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Clemons questions motivation of gay player coming out

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Maybe the NFL locker room actually isn’t ready for an openly gay player.

The real problem may not be that some players will object to the sexual orientation of a teammate, but that some will bristle at what will perceived to be a grab for attention.

That’s the gist of a recent series tweets from Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons, as summarized and explained by Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times.  While the comments could be construed as homophobic on the surface, Clemons eventually gets to the crux of his concern:  “I’m not against anyone but I think it’s a selfish act.  They just trying to make themselves bigger than the team.”

The first player who comes out will create a major distraction for himself, his teammates, and his entire organization.  With each passing season, as interest in the NFL continues to grow and as more and more media companies emerge to cover the sport, the distraction will be even bigger when a player does come out.

That’s one of the primary reasons no player has done it.  Football players want to play football, and they generally don’t want to create a distraction for themselves or others on the team.  Even if teammates have no issue with a player being honest about who he is, some teammates won’t understand why the player felt compelled to grab a megaphone and let the world know private, personal information that results in a microphone eventually being stuck in all their faces.

While it’s possible that the first player who comes out will be motivated by objectives other than making it easier for people to be who they are (e.g., extending his NFL career, creating a post-football career, or cashing in on endorsement opportunities), it will still require considerable courage, since the costs possibly will far outweigh the benefits.

Clemons’ comments highlight one potential cost that many may have previously overlooked.

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NFL to suspend Raiola for one game

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Lions center Dominic Raiola said his stomp on the leg of Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson was inadvertent. There will be nothing inadvertent about the NFL’s reaction.

Per a league source, Raiola will indeed be suspended one game for the infraction. Raiola will get the official word later this afternoon.

Raiola was fined $10,000 last month for striking Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore in the back of the head. In that same game, Raiola escaped punishment for deliberately diving at Moore’s legs during a kneel-down play.

Raiola will have immediate appeal rights, with the hearing held quickly and a ruling coming as soon as Wednesday.

If the suspension is upheld, the Lions won’t have their starting center for Sunday’s NFC North championship game against the Packers. But they will have him for the first game of the postseason.

Three years ago, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was suspended two games for a post-play stomp on the arm of former Packers offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith.

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Steven Jackson undergoing further testing on quad

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The Falcons didn’t need much from running back Steven Jackson to knock off the Saints on Sunday and it’s not clear yet whether they’ll have him in the lineup at all when they try to do the same to the Panthers in Week 17.

Jackson left the win over the Saints in the first half with a quad injury and didn’t return, finishing the day with four carries and one reception. Coach Mike Smith said Monday that Jackson was having further tests done to evaluate the injury, which means we’ll be waiting until later in the week for an idea about whether or not he’ll play against Carolina.

Devonta Freeman was the most effective back in New Orleans, running five times for 36 yards and a touchdown and catching three passes for 48 more yards.

Smith said Safety William Moore is also having tests done on his injured shoulder after leaving Sunday’s game. Moore was on injured reserve with the designation to return for an injury to the same shoulder earlier this season.

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Hoyer, Manziel are both hurt, so Connor Shaw may start

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All season we’ve been asking whether the Browns would start Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel. At the end of the season, the answer may be neither.

Undrafted rookie quarterback Connor Shaw, a member of the practice squad, may be called up to the active roster and forced to start Sunday’s season finale against the Ravens. Mary Kay Cabot of reports that Manziel’s hamstring injury, which forced him out of Sunday’s game, and an injury to Hoyer’s shoulder suffered after Manziel went out, could leave Shaw as the only option.

A three-year starter at South Carolina, Shaw was signed by the Browns in May and had some good performances in the preseason this year. Perhaps he can have another good performance in the season finale, and add a new element to the Browns’ inevitable quarterback controversy in 2015.

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Jay Cutler will start season finale for the Bears

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Meet the new Bears starting quarterback, same as the old Bears starting quarterback.

