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Le’Ron McClain says the “sky’s the limit” for Te’o

Teo AP

The Chargers aren’t letting linebacker Manti Te’o talk, but at least the organization isn’t keeping teammates from talking about him.

In an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, McClain praised the rookie second-rounder from Notre Dame.

“The guy came in, and he’s been working since he stepped on the field, stepped in the weight room,” McClain told Alex Marvez and Jim Miller.  “He’s caught everybody’s eye to see that he’s a great player.

“I just think him handling this situation, everything that was down on him, he was still showing faith.  He just wants to play football and be the best player he could be. I don’t even think about the [hoax] no more.”

Most people don’t think about the fake dead girlfriend hoax anymore.  In fact, the fake dead girlfriend hoax became relevant last week because of the team’s misguided decision to shield Te’o from the media.  While they can’t shield him indefinitely, it looks like he’ll be giving folks reason to ask about other topics, like his performance.

“The sky’s the limit for [Te’o],” McClain said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him on Sundays.”

Almost as much as Te’o was looking forward to seeing . . . ah crap, I can’t do it.

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Sheriff: McKnight’s killer fired shots from inside his car

FLORHAM PARK, NJ - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Joe McKnight of the New York Jets poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Florham Park, New Jersey. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) Getty Images

The man who shot former NFL running back Joe McKnight has not been charged yet. But he still could be.

Jefferson Parish sheriff Newell Normand told reporters on Friday that the investigation will proceed in a “deliberate” and “credible” way, with no “rush to judgment.”

“If you do not dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ and there are deficiencies in what you do from an investigatory standpoint, it has dire consequences,” Sheriff Normand said.

Sheriff Normand also advised caution regarding the use of social media, and he said that any demonstrations regarding the incident must comply with all state and local laws.

“I would ask the community to pause and reflect that if you start with ‘I feel,’ that is a slippery slope,” Sheriff Normand said. “It’s what the evidence suggests, what the evidence reveals, and what the evidence is.”

Sheriff Normand added that the shooter, Ronald Gasser, did not stand over McKnight. Gasser, according to Sheriff Normand, was in his car when the shots were fired. The shell casings, Normand said, were in the car.

Also, Sheriff Normand said there is no video of the shooting, and no witness account of any “apology” being made by McKnight to Gasser.

The reference to the shots being fired by Gasser while in his car brings into play Louisiana’s “Kill the Carjacker” law, an extension of the “stand your ground” law that allows for a person to use deadly force to defend himself while in a vehicle. And this could set the stage for Gasser never being charged or, if he’s charged, acquitted of any crime that he may have allegedly committed.

 

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“Things look good” for Branden Albert’s return to action

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Branden Albert #76 of the Miami Dolphins in action against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 29, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins beat the 49ers last Sunday despite the absence of three starting offensive linemen.

It looks like their attempt to run their winning streak to seven games will come with just one of that group out of action. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said on Friday, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, that “things look good” for left tackle Branden Albert’s return to action after missing the last two games with a dislocated wrist.

The Dolphins also expect to get left guard Laremy Tunsil back in the lineup against the Ravens. Tunsil hurt his shoulder while filling in for Albert two weeks ago, but was closer to playing last week than Albert. Center Mike Pouncey remains out with a hip injury.

The other big injury on the offensive side of the ball is the back problem that’s been bothering wide receiver DeVante Parker. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said on Thursday that it will be a “bonus” if Parker plays, but Gase didn’t rule him out on Friday.

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Bucs center says a Seahawk spat in his face

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 18:  Center Joe Hawley #68 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prepares to snap the football during the NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Buccaneers  40-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

From time to time, an NFL game entails a tale of a trail of spittle ending up in the face of a player. Last Sunday, it happened to Buccaneers center Joe Hawley.

Via JoeBucsFan.com, Hawley contends that a member of the Seattle defense spat in his face during the Week 12 game at Tampa Bay.

