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Patriots, Bucs swap Jeff Demps for LeGarrette Blount

LeGarrette Blount AP

Jeff Demps and LeGarrette Blount are making like Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd and trading places.

The Patriots have traded Demps, the former Olympic sprinter and University of Florida running back and return man, to the Buccaneers for Blount, the running back who was outstanding as a rookie but was phased out of the offense in Tampa last season.

The Patriots also sent a seventh-round draft pick to the Buccaneers to complete the deal.

Both Demps and Blount had been the subject of a great deal of trade talk in the last couple of months. Demps announced that he wants to focus on track in the offseason and only return to football in the fall, which didn’t go over well in New England. Blount has never fit in well with Greg Schiano in Tampa. So the deal doesn’t come as a big surprise.

Blount had 201 carries for 1,007 yards as an undrafted rookie in 2010. Demps was a good running back and return man at Florida. If both players are focused and committed, it’s a deal that could work out well for both teams.

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Washington, Pittsburgh aren’t options for Jets-Bills

Pitt Getty Images

Earlier today, PFT reported that the three primary alternative locations for the game between the Jets and Bills are Detroit, Toronto, and New Jersey.

ESPN also has identified a trio of venues, but with only one common place:  Detroit.  Per ESPN, the other choices are Pittsburgh and Washington.

A league source tells PFT that Washington and Pittsburgh are not options.  And that makes plenty of sense; both fields consist of grass, and both grass fields have in the past demonstrated problems with behaving like, you know, grass.

While both seem to be better (or at least not as bad) as in the past, it makes no sense to play an extra game on a grass field when the extra game can be played on FieldTurf at Ford Field.

For other reasons, Detroit is the best choice of any of the available options.  And it won’t be a surprise if, come Friday, the announcement is made that the game will be played in Detroit.

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Raiders fans buy newspaper ad calling for return of Hue Jackson

Hue Jackson AP

The Raiders aren’t getting much else done, but at least they’re sparking the local economy.

Via, a group of Raiders fans bought a quarter page ad in the Oakland Tribune, asking for the team to bring back Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson as the team’s next head coach.

“Ever since our Super Bowl loss in 2002, our beloved Raiders organization has been having unsuccessful, losing seasons,” the ad read. “In 2010, we hired Coach Hue Jackson as offensive coordinator, who came in to work alongside then Head Coach Tom Cable. He aided the franchise to bounce back from a 4-12 record to an 8-8 record. Hue Jackson was promoted to Head Coach. Our players were motivated and wanted to play for Coach Jackson, and there was a huge shift in culture within the Raiders locker room. That season, our team went 8-8, just missing the playoffs. This success was in spite of the 132-day NFL lockout, losing our starting quarterback Jason Campbell to injury, and then losing our running back Darren McFadden. In addtion, our legendary, trendsetting, trailblazing owner, Al Davis passed away. Mark Davis assumed ownership while grieving his loss and it was Hue Jackson’s loyalty to the franchise that saw him take on more responsibilities.

“Despite the firing of Coach Allen, our record as of print is 0-10 and 0-16 over two seasons! Our team was in a better position with Coach Hue Jackson. Raiders Nation let your voice be heard; hire Hue Jackson in 2015!”

While a group of disgruntled fans buying ads (or airplane banners, or billboards) might not create fundamental change, it at least shows a degree of passion for a team that has done everything possible to kill it.

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Justin Blackmon pleads no contest to pot charge

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When last we heard about suspended wide receiver Justin Blackmon, he was in a voluntary treatment program as he tries to tackle the substance abuse issues that have forced him to miss more than a year’s worth of game while seeing out an indefinite ban from the league.

Blackmon was in a courtroom in Oklahoma Thursday to deal with a marijuana possession charge. Blackmon was arrested in July when police officers found three grams of marijuana in Blackmon’s car after stopping him for a traffic violation.

Blackmon pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge, which the Oklahoman reports will be dropped to a count of disorderly conduct if he doesn’t commit any crimes in the next six months. He also told the judge that he had completed his rehab program.