Jimmy Clausen suffered a concussion in Sunday’s loss to the Lions and the Bears ruled him out for Week 17 on Monday, leaving the team in need of someone to lead their offense against the Vikings. Coach Marc Trestman’s options were Jay Cutler, benched a week ago after a string of poor games that have led to plenty of questions about the future of the coach, quarterback and General Manager Phil Emery, and rookie David Fales.

Trestman has opted to go with the devil he knows.

“Jay gives us the best chance this week. So that’s why he’ll be out there,” Trestman said, via “Jay said ‘I’ll be ready to go.’ He empathizes with what Jimmy had gone through last night. He’s ready to go. He’ll be in this afternoon to get started.”

Going with Fales would have given the Bears a chance to see the sixth-rounder in action while also protecting Cutler from the possibility of an injury that could hamper attempts to trade him this offseason, although no one’s really sure at this point if that’s the route the Bears will go or who will be making the decisions about such moves. They went the other way, though, and the season will end with the same starting quarterback that took the field in Week One.

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Chip Kelly not miffed about playoff structure

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The Eagles will finish with a winning record, but they won’t make it to the playoffs. The Panthers or Falcons will secure a spot with a losing record. That doesn’t bother Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly.

“Should we move to the [NFC South] so we can get in a different division?” Kelly said to reporters on Monday when asked about the situation. “No, that’s just the rules. People that complain about rules that are already in existence. . . .
We didn’t do enough. We didn’t win enough games against the right opponents to put ourselves in the playoffs. We knew the rules of engagement before the season started. To sit here after it is over and say, ‘Let’s change the rules so this can happen,’ that’s just the way it is. There may be a year where we’re in a situation where we’re not in great shape and we win our division and we get a chance to go. People said it about Seattle a couple years ago, and then Seattle won their wild-card game.

“It’s still about winning each week and doing what you’re supposed to do. We already knew the rules before the season started. That’s the way it expressed itself. We didn’t do enough to win to get ourselves in the playoffs. That’s on us. That’s not on anybody else, or what the structure of setup is.”

It’s the right attitude. The rules are the rules, and the Eagles knew the rules. Everyone knew the rules. Until they change, one team from each of the eight divisions will host a playoff game, whether they “deserve” it or not.

The Eagles may deserve it in relation to Carolina or Atlanta. But that doesn’t matter, because one of those teams will become the best in its division, regardless of the final won-loss record.

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Panthers add Frank Alexander to 53-man roster

Frank Alexander AP

The Panthers have one game to extend their season, and they’re adding a pass-rusher who might be able to help them.

The team announced that defensive end Frank Alexander had been added to the 53-man roster. He takes the place of wide receiver De’Andre Presley, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a concussion last week.

Alexander spent the first 14 weeks suspended for a pair of substance abuse policy violations, which he said were triggered by his poor handling of grief over the illnesses of family members.

The former fourth-round pick had shown some promise as a pass-rusher, and getting after Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will be critical in Sunday’s win-and-in NFC South title game.

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Report: Dominic Raiola expecting one-game suspension

Detroit Lions v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

The NFL is considering discipline for Lions center Dominic Raiola after he stepped on Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson during Sunday’s 20-14 Detroit win and the team reportedly expects the league to hand down a one-game suspension.

Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports reports that the Lions have told Raiola to expect the one-game ban, which would leave him on the sideline as the face the Packers for the NFC North title in Week 17. Raiola could appeal any suspension and that appeal would likely be expedited so it happened before that game.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Monday that the team was prepared for the possibility that Raiola would be suspended while adding that he believes the center’s claim that he inadvertently stepped on Ferguson.

“Obviously I took a good look at [the play],” Caldwell said, via the Detroit Free Press. “Looked at both the coach’s copy and also the television copy as well, and I believe what Dom told me, that it was inadvertent. But I can also see why it obviously is being reviewed by the league and everybody’s taking a real good look at it because you can also see the other side of that as well. There’s a league protocol to it. It’ll be reviewed, taken a look at and we’ll deal with the issues after there’s been some determination there.”

