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Cardinals’ quarterback smokescreen continues

Bruce Arians AP

As Gantt pointed out earlier this week, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had a not-so-glowing assessment of this year’s crop of rookie quarterbacks at the league meetings.

“The guys that were in the Combine last year, all of them when they left the room, you went, ‘Wow,'” Bruce Arians said.  “No one in this draft made me go, ‘Wow.’

It’s an odd comment in light of the rampant stream of reports from four weeks ago, when the Cardinals supposedly had been blown away by USC quarterback Matt Barkley at the Scouting Combine.  Plenty of reporters gleefully swallowed the hook on that one, without even contemplating the possibility that the Cards were trying to make other teams think that they want Barkley when in reality they want another rookie quarterback — or perhaps none of them.

We won’t know how the Cardinals really feel about the likes of Barkley, Geno Smith, or anyone else unless and until those players are on the board when the Cardinals are on the clock.  Until then, the Cardinals will be trying to blow enough smoke to obscure their intentions.

No amount of smoke, however, can hide the team’s current depth chart at the position.  Which could mean that the Cardinals want Smith, and that they want everyone else to believe that they want Barkley or no one.

Or maybe the Cardinals want to continue to struggle at the position.

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Report: Amendola has knee sprain, not expected to miss extended time

<> of the New England Patriots of the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Getty Images

The Patriots saw two wide receivers leave Monday night’s victory with injuries and early indications are that Danny Amendola has a better chance of playing this week than Aaron Dobson.

Tom Curran of CSN New England reports that Amendola suffered a knee sprain against the Bills that is not expected to keep him out for an extended period of time. He is expected to be limited at practice during a short week, though, and that means it will likely be a couple of days before his status for Sunday’s game in Denver becomes clearer.

Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that X-rays of Dobson’s ankle were negative, but that the team was still waiting for MRI results to determine the extent of the injury. Curran reports that he is expected to miss at least this week’s game with the final diagnosis giving more clarity about how long he’ll be out of the lineup.

Keshawn Martin missed Monday night’s game after being listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, which leaves Brandon LaFell, Chris Harper and special teams stalwart Matthew Slater as healthy players on the depth chart at receiver.

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With Hoyer getting healthy, Texans cut QB from practice squad

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Texans plan to have Brian Hoyer back as their starting quarterback this week, and the release of Zac Dysert from the practice squad Tuesday indicates all is well with Hoyer.

Hoyer suffered a concussion Nov. 16 and missed last week’s game. That made T.J. Yates the starter against the Jets, but Hoyer cleared the league’s concussion protocol on Monday.

The Texans claimed Brandon Weeden on waivers last week instead of promoting Dysert. With Hoyer set to return to practice Wednesday, that probably makes Weeden the scout team quarterback and made Dysert expendable.

Dysert was cut by the Broncos and Bears in the preseason. He was a seventh-round pick of the Broncos in 2013.

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Patriots, Panthers can clinch playoff spots this week

New England Patriots v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The NFL playoff picture usually doesn’t start to take shape until December, but the 10-0 Patriots and 10-0 Panthers both have the opportunity to clinch playoff berths on Sunday.

The Patriots clinch the AFC East if they beat the Broncos on Sunday night and the Jets lose to the Dolphins. And the Patriots could even clinch the AFC East before Sunday night’s kickoff, if the Jets lose to the Dolphins and the Bills lose to the Chiefs.

If the Jets beat the Dolphins the Patriots can’t clinch the division, but the Patriots can still clinch a playoff berth if they win and the Chiefs lose, or the Patriots win and both the Steelers and Bengals lose.

The Panthers can’t clinch their division this week, but they can clinch a playoff spot if they beat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving and one of the following three things happens:

1. The Seahawks and Buccaneers lose, or
2. The Seahawks and Falcons lose, or
3. The Buccaneers, Vikings and Cardinals all lose.

There are also some clinching scenarios that involve tie games this week, but those are too unlikely to bother with here. Bottom line, the Patriots and Panthers are close to the postseason, and may get there officially this weekend.

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Quinton Coples lands with Dolphins

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 21:  Andrew Luck #12  of the Indianapolis Colts is sacked by Quinton Coples #98 during the game against the New York Jets  at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 21, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Quinton Coples ran out of time with the Jets, but he will still be at MetLife Stadium for this Sunday’s game.

Coples has been claimed off of waivers by the Dolphins according to multiple reports, which means that he will make the trip back to his old stomping grounds for the Week 12 game between the two AFC East teams. It also means that he’ll be reunited with Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum was the General Manager of the Jets when Coples was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft.

