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Steelers split on whether to match Sanders offer

Washington Redskins v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The Patriots have made receiver Emmanuel Sanders an offer that the Steelers can’t decide whether to refuse.

John Clayton of ESPN recently reported that the team is 50-50 on whether to match the $2.5 million offer to Sanders, or whether to take the third-round pick (91st overall) from the Patriots.

We were told late Friday afternoon that the situation indeed remains “up in the air.”

If there’s a split, the better approach would be to let Sanders go.  He’ll likely be gone in a year anyway, and if Sanders were part of the long-term plans he’d have a long-term deal by now.  With that third-round pick, the Steelers could end up with a great player who makes significant contributions over the long haul.

So have faith in your scouting department, and seize on the chance to snag a potential star player.

The Steelers have until midnight tomorrow night to make a final decision.

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Peyton Manning back at work for Broncos

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The Broncos practiced without quarterback Peyton Manning on Thursday as Manning went for treatment on his thigh after stretching with the team.

There wasn’t much made of Manning’s absence and it appears there was good reason not to worry. Manning, who was also battling an illness against the Chargers last weekend, is back in drills with the rest of the squad on Friday, giving him plenty of time to work with his teammates before facing the Bengals on Monday night.

“At this time of year everybody, not just me, is dealing with different things physically,” Manning said Thursday, via the Denver Post. “So if you can get a little extra time to take care of your body, treatment or what not, I think guys take advantage of that, and hopefully that will pay off for us.”

Mike Klis of the Denver Post reports that Manning is moving well, “relatively speaking,” during the practice session. We’ll see if there are any updates on his condition later in the day, but it seems like a good bet that Manning is on track to play after his return to practice.


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C.J. Spiller probable to return Sunday

C.J. Spiller AP

An AFC wild-card contender looks set to get a key player back for the final two games.

Bills tailback C.J. Spiller will be activated from injured reserve/designated for return, coach Doug Marrone said Friday, according to the club’s official Twitter feed.

Spiller is probable to face the Raiders in Oakland on Sunday, the club said.

The 27-year-old Spiller has missed the last seven games with a broken clavicle. A dual-threat back with top speed, Spiller has rushed for 287 yards on 69 carries and caught 14 passes for 109 yards and one touchdown for 8-6 Buffalo, which is one game out of the final wild-card spot.

Spiller’s return gives the Bills a strong hand in the backfield, with Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown also capable performers.

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Panthers list Cam Newton as probable for Sunday

Newton AP

To little surprise, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will play on Sunday, only 12 days after a car accident that could have ended a lot worse than it did.

After missing the Week 15 win over the Buccaneers with a pair of fractured bones in his back, Newton is listed as probable for Sunday’s visit from the Browns.  It technically means there’s a virtual certainty Newton will be available for normal duty.

It also means that, barring something completely unforeseen, Newton will play in a game the Panthers desperately need to win in order to keep alive their slim hopes of winning the NFC South.

All signs have pointed toward Newton playing after missing only one week.  That’s the same amount of time Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo missed for the same injury, and Romo had other pre-existing back problems.

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Joe Thomas facing charges for discharging manure

Joe Thomas AP

Some days the jokes fall right into your lap.

According to the Associated Press, Browns left tackle Joe Thomas is accused of multiple enviornmental violations on his Wisconsin hunting land, including “discharging manure into a wetland.”

Considering his employer has been doing that along the banks of Lake Erie for the last few decades, we’ll assume he’ll have the support of management.

The report said the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources sent him a letter claiming he has built bridges and dams without permits, along with dredging a pond and tearing down a barn without notice.

The DNR wants to meet with him on Jan. 6 to discuss the violations, and he could face $10,000 a day in fines

There are actual environmental and property rights issues at play here, but let’s not kid ourselves.

Discharging manure. That’s all.

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Rashad Jennings not spotted practicing Friday

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants could be short a key tailback for Sunday’s game at St. Louis.

Starter Rashad Jennings (ankle) wasn’t on the field at the outset of practice Friday, per Jordan Raanan of Raanan, who covers the club, said Jennings would not play against St. Louis. The 29-year-old tailback did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday, and a third straight day without working would, at the very least, leave his Week 16 status in some doubt.

The Giants’ final injury report will be released later today.

The 29-year-old Jennings has been limited to just three carries in the last two games for the Giants (5-9). Rookie Andre Williams will start and get the bulk of the carries against the Rams if Jennings cannot play.

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Seahawks give Cliff Avril $28.5 million extension

cliffavril AP

Having a starting quarterback — much less a star — on a cheap rookie contract gives a team incredible flexibility to keep other good parts around him.

The Seahawks used that Friday.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Seahawks have signed defensive end Cliff Avril to a new four-year extension, worth $28.5 million with $16 million guaranteed.