“I don’t anticipate [Blackmon] will have any problems,” Blackmon’s attorney Robert Gray said. “He’s going back to training and hopefully looks forward to reinstatement.”

Blackmon could be reinstated for the 2015 season and the Jaguars maintain the rights to their former first-round draft pick.

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Peterson appeal focuses on change in policy

Peterson AP

On Tuesday, the NFL suspended Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.  On Wednesday, the NFLPA appealed the suspension on his behalf.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA raises two primary arguments in support of the appeal.  First, the union argues that the NFL has applied a different standard to conduct that occurred before the NFL revised the domestic violence and sexual assault policy on August 28.  Attorneys call that ex post facto lawmaking, Latin for “after the fact.”

Second, the NFLPA describes the punishment of Peterson as “wildly disparate” in comparison to past punishments imposed on other players.  The union points to the six-game suspension imposed Tuesday and the nine games missed while on paid leave.

The union also has asked that Commissioner Roger Goodell recuse himself as the appeal officer in the case, pointing to alleged partiality and bias.  Specifically, the NFLPA contends that the criticism that has been directed to Goodell and the NFL in recent months regarding the handling of off-field misconduct makes it impossible for him to be properly objective and unbiased.

The letter initiating the appeal also includes a lengthy summary of the facts, which includes a contention that executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told both Peterson and his agent (presumably Ben Dogra) that “the time Mr. Peterson agreed not to be on the football field would be considered ‘time served’ if and when the NFL assessed discipline against Mr. Peterson.”  This expands the potential dispute over what Vincent did or didn’t say from one-against-one to two-against-one.

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Karlos Dansby is loading up on mashed potatoes — and lobster

Houston Texans v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

While the rest of us will be loading up on turkey for the next week, Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby has a different meal in mind.

Dansby, who doesn’t seem likely to make it this week because of a sprained MCL, has a unique way of eating while he’s rehabbing.

According to Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dansby was singing the praises of of eating lobster and mashed potatoes.

I’m feeding like a vampire drinking blood,” Dansby said. “I’ve got to feed it. For a vampire to bounce back, he’s got to get his blood and I’ve got to keep getting the lobster mash in my body right now. I’m eating a lot, man.”

Whatever the healing properties of lobster and mashed potatoes might be, Dansby might be on the cutting edge of medical and culinary technology.
If he’s able to get back for Sunday’s game at Atlanta, however, the Browns will doubtless be serving it up to all their injured players.
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Justin Pugh misses second day of practice

New York Giants v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Geoff Schwartz may be making his Giants debut at right tackle.

Justin Pugh, the Giants’ usual starter at the position, missed his second straight day of practice on Thursday with a quad injury that forced him out of last Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. Coach Tom Coughlin said, via Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News, that the team has two or three options to fill in for Pugh against the Cowboys on Sunday night and they were looking at them in practice.

Schwartz was originally signed to play guard, but he’s one of those options after missing the first 10 games of the season with a toe injury. Charles Brown replaced Pugh last weekend and is presumably another one of those options, although Coughlin quite accurately said that Brown did not play well when asked about Brown’s rough outing against the Niners.

Vacchiano reports that James Brewer is the third option and that Schwartz would likely replace John Jerry at right guard if he doesn’t get the call to replace Pugh.

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Soldier Field: Problem with clocks has been rectified

Miami Dolphins v Chicago Bears Getty Images

During last Sunday’s Bears-Vikings game, the game clocks at Soldier Field malfunctioned during the Vikings’ final drive and officials kept the official time on the field.

After his team lost, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was upset about the problem and the Bears said technicians weren’t yet sure what went wrong. The Bears play at home again this Sunday against Tampa and the team says that the problem has been rectified.

Soldier Field spokesman Luca Serra said a team from Daktronics, the scoreboard manufacturer, was on site this week working to correct the problem. Serra didn’t specify the problem, but says the company assured the issue has been rectified.

“That was a first,” Serra said, via the Chicago Tribune, “and we’d like to say a last. But the [clocks] are ready for Sunday.”

The company ran game simulations with the scoreboards on both Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the repair process, but offered no word on whether the Bears were able to extend their winning streak in those virtual contests.

