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Doug Martin acknowledges issues in Tampa, but downplays them

Martin Getty Images

The Buccaneers have become one of the top stories of the 2013 NFL season, but not for the reasons that a team would prefer to become one of the top stories of any NFL season.

Amid reports and denials and accounts of meetings aimed at clearing the air of smoke that supposedly isn’t there, the specifics remain unclear — but the general vibe isn’t positive.

Running back Doug Martin has shed a little light on the situation in an interview that will air tomorrow on NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk.

“We’re a family,” Martin tells Erik Kuselias, “and anybody who has a brother or two brothers, whoever has a family which is everybody, there will be some disagreements and some disputes and,we’re going to keep it in the family walls and we’ll sit down and talk about it like men.  We’re going to handle it within the organization, and we’re going to move forward from it and leave what’s in the past.”

So what will be left in the past?  That’s where Martin clams up.

“Everyone’s fine with each other and it’s just, we all got to hold each other accountable and do better and just picking each other up and keeping anything negative out of the family,” Martin said.  “We’re fine now, we’re fine.”

Martin acknowledges that a players-only meeting was held before Week One, for the purposes of funneling any player issues to the coaching staff.

“That was mainly about the players coming together and if anybody had any questions or concerns then present them to anybody that was in that meeting and then take them upstairs to [coach Greg] Schiano and present it to him and it was just a time to, if anybody had like a. . . .  We have four captains and we can’t have all 53 guys go upstairs.  The players’ meeting is to get everybody’s ideas and concerns to the four captains so they can take it upstairs.”

The answer strongly implies that the players had (and still may have) concerns.  We reported that one of the concerns was the legitimacy of the vote to determine the team captains.  (Whether the vote was legitimate — and it apparently was — is a question separate and distinct from whether the players had concerns about the legitimacy of the vote.)  Apparently, there were other concerns.

It makes sense for the players not to air dirty laundry in public.  But just enough of the stink has been creeping out of the building to create the unmistakable impression that there are multiple problems in One Buc Place.

A win over the Patriots would go a long way toward solving some of those problems, but Martin opted not to pull a Victor Cruz.

“I wouldn’t say ‘must-win’ game but we want to win,” Martin said.  “But we don’t want to put any extra emphasis on it than any other games.  We want to win the game.”

If they do, those questions and concerns the players have won’t feel quite as important, at least for a little while.

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Trevor Siemian out of walking boot

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

The Broncos had Paxton Lynch at quarterback against the Jaguars in Week 13 because Trevor Siemian spent last week in a protective boot after injuring his foot and their offense had trouble moving the ball during the 20-10 win.

Denver had just 206 total yards with Lynch at the controls, but they may have Siemian back in the lineup for their Week 14 game against the Titans. Coach Gary Kubiak said on Monday that Siemian is out of the boot and making progress in terms of getting back on the field.

“I know he’s doing a lot better,” Kubiak said, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.

The foot issue is the third injury that Siemian has dealt with this year, leaving Kubiak to say that the quarterback has to learn how to stay healthy. Based on how the offense looked in Jacksonville, the Broncos should hope that’s a lesson Siemian grasps quickly.

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Julio Jones has turf toe, Jake Matthews dealing with knee sprain

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons fails to pull in  this reception against Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons saw three offensive players get hurt on their way to a 29-28 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday, which meant head coach Dan Quinn had some injury updates to deliver at his Monday press conference.

Quinn said on Sunday that wide receiver Julio Jones was dealing with a lower body injury when he was in and out of the game in the final minutes, but offered a bit more specificity on Monday. Jones has a turf toe injury that Quinn said the team does not believe will be a long-term issue, which fits with Jones saying he was OK after the game.

Left tackle Jake Matthews left the game with what Quinn called a knee sprain on Monday. Quinn said that Matthews will not practice on Wednesday, but they hope he can go on Thursday and play against the Rams in Week 14.

Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu will also miss practice on Wednesday after injuring his groin, but, like Matthews, the team isn’t ruling him out of anything beyond that.

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Zeke, Dak, Brady, Brown, Carr are Top 5 in fans’ Pro Bowl voting

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  [L] Dak Prescott #4 and Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys speak to the media after winning a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

NFL fans are high on the Cowboys’ two big rookies.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is first and quarterback Dak Prescott is second in fan voting for the Pro Bowl, the NFL announced today.

Rounding out the Top 5 are Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

The Cowboys have the top vote-getter in the NFC at seven positions: Elliott, Prescott, offensive tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, kicker Dan Bailey, outsider linebacker Sean Lee and punter Chris Jones.

Pro Bowl selections will be made by combining the votes of fans, coaches and players, with each group’s vote counting for one-third of the selection criteria. The NFL has returned to the NFC-AFC format this year after scrapping it for the last three years.