In addition to providing some info about what the Jets might have planned for this weekend, Coples also gives the Dolphins another body to use at defensive end in their 4-3 base defense. Coples was playing outside linebacker for the Jets, but has been more effective up front over the course of his career.

Because they claimed Coples on waivers, the Dolphins inherit the $7.8 million fifth-year option on his contract. They can rescind that option, but it is guaranteed for injury.

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Lane Johnson apologizes for criticizing Philly fans

Wild Card Playoffs - New Orleans Saints v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson issued an apology after criticizing Philadelphia fans for not being more supportive of the team.

Johnson was asked today about the home fans booing the Eagles during Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers, and he responded that the Eagles don’t have a home-field advantage because the fans don’t get behind them.

“If we get down by any significant amount of points or we don’t make any first downs, we’re going to get booed. That’s just kind of how it is. It’s not really home field advantage playing here anymore. Really, that’s the truth. Cats here, they really don’t care,” Johnson said.

As is usually the case when an athlete criticizes the fans, that didn’t go over well. So Johnson wrote on Twitter that he shouldn’t have said it.

“My comment about the fans was out of line and I apologize,” Johnson wrote. “I’m just frustrated like they are about our performance on the field. The bottom line is that we need to give them a reason to cheer by scoring and winning games. We need to EARN that home field advantage and I know that. Our fans deserve better. The Linc can rock and that’s on us to make it happen.”

If the Eagles want more support from the fans, complaining about the fans is the wrong way to make it happen. The right way is to start winning games.

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Ravens claim Jimmy Clausen

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Quarterback Jimmy Clausen #8 of the Chicago Bears passes the ball as outside linebacker Bruce Irvin #51 of the Seattle Seahawks applies pressure during the fourth quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on September 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens have found their backup quarterback for Matt Schaub.

The team announced Tuesday that they have claimed Jimmy Clausen off of waivers from the Bears. Clausen was dropped in Chicago Monday to make room for David Fales on the 53-man roster.

Clausen will be reunited with Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman, who coached Clausen in 2014. Trestman opted to start Clausen over Jay Cutler in one game last season, but Clausen suffered a concussion and Cutler moved back into the starting lineup.

Clausen also started one game in place of an injured Cutler this year. He was 9-of-17 for 63 yards in a 26-0 loss to the Seahawks.

Joe Flacco, who tore his ACL and MCL Sunday, was placed on injured reserve to make room for Clausen on the roster.

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Jason Kelce doesn’t practice because of knee injury

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 07:   Jason Kelce #62 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on during warm ups before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lincoln Financial Field on December 7, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles are waiting to name their starting quarterback for Thursday’s game in Detroit and there’s some uncertainty about who will be snapping the ball on Thanksgiving as well.

Center Jason Kelce wasn’t listed on Monday’s injury report at all, but didn’t practice on Tuesday because of a knee injury. Kelce ripped himself last week for not doing a good enough job leading the offensive line, which may be both true and little comfort for an offense that’s had to do a lot of shuffling up front already this season.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur indicated that Wednesday’s practice would determine whether Mark Sanchez or Sam Bradford will start at quarterback and it will likely go a long way toward determining Kelce’s status as well. Julian Vandevelde and Josh Andrews would both be options if he can’t play.

Tight end Zach Ertz and running back Ryan Mathews also missed practice as they continue to make their way through the concussion protocol. All 53 players practiced for the Lions, who listed wide receiver Calvin Johnson and cornerback Darius Slay among five limited participants.

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Panthers DE Frank Alexander suspended a year for drug violation

Frank Alexander AP

After coming back from a 10-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Panthers defensive end Frank Alexander said he had given up his marijuana habit.

Either he didn’t, or found a replacement, as the league announced he was suspended for at least a year for his third violation of the league’s drug program.

Alexander’s currently on injured reserve with a torn Achilles. But the Panthers had hung with him through four- and 10-game suspensions, but may not now.

Alexander said in May he used marijuana as pain management and to relax, but that he’d stop.

“I didn’t do it before I went to work. I didn’t do it at work. It was simply like after I got out of practice, I wanted to kind of relax and chill. It kind of healed my body up,” Alexander said. “It wasn’t like a thing I was doing all the time. I didn’t need it to get up and go.”

He’s the third Panthers player to be suspended this week, following defensive end Wes Horton and injured wide receiver Stephen Hill yesterday.

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Kaepernick has surgery, with 4-6 month recovery time

Clay Matthews, Colin Kaepernick AP

As expected, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has undergone surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. Via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, the damage to Kaepernick’s labrum was “extensive.”