When the details emerge, we’ll see the actual amount that’s guaranteed at signing, as opposed to the initial numbers which serve to make agents look good at their jobs.

Avril landed in Seattle two years ago after turning down a three-year, $30 million offer from the Lions, so this helps take some of the sting out.

The 28-year-old Avril is still a productive pass-rusher for the Seahawks, who have a window to get some guys under contract before the inevitable deal for quarterback Russell Wilson (and with the cash bump created by trading Percy Harvin).

Linebacker K.J. Wright also cashed in yesterday, as the Seahawks continue to build around the side of the ball that won them a Super Bowl.

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T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne not spotted at practice Friday

Indianapolis Colts v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Colts’ top two pass catchers weren’t spotted at the outset of Friday’s practice.

T.Y. Hilton (ankle) and Reggie Wayne (undisclosed) weren’t on the field for the club’s final major workout before Sunday’s game at Dallas, according to Mike Wells of

Hilton did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. One of the AFC’s top field-stretching threats, Hilton leads the Colts in catches (82) and receiving yards (1,345).

Wayne (59 catches, 665 yards) was not on the injury report on Wednesday or Thursday, but he has dealt with some ailments, and he has also sat out multiple practices simply to rest this season.

Rookie Donte Moncrief and veteran Hakeem Nicks would be next in line for more reps if Hilton and/or Wayne were out or limited against the Cowboys.

The Colts (10-4) have clinched the AFC South. They still have a shot at a first-round bye, but they are a game behind Denver and New England (11-3) and lose head-to-head tiebreakers with both.

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Julio Jones not seen practicing on Friday

Atlanta Falcons v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The status of the Falcons’ go-to receiver for Sunday’s pivotal game at New Orleans seems in doubt.

Per Vaughn McClure of, wide receiver Julio Jones (hip) was not practicing at the outset of Friday’s workout.

The 25-year-old Jones has not played since suffering his injury in the midst of a 11-catch, 259-yard performance at Green Bay on December 8. He didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday as Atlanta began its prep for division-leading New Orleans (6-8).

The Falcons (5-9) are one game out of first place in the NFC South. They will capture the division title if they defeat the Saints and Panthers in the final two weeks.

If Jones is out, Harry Douglas will step into his role opposite Roddy White.

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PFT Live: Chargers talk with Kevin Acee, PFT Planet calls and tweets

Denver Broncos v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

Week 16 kicked off with a matchup between 2-12 teams on Thursday night, but things will pick up in the next couple of days as the NFL takes over Saturday and Sunday for your viewing pleasure this week.

Saturday brings a pair of games, including a matchup between the Chargers and 49ers in the evening. Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego will join Mike Florio to discuss quarterback Philip Rivers’s physical condition after missing practice time this week with chest and back injuries and what impact those injuries will have on San Diego’s chances of continuing their playoff push.

As we do most Fridays, we’ll also be looking ahead to the weekend’s slate of games by seeing what’s on the mind of PFT Planet. You can send in your questions for Florio on Twitter — @ProFootballTalk — or by giving a call to 888-237-5269 during the show.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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A.J. Green back to practice after brief illness

Cincinnati Bengals v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

After worrying everyone through a series of big toe problems earlier this year, A.J. Green’s latest reason to miss practice wasn’t nearly as big a deal.

According to Geoff Hobson of the team’s official website, the Bengals wide receiver was back on the practice field today.

Green was out yesterday with an illness, and the fact he’s back today is a clear sign there’s nothing to worry about for him Monday.

The Bengals can clinch a playoff berth with a win against the Broncos, and could sew up the AFC North title with a win and losses by the Steelers and Ravens.

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FCC dismisses petition attacking Washington name


The FCC has decided to let Daniel Snyder be.

Via the Washington Post, the agency responsible for regulating the public airwaves has dismissed a petition against one of the radio stations owned by the owner of the Washington franchise based on the frequent use by said station of the team’s nickname.

“Licensees have broad discretion — based on their right to free speech — to choose, in good faith, the programming they believe serves the needs and interests of their communities,” the FCC concluded.  “This holds true even if the material broadcast is insulting to a particular minority or ethnic group in a station’s community.”

An attorney for the station predictably crowed about the outcome.

“The FCC’s written opinion makes crystal clear that use of the word Redskins on the airwaves does not violate any FCC rules, is not obscenity, profanity, or hate speech and is fully protected by the First Amendment,” Andrew McBride said, via the Post.

The conclusion hardly ends the simmering debate regarding whether the name should be changed.  While dormant for much of the 2014 regular season, the debate will linger until the name changes — and it will linger for years after the name changes.

In some respects, the team’s struggles (and other significant off-field issues for the NFL) have helped keep the debate out of the spotlight.  If/when (if) the team ever becomes a contender that plays deep into January and/or into the first Sunday in February, the debate will perhaps reach critical mass.

