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Bucs lock up Demar Dotson for four more years

Saints Buccaneers Football AP

Demar Dotson emerged last year as the Buccaneers’ starting right tackle, and now the Bucs have shown that they believe he’s going to be a starter for years to come.

Dotson has signed a new four-year contract with the Bucs, the team announced today.

After starting 15 games last season, Dotson triggered an escalator in his contract that raised his 2013 base salary from $1.5 million to $2 million. This new contract means that instead of the 27-year-old Dotson hitting free agency a year from now, he’ll be in Tampa through the 2016 season.

The 6-foot-9, 315-pound Dotson entered the NFL as a raw undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi, having played just one year of college football (on the defensive line) following two years on the basketball team at Southern Miss. But the Bucs liked his potential and were patient in his development, and last season he was a pleasant surprise as a starter. Now the Bucs believe they’ve got their starting right tackle under contract for the next four years.

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Saints first-rounder Andrus Peat will start at left guard today

Andrus Peat AP

Saints first-rounder Andrus Peat has finally cracked the starting lineup, even if he had to change positions to do it.

According to Alex Marvez of FOX Sports, Peat is going to get the start at left guard today against the Texans.

The 13th overall pick had a pair of fill-in starts at tackle for an injured Terron Armstead earlier this year, but then had to miss three weeks.

The Saints have struggled to protect Drew Brees effectively this season, and putting the 6-foot-7, 313-pound rookie in front of him could help — if Brees can see over him.

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Could Doug Marrone be a head coach again in 2016?

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As the list of candidates to fill the looming NFL head-coaching vacancies begins to be compiled, a name that largely has been forgotten has once again become front and center: Former Bills coach Doug Marrone.

Some have Marrone not just as a fringe candidate in a season that may have more vacancies than “A” list candidates, but as a no-brainer. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media rattled off Marrone’s name earlier today not as a possibility but as a given, along with Patriots coach Josh McDaniels and Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

The obvious response is this: Why didn’t Marrone get hired last year, after opting to leave the Bills with full pay for 2015 following the change in ownership? As one source with knowledge of the dynamics recently explained it to PFT, Marrone arrived on the scene as a potential candidate a little too unexpectedly for teams to scrap their existing plans.

This year, Marrone (the offensive line coach and assistant head coach-offense in Jacksonville) is a known candidate. The resurgence (relatively speaking) of the Jaguars won’t hurt his cause.

The bigger boost for Marrone will come from his work with the Bills. He took the team to a 9-7 record in 2014. This year, the 5-4 Bills may have a hard time matching that performance despite having better talent.

Also helping Marrone will be the simple fact that there may be too many vacancies and not enough truly qualified coaches to take the jobs. Some have pegged the number of potential total openings at a whopping 14.

While the actual number surely will be much lower, there still may not be enough clear candidates for those jobs. And if an owner is looking for one of the rarest of former head coaches who wasn’t fired but chose to leave, Marrone could indeed be on the short list, somewhere.

Or in multiple somewheres.

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Howie Roseman could be on the rise again in Philly

Howie Roseman AP

After Eagles coach Chip Kelly put together a second straight 10-win season, Kelly made a run at G.M. Howie Roseman. It was bizarre and it was ugly and it ultimately was painted as a win-win by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.

Now that Kelly could be closing in on losing his job (voluntarily or otherwise) in Philly, Roseman could be winning, again.

While Lurie opted in January to find a way to keep Kelly and Roseman around in a way that would allow them to coexist (a process that included physically moving the new executive V.P. of football operations out of the football operations location), it was clear that Kelly was now fully in charge of the team. Which means that Kelly is fully responsible for what has happened this season. Which means that Roseman necessarily has no responsibility for what has happened this season.

Which means that Roseman could be poised to seize a level of control over the team that he has never previously enjoyed.

So as Kelly’s future continues to be the focus in Philly, the second rise of Roseman can’t be overlooked. Unless Lurie decides to hit the reset button or pursue a head coach who will want to keep Roseman away from the football operation the same way Kelly has, Roseman will be back in the mix.