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Detroit, Toronto, New Jersey are primary alternatives for Jets-Bills

FordField Getty Images

If the Week 12 game between the Jets and Bills can’t be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, it will be played at a different location.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the three options for an alternative venue are Detroit, Toronto, and New Jersey.

A decision currently is expected to be made by Friday afternoon.

If the game remains in Buffalo, it most likely would be played on Monday or Tuesday night.  Even though the snow won’t be falling by the time Monday and Tuesday roll around, the snow still needs to be cleared — and it will be difficult to have police and emergency personnel present for the game.

Detroit makes the most sense as an alternative destination.  Logistically, it could be difficult to get two teams and their personnel clearance for a quick trip to Canada, and it would be competitively unfair to give the Jets an extra home game.  With Detroit being the hometown of the late Ralph Wilson, who founded the Bills in 1960, it would be fitting for Detroit to host a Bills game in the same year he passed away.

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Norv Turner: Jerick McKinnon is “our running back”

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Vikings claimed running back Ben Tate off waivers on Wednesday, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner said Thursday that his arrival was not going to result in a change at the top spot of their depth chart.

Turner said that the team saw an opportunity to add a back they liked with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both out of practice because of injuries. Asiata is unlikely to play because of a concussion, but Turner said McKinnon is still the team’s top back if his lower back injury allows him to play.

“We’re excited about Jerick and what he’s done and I see him as our running back,” Turner said, via the Pioneer Press. “He’s been limited in practice last week and couldn’t practice [Wednesday]. So you got to protect yourself, obviously with Matt not being able to practice [Wednesday] and in doubt as to whether he’ll play or not.”

McKinnon said it was good to know that Turner has that kind of faith in him and that he doesn’t expect the injury to keep him out of practice the entire week or out of the game on Sunday.

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Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas remain out of practice

Denver Broncos practice at Dove Valley Getty Images

The Broncos Offense is coming off their lowest point total of the Peyton Manning era and it’s still looking decidedly questionable whether they’ll have wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and tight end Julius Thomas with them as they try to put up a more robust showing against the Dolphins this weekend.

Sanders and Thomas were on the sideline at practice Thursday, just as they were on Wednesday, due to injuries suffered against the Rams last weekend. Andrew Mason of the team’s website reports that both players are wearing jerseys and taking “mental reps” as their teammates work out.

For Sanders, that’s certainly better than being kept inside as part of the concussion protocol although it doesn’t offer any insight into his chances of getting cleared to either practice or play in time for Week 12. Thomas has called himself “day-to-day” as a result of his ankle injury, which should keep the possibility of a quick return to the field alive into the weekend even if he doesn’t practice on Friday.

A depleted receiving corps for Peyton Manning isn’t going to make things any easier for the Broncos, although a full deck might not help them all that much if their struggling offensive line isn’t able to stand up to a good Dolphins defensive front.

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Marshawn Lynch to appeal $100,000 fine

Lynch AP

On Wednesday, the NFL fined Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch $100,000 for failing to comply with the league’s media policy.  On Thursday, Lynch’s agent informed PFT that Lynch will appeal the fine.

Agent Doug Hendrickson told PFT by phone that Lynch, who was so banged up after the first half of the game that he didn’t go to the locker room, was even more banged up after the game ended.  Lynch changed quickly (as he always does), and then he went to the team bus and laid down.

Lynch, according to Hendrickson, then realized he had skipped out (as he usually does) without talking to reporters.  So Lynch immediately called Hendrickson.  Here’s the conversation, as recounted by Hendrickson.

“Dude, I screwed up,” Lynch told Hendrickson, referring to the failure to talk to reporters before leaving the locker room.

“Go back in,” Hendrickson replied.

“I can’t even move,” Lynch said.  “My back’s killing me.”

Lynch then suggested talking to Mike Silver and Michael Robinson of NFL Media as an alternative to returning to the locker room.

In the end, Lynch’s interview with Silver was far more meaningful than any perfunctory remarks he would have made while trying to get out of the locker room and to the bus.  That point surely will be made during the appeal.