Rookie Travis Swanson would likely start in Raiola’s place if he’s out on Sunday.

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Bears say Clausen suffered concussion on helmet-to-helmet hit from Ansah

Clausen AP

On Sunday, Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen absorbed a wicked helmet-to-helmet hit from Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah while sliding. Clausen seemed fine at the time, remained in the game, and apparently developed no concussion-like symptoms.

Until today.

The Bears have announced that Clausen has been diagnosed with a concussion after delayed symptoms. Which is precisely the headline of the press release.

“Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen was diagnosed with a concussion Sunday evening after experiencing delayed symptoms,” He is currently being evaluated based on the NFL’s concussion protocol and will not play this Sunday.”

It’s odd for a player to be scratched six days before a game due to a concussion, given that plenty of players improve sufficiently to secure clearance to play the following weekend. It could be that the Bears are erring on the side of caution. It could be that the symptoms are sufficiently significant to allow the Bears to know now that he won’t play.

And it could be that the Bears have seen enough from Clausen.

“After the hit which drew an unnecessary roughness penalty in the final Bears offensive drive of the game, Clausen was monitored by the team’s medical staff and the NFL’s ATC spotter,” the team said. “He exhibited no signs of concussion immediately after the hit or during the final four plays of the drive. At the conclusion of the series he was further checked on the sideline and again exhibited no signs or symptoms. After the game he passed all testing by team physicians and reported no concussion symptoms. Prior to leaving the stadium he was told, as per protocol, to contact team athletic trainers if he had any problems later in the day. Clausen experienced delayed symptoms later Sunday evening and contacted trainers. He was taken to a hospital where he was further examined by a team physician and at that time diagnosed with a concussion. Upon diagnosis, he began the concussion protocol.”

The next question becomes whether Jay Cutler or David Fales starts in Week 17. If it’s Fales, it will become even more clear that the Bears hope to keep Cutler healthy in order to trade him. If it’s Cutler, it could mean that the team hopes to avoid a full-scale mutiny for the regular-season finale.

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Cardinals leaning toward starting Logan Thomas in Week 17

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals have started three different quarterbacks this season and it looks like they will make it four when they face the 49ers in Week 17.

Coach Bruce Arians said Monday that the team is leaning toward starting rookie Logan Thomas in the regular season finale, although Thomas’s work in practice could send things in another direction. Ryan Lindley started against the Seahawks on Sunday night and played about as well as you’d expect someone with no touchdowns and seven interceptions in his NFL career to perform. Lindley was 18-of-44 for 216 yards and an interception in the 35-6 loss.

Thomas saw some mop-up duty on Sunday and also played in a 41-20 loss to the Broncos earlier this season, when he completed 1-of-8 passes. That one completion was an 81-yard touchdown to running back Andre Ellington on a pass that Thomas squeezed through defenders for Ellington to catch and do the rest of the work.

The fourth-round pick was one of the rawest prospects in the draft this year, but has the kind of big arm that Bruce Arians likes to deploy in his downfield passing game. Given how poorly Lindley played and the uncertainty about Drew Stanton’s ability to return to the playoffs, it makes sense for the Cardinals to get Thomas some game work to give themselves at least the possibility of another option when the postseason gets underway.

Arians added that he expects Stanton to practice some this week and hopes he’ll be available for the playoffs. If he can’t, we’ll get one of the unlikeliest starters in recent postseason history whether Thomas or Lindley gets the call.

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Sen’Derrick Marks: Pro Bowl balloting is BS if I don’t make it

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Jaguars defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks guaranteed himself a $600,000 bonus with a sack of Charlie Whitehurst last Thursday night and it seems he’d like to spend some of that cash in Arizona.

Marks thinks he should be heading to the Pro Bowl after the season, but will need some help from the league’s players and coaches in order to make it to Glendale when the selections are announced on Tuesday night. Marks ranked 13th among defensive tackles in the now-concluded fan voting and he thinks his omission would uncover a flaw in the system.

