, and they’re 2-8-1 as home underdogs in the last 11 games played in Jacksonville.

There’s a chance the streak is even longer than 40 games.  Some had the Bengals as a one-point favorite over the Jaguars in Week Three of the 2012 season.  If the Jags were the underdogs in a game they lost by 17, the streak is 44.  The last time the Jags clearly were the favorite happened in Week 17 of the 2011 season, when they had a four-point edge over the Colts in the game that delivered Andrew Luck to Indy.

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Jordan Cameron practices, remains day-to-day

Jordan Cameron AP

The Browns got wide receiver Josh Gordon back in the lineup last Sunday and they could have tight end Jordan Cameron to help their offense this week.

Cameron has missed the past four games due to a concussion, but he was able to get some practice time in last Friday. Cameron was a limited participant in practice again on Wednesday and coach Mike Pettine said that the team would take its time determining his status for Sunday’s trip to Buffalo.

“We’re looking for him to practice symptom-free for a couple of days in a row. Still day-to-day,” Pettine said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Gordon and Cameron had 167 catches between them last season, but Gordon’s suspension and Cameron’s concussion have limited them to 21 catches this season. Having both back in form for the stretch run should only help as the Browns try to end their long playoff drought.

Linebackers Karlos Dansby (knee) and Jabaal Sheard (foot) both sat out Wednesday’s practice, although Sheard was able to play against Atlanta last weekend.

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Texans send Mallett to IR, officially add Thad Lewis

Mallett Getty Images

On Monday, tight-lipped Texans coach Bill O’Brien didn’t have much to saw about reports that quarterback Ryan Mallett would miss the rest of the season.

On Wednesday, the team said plenty, parking Mallett on season-ending injured reserve.  He was replaced on the roster by quarterback Thad Lewis.

Mallett sustained a torn pectoral on Sunday, reportedly during pregame warmups.  The development leaves the Texans with limited evidence to decide whether to re-sign him for 2015, or whether to let him exit via free agency.

The Texans also may want to determine at some point over the next five games what they may have in rookie Tom Savage.  With the Texans surely hoping to make some long-term decisions about the quarterback position, they need to know what they have in who they have.

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Ryan Fitzpatrick has less beard, but does get old job back

GriffinBeard

Ryan Fitzpatrick has his old job back.

But he looks like a new man.

With Ryan Mallett out for the season, the Texans are expected to turn back to Fitzpatrick, who started the first nine games of the season for them. But when he walked into the team facility today, there was little notice.

We hate to break this news to you so close to a holiday, but Fitzpatrick has trimmed his glorious beard.

“We had to chop it down piece by piece. It was definitely a significant amount of time to take it off,” Fitzpatrick said, via Brian Smith of the Houston Chronicle.

It was more me just getting tired of having to pick corn out of it,” he added. “When I eat pancakes in the morning with the syrup and stuff, that’ll be there for days. My wife will ask me, ‘Did you have pancakes this morning?’ And I’ll say, ‘No, it was four days ago.’ ”

While his wife might like it, others weren’t so impressed.

“I can’t even look at him anymore,” rookie backup Tom Savage said. “His lips look small.”

Hopefully Fitzpatrick listens to his teammates, and grows back one of the very best things about the NFL.

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Jay Gruden: RG3 needs more time to learn

Jay Gruden AP

Washington coach Jay Gruden says Robert Griffin III was benched in part because he needs time to learn the offense.

“Robert has done some good things at quarterback but I think he just needs a little bit more time in the system with the verbiage and the plays, to sit back and take a step back and learn,” Gruden said. “When he gets back in there he’ll be a lot more decisively and ready to roll.”

That explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense. Griffin has had plenty of time to learn Gruden’s system since Gruden was hired in January. Griffin got the first-team reps throughout minicamps, training camp and the preseason, whereas McCoy wasn’t even signed until April and spent the whole offseason as a third-stringer and doing scout team work. If McCoy doesn’t need more time to learn the offense, why does Griffin?

Gruden says that what it comes down to is that McCoy has been the quarterback for two of Washington’s three wins this season, and that means he deserves the chance to show he can keep helping Washington win.

“We’re gonna play Colt — he’s done some good things,” Gruden said. “I felt like he deserved a bit of a promotion.”

Still, Gruden insists that he’s not saying Griffin can’t one day be a franchise quarterback.

“Obviously, I’m not putting the blame all on Robert,” Gruden said. “It seems like that when you make a change at the quarterback position. I understand that there are other issues involved here, but we’re 2-0 with Colt as a starter and I just want to give him an opportunity to play well.”