Another point that should be made will be that, routinely, the things players and coaches say during mandatory media availability are meaningless.  From “on to Cincinnati” to “day to day” to “I’m just trying to be a good teammate” to “focusing on San Francisco,” the spirit of the media policy routinely is violated.

Perhaps in the end the NFL will once again suspend all or part of the fine, with a commitment from Lynch that he’ll comply going forward.

That’s what happened after he was fined $50,000 last year.  The league deferred collection of the amount, but vowed to reinstate the fine and to add another $50,000 if he violated it again.

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Julio Jones misses second day of practice with illness

Julio Jones, Josh Norman AP

If there’s a hot team in the NFC South right now, it might be the Falcons, winners of two in a row (which means two of their last seven).

But with their first-place spot on the line against the Browns this weekend, there’s reason to worry about their offense.

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wide receiver Julio Jones was not at practice today, his second straight absence.

Jones was held out yesterday with what was described as an illness, with no other word.

Wide receiver Harry Douglas was back on the field today, after missing yesterday’s work with a foot problem.

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Peterson appeal is filed, remains on Exempt List

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The NFL Players Association has officially filed the appeal on behalf of Adrian Peterson as he continues his attempt to fight the suspension handed down by the NFL this week.

Until Peterson’s appeal is resolved, he’ll continue to be paid his weekly game checks, just as he has been every week since he was placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. As a result, it’s in Peterson’s interests for this appeal to take as long as possible, since he loses his paychecks once his suspension begins.

Realistically, there’s almost no possibility of Peterson winning his appeal. The Collective Bargaining Agreement gives NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell final say on disciplining players under the personal-conduct policy, and Goodell isn’t backing down.

But even if there’s little chance of success, the union is going to continue pressing the case that Peterson belongs back on the field.

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Lance Briggs: Chicago should remember Lovie with Ditka and Halas

loviebriggs AP

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, who is preparing to face his former coach Lovie Smith when the Buccaneers come to town on Sunday, says Smith deserves to be remembered as a Chicago legend.

According to Briggs, Smith stands behind only Hall of Famers George Halas and Mike Ditka in Bears coaching history.

“Lovie should be remembered as one of the great coaches in Chicago,” Briggs said, via ESPN. “George Halas. You have Mike Ditka. And Lovie Smith comes next.”

Briggs is right to the extent that Smith is second only to Ditka in both wins and winning percentage among all the Bears’ coaches since Halas retired after the 1967 season. Of course, that really says more about the rest of the Bears’ coaches over the last half century, none of whom left Chicago with a winning record.

For his part, Smith says the Bears’ fans have always been good to him.

“Oh, I know how I’m remembered there,” Smith said. “So as I come in Sunday, I’m coming in as an opposing coach. That’s how I’m looking at it. The year I had off, and just being in Chicago for nine years, I don’t need anything validated this week. Fans were great to me and my family while we were there. Administration was. I have lifetime friends on the Chicago Bears football team. So I think I have all those things. Right now, I’m an opposing coach on the other side of the football coming in this week.”

When Smith was fired, most Bears fans thought it was about time. If Smith’s Bucs beat Marc Trestman’s Bears on Sunday, many Bears fans will be wishing they could have Smith back on their sideline.

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Patriots make addition of LeGarrette Blount official

Houston Texans v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Word broke early Thursday morning that the Patriots were meeting with running back LeGarrette Blount and that they were expected to bring him back to the team after a 10-game spell with the Steelers.

The Patriots made that official a bit later in the day. They announced that Blount has rejoined the team and that defensive lineman Casey Walker has been dropped from the roster to make room.

New England didn’t announce any terms of the deal, but Josina Anderson of ESPN, who had the initial report about Blount’s return to the team, reports that it is a two-year deal. That gives the Pats the option to hold onto Blount into 2015, something that wasn’t the case when Blount became a free agent after last season.

With Walker departing, Blount joins a running back depth chart that also features Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, James White and James Develin. The usage patterns for Patriots running backs are rarely easy to predict, but the depth on hand could leave Blount as the odd man out at times. He’ll need to handle that better than he did with the Steelers or his second stay with the team could be a short one.

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