Barrows also reports that Kaepernick’s recovery is expected to take four to six months. In little more than four months, April 1 arrives — the day on which Kaepernick’s $11.9 million salary for 2016 switches from being guaranteed for injury only to being fully guaranteed.

It means that the 49ers could have an even harder time trading Kaepernick (it already wasn’t going to be easy), and that they may have to cut him before he’s fully cleared, hopeful that he’ll eventually become healthy prior to Week One, at which time he’d be entitled to still collect paychecks if he remains injured.

Some have suggested that Kaepernick gets the $11.9 million if he can’t pass a physical before April 1. And while Kaepernick’s camp may indeed make that argument as part of a grievance that would be filed if Kaepernick is cut before he’s healthy, the more likely outcome is that Kaepernick would get money guaranteed for injury only if he can’t pass a physical before Week One of the 2016 regular season.

Either way, it’s hard to imagine Kaepernick playing for the 49ers in 2016.

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Pettine forced, finally, to ask for support in disciplining Manziel

Johnny Manziel, Mike Pettine, Kyle Shanahan AP

A week after naming him the starter for the rest of the season, Browns coach Mike Pettine decided Tuesday that he had to bench Johnny Manziel for next Monday’s game vs. the Ravens because of Manziel’s latest “disappointing” appearance on social media and in subsequent non-football headlines.

Finally, Pettine felt the need to do something.

Manziel partied away his first NFL season and then went to rehab for an undisclosed reason for 10 weeks last winter. The Browns chose Josh McCown as their starting quarterback during that time and Pettine didn’t waver until the season was lost and McCown’s injuries left him no other choice. Manziel had a very public incident in October, too, a roadside argument with his girlfriend during which she told police he pushed her head against a window.

After that story broke, both Manziel and his girlfriend took to social media to say “it was just an argument.” No charges were filed, and after a full investigation the NFL said it would not discipine Manziel. Last week, Manziel said he would neither be a distraction nor an embarrassment during his bye week. He didn’t get in any legal trouble, but after the website Busted Coverage posted pictures and a since-deleted Instagram video from an Austin, Texas nightclub last Friday, Pettine spent his first post-bye press conference Tuesday answering 19 questions about Manziel and discussing a disturbing pattern of behavior.

Of the hundreds of quarterback-related NFL arguments, things like Instagram, rehab, curfew, DJs and actually being forced to spend a game watching from the locker room — as Pettine forced Manziel to do last December in Baltimore — only come up involving one.

He’s 22, and for the second time he’s basically been grounded by Pettine.

Lots of pictures and questions have come up — this is basically the one-year anniversary of the early-morning incident between Manziel’s friends and a fan in the lobby of his apartment building — and Manziel always provides similar responses. He apologizes, he promises it won’t happen again, he claims he’s changed and focused on football.

This all goes back to 18 months ago, when Manziel would put in his three or four days of offseason work then head to wherever TMZ and a bunch of random Instagrammers and DJs would find him. Pettine defended Manziel’s right to “have fun,” and even through all the other social media posts and incidents the team has supported him. He probably got fined for no-showing a practice that led to the locker room thing in Baltimore, but there’s been little in the way of public reprimand or disgust until Tuesday.

Pettine publicly supporting Manziel’s right to have fun was before the money phone, the inflatable swan, the rolled-up bill and the blowing off of the playbook last year. The Browns have been along for the ride, and Manziel has won one of five career starts. Do the math and you’ll find that it’s fair of those running the Browns to ask for a better return on investment and embarrassment.

By now it’s clear: Johnny is going to Johnny, even when he says he won’t.

The Browns might only truly reach him by cutting him, which seems extreme but probably isn’t out of the question now that the team is deciding it needs to do something. An ever-changing organization that’s having an especially bad stretch even by its own recent standards now realizes it can’t keep playing second fiddle to Manziel’s true interests.

This makes two seasons now that the Browns have wanted or needed — both, really — to find out about Manziel and his ability to be that elusive franchise quarterback.

Manziel keeps answering the question, and it sounds like Pettine is now asking someone else to listen.

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Browns announce Josh McCown to start, Johnny Manziel third

Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel AP

After giving him a chance to prove himself the rest of the season, the Browns have now taken that chance away from Johnny Manziel.

The team announced that Josh McCown would return to the starting lineup this week, and the Manziel would be the third quarterback behind Austin Davis, after video emerged of him partying over the bye week.

Pettine said after consulting with his coaching staff, and talking to General Manager Ray Farmer and owner Jimmy Haslam, he told the players involved of his decision.