“There were hitting me late and then one guy got up, and when I came up all fired up, he actually spit in my face after one of the plays,” Hawley told WDAE radio. “And that really got me fired up because I just don’t think that should be a part of the game at all. I mean, it’s one thing [to be] pushing, shouting, yelling, but as soon as he spit in my face, I was pretty fired up about that. It’s disgusting.”

Hawley added that he “thinks” the spitter was Seahawks rookie defensive lineman Jarran Reid.

The Bucs had the last laugh via a 14-5 win, but there’s nothing funny about someone spitting in someone else’s face. Except when the phrase “say it don’t spray it” is involved.

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Justin Pugh out again for Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 06:   Justin Pugh #67 of the New York Giants in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during their game at MetLife Stadium on November 6, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants will have to wait at least one more week to have their starting offensive line back together.

Left guard Justin Pugh has been ruled out for the fourth straight week due to the sprained MCL he suffered against the Eagles in Week Nine. Pugh seems to be moving toward a return as he took part in practice as a limited participant every day this week, but that may just be setting the stage for Week 14.

Adam Gettis got the start in Pugh’s place against the Browns last Sunday, but the Giants may have more options against the Steelers this weekend. Brett Jones and Marshall Newhouse, who have both seen time at the position since Pugh was injured, are listed as questionable after being ruled out last week.

The Giants have also ruled out safety Nat Berhe, linebacker Mark Herzlich and defensive end Owa Odighizuwa. The Steelers will continue to be without wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey and running back DeAngelo Williams, but are otherwise healthy for Sunday’s game.

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Drew Pearson admits to Hail Mary push, sort of

09000d5d825e9604-e1462892723324 Getty Images

On a day when Vikings fans believe their favorite team was screwed by a critical non-call late in a key game the Cowboys won 17-15, the best way to forget about that may be to reflect on the time their favorite team was screwed by a critical non-call late in a key game the Cowboys won 17-14.

Former Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson, appearing earlier this week on PFT Live, spoke at length regarding the original Hail Mary play that resulted in Dallas beating the Vikings in the playoffs at Metropolitan Stadium 41 Decembers ago.

“[Quarterback Roger Staubach] wanted [receiver] Golden Richards to run a post pattern on the left side to hold [safety] Paul Krause to that side of the field,” Pearson said. “You know, the NFL’s all time interception leader. So Roger was going to pump [to] Golden then come back to me down the right side of the field, and by the time he pumped Golden and came back to me the ball was underthrown because I was way down field at that time. I saw it, came back and used my outside arm to get inside leverage on [cornerback] Nate Wright. In doing that there was contact but there was no deliberate push and I was able to catch the ball on the five yard line and back it into the end zone for the touchdown.”

So was there an inadvertent push, Drew?

“I like the way you put that,” Pearson said with a laugh. “What I’m saying is there’s contact, OK? We’re actually playing football out there; it wasn’t tennis or golf. So in doing that and making that move, there was contact on the play. But there was no deliberate push whatsoever.”

The controversial play, which ended Minnesota’s run of two straight Super Bowls and brought a swift and dramatic conclusion to a season in which the Vikings had started 10-0, has stirred passions among Vikings fans for years. An equivocal admission, sort of, that Pearson pushed Wright won’t make it any better.

The only consolation, albeit slim, for Vikings fans comes from the fact that Pearson fired the ball into the air and never saw it again. When did Pearson regret hurling the football out of the field of play?

“As soon as it left my hands,” Pearson said. “I was actually throwing it over the scoreboard and into the parking lot. The only reason I did that is because the night before the game I had this vision that if I was going to catch the winning touchdown in the game [and] I was going to throw the football into the stands. Which was kind of taboo back in the day back then because you got fined $150 and nobody wanted to pay that type of fine because we weren’t making that type of money back then. As it left my hands I realized it wasn’t going into the stands and into the parking lot and after all these years I’ve signed programs, ticket stubs, I’ve met all kinds of people that were at that game that day but no one has come up to me and said, ‘Hey I found the ball.’ Or, ‘I caught the ball.’ Or, ‘Here’s the ball that you caught the Hail Mary with.’ So it’s out there in oblivion.”