Until then, the periodic legal attacks on the name will continue.  Thursday’s ruling means only that the FCC won’t provide the silver bullet.  Another legal strategy, like the pending attack on the team’s trademark rights, could.  Even without the law forcing change, change could come from business realities or internal pressure from other NFL owners.So, for now, the American government hasn’t deemed the term to be offensive.  Fortunately for Snyder, the North Korean government hasn’t, either.

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Marvin Lewis doesn’t get Jeremy Hill’s touchdown celebrations, but likes how often he’s celebrating

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

Bengals running back Jeremy Hill has made an impression on several fronts during his rookie season.

He’s made headlines with his mouth by criticizing opponents and his own offense’s predictability and he’s shown off a penchant for elaborate touchdown celebrations, including a failed bid to launch himself into the Dawg Pound during last Sunday’s victory over the Browns. Coach Marvin Lewis said that he’s told Hill it’s not to the team’s benefit when he runs his mouth and that he doesn’t quite understand the touchdown celebrations, but he’d like to see more of them as Hill continues to make a strong impression on the field.

“I want him to be able to celebrate in the end zone. That’s a key goal of mine, to let Jeremy celebrate in the end zone as much as possible — just make it quick,” Lewis said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I don’t understand much of that, but he’s good. That’s what you want. You want to have guys like that. He’s been good for the team because I think they respect his maturity and how he’s handled things. He’s one of the guys. He’s learning how to grow in the NFL as a young guy. He’s doing it the right way.”

The Bengals have indicated a desire to roll with Hill as their lead back with Giovani Bernard, a decision that Hill will justify as long as he’s picking up five yards a pop out of the backfield. Should that continue, Lewis will probably have plenty of opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of what Hill’s up to when he hits the end zone.

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With season on the line, Jerry Jones is optimistic

Jerry AP

It’s been a long quest for glory. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones believes that glory is finally arriving.

With the 10-win Cowboys two games away from a division title — and one slip-up away from blowing both the NFC East crown and a wild-card berth — Jones sees the cup as almost entirely full. Despite failures in each of the last three years to win a Week 17 game that would have delivered a division title.

“I feel better than I felt in those years principally because of the health of [quarterback Tony] Romo,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “We’re in better shape with his health than we were in at least two of those three years.

“Just looking at our team and how it’s continually improved and it has, I think we’re playing our best. On an individual basis across the board the players are executing, and they’re healthier than they were in any of the last three years in general, across the board. Now, that has a lot to do with it.”

Still, the Cowboys have to deliver in each of the next two games, at home (where Dallas is a mediocre 3-4) and on the road against Washington. Lose one, and the Cowboys possibly are done.

So plenty is riding on the team’s ability to finish the job. If they perform like they have all year, the Cowboys will continue to defy the odds. If they finish the season like they did each of the prior three years, they’ll quite possibly be watching someone else pursue the glory that Jones so fervently craves.

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Washington openly hoping to play NFC East spoiler

NFL-Washington Redskins at New York Giants Getty Images

When you’re out of it and dysfunctional, you take whatever you can get.

So for Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, the motivation for remaining games with the Cowboys and Eagles is simple.

We have a chance to be spoiler here,” Kerrigan said, via “Both of these teams are vying for the NFC East title and we have a chance to ruin one of their seasons so hopefully we can do that.

“You see these teams twice a year. Our fans don’t like the other teams in the East and we don’t either. This is a chance to take some positive for us by giving a negative to them.”

Dallas could clinch the NFC East this week with a win over the Colts and an Eagles loss at Washington.



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No current contract talks for Randall Cobb, Packers

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Before the season started, the Packers locked up wide receiver Jordy Nelson through 2018 before he could become a free agent.

Wide receiver Randall Cobb is also headed for free agency when the year comes to an end, but he didn’t get a new deal from the team. It doesn’t sound like one is forthcoming, either. Cobb said Thursday that there are no current contract talks going on with the team, something that Cobb says “is what it is” while adding that he hasn’t given much thought to what will happen after the season.

He did say that Green Bay is a great place to play and it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t want to follow up his first 1,000-yard receiving season by catching more passes from Aaron Rodgers. The size of the deal also plays a role, though, and Cobb said before the season that he didn’t think he had done enough on the field to warrant a big deal. Has he done enough to be paid like a top receiver now?

“That’s a question for you,” Cobb said, via the Green Bay Press Gazette. “Am I? I don’t know. I’m trying to be the best Randall I can be. I don’t know what that means, but I’m trying to be the best I can be. I’ll let everybody else decide what.”

Sorting out Cobb’s contract will likely be one of the first things on the Packers’ to-do list when their season comes to an end and quarterback Aaron Rodgers said it’s important that the team hold onto a player who is having his best season as a pro. If they don’t, there will be plenty of other quarterbacks asking their teams to let them replace Rodgers as the man getting Cobb the ball.

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