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NFLPA tells players and agents that urine collection rules will be “strictly enforced”

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In what one source has described as a direct response to this week’s six-game suspension of Broncos linebacker Von Miller, the NFLPA has informed all players and agents that, moving forward, the process of collecting urine samples for drug testing will be followed more closely.

“In our efforts to improve the integrity of our collectively bargained joint drug policies, please remember that collection protocol rules, including validation of a player’s identification at the time of collection, will be strictly enforced,” the NFLPA said in an alert sent to all players and agents on Friday.

On Twitter, the NFLPA specifically mentioned that “validation of a player’s identification is required and will be strictly enforced.”

By emphasizing player identification, these messages invite speculation that Miler’s case may have involved the player sending someone else to take a drug test for him.  Per the source, that was not one of the events that transpired in Miller’s case.

The NFLPA nevertheless has pointed out, of all aspects of urine collection, the validation of player ID, which means that something like this has happened in the past with another player, or at a minimum that the NFL and the NFLPA have realized that it would be an easy way to beat the system for the many NFL players who are not widely and instantly recognizable, especially when out of uniform.

The primary flaw in the process seems to be the failure of the collectors to directly observe the player generating the sample on a consistent basis.  It’s a step that was added after Onterrio Smith introduced the term “Whizzinator” into the NFL lexicon, but with players like former Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams being suspended for providing non-human urine, it’s clear that the collectors aren’t actually watching in every case.

Likewise, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman beat a suspension because the sample collector failed to note on the official report that the player was asked to transfer the sample from a leaking cup to a new cup.

We’ve confirmed that the reduced suspension for Miller arose in part from NFL concerns regarding sample collection.  With all positive tests for PEDs potentially resolved via third-party arbitration, it becomes critical for the NFL in every case to be able to demonstrate that all procedures were followed, and that the chain of custody from player to collector to lab has no broken links.

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DeMarcus Ware to miss at least another week

Aaron Rodgers, DeMarcus Ware AP

One of the big questions this week in Denver was whether Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware will play against the Patriots. He won’t.

He also won’t play next week against the Chargers, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports.

Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, there’s also a good chance Ware will be out even longer than that.

According to the source, Ware’s initial timetable after aggravating the back injury was 4-6 weeks. Next week will be the fourth week. Under that preliminary estimate, Ware also could miss Week 14 against the Raiders an Week 15 against the Steelers.

Ware has 6.5 sacks in seven games this season, his second with the Broncos.

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Doug Martin tops 1,000-yard mark, Bucs up 12-6

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The Buccaneers offense has moved in fits and starts today, but the one thing they can count on — as it has been this season — is running back Doug Martin.

Martin just popped a 56-yarder, which put him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

Martin entered the game with 188 carries for 941 yards, but just one touchdown. He has 12 carries for 90 yards against the Colts at halftime, but had a scoring run negated in the second quarter on a holding call.

The Bucs just went up 12-6 on a touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Cameron Brate, though Connor Barth missed the extra point attempt, keeping this one moving in factors of three. There are moments where Winston appears to be gaining confidence, but the Bucs are still very much a work in progress.

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Colts and Bucs tied 6-6 in a field goal derby

Matt Hasselbeck AP

In a game between teams quarterbacked by a really old guy and a really young one, it’s the team with the old kicker that had the early edge.

The Colts and Bucs are tied 6-6 in the second quarter, with neither 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck nor 21-year-old Jameis Winston having much success in the red zone.

Hasselbeck has actually led a few promising drives (though the Colts can’t run at all), but they bogged down as he approached scoring position, leaving them to settle for a pair of Adam Vinatieri field goals.

The Buccaneers have shown some life of their own, but look like a young team. A Doug Martin touchdown was wiped out by a holding penalty, and the Bucs had to settle for a second Connor Barth field goal.

Neither team seems comfortable with the ball in their hands, and the result is a real barn-burner.

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Chiefs’ Justin Houston suffers knee injury

Justin Houston AP

The Chiefs are getting their butts kicked on their home field today against the Bills, and now they’ve added injury to insult.

Chiefs pass rusher Justin Houston suffered a knee injury and limped to the locker room. The team said he’s questionable to return.

If Houston’s injury is serious, that would be a major blow to the Chiefs’ defense. Houston leads the Chiefs with 7.5 sacks this season.

Early in the second quarter, the Bills have a 10-0 lead in Kansas City.

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Giants injuries mount as they fall behind in first half

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The Giants moved Geoff Schwartz from right guard to left guard on Sunday to cover for the absence of Justin Pugh, but now they’ll need to find another option.