Oblivion. It’s where the ball is. It’s where the 1975 Vikings season went. And, thanks to Thursday night’s loss to the Cowboys, it’s where a Vikings campaign that started at 5-0 is headed. If it’s not already there.

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Jordan Reed won’t play Sunday in Arizona

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:   Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins catches a deep pass during the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said Friday that tight end Jordan Reed will miss Sunday’s game at Arizona.

Reed, who suffered an AC joint separation in his shoulder last Thursday vs. the Cowboys, hasn’t been practicing this week. Gruden said it’s possible that Reed could be back next week when the Redskins play at Philadelphia.

His absence this week comes as no surprise. Reed played the second half in Dallas with the injury, but he described the injury earlier this week as “pretty painful.”

Reed leads the Redskins with 59 receptions this season. He previously missed two games due to a concussion.

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Andrew Luck seeing independent neurologist Friday

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 20:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts runs off of the field after the 24-17 win against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts made a roster move on Thursday that came with a strong suggestion that Andrew Luck will be at quarterback on Monday night against the Jets.

The team waived quarterback Stephen Morris to make room for the return of linebacker Trent Cole, something that they’d be unlikely to do without confidence in Luck’s status because Scott Tolzien is the only other quarterback on the roster. Luck hasn’t received the final clearance to play, however.

That could come later on Friday. Coach Chuck Pagano said, via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, that Luck will see an independent neurologist in order to make his way out of the concussion protocol once and for all.

Safety Clayton Geathers will also be seeing the neurologist in hopes of being cleared to return from his concussion, although he’s also dealing with a neck injury that could complicate his return to action against the Jets.

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Trevor Siemian still absent from Broncos practice, not playing

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 27:  Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs sacks Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos are going with their first-round pick at quarterback this weekend.

According to Mike Klis of KUSA, starting quarterback Trevor Siemian is still out of practice today because of his foot injury, and isn’t expected to be able to play this week against the Jaguars.

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said earlier this week that Siemian didn’t necessarily need to practice to be able to play against the Jags, but they’re apparently going to give him plenty of time to recover.

That means rookie Paxton Lynch is in line to make his second start. He was decidedly average in his other one, a loss to the Falcons, going 23-of-35 for 223 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

He should be a little more comfortable this time, but even though the level of competition isn’t the same, it’s an important game because the Broncos can’t afford to lose any ground in the playoff chase.

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Cowboys are the prescription for the NFL’s prime-time doldrums

cowbell Getty Images

For certain specific types of fever, the only prescription is more cowbell. And for the NFL’s ongoing ratings malaise, well, you know the cure.

For the second straight week, a stand-alone, nationally-televised game featuring the Dallas Cowboys delivered bigly, with a season-high Thursday Night Football rating of 14.1. Via Greg Aiello of the NFL, it’s the second highest Thursday Night Football rating ever, behind only the 14.3 generated by Broncos-Chiefs in 2015.

The good news for the NFL is that the Cowboys will play in another prime-time, stand-alone game again in Week 14, when they face the Giants in New Jersey. The better news is that the Cowboys will be playing in one or more stand-alone games in the postseason.

The best news would be the Cowboys in prime-time, stand-alone games on a regular basis.

There are limits on how often a team can play in prime-time in a given year. And maybe there shouldn’t be. Maybe the Cowboys should find themselves playing under the lights all the time.

The NFL enjoyed unprecedented growth over the past two decades despite having neither a team in L.A. nor a Cowboys franchise that seriously contended on a regular basis. With Dallas on the front end of what could be an extended run of glory (or at least the serious pursuit of it), the league would be wise to embrace the notion of assigning the Cowboys to as many stand-alone games as it can, rules or procedures or limitations be damned.