Given how the franchise has performed with Roseman exiled from the football operations, perhaps the only easy answer in Philly is that Roseman should be involved once again in football operations. Regardless, there’s a chance that, in roughly a month, Roseman won’t just have a hand in the search for the next coach.

Lurie could decide to let Roseman run the show.

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Report: Rams won’t be penalized for Keenum concussion debacle

Case Keenum AP

Last Sunday’s early games included a troubling moment in which Rams quarterback Case Keenum obviously had sustained a head injury but somehow wasn’t taken off the field. The NFL has now determined that nothing will be taken from the Rams.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Rams won’t be penalized for mishandling the concussion protocol.

There’s no explanation provided regarding why the Rams won’t be punished. A trainer went onto the field to check Keenum, but the trainer didn’t remove Keenum for an official concussion evaluation.

Ultimately, the NFL may have decided that, with the ATC spotter now having the absolute ability to stop the game, the bulk of the blame should rest with the person whose primary job is to look for potential head injuries and to ensure that those players are out of the game.

The fact that the league thereafter convened a conference call with all head athletic trainers suggests that the NFL will be expecting more from the teams going forward. The lack of punishment for the Rams implies that the previous procedures weren’t sufficiently clear to justify punishing the Rams in this case.

So, basically, the situation that unfolded on Sunday in Baltimore perhaps was less about the team not following the rules and more about the NFL still not having sufficiently clear rules in place.

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Jeremy Lane is officially back, and could start today

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Super Bowl XLIX was a bad day for the Seahawks. It was a worse day for Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, who suffered a badly broken arm — and who will be reminded of it every time he looks at the long, conspicuous scar on the inside of his left forearm.

It got even worse for Lane, who also tore an ACL on a play that started with an interception of Tom Brady and ended with the Patriots picking on Lane’s replacement, Tharold Simon, throughout the rest of the game.

Lane is now officially back, activated Saturday from the Physically Unable to Perform list. As explained by John Boyle of the team’s official website, Lane actually could start on Sunday against the Steelers.

Coach Pete Carroll wouldn’t say this week whether Cary Williams would continue in the Legion of Boom’s Ringo Starr role. Benched last week for Deshawn Shead, it could be Williams, Shead, or Lane getting the first rep against the Steelers on Sunday.

Regardless of who gets the job, Carroll thinks the process will make all of them better.

It should bring out the best in everybody,” Carroll said. “That’s the whole idea. Everybody’s got to feel it to find their best. Feel the pressure of it, and the stress, and the competitive point of it.”

The loser in the roster short-straw competition was running back Bryce Brown, who was cut again by the Seahawks when Lane joined the active roster.

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Jarvis Landry, Rishard Matthews expected to play

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 08:   Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by Nigel Bradham #53 of the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins added Rishard Matthews to their injury report on Saturday with an illness, which meant that both of their leading pass catchers were now questionable to face the Jets on Sunday afternoon.

Jarvis Landry was already on the list because of a knee injury that kept him from practicing twice during the week. Coach Dan Campbell said Friday that part of the reason for Landry’s limited workload at practice was to make sure he was ready to go for the game and reports on Sunday are that the plan worked out in Miami’s favor.

According to multiple reports, Landry is expected to play against the Jets. Those same reports have Matthews set to be in the lineup as well, giving Ryan Tannehill a full complement of targets to use against a Jets defense that will be playing without cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Wide receiver isn’t the only position well represented on Miami’s injury report. Chris McCain is doubtful and Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, Kelvin Sheppard and Spencer Paysinger are all questionable, leaving a few decisions at linebacker to sort out before kickoff.

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Giants rule out Weston Richburg

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13:  Weston Richburg #70 of the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Friday, the Giants ruled out left guard Justin Pugh and listed center Weston Richburg as doubtful in a move that proved to be wishful thinking on Saturday.

Richburg did not travel with the team to Washington for Sunday’s game against the Redskins and will miss his first game of the season. Richburg hurt his ankle in Week 10 and didn’t make enough progress over the bye week to get back on the field.