Schwartz hurt his ankle late in the first quarter of the game and was initially called probable to return by the Giants. During a Redskins drive that resulted in a field goal, the outlook changed and Schwartz returned to the locker room for further evaluation. The Giants now call him questionable to return and Bobby Hart has replaced Schwartz on an interior line that also includes backup center Dallas Reynolds in place of Weston Richburg and John Jerry at right guard.

There’s some bad injury news on the defensive side of the ball as well for the Giants. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie couldn’t put any weight on his right foot while coming off the field before Dustin Hopkins’s field goal provided the first points of the game. He’s being called questionable with an ankle injury.

They could have used him on the next Redskins drive because DeSean Jackson blew past Jayron Hosley and Brandon Meriweather for a 63-yard touchdown that extended their lead to 10-0 with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half.

UPDATE 2:04 p.m. ET: The updates keep getting worse for Schwartz. He is out for the rest of the game and weeks to come with a fractured lower leg.

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Rivers TD pass gives Chargers the lead

Philip Rivers AP

A 2-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Dontrelle Inman has put the Chargers up, 7-6, on the Jaguars in the second quarter.

The touchdown drive covered 63 yards in seven plays.

The Jaguars have moved the ball but settled for two Jason Myers field goals in the first quarter.

The Jaguars are actually in the AFC South race at 4-6. The 2-8 Chargers hit a low point with a 33-3 home loss to the Chiefs last week and are looking for their first road win of the season. They last won in early October.

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Reggie Wayne could have been having “not fun” with Patriots

Prince Amukamara, Reggie Wayne AP

After the Patriots parted ways with veteran receiver Reggie Wayne following a training camp and preseason cup of coffee, a report emerged that Wayne asked to be cut because playing football in New England was “not fun.”

Given the rash of injuries at the receiver position for the Patriots, Wayne currently could be having some “not fun” with a 10-0 team will be playing tonight in prime time. Instead, Wayne is in Indianapolis, sitting one row in front of Ted Marchibroda (there’s a slim chance it’s Tony Bennett) at the Buccaneers-Colts game.

With Aaron Dobson out for the year, Julian Edelman out indefinitely, and Danny Amendola out for at least this week, Wayne could be getting plenty of chances to add to a career that has him eight catches behind Terrell Owens for No. 6 on the all-time list, 24 behind Tim Brown for No. 5, 31 behind Cris Carter for No. 4, and 32 behind Marvin Harrison for No. 3.

So while playing for the Patriots may have been “not fun,” finishing his career behind only Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez on the all-time reception list would definitely have been something other than “not fun.”

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Sammy Watkins having a big day in Kansas City

Tyrod Taylor, Jaye Howard AP

At times this year, the Bills have failed to make the most of receiver Sammy Watkins’s talents. That’s not the case today in Kansas City.

Just 14 minutes into the first quarter, Watkins already has 90 receiving yards, and the Bills are off to a 10-0 lead.

On the Bills’ opening possession, Watkins had a 48-yard catch that helped set up a field goal. Later in the first quarter, Watkins caught a 28-yard touchdown pass.

Tyrod Taylor is throwing the ball well and the Bills’ defense is taking care of the Chiefs’ offense, and through the first quarter it’s all Buffalo.

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Mike Pouncey carted to locker room in first quarter

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04:   Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins awaits the snap from Mike Pouncey #51 of the Miami Dolphins during the game against New York Jets at Wembley Stadium on October 4, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins may be without their starting center for the rest of the day at the Meadowlands.

Mike Pouncey took a cart to the locker room in the first quarter of the game after suffering a right foot injury. He was getting the foot checked out on the sideline after Miami’s second offensive possession of the game and took the ride back to the locker room during the ensuing Jets drive.

His return is called questionable, although CBS reported during the game that Pouncey could put no weight on the foot. Jamil Douglas will likely take over in the middle of the offensive line.

That Jets drive started when cornerback Marcus Williams intercepted Ryan Tannehill inside the Jets’ 10-yard-line. Williams started Sunday’s game in place of Darrelle Revis, who is out with a concussion. It ended with a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall for a 7-0 lead.

The Dolphins also suffered an injury at wide receiver on their first drive when Rishard Matthews took a hard hit to the ribs from safety Calvin Pryor while trying to grab a pass thrown behind him by Tannehill. He’s also termed questionable to return.

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Two drives, two tip drill interceptions off Eli Manning

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Redskins defenders are having an easier time holding onto Eli Manning’s passes today than his receivers.