UPDATE 2:18 p.m. ET: NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says the total audience for the game was 21.8 million, making it the biggest audience ever for a Thursday night game and a 22-percent bump over last year’s Thursday night Hail Mary game between the Packers and Lions.

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Reggie McKenzie: Premier players will get paid, we’ve built this to last

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Khalil Mack #52 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates with Derek Carr #4 after forcing and recovering a fumble of Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers to seal the Raiders 35-32 win in their NFL game on November 27, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie’s first few years on the job weren’t filled with a lot of success on the field, but his work rebuilding the roster has paid off this season.

The Raiders are 9-2 and leading the AFC West with players drafted by McKenzie like defensive end Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Amari Cooper playing lead roles. Others have also been crucial to the team’s success and it will be hard for the Raiders to hold onto everybody, but McKenzie said Thursday that the team’s plans have always included space to hold onto the stars.

“The key is that your drafted players become your core,” McKenzie said, via CSNBayArea.com. “As far as [what’s next], you need to know you can sign them and keep them and continue that process. That’s where we are right now, and we feel good about where we are. We think we’ve built this thing to last. … The premier players will get paid, and we’ll try and keep everything intact as much as we can. But what happens when your talented players play well? Contracts come up at times where they can benefit from it.”

The Raiders have an option on Mack’s contract for 2018, but next year will be Carr’s final year under contract so we’ll start to see how they are going to implement those plans before too much longer.

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Von Miller gives the entire AFC West a bottle of wine

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 17:  Denver Bronco Von Miller attends the Get Cut Event with Chef's Cut Real Jerky and Von Miller of the Denver Broncos at 24th Street Loft on November 17, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Chef's Cut Real Jerky) Getty Images

Broncos linebacker Von Miller is in the Christmas spirit, and now, so is the entire division.

Via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post, Miller sent a bottle of wine and a thank you note to every player in the AFC West, including practice-squaders and those on injured reserve. That’s nearly 300 bottles of wine.

Included with each bottle was a note which read:

It is an honor and a privilege to take the field and compete with you twice a year. We are so fortunate to have this opportunity to fulfill our childhood dreams of playing in the NFL. The blood, sweat, aches and pains, and endless hours spent watching film are a testament to the love and dedication we have for this game. So take a moment, reflect on all your successes, and enjoy your accomplishment. Appreciate those who have helped you get this far, and start working towards your next childhood dream.

Thank you for helping to make our game great!

-Von Miller

It’s quite the magnanimous gesture from Miller, the kind one can make after signing a $114.5 million contract. But regardless the price tag or his ability to pick it up, it was a nice touch or sportsmanship and generosity for the Super Bowl MVP.

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Bills expect a “big game” from Sammy Watkins

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 13:  Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills makes the catch for a 16 yard gain in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins sat out of practice on Wednesday with foot soreness and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said Thursday that the wideout is still dealing with a broken bone in his foot, but neither will keep him from playing against the Raiders this Sunday.

That was the word from Bills coach Rex Ryan on Friday while he was discussing the team’s injury situation ahead of their trip to Oakland. As is his habit, Ryan went a little further than just saying Watkins would be in the lineup for the second straight game.

“Sammy contributed in a big way last week and we expect a big game this week. He’s going to play,” Ryan said.

The Bills could use one. While Marquise Goodwin was at practice Friday after injuring his wrist on Thursday, the team has ruled out wide receivers Robert Woods and Percy Harvin. That leaves a thin group at wideout as the team tries to keep their playoff hopes alive against the AFC West leaders.

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Despite “good meeting,” Dickerson still wants no part of Jeff Fisher

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 25:  Former NFL player Eric Dickerson attends the Cedars-Sinai Sports Spectacular at W Los Angeles – West Beverly Hills on March 25, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Sports Spectacular) Getty Images

Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson still has a problem with Rams coach Jeff Fisher.

