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Chargers say Manti Te’o was well worth trading up

Manti Teo AP

The San Diego Chargers spent both their second-round pick and their fourth-round pick on former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o. And they think they got a steal.

When Te’o was still available with the Cardinals on the clock at pick No. 38, the Chargers packaged their second-round pick (No. 45) and their fourth-round pick (No. 110) to move up and draft him. Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said he has no doubt that was the right call.

He’s a first-round player for us,” Telesco said. “He was one of the best college players in America last year and we think he’s going to be a great fit for us. . . . When you have a guy rated that’s a first-round player at a position we could use a player, to sit and wait and if he goes off a pick before us, there’s no worse feel in the world. We thought the value was there as far as giving up that pick to go get him.”

Te’o agrees with Telesco’s assessment: Te’o thought he should have been a first-round pick, too.

I expected to go in the first round, but things happened,” Te’o said. “All it did was give me more motivation to get better.”

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DeMarco Murray good to go for Sunday

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Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was out of commission because of an illness on Christmas, but he was back to work on Boxing Day.

Murray participated in practice on Friday and drew a probable tag on the injury report, leaving him in line to play against Washington in the regular season finale. The Cowboys have locked up the NFC East title and will likely wind up as the third seed, but they can grab a first-round bye with the right combination of results.

Owner Jerry Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan that the possibility was enough for the Cowboys to go all out with Murray and everyone else healthy enough to play.

“It would be a catastrophe if we walked up there and, for whatever the reason, of our own volition, of our own decision making, pulled back a little bit and then had a chance to get that first-round bye,” Jones said, via the team’s website.

Assuming Jason Garrett sticks to the plan laid out by the guy signing the checks, Murray should end Sunday as the Cowboys’ new leader in single-season rushing yards. He’s 29 yards behind Emmitt Smith, who ran for 1,773 yards in 1995.

Right tackle Doug Free is doubtful to play with the ankle injury that kept him out last week. Jermey Parnell will likely start again.

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Bears extend Roberto Garza through 2015

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The Bears found something to like about the 2014 season.

The team announced Friday that they have signed center Roberto Garza to a one-year contract extension. Garza signed a one-year deal to return to the Bears before the start of the season and the team’s obviously been pleased with the work he’s done on the field this season.

Next year will be Garza’s 15th in the NFL and his 11th with the Bears. He has started all but five of the team’s games since the start of the 2006 season and will join kicker Robbie Gould as the longest-tenured members of the organization if linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman both leave the team.

Garza will be turning 36 next year, so the Bears should probably have an eye out this offseason for a player who can follow Garza in the middle of the line.

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Robert Griffin III practices, expected to play against Cowboys

Robert Griffin III AP

Washington won’t be adding to the list of backups or backup-to-the-backup quarterbacks starting this weekend.

According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, Griffin was able to practice Friday with no soreness in his right shoulder, per coach Jay Gruden.

Griffin was limited Wednesday, but is now expected to be ready to start in Sunday’s finale against the Cowboys.

“The big thing was we wanted to make sure he didn’t have a lot of pain when he threw and he didn’t today, so that’s the great thing,” Gruden said. “He looked good, made all the throws today. I think everything’s all systems go with him.”

He should also have protection, as left tackle Trent Williams practiced in a limited role after missing the previous two practices with a shoulder injury. He’s listed as questionable, but said he expects to play as well.

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Mike McCarthy: No concerns about Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Backup quarterbacks are going to be starting in several games with playoff implications this weekend, but the matchup between the Lions and Packers won’t be one of them.

Matthew Stafford has no injury issues for the Lions and any worries about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s calf have disappeared along with the cookies left for Santa Claus. Rodgers practiced again for the Packers on Friday and drew a probable listing on the injury report that sounded like a definite when coach Mike McCarthy addressed the quarterback’s status.

“I don’t have any concerns today based on conversations with Aaron and how he’s feeling,” McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Tomorrow a big indicator, just watching him move around and do different things. I don’t have high concern.”

There aren’t any real injury concerns for the Packers headed into their NFC North title game with the Lions. Cornerback Davon House is out with a shoulder injury for the third straight game and the team’s been targeting the postseason for his return to the lineup. Everyone else is probable or not listed on the injury report at all.