Manning has been intercepted on each of the Giants’ first two possessions of the game, although there’s blame to be shared on both turnovers. Shane Vereen had a pass go off his hands and into linebacker Perry Riley’s waiting mitts on a third down to end the first Giants drive, but the pass could only be criticized for being short of the sticks.

The second pick came when Will Blackmon tipped a ball that wide receiver Dwayne Harris briefly grabbed before getting hit by Kyshoen Jarrett. The ball came loose and Blackmon dove to corral it before it hit the turf.

The good news for the Giants is that neither turnover came back to haunt them on the scoreboard. The Redskins punted after Riley’s interception and Jay Bromley blocked a Dustin Hopkins 51-yard field goal after the second pick.

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Texans get off to rare quick start over Saints

Brian Hoyer AP

The Texans haven’t been able to get off to many quick starts, but this one was nearly perfect.

For the first time this season, Houston scored on its opening possession, for a 7-0 lead over the Saints.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer was a perfect 7-of-7 for 55 yards and a touchdown to tight end Ryan Griffin.

The Texans haven’t gotten much from any of their tight ends this year, but Hoyer is spreading the ball around and involving them more, and it made a difference for a team that’s still tied for the division lead at 5-5.

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A.J. Green gives Bengals early lead

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The Bengals have a lot of weapons, but A.J. Green remains the most dangerous.

The Rams left him wide open and trail 7-0 for it. The last two plays of a 63-yard touchdown drive were passes from Andy Dalton to Green. He was basically uncovered on a 10-yard touchdown pass.

Dalton was 4-of-4 for 43 yards on the drive.

The Rams went three and out on their first possession. Todd Gurley lost a yard on two carries.

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Derek Carr takes a shot to the ribs, but comes back after one play

Derek Carr AP

The Raiders got a scare in the first quarter, when quarterback Derek Carr stayed on the ground for a moment after taking a shot to the ribs.

Titans defensive tackle DaQuan Jones gave Carr a bit of a forearm to the midsection, dropping Carr to his knees for a moment after the play. It didn’t seem particularly malicious or late, but Carr was clearly affected by it.

Carr left the game for a play, replaced by backup Matt McGloin, but was throwing on the sidelines and appeared to be fine.

He returned on the next series for the Raiders, a relief for a team trying to hang onto playoff pertinence at 4-6.

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NFLPA “befuddled” by league closing the book on the Keenum case

Case Keenum AP

The NFL apparently has closed the book on the question of whether consequences should flow from last Sunday’s Case Keenum concussion debacle. That hardly means that the situation is over.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL Players Association is “somewhat befuddled” by the league’s position that no further action will be taken. Especially since, as Chris Mortensen of ESPN mentioned earlier today, the NFLPA’s investigation regarding the situation continues.

The league dropped a strong hint regarding its attitude regarding the situation via the statement released on Wednesday, during which the NFL said that, in the future, there will be “consideration of discipline for future violations of the protocols.”

From the NFLPA’s perspective, consideration of discipline should be on the table for the Keenum case, which regardless of the process resulted in an unacceptable outcome. And the absence of discipline in the wake of an unacceptable outcome will do nothing to ensure that, in future situations, teams and others will err on the side of removing a potentially concussed player from the game.

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Robert Quinn, Greg Zuerlein join Case Keenum on Rams inactive list

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 1: Robert Quinn #94 of the St. Louis Rams shakes hands with a fan after the Rma defeated the San Francisco 49ers 27-6 at the Edward Jones Dome on November 1, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

The word on Friday was that Nick Foles would start at quarterback for the Rams in Cincinnati on Sunday and confirmation of that came on Sunday morning with the release of the Rams’ inactive list.

Case Keenum is on it a week after suffering a concussion in his first start after being placed ahead of Foles on the team’s depth chart. Sean Mannion will be active for the first time this season to serve as Foles’s backup.

Two defensive starters join Keenum on the inactive list. Defensive end Robert Quinn is dealing with hip and back injuries and is inactive for the third time in the last four games. The Rams will miss his pass rushing ability and they’ll be underpowered in the secondary while dealing with Bengals receivers because cornerback Trumaine Johnson is out with a thigh injury. Marcus Roberson will start in his place.

The other notable Rams inactive is kicker Greg Zuerlein. Zuerlein was listed as questionable with a groin injury, leading the team to sign Zach Hocker. Hocker will be the first kicker other than Zuerlein for St. Louis since the 2011 season.

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