Dickerson appeared on ESPN this morning and said he had a great conversation with Rams COO Kevin Demoff last night, but Dickerson then reiterated that he still wants no part of Fisher.

“I had a very good meeting with Kevin Demoff. We talked for almost three hours,” Dickerson said.

So what’s his beef with Fisher? Dickerson said there are two issues: First, Fisher treated him disrespectfully in a phone call. And second, Dickerson doesn’t think Fisher is the right coach for the Rams. As a result of those two issues, Dickerson said he’s done going to Rams games while Fisher is there.

“I will not go back to the games as long as Jeff Fisher is there,” Dickerson said. “I don’t have a vendetta against Jeff at all . . . but no, I won’t, because I felt like the call to me was a very disrespectful call.”

Dickerson said he believes the Rams would be a better team if they fired Fisher.

“I think this football team would do better without Jeff. That’s just my opinion,” he said. “He’s had five years to turn this team around and he’s had all losing seasons.”

Dickerson — who made the trip to the ESPN studio to talk about the controversy — also said he’d rather not be talking about it.

“I’m really tired of talking about this, seriously,” Dickerson said.

Then perhaps Dickerson should stop talking about this. The reason the story has legs is that Dickerson, one of the Rams’ all-time great players, keeps talking about how much he dislikes the Rams’ current coach.

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Broncos defense thinks it is “too lax” at end of games

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 27:  Strong safety T.J. Ward #43 of the Denver Broncos pushes wide receiver Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs out of bounds in the first quarter of the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 27, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos defense has given up late touchdowns in each of their last two games, although they were able to avoid a loss to the Saints in Week 10 when a blocked extra point turned into two Denver points in a 25-23 win.

Their failure to close strong last week led to a loss against the Chiefs, however, and Broncos players feel that giving up two third down conversions and one on fourth down are a sign that the team isn’t doing the right thing in those situations. Linebacker Brandon Marshall pointed to mental errors and poor tackling as issues the last two weeks, while safety T.J. Ward believes the team is laying back too much.

“We have to be more focused. We’re too lax in those situations. We expect someone to make the play, but we have to expect ourselves to make the play first,” Ward said, via the Denver Post. “It’s not last year’s team, so don’t compare us to last year.”

The defense will be back on the field in Jacksonville on Sunday for a game they likely hope will be settled before the final minutes of the fourth quarter.

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A.J. Green says he hopes to return this year if cleared

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 28:  Wide receiver A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates after catching a 5-yard first quarter touchdown against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 28, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green said he hopes to come back this year and was relieved that his hamstring injury wasn’t any worse, though when he describes it, it sounds pretty bad.

Via Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com, Green told reporters today that it wasn’t as bad as he first feared.

“Grade II tear — it was 50 percent torn,” Green said. “But it’s not bad, it’s not torn off the bone or nothing like that. No surgery needed.”

(Let this stand as our periodic reminder that all sports injuries are relative, and far less serious when they happen to someone else — because “not torn off the bone” is considered a positive.)

The Bengals wideout, who went down early in the Bills game two weeks ago and won’t play this week, said he initially thought it was just a cramp. But then when he tried to walk it off and couldn’t, he realized perhaps a cart ride was in his best interests. But he started doing some light jogging this week, and hopes to be able to return this year even though the Bengals are in a fairly hopeless situation at 3-7-1.

“I’m going to play it safe. I want to get back, no matter what kind of season we’re having,” he said. “I’m not the type of guy to pack it in. Whenever I’m ready, I’ll be ready to go, but I’m not going to rush it and have this as a continuing issue. . . .

“That’s not the type of guy I am. I don’t bail out on my team because we’re not having the season we want to have.”

Green was having a phenomenal year before the injury, with 964 receiving yards. If he can get back and get 36 more yards, he’d join Randy Moss as the only receiver with six straight 1,000-yard seasons to begin his career.

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