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Given his history, Stanton’s infection creates heightened concern

Stanton Getty Images

The news that Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton has an infection in his injured knee creates serious short-term problems for the team — and long-term problems for Stanton.

NBC Sports Medicine Analyst Mike Ryan points out that, given Stanton’s history, the infection could become a significant problem.  The infection, per Ryan, could damage an ACL graft Stanton received a decade ago.  Combined with a potential impact on the articular cartilage, the infection could lead to joint instability and accelerated joint arthritis.

Then there’s the possibility that the infection could spread, creating a potentially serious health situation for Stanton.

Regardless of what happens going forward, it would be a surprise if Stanton plays again this season.  Making it a major surprise if the Cardinals get beyond the wild-card round.

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Browns name Connor Shaw their Week 17 starter

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Connor Shaw is a roster move away from his first NFL start.

Browns coach Mike Pettine announced Friday that Shaw will start the season finale against the Ravens on Sunday. That decision is the expected one with Brian Hoyer out of practice all week with shoulder and bicep issues and Johnny Manziel on injured reserve, but the Browns still have to formally add Shaw to their 53-man roster from the practice squad to put him in the lineup.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that a deal with Shaw is in place to make that happen, so the Browns can concentrate on getting Shaw ready for Sunday. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said that he thinks Shaw will do well, although he allows that no one was expecting the rookie to play this soon.

“Connor’s going to get some experience that we really weren’t counting on,” Shanahan said.

The Ravens stand to benefit if Shaw doesn’t do as well as Shanahan thinks he will, although a win isn’t enough to get them into the postseason. They need the Chiefs to beat the Chargers and Kansas City will also be going with a backup in Week 17.

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Julio Jones, Steven Jackson questionable for Sunday

Bradley McDougald, Steven Jackson AP

Two of the Falcons’ key skill-position players will be officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s NFC South title game at Carolina.

Wide receiver Julio Jones (hip) and tailback Steven Jackson (quadriceps) are both technically 50-50 shots to play against the Panthers, per the club’s official Twitter feed.

Jones was practicing on Friday, per Vaughn McClure of However, Jackson was not working out for a third straight day. Still, Jackson has yet to be ruled out despite not practicing all week.

The Falcons (6-9) will capture the NFC South for the first time since 2012 with a victory against the Panthers (6-8-1).

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Brian Hoyer not practicing, looks unlikely to go Sunday

Hoyer AP

It looks like the cavalcade of backup quarterbacks starting in Week 17 is going to include Connor Shaw.

According to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer still isn’t practicing because of shoulder and biceps injuries.

That makes it appear extremely unlikely that he’d be able to go in Sunday’s finale.

That would leave Shaw backed up by Tyler Thigpen, who was signed this week when Rex Grossman said no thanks.

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It’s too late for a Kurt Warner comeback

Warner Getty Images

With the Super Bowl Hosting Curse finally destroying the Cardinals’ chance of becoming the first team to play in a Roman-numeralized (probably not a word) football game in their own stadium, there’s even more bad news for a team that apparently will have to enter the postseason with Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas at quarterback:  Kurt Warner is not an option.

Warner isn’t an option, even if he wants to be.  By league rule, the deadline for reinstatement of players on the reserve/retired list came expired on November 28.

Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ official website recently reported that Warner remains on Arizona’s reserve/retired list.  Which means that he can’t in 2015.

Warner admitted that he considered unretiring to join the Cardinals after Drew Stanton suffered a knee injury during a December 11 win over the Rams.

“It amazed me I thought about it as much as I actually thought about it,” Warner said on December 14.

There’s a possible path through the maze, if Warner would decide to try to put a cherry atop one of the most memorable stories in NFL history by riding back in from the sunset to save the season.  The theory has been posed to the league office; for now, it can’t happen, even if Warner would want it to.

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Alex Smith out Sunday due to lacerated spleen

Alex Smith AP

The Chargers need a win at Arrowhead Stadium in order to return to the playoffs for the second straight season and they learned Friday that they won’t have to beat a Chiefs team quarterbacked by Alex Smith.

Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder announced that Smith has a lacerated spleen and will not play in Week 17, leaving the Chiefs with Chase Daniel as their starting quarterback. Burkholder said that Smith, who was able to practice earlier this week, doesn’t need surgery to repair the injury, which occurred in last weekend’s loss to the Steelers, but that the injury could get worse if he were to take a shot in the wrong place against San Diego this weekend.