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Kiko Alonso has thumb surgery, could return soon

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 4: Wide receiver Kamar Aiken #11 of the Baltimore Ravens carries the ball against middle linebacker Kiko Alonso #47 and free safety Michael Thomas #31 of the Miami Dolphins in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso came back to finish yesterday’s game after leaving with a broken tumb.

But he may still miss some time.

Via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Alonso had surgery today to repair the damage, and there’s a small chance he plays this week.

Alonso has had a solid season in the middle for the Dolphins, and they obviously need him as they’re battling for a Wild Card spot.

The Dolphins host Arizona before finishing up the season with three division games.

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Leonard Fournette entering the draft

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 12:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs the ball during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 38-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

Running back Leonard Fournette’s days as a college football player will come to an end after LSU plays in the Citrus Bowl against Louisville.

Fournette announced his intention to enter the 2017 draft with a statement on Monday, although it would be hard to find anyone who thought that the running back would return to Baton Rouge for another season. Fournette ran for 2,987 yards and scored 33 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Tigers and has added 843 more yards and another score this season.

The numbers for 2016 have been down because of an ankle injury that’s bothered Fournette for much of the season and kept him from playing in four games, but there’s no indication that it should be an issue for him once it comes time to start his professional career.

That should keep him in the mix as a high first round pick, although there’s plenty to play out between now and draft day.

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Rex Ryan on Tyrod Taylor: Let’s just let this play out

Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) runs for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of an NFL football game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) AP

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor got off to a good start on Sunday against the Raiders by completing 8-of-9 passes for 102 yards in the first quarter, but the next three quarters weren’t so hot.

He was 10-of-26 for 89 yards and turned the ball over twice while the Bills went from being up 15 points to losing by 14 points when time ran out on the game. It also pushed the clock on their playoff chances much closer to zero, which means it is almost time to start looking ahead to the offseason.

A decision on Taylor’s future will be a big part of that offseason. He’s due $27.5 million in guaranteed money if he’s on the team on the fourth day of the 2017 league year, which is a lot of money for a player who hasn’t taken clear steps forward in his second season running the Buffalo offense. Coach Rex Ryan was asked after the game whether Taylor is falling short of where the team wants him to be.

“Look, let’s just let this play out,” Ryan said, via “We feel pretty comfortable with Tyrod. There’s a lot of factors that go into everything. … I’m not going to go into a list of them. You guys can figure it out.”

Injuries to others on the offense are likely on the list that Ryan opted not to share, but it’s hard to pin things on outside factors when you’re deciding about a major investment on a player. That call is on the horizon for the Bills and Taylor’s play isn’t making it easy for them to say yes.

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Cecil Shorts suffered massive knee injury in Bucs win

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04: Cecil Shorts #10 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheers on his team as he is taken from the game after an injury against the San Diego Chargers in the first half at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Things are going pretty well for the Buccaneers at the moment.

Less so, for one of their wide receivers.

Veteran wideout Cecil Shorts blew out his knee in yesterday’s win over the Chargers. According to Britt McHenry of ESPN, Shorts suffered a torn ACL, MCL, PCL and dislocated his kneecap.

That effectively leaves skin as all that was holding his lower leg to his upper leg, and would obviously mean Shorts is out for the rest of the season.

The 28-year-old wideout was carted off early in yesterday’s game after a low hit. He caught 11 passes in nine games for the Bucs this year. The former Jaguars and Texans wideout now faces a long rehab, with no certainty that he’ll get a chance to extend an injury-marred career.

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Doug Pederson: “Not everybody” played hard on Sunday

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 4:  Head Coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles calls a play during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles lost for the third straight week on Sunday and the margin of victory for their opponents has gotten steadily larger over that streak, which isn’t a trend that coach Doug Pederson would surely like to stop as soon as possible.

His chances of making that happen will increase if he can get everyone on the roster giving their maximum effort on a weekly basis. Pederson said that wasn’t the case when he was asked if everyone was playing hard in their 32-14 loss to the Bengals.

“Not everybody. Not everybody, and that’s the accountability that I talk about,” Pederson said in his Monday press conference. “You know, I hold coaches accountable for that. I hold myself accountable for that because it all starts with me and I pride myself each week to make sure the guys are ready to go. But at the same time, it comes down to a mentality by each individual player. You know, this is a business where we have to be ready to go every single weekend because every team in the league — I mean, there’s some teams that are better than others, obviously — but for the most part, anything can happen each weekend.”

Pederson said at another point that he didn’t see any quit in the team, but that may matter less than the fact that some engines never turned over in the first place. Pederson said he doesn’t have any doubts about his job security and that “it’s been 100 percent support on everything” from owner Jeffrey Lurie and General Manager Howie Roseman, but there’s no quicker way for that to change than losing games with lackluster effort from the roster.