Dallas Reynolds will start in Richburg’s place at center. John Jerry started in Pugh’s place when Pugh missed the Week 10 loss to the Patriots and should start again this Sunday, although Adam Schefter of ESPN reports it will be at right guard with Geoff Schwartz flipping to the other side of the offensive line.

In addition to downgrading Richburg, the Giants also had one of their injured players make an unusual trip in the other direction on the injury report. Linebacker Mark Herzlich was ruled out on Friday because of a quad injury, but his status was shifted to questionable on Saturday so he may make it into the lineup after all.

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Joe Haden won’t play on Monday night

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 04:  Joe Haden #23 of the Cleveland Browns looks on prior to the start of the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 4, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Getty Images

Among the things that have gone wrong in Cleveland this season have been a series of injuries to cornerback Joe Haden.

Haden has missed five games already this season and he’ll miss a sixth on Monday night against the Ravens. Haden suffered a concussion in Week Eight and has not been able to make progress through the league’s concussion protocol.

“There is a written test and computer test and that right now is the obstacle,” coach Mike Pettine said, via

Wide receivers Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins are also out because of concussions. Defensive lineman Randy Starks has been ruled out due to a knee injury. Guard Joel Bitonio and linebacker Nate Orchard are questionable with Orchard landing on the injury report for the first time on Saturday.

The Ravens have plenty of injury issues of their own and don’t expect to have the left side of their offensive line in Cleveland. Left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele are both doubtful to play on an offense that won’t have quarterback Joe Flacco or running back Justin Forsett after they suffered season-ending injuries last Sunday.

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Report: Charcandrick West will not play today

Charcandrick West AP

Chiefs running back Charcandrick West won’t be able to go today against the Bills.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that West, though listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, will not play. The Chiefs are expected to have tight end Travis Kelce, who is also questionable with an ankle injury.

West is the Chiefs’ leading rusher, having emerged as the starter after Jamaal Charles was lost for the season. Without West, Spencer Ware will get the start at running back.

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Gruden advises patience with Manziel

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Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel partied (and lied) his way out of the starting job in Cleveland over the balance of the season, but former NFL coach Jon Gruden doesn’t believe it should mean the end of Manziel’s time with the Browns.

“If he wants to be a great quarterback and realize his potential, let this be the day he gets awakened,” Gruden told Mary Kay Cabot of on Saturday. Gruden will call Monday night’s Ravens-Browns game for ESPN.

Some would say that Manziel should have been awakened by now, after a disastrous end to his rookie season and a 10-week offseason stay in rehab. Gruden is hopeful that this time will be the time that Manziel realizes he needs to grow up.

“He’s a young kid,” Gruden said of Manziel, who is still 22. “He should still be at Texas A&M. Sometimes you have to remember that.”

Gruden specifically remembers another young quarterback with a penchant for partying. His number was retired by the Packers two nights ago.

“We traded for a guy when I first got to Green Bay that Atlanta said was a little bit of a hell raiser and it turned out OK for us,” Gruden said of Brett Favre. “You know what I mean?”

Ultimately, Favre could be the best guy to get through to Manziel. Like Manziel, Favre spent time in rehab early in his career. Favre overcame an addiction to painkillers, which forced him to find a way to play for years without pharmaceutical intervention.

If Gruden really wants to help Manziel, Gruden should connect Manziel and Favre. And Manziel would be wise to listen to anything Favre has to say.

“He’s a polarizing guy,” said Gruden regarding Manziel. “You love him. You don’t like him. Everybody has their own feeling, but deep down, I know there’s a good person in there, a lot of talent, and somebody is going to tap into it. I believe that.”

Listening to what Gruden has to say, it’s hard not to wonder whether Browns owner Jimmy Haslam will try to hire Gruden to do what he did with Manziel earlier this year on a full-time basis, as the head coach of the team.

“We went straight at it,” Gruden said regarding his time spent working with Manziel. “We were right out in the open. One day I think we played golf. We talked about some deep and philosophical things. It was very unusual for me, but I care about him. I care about his family. I want to see him realize his potential.”