Everyone in this organization wants what is best for Johnny just like we do for every player in our locker room,” Pettine said in a statement from the team. “I’m especially disappointed in his actions and behavior because he has been working very hard. The improvements from last year to this year have been tremendous but he still has to consistently demonstrate that he has gained a good understanding of what it takes to be successful at the quarterback position on this level. It goes well beyond the field.

“We are going to continue to support him in every way possible, but at this point, we’ve decided it’s best to go with Josh as the starter going forward.”

McCown has been hurt lately, but that’s not really why they went to Manziel, since their season was shot and they had a former first-rounder they weren’t sure was ready to play.

They still don’t know.

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Brady brushes off “Rex Ryan” audible

Rex Ryan AP

At a time when many think Bills coach Rex Ryan is obsessed with the Patriots, maybe the Patriots are equally obsessed with Ryan.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady called out “Rex Ryan!” before a first-quarter play. After the game, Brady acted like it was no big deal.

“Yeah, we have a lot of things that are kind of in the playbook, so that’s one of them,” Brady told reporters.

Was the goal to distract Ryan or to send any type of message to him?

“No, just communication on offense,” Brady said. “We use a lot of terms. . . . We’ve used a lot of things in the past. We have a lot of unusual terms. I think we run the gamut. So we’ve got to get creative and think of different things, so that one is pretty unique.”

Coach Bill Belichick wasn’t asked about the call after the game; it’s possible he didn’t even know it was part of the audible package.

For his part, Ryan took it all in stride.

“He was calling what – my name? . . . . He likes me, I know that. I was calling him Brady, too,” Ryan said.

Given the broad range of words and phrases that teams could use — and in light of the disdain many teams have for the presence of microphones during games — it seems like only a matter of time before a quarterback exercises his creative discretion to use a nasty, inappropriate, and/or profane phrase or term at the line of scrimmage. And I kind of can’t wait.

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Rex: Tyrod Taylor should be able to play

<> of the New England Patriots of the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on November 23, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Getty Images

After Monday night’s loss to the Patriots came to an end, coach Rex Ryan said he wasn’t sure about quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s status after an apparent shoulder injury but that he hoped Taylor will be able to play this week.

Ryan isn’t scheduled to meet with the media on Tuesday, but he did speak to Mike Schopp of WGR 550 about Taylor and other injured members of the team. The update on Taylor doesn’t delve into the nature of his injury, but Ryan said that the quarterback “should be able to play” against the Chiefs this Sunday.

Taylor had a rough time of it against the Patriots, but nothing the team saw from EJ Manuel in two starts earlier this season suggests that he’d be a better choice than Taylor if Taylor’s healthy enough to play.

Ryan also said it is “too early” to know if defensive end Mario Williams will miss the game after leaving on Monday because of a foot injury. Right guard John Miller, who left with an ankle injury, and wide receiver Marcus Easley, who suffered a concussion, were both deemed unlikely to play.

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South Carolina wideout Pharoh Cooper leaving school early

Aarion Penton, Pharoh Cooper AP

Not every talented college underclassman with professional dreams tweets out the news of their decision to go pro.

Some of them do it the old fashioned way — by letting their dad tell a newspaper.

According to Josh Kendall of The State, South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper will play his final game for free Saturday against Clemson.

“He definitely appreciates the opportunity to play for South Carolina, and we as parents appreciate the opportunity they gave him,” Glen Cooper said. “He wants to ride the wave at its high point.”

The Gamecocks are 3-8 and not bowl eligible, which is part of the reason their coach quit in the middle of the season. But Cooper has been a bright spot, with 62 catches for 887 yards and seven touchdowns. He was a first-team All-SEC pick last year.

Cooper’s father said they’ve already been talking to agents (you think?) and have narrowed their choice to three, but that his son plans to return to school at some point to finish his degree.

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Report: Seahawks bringing back Bryce Brown

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Seahawks dropped running back Bryce Brown from their roster on Saturday so they could add linebacker Eric Pinkins as depth with Bruce Irvin set to miss their game against the 49ers.

At the time the move was made, the Seahawks expected to have Marshawn Lynch in the lineup on Sunday but things didn’t play out that way. Lynch missed the game and traveled to Philadelphia on Monday to meet with sports hernia specialist Dr. William Meyers to learn if he needs surgery to repair his abdominal injury.

The results of that meeting aren’t known, but coach Pete Carroll has said that Lynch is unlikely to play this week under any circumstances. That leaves Seattle in need of some help at running back and they’re looking back in Brown’s direction.

Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reports that Brown will be re-signed. There’s no word on a corresponding move.

Brown originally signed with the Seahawks about a month ago, but has not been active for any games.

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