“If it happens that way, then I say that the whole Pro Bowl voting and balloting is all BS,” Marks said, via Michael DiRocco of “How do you look at it? Do you look at it as a guy that plays good on a good team or a guy that plays good on what you consider a team that doesn’t have the record? I thought it was supposed to be the guy who plays the best at that position that year. That’s what I thought it was. If it comes out that way, it wouldn’t bother me. It wouldn’t stop the way I play. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all.”

Marks has had a very strong season and is definitely worthy of Pro Bowl consideration. The problem is that there are enough good candidates that leaving out any particular one falls well short of a flaw in the system. Marcell Dareus, Aaron Donald, Sheldon Richardson (listed as a tackle for Pro Bowl purposes, as is teammate Muhammad Wilkerson), Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy and Kyle Williams are just a few of the worthy choices for spots, which makes it hard to believe that anyone is going to outraged if they made it with Marks left on the outside.

The good news for Marks is that McCoy is on injured reserve and is just one of several players who could make it and cede their spot to someone who doesn’t make it so Marks could get into the game even if he doesn’t get to enjoy the gift of a trip to Arizona for Christmas.

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Jets bringing Charley Casserly in as a consultant

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In what can only be interpreted as an ominous sign, Jets owner Woody Johnson is bringing in an extra set of eyes.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Johnson is preparing to hire former Texans and Redskins General Manager Charley Casserly as a consultant.

This comes with the proviso “in the event the organization decides to make any changes, per league sources.”

The list of people who hired consultants to help them not make changes has to be a short one, but so far, there’s been no word of imminent firings.

I mean, we’ve all assumed coach Rex Ryan is a goner for months, and it seems he has as well. But the status of G.M. John Idzik has been up in the air (literally and figuratively).

Casserly might not have covered himself in glory at his last stop in charge, but his connections from his days as an executive and a television analyst gives Johnson a resource in the event he’s making changes.

Which by hiring a consultant, it seems he’s about to.

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Gruden says winning is the only way to evaluate a quarterback

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Washington coach Jay Gruden says quarterback Robert Griffin III was successful on Saturday for one simple reason: He won.

“That is the No. 1 factor, and that is it,” Gruden said, via ESPN. “Obviously you look at the production and all that stuff, and what he could’ve done maybe, but winning football games is the only thing that matters to me for a quarterback. And it doesn’t matter if they go 12-for-24 for 80 yards and we win, or if they go 28-for-35 for 400 [yards] and we lose, you’d rather have the 12-for-24. The ability to manage a game, stay away from the big turnovers and get the W is all that counts.”

Obviously, at the end of the day all any team cares about is winning. How you win doesn’t matter. Whether you win does.

But to suggest that “the only thing that matters” in evaluating a quarterback is whether he won or not is, frankly, ridiculous.

The Packers and Lions are tied at 11-4. Does anyone really think Matthew Stafford is as good as Aaron Rodgers? The Seahawks and Cardinals are also tied at 11-4. Does anyone believe having the combination of Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley at quarterback is as good as having Russell Wilson?

Derek Anderson is 2-0 as a starting quarterback this season. Is Gruden going to try to acquire Derek Anderson in the offseason on the theory that he just finds a way to win? Or does Gruden grasp that you have to go further in evaluating a quarterback, and that if you look beyond Anderson’s win-loss record also look at who he played, you realize that going 2-0 in two starts against the Buccaneers isn’t so impressive?

Judging quarterbacks by whether they win on a week-to-week basis is as silly as judging a quarterback’s career by his Super Bowl rings. Was Trent Dilfer a better quarterback than Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and Fran Tarkenton? Was Jim Plunkett better than Brett Favre and Peyton Manning? But as silly as judging a quarterback that way is, people do it.