To realize that potential, Manziel has to overcome his demons once and for all, mature into a guy who obsesses over the details of being an NFL quarterback, and find a way to gain — and to retain — the trust of an NFL team. If he does the first two, the last one will follow.

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Pats promote Asante Cleveland, Darius Fleming

Asante Cleveland, Bene' Benwikere AP

With receiver Aaron Dobson on injured reserve and receiver Danny Amendola out for Sunday night at Denver (and with receiver Julian Edelman still dealing with a broken bone in his foot), the Patriots have added another potential pass catcher — but not a receiver.

Tight end Asante Cleveland (pictured) has been promoted from the practice squad. Arriving in August via trade with the 49ers, Cleveland was cut on September 5 but signed to the practice squad on September 7.

Fleming, a fifth-round pick of the 49ers in 2012, spent two years on injured reserve before joining the Patriots in 2014 and spending most of the year on the practice squad. He was cut on September 5 and signed to the practice squad on September 7.

The Pats also released cornerback Dewey McDonald, who had been claimed off waivers from the Colts last month. He has been on and off the roster since then, bouncing back and forth between the practice squad.

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Harrison Smith, Trae Waynes out for Vikings on Sunday

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The Vikings will be shorthanded in their effort to keep Julio Jones under control on Sunday.

Safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Trae Waynes have been downgraded to out by the Vikings. Both had been listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Smith has a knee injury, and Waynes has an ankle problem.

Ben Goessling of reports that Antone Exum will make his first start in place of Smith, getting the nod over Robert Blanton.

The good news for the Vikings is that defensive end Everson Griffen, who also had been listed as questionable, has not been scratched. Griffen has both a hip and shoulder issue.

The 7-3 Vikings and the 6-4 Falcons get together in the Georgia Dome on Sunday, in a key game for NFC playoff positioning. Minnesota currently leads the NFC North by a half game over the Packers, and the Falcons are holding one of the two wild-card spots.

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Giants can take an overwhelming lead in the NFC East on Sunday

Tom Coughlin AP

We don’t often say this about a 5-5 team, but if the Giants can win on Sunday, they’ve all but locked up their division.

Two of the Giants’ NFC East division rivals had disasters on Thanksgiving, and it’s now hard to imagine either the Eagles or the Cowboys making a run at the division title. That leaves Sunday’s opponent, Washington, as the only team left to challenge the Giants.

At the moment, the Giants are a game ahead of 4-6 Washington, and the Giants already beat Washington once this season. A win for the Giants would result in a two-game lead, plus the head-to-head tiebreaker, with just five games to play. The Giants would have to totally collapse to lose the division at that point.

So it’s easy to see why Washington coach Jay Gruden is calling tomorrow a one-game season. He knows that if his team loses, the NFC East race is effectively over.

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Dolphins add Rishard Matthews to injury report

Rishard Matthews, Corey Graham AP

As the Dolphins prepare to face the Jets in New Jersey, receiver Rishard Matthews is dealing with a situation that could keep him from playing in the game.

The Dolphins have announced that Matthews has an illness. He has been added to the injury report as questionable for the game.

Matthews has started all 10 games this year, despite an offseason effort to bring in a bunch of new receivers who could have supplanted him. So far, the 2012 seventh-round pick has 43 catches for 662 yards and four touchdowns.

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Bears change long snappers

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The Bears have made a change at the most interchangeable position in football.

Long snapper Thomas Gafford is out, and long snapper Patrick Scales is in.

Gafford had served in that role for all 11 games this season, after spending six years in that role with the Chiefs. He signed a one-year deal with an $870,000 base salary and an $80,000 signing bonus. He can take the balance of his pay for 2015 with the Bears as termination pay.

Scales, who entered the NFL with the Ravens in 2011, has played for the Dolphins, Jets, and Buccaneers, too.

Gafford will be subject to waivers. If/when (when) he clears waivers, Gafford will be available to be signed out of nowhere when a team decides to make a change at the most interchangeable position in football.

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