“It wasn’t until after I dressed and adrenaline wore off that I noticed anything. I didn’t relate it to a hit,” Smith said.

It’s the second straight year that Daniel will start against the Chargers in Week 17, although last year’s start came with Smith resting in advance of the playoff opener. Daniel was 21-of-30 for 200 yards and a touchdown in that game, but the Chiefs lost 27-24 in overtime and the Chargers moved on to the postseason.

San Diego would certainly like the same outcome this time, while the Chiefs need a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. If they were to win and get the help they need elsewhere, Daniel would likely be the playoff starter as Burkholder said Smith’s injury typically takes six weeks to heal.

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Calvin Johnson, Joique Bell present at practice

Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Lions had nearly perfect on-field attendance for their third major practice in preparation for Sunday’s NFC North title game at Green Bay.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee) was the only Lions player not present at Friday’s workout. Fairley has missed the last seven games with his injury and seems all but certain to miss the season finale as well.

However, while Fairley is likely out, taiback Joique Bell (Achilles) and wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle) look set to play Sunday with their ailments. Bell went through a full practice Thursday, while Johnson was limited.

The Lions’ final injury report will be released later Friday.

The Lions will win the NFC North with a victory or a tie vs. the Packers. Both clubs have 11-4 records. For the moment, Detroit holds the head-to-head tiebreaker on account of its Week Three win vs. Green Bay.

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Julio Jones practices on Friday

Atlanta Falcons v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

The Falcons have been without wide receiver Julio Jones at practice since he strained an oblique muscle during the team’s December 8 loss to the Packers, but Jones was able to play last Sunday and he’s continued to progress this week.

Vaughn McClure of reports that Jones took part in Friday’s final practice of the regular season, leaving him on track to play against the Panthers this Sunday. If the Falcons lose that game, it will be the last time that Jones or anyone else on the Falcons practices for a long time but a win would put them in the playoffs and give Jones a chances to practice more next week.

Returning to practice could be a sign that he’s healthier than he was for the game against the Saints, but Jones still probably won’t be 100 percent come Sunday. Jones had seven catches for 107 yards, though, and his presence alone is enough to occupy the attention of the Carolina defense.

Running back Steven Jackson remained a non-participant in practice Friday and isn’t expected to play as the Falcons and Panthers square off for the NFC South title.

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Drew Stanton’s infection believed to be from outside treatment

Drew Stanton AP

The infection that could derail Drew Stanton’s potential return for the playoffs may have created a problem beyond the immediate.

A league source explained to PFT that the infection he was treated for this week is believed to be the result of treatment he was getting for his knee injury outside the team facility.

When Stanton suffered a grade two MCL sprain on Dec. 11, he didn’t need surgery, and was recovering with treatment and rest. The hope was that he’d be able to return for the postseason.

But this week, his knee began to swell, and team doctors diagnosed him with an infection. However, the fact he didn’t have surgery or any treatment from the team that would lead to such an infection has them believing it stemmed from a treatment they didn’t perform.

He underwent an arthroscopic procedure Wednesday, and is being treated with antibiotics now.

What isn’t known is the nature of the outside treatment, or whether he’ll be able to make it back for the playoffs.

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A.J. Green present at Cincinnati’s Friday practice

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

As the Bengals embarked on their final on-field work of the week, their go-to receiver was among those dressed to work out.

Wide receiver A.J. Green (biceps) was seen at the club’s Friday practice in uniform, Geoff Hobson of reported.

Green suffered the arm injury in the Bengals’ Monday night win vs. Denver. He did not practice on Wednesday, but he was able to go through a limited workout on Thursday.

The Bengals (10-4-1) will capture the AFC North with a win or tie at Pittsburgh on Sunday night (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

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Report: Drew Stanton being treated for infection

Arizona Cardinals v St Louis Rams Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals, who seemed to have perfected the art of “next man up,” suddenly can’t catch a break.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, quarterback Drew Stanton had to have an arthroscopic procedure to fight an infection, and may be done for the year.

That’s bad news for the Cardinals hopes for anything beyond simply making the postseason, such that Stanton himself was the answer.

They were planning to bench Ryan Lindley in favor of rookie Logan Thomas, but Thomas got the quick hook this week in practice.

Of course, it’s worse news for Stanton, who suffered a knee injury and then an infection.

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