Realistically, it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which Gruden is coaching Griffin next year. If Gruden is claiming he still thinks Griffin can play well, then Gruden is trying to talk up Griffin for a potential trade partner in the offseason. Griffin has had all the time he’s going to get to learn Gruden’s offense. It hasn’t worked, and if Griffin is going to become a great player in the NFL, it will be with some other coach.

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Beckham’s big catch bumps him up in Madden

Beckham AP

I’ve been critical of the Madden game.  (I remain hooked on FIFA.)  But Madden remains the dominant NFL video game, primarily because the NFL has granted an exclusive license to EA.

The only NFL-licensed video game has reacted to the play of the year to date, in a dramatic way.

EA has announced that Beckham’s “spectacular catch” rating has rocketed from 85 to 99 in the wake of his three-fingered grab of a ball that traveled more than 50 yards.

The play also moved Beckham’s total rating from 80 to 84.  He has argued that the total rating should be a 95 or a 96.  If he keeps making catches like that, it will be.

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Jerry Jones loves him some Robert Griffin III

Jerry Jones AP

Washington might not want anything to do with Robert Griffin III anymore, but a certain someone in his division is clearly still a fan.

During an appearance on the NFL Network this morning, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressed a great admiration for the deposed starter from his NFC East rival.

Well, I’m a fan of RGIII,” Jones said. “Right on this field two years ago, or maybe it was three seasons ago, he put on a show and had a game that just floored me. And they won, and they won in large part because of his play at quarterback. I thought ‘my goodness, and we’re going to have to be playing this guy for years and years.’ And so he’s got it.

“Once you see a player do it, especially if you see him do it two or three times, you know he can do it. And of course he’s a driven young man. I’m a big admirer of RGIII.”

Of course, that 2012 game was before the injury that derailed Griffin’s career, and the subsequent mayhem that has ended his tenure as the starter.

Of course, his inevitable availability just makes you wonder: Could it actually happen?

I can see it now, Griffin comes in to back up Tony Romo, and mentors a certain young, impressionable Jonathan F. Football, as Jones collects all the glory hole in the NFL.

Please let this happen.

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Tony Romo says his back is no worse than anyone else’s injury

Tony Romo AP

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is downplaying any effects of the back injury that forced him to miss a game this season.

Romo noted that no NFL player is feeling 100 percent healthy by late November, and he doesn’t think he’s dealing with anything worse than any other player.

“You don’t really think about it,’’ Romo said, via the Dallas Morning News. “You just go and play. I mean, everyone has something wrong with them during the football season. We say it all the time. Once you step on the field no one cares what you have. You’ve got to go produce. Our job is to play well regardless of what’s going on around you. That’s our job as players.’’

Romo said he’s feeling good on a short week and eager to get on the field against the Eagles on Thanksgiving.

“We’re playing against a really good football team who is going to bring great energy,” Romo said. “We understand how important this game is for both teams and I think it’ll be fun to just to see them try and attack us and come after you and be an aggressive team. That will be an enjoyable game to go against.’’

Not many people with a bad back would consider getting hit by 300-pound defensive linemen “enjoyable,” but Romo is feeling good about this season, no matter how his back feels.

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League has no comment on Richard Sherman’s press conference skit

Sherman AP

I’m still not quite sure what to make of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s Tuesday stunt at his weekly press availability, which included a life-size cutout of receiver Doug Baldwin coupled with the real thing lurking under the podium to chime in from time to time.

The league apparently doesn’t know what to make of it either; the NFL has no comment on Sherman’s antics.  However, despite Sherman’s gratuitous reference to the headphone company that sponsors him personally but not the NFL, don’t look for Sherman to be fined.

Fine or no fine, Sherman’s remarks lumbered clumsily through issues of hypocrisy and greed that entail far more nuance that he gave them. Perhaps more importantly, the attempted Abbott-and-Cardboard-Costello routine wasn’t funny.

The players benefit financially from the league’s deals with headphone manufacturers and beer companies. They also benefit financially from short-week football, a topic that Sherman awkwardly wedged into what was supposed to be a satirical commentary on the NFL’s media policy. Most importantly, the players get paid significant amounts of money in part because a strong relationship with the media — which serves as a conduit to the fans — has helped the NFL become the behemoth that it is.

For more on that, consider this recent item from Ed Sherman, to which NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted a link on Tuesday night as a “bit of history on NFL media relations.”

Sherman became Seattle’s NFLPA representative earlier this year.  If he has genuine issues with the media policy, the NFL’s sponsorship portfolio, and/or Thursday night football, Sherman now has a far more direct and meaningful way to agitate for change.  If he simply prefers to give short-shrift to these issues while advancing a “look at me, I sometimes say provocative stuff” agenda, then mission accomplished, I suppose.

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