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Ron Rivera on benching MVP: “I knew it would be a feeding frenzy”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wears a black coat and hat as he talks with reporters during a post-game news conference after an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 40-7. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday he’s disciplined players for dress code violations before, even though none of them were his quarterback and reigning MVP.

And he anticipated the reaction, after he benched Cam Newton for a series last night against the Seahawks for not wearing a tie on the team plane from San Jose to Seattle.

“I knew it would be a feeding frenzy,” Rivera said Monday.

Rivera insisted he’s done this to players previously, and that his goal was to “treat everybody the same.” And since Newton talked about it last night, Rivera declared the matter closed.

“There’s no underlying message, no feud, I’ve done it before,” Rivera said. “All I did was treat a player the way I did any other player.

“I’m done with it. We play the Chargers and we lost the game yesterday.”

Of course, the bigger question is why the tie signifies the respect and teamwork Rivera is trying to create. The turtleneck and jacket he was wearing yesterday were far more subdued than the clown pants he wore to the Super Bowl, but the tie is apparently important.

At least when you’re 4-8, I suppose.

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In the midst of an awful season, Todd Gurley looks in the mirror

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs with the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last year, Rams running back Todd Gurley was the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. This year, Gurley is one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments.

Far from building on his impressive first season, Gurley has just 679 yards on 211 carries. Among the 24 NFL running backs with at least 120 carries this season, Gurley’s average of 3.2 yards per carry ranks dead last. There are 34 players in the NFL this year with at least two runs of 20 yards or longer, and Gurley is not one of them.

Asked after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots what’s going wrong with the 4-8 Rams, Gurley said he’ll look at himself, as he thinks all of his teammates will do.

“At the end of the day,” Gurley said, “you just have to look at yourself and say, `We’re not doing a good enough job.’”

Gurley still doesn’t have a 100-yard game this season, and he admits that bad week after bad week gets old.

“It’s hard,” Gurley said. “It’s repetitive, over and over every week. It’s crazy.”

A player with Gurley’s talent just has to go off and have a big game at some point. But that point may not be until 2017.

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AFC playoff picture: Divisional races remain tight outside of the East

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Defensive tackle Stacy McGee #92 of the Oakland Raiders stops running back Spencer Ware #32 of the Kansas City Chiefs for a loss of two yards in the second quarter on October 16, 2016 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Chiefs won 26-10.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Barring an epic flop, the Patriots are going to win the AFC East for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons.

There isn’t anything close to that much clarity in any of the other divisions in the AFC. The Raiders currently hold the top seed in the conference, but they are just a game up on the Chiefs with a Thursday matchup at Arrowhead Stadium looming as a major factor in deciding the AFC West.

Neither of the other divisions have a team with even that slim a lead heading into the final four weeks of the season. The Ravens and Steelers are both 7-5 with a Christmas Day game on the schedule while the Texans’ three-game losing streak leaves them with a 6-6 record. The Titans have the same mark and the Colts could make it a three-way dance by beating the Jets on Monday night.

In other words, there’s a lot to sort out in the AFC.

1. Raiders (10-2): More late heroics have Oakland on top, but it will be fleeting if they can’t win in Kansas City.

2. Patriots (10-2): The Patriots could end Week 14 with both a division title and a first-round bye.

3. Ravens (7-5): Four home wins in the last five weeks have righted the ship in Baltimore, but they’re closing out the year by going on the road three of the next four weeks.

4. Texans (6-6): Houston will be hosting the Super Bowl, but the Texans need to find themselves in a hurry if they’re going to have any shot of playing in it.

5. Chiefs (9-3): A win on Thursday gives them a big tiebreaker advantage with a season sweep of the Raiders.

6. Broncos (8-4): They survived in Jacksonville and will be in the playoffs if they win out, although that’s a big if with the Titans, Patriots, Raiders and Chiefs left on the schedule.

7. Dolphins (7-5): Their winning streak and their time in playoff position ended in Baltimore, so Miami will need some help from others to climb the ladder again.

8. Steelers (7-5): Three straight double-digit wins have the arrow pointed up for Pittsburgh.

9. Titans (6-6): A bye week offered some rest for Tennessee ahead of their final playoff push.

10. Bills (6-6): Blowing a 15-point lead in the final 24 minutes might have been the last gasp for Buffalo’s playoff aspirations.

11. Colts (5-6): If the Colts beat the Jets, they’ll be in position to make a run at the division crown. If they can’t beat the Jets, they probably don’t deserve a playoff spot.

12. Chargers (5-7): It was a long shot before they lost a home game to the Bucs.

13. Bengals (4-7-1): They looked better on Sunday than they have in weeks, but that has more to do with draft positioning than the playoff race at this point.