Gruden has complained that his words get twisted, and perhaps he didn’t really mean that all he evaluates a quarterback on is winning and losing. Maybe what Gruden meant is that he wants a quarterback who is smart enough to do things that don’t always translate to impressive stats — things like managing the clock well, or knowing when to throw the ball away or take a sack when nothing is open. If that’s the case, that’s a reasonable proposition.

But it’s not reasonable to say that winning is the only way to evaluate a quarterback.

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Bills to release Mike Williams from injured reserve

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If a team wants to pick up a veteran wideout heading into Week 17, they can add Mike Williams to their roster.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports, via agent Hadley Engelhard, that the Bills will release Williams from injured reserve. Williams was waived-injured earlier this month with a calf injury and reverted to injured reserve when he passed through waivers unclaimed.

Williams is eligible to be signed by a team now and he’ll remain eligible to be signed at any point should the season end without him finding a new team. That gives him a leg up on the impending free agents around the league, although his 2014 season may not have too many people lining up to give him a job. Williams was an occasional healthy scratch while playing in nine games and catching eight passes.

That’s not the return the Bills were hoping for when they dealt a sixth-round pick to Tampa to acquire Williams before the season. The move reunited Williams with his college coach Doug Marrone, although the feelings may not have been all that warm after Williams quit the Syracuse team in 2009 ahead of a possible suspension for violating team rules.

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Titans have become the NFL’s biggest slump-busters

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Maybe it’s their Southern address, but the Tennessee Titans are the most hospitable team in the league, perhaps in league history.

Bless their hearts.

As first mentioned by Peter King of, and extrapolated by Paul Kuharsky of, the Titans have done something unprecedented this season.

It’s not that they’ve they lost nine in a row (that’s been done before), it’s who they’ve done it against.

Every team that has beaten the Titans during this streak was coming off at least one loss, and collectively, those opponents had lost 24 straight games prior to welcoming the Titans to their worlds.

The longest previous streak of teams losing to teams coming off a loss was six, achieved most recently in 2010 by the Bengals and the Titans.

They’re likely to extend their record this week, since the Colts are coming off a beating by the Cowboys, and the Titans don’t have much of a chance against anyone.

But at least they’re generous.

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Robbie Gould questions benching of Jay Cutler

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Earlier this year, Bears coach Marc Trestman said it’s important to be “accepting” and “non-judgmental” of players who speak their mind. I wonder if he feels that way about the kicker, too?

Robbie Gould, who has missed several games due to injury, has opened up about the decision to bench starting quarterback Jay Cutler for veteran journeyman (which may be an overstatement) Jimmy Clausen.

“I honestly don’t even know what the message is, to be honest with you,” Gould said Monday on WSCR’s The Spiegel and Mannelly Show. “I just think it’s been a long season. [Trestman started Clausen] to provide a spark for the team, is what he told us, and I wish Jay was out there playing.

“[Trestma] did address the team the next day and talked about what happened. He made a decision that he thought was best for the team. And listen, we lost again. That’s the bottom line. We’re in the business of winning football games and production, and we got to produce, and we got to win.

“I feel really bad for Jay. We’re you’re having a tough season like this, he’s not the guy to be the scapegoat or the guy to blame. There’s a lot of guys you can put that blame on.

“You could bench the whole team. It’s not like anybody’s really played fantastic or great. We’re 5-10 now. It’s not like Jay’s the problem. Jay’s not the issue.”

One of the issues is that plenty of players and staff members have been complaining. That’s not something Gould is used to.

“This whole season’s not the Bear way,” Gould said. “Pointing fingers, things getting out of the locker room — that’s not the Chicago Bear way. I think for me, being around the organization for 10 years, seeing guys like Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs who most likely have played or walked through the tunnel for the last time, it’s tough. Because we weren’t taught this way under Lovie [Smith]. We weren’t taught to do these sorts of things. We always stayed together, as close as we could.”

There’s a certain irony in Gould’s comments, since he has now become the latest player to behave in a way other than the Bear way, by talking openly about Trestman’s handling of the team. It underscores the need for change in Chicago, and significant change is likely only one game away.

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