14. Jets (3-8): They can play spoiler on Monday night, but their own season was spoiled long ago.

15: Jaguars (2-10): When your quarterback calls the year “the biggest nightmare possible,” there’s not much left to say.

16: Browns (0-12): Four chances left to avoid a winless season in Cleveland.

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Bill Belichick never considered pulling Tom Brady with late lead

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16: Tom Brady #12 and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots shake hands at the start of the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots are missing enough firepower on offense, but coach Bill Belichick said he never considered taking his most important player off the field yesterday.

Tom Brady’s nursing a knee injury, and the Patriots were up 26-3 with five minutes and 52 seconds left against the Rams. But the idea of protecting his quarterback seemed foreign to Belichick.

“Well, after the game turns out, it’s easy to go back and make those suggestions,” Belichick said, via Mike Reiss of ” I’ve seen a few games in this league, seen those double-digit leads evaporate in a minute or two.

“I know that’s not a big concern when it doesn’t happen. [But] when it does happen, it’s a major crisis and a lot of second-guessing about what should have been done or shouldn’t have been done. Trying to win the game.”

The Rams, as presently constructed, would need far more than a minute or two to score 23 points. Weeks, perhaps.

Asked a similar question during his weekly appearance on WEEI, Brady said: “We’re playing for a lot here. I don’t think it’s ever right to take your foot off the gas pedal.”

Even with tight end Rob Gronkowski out and wide receiver Danny Amendola sidelined, the idea of staying out of harm’s way is not one that resonated with the Patriots, who have plenty to play for over the next month.

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Kapri Bibbs dealing with a high ankle sprain

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 04:   Kapri Bibbs #35 of the Denver Broncos runs for yardage against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 4, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos offense didn’t do much in Sunday’s 20-10 victory over the Jaguars, producing just 206 yards while playing without starting quarterback Trevor Siemian.

It looked for a while like running back Kapri Bibbs might provide some spark as he put up 37 rushing yards on the team’s lone touchdown drive of the day, but Bibbs’ afternoon ended a short time later thanks to an ankle injury. After the game, Bibbs, who ran five times for 49 yards overall, was in a walking boot and said he suffered a high ankle sprain.

“It was going to be a real good day,” Bibbs said, via the Denver Post. “I can bring a lot to this team. I can help this team a lot and that’s all I want to do.”

The Broncos will surely be doing more tests on Bibbs’ ankle, but such injuries typically mean missed time for players. If that’s the case, the Broncos may need to look for help with Devontae Booker and Juwan Thompson as the only other running backs on the roster.

One option could be Justin Forsett. The veteran was dropped by the Lions on Friday and played for Broncos coach Gary Kubiak in both Houston and Baltimore.

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Rex Ryan: It just snowballed on us

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills looks on from the sidelines against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills were up 24-9 against the Raiders after running back Mike Gillislee ran for a touchdown with nine minutes to go in the third quarter, but any thoughts that they’d win the game and rally to move back into the mix for a playoff spot soon disappeared.

The Raiders would draw within one point before the quarter was over and they’d tack on 15 more points in the fourth quarter on their way to a 38-24 victory. Everything unraveled at once for the Bills as the offense went three-and-out three times while the Raiders were driving for touchdowns and two fourth quarter turnovers sealed the deal for Buffalo.

Cornerback Corey Graham said he was in “shock” as things fell apart for a team that’s now 6-6 and looking at the longest of playoff shots.

“Well, it hasn’t happened a whole lot in my career, but it has happened before,” coach Rex Ryan said, via the Buffalo News. “Sometimes you feel that momentum shift and it just snowballed on us. Sometimes, I think we lose confidence. You can’t ever have that happen to you.”

Things may not play out like that very often for the Bills, but the story of Buffalo’s season has been one of finding a way to lose when matched with tougher competition. That’s not so different from the path they took to 8-8 in 2015, which leaves the team with an obvious area for improvement next season.

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Mike Pouncey doesn’t know if he’ll play again this year or not

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

Mike Pouncey hasn’t played in the last three games because of a recurring hip problem.

He doesn’t know if he’ll play in any of the next four, either.

The Dolphins center admitted he wasn’t sure when or if he’d be back this season, deferring the question to coach Adam Gase

“You’ve got to ask coach Gase that one,” Pouncey said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. “I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.”

He said he didn’t know how he re-injured the hip, but said it “feels good.” But he visited a specialist while the team was on the West Coast, and was told he didn’t need another surgery.

“Anytime you don’t have to get surgery, it’s the best news in the world,” he said.

The Dolphins started Anthony Steen in his place during Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, while Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil were just coming back from injuries. The line as a whole didn’t hold up well, and could clearly use some stability in the middle.

Pouncey missed the first four games of the season, but then returned to the lineup before missing the last three.

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