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Jay Cutler cleared, expected to start Sunday vs. Lions

Chicago Bears quarterback Cutler is sacked by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Suh during the second quarter of their NFL football game at Soldier Field in Chicago Reuters

The Bears will have their starting quarterback for Sunday’s NFC North showdown with the Lions.

Jay Cutler has been cleared by the team’s medical staff after missing Monday night’s game against the Packers with a groin injury, and the Bears announced on Thursday that they expect Cutler to start this week.

Cutler has missed just one game after suffering the injury against Washington. Although the initial reports suggested Cutler could miss up to four weeks, Cutler expressed optimism from the beginning that he would be cleared faster than that, and now he has been.

With Cutler out, backup Josh McCown played well, completing 59.0 percent of his passes and throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions. But now McCown will head back to the bench, and Cutler will lead the 5-3 Bears against the 5-3 Lions.

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Consider, if you will, the Rotoworld Fantasy Football Draft Guide

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The PFT-NBC relationship began with a joint effort to market and sell Rotoworld fantasy football draft guides. So in honor of the tiny seed that grew into, well, something large and green and possibly legal for consumption in Colorado and Washington, we’re doing our friends at Rotoworld a favor and pointing out that the Rotoworld Fantasy Football Draft Guide is now available.

Here’s the link to the low-cost product that can help you dominate fantasy draft.

The package includes analysis, customized rankings and projections, a total of 23 cheat sheets, sleepers and busts, team profiles, player profiles of all relevant players, mock drafts for standard leagues, IDP, PPR, and more.

So check it out and give it a try and get ready to make the decisions that make the difference between winning your league or having to get a tattoo of Johnny Manziel doing the money sign on your bicep because you came in last place. Again.

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Report: Karlos Williams works out for Steelers

Karlos Williams Getty Images

Free agent running back Karlos Williams recently worked out for the Steelers, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

Williams was cut by the Bills earlier this summer. He had a difficult summer during which he gained weight and was suspended for the season’s first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

A fifth-round pick of the Bills in 2015, Williams ran for 517 yards and seven touchdowns last season in 11 games. He worked out for the Jets last weekend.

Steelers star running back is Le’Veon Bell suspended for the first three games of the season. The team looking at Williams, who’s also suspended during that time, was probably about getting a feel for what kind of shape he’s in and having a backup plan in place in case DeAngelo Williams or Fitzgerald Toussaint suffer an injury.

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Washington leaves 26 players at home for preseason finale

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Few teams play starters in the preseason finale. Washington didn’t even bring them to Tampa for Wednesday night’s game against the Buccaneers.

The team has announced that 26 players not only won’t play but also aren’t in Florida.

With the roster at 75, that leaves 49 players total for the game, which means that there will be plenty of opportunities for the backups to prove themselves as coach Jay Gruden tries to identify the next 22 players to go, by Saturday.

The only downside is that any players destined to be cut but who suffer season-ending injuries will land on injured reserve, either at full pay or the “split salary” that often is used to protect the team against a likely roster cut suffering a serious injury in training camp or the preseason.

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After being cleared, James Harrison takes social media victory lap

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Steelers linebacker James Harrison said he’d done nothing wrong and insisted he would be cleared.

Wednesday, he was. The NFL announced that its investigation and interviews regarding an Al-Jazeera report on players allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs revealed no credible evidence they had.

On Wednesday evening, Harrison posted a collage (see the picture to the right) on his Instagram account of headlines and screenshots from stories about his being cleared. He tagged it, “It’s only breaking news because you thought I was guilty” and added an all-caps reminder that he’s worked for everything he has “since Day One.”

Now, the Harrison-Roger Goodell friendship can continue.

Harrison and Packers defensive standouts Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, all of whom interviewed with league investigators last week, were cleared. The NFL did not name free agent linebacker Mike Neal, who also interviewed last week, in its release on the investigation’s findings.

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College football at Lambeau Field won’t include Lambeau Leap, by LSU players

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When Wisconsin hosts Louisiana State at historic Lambeau Field this weekend, players who score touchdowns may be tempted to do the thing that Packers players do when they score there.

On Wednesday, LSU coach Les Miles made his position that Lambeau Leaping will result in hitchhiking home.

“I promise you that if anybody jumps [for] the Lambeau Leap, they’ll end up with their thumb out to see if they can get a ride home,” Miles said Wednesday, via CFT. “It’s college football, and we’ll play it that way, and I think our guys understand. We’ll do it right.”

The NFL allows the Lambeau Leap, even though it technically violates league rules regarding celebrations. College football has a similar rule but no similar exception.

Wisconsin players have yet to receive a similar warning. Then again, they’ll have a much shorter trip home.

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Jimmy Graham’s status for Week One to be determined “late next week”

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Tight end Jimmy Graham #88 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes against the Chicago Bears at CenturyLink Field on September 27, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tight end Jimmy Graham won’t be in the lineup for the Seahawks on Thursday when they close the preseason against the Raiders, but the fourth week of the preseason has never been the date on people’s minds when it comes to Graham’s return to game action.

Week One against the Dolphins is the date that everyone has been watching and there’s still no answer from the team about whether Graham will play. Coach Pete Carroll was typically upbeat on Wednesday, but said a determination won’t be made for another week or so.

“Jimmy has been practicing full-go, and we’re thrilled about it,” Carroll said, via the team’s website. “He is too, he has had a lot of fun being back out with the fellas and all. He had a full week of practice, he’ll have another full week of practice, and we’ll just keep taking it day-to-day. … We won’t know until late next week.”

Taking Graham off the physically unable to perform list is a good sign that the Seahawks expect to have Graham in the lineup in the first few weeks of the season, but there’s not much to gain from pushing for the first of 16 games if it creates undue risk about the next 15 on the schedule.

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Vikings officially place Teddy Bridgewater on injured reserve

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 12:  Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Minnesota Vikings warms up before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Vikings announced the extent of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury on Tuesday, they didn’t say that Bridgewater’s season was over even though his torn ACL and dislocated knee made it all but certain.

The Vikings have now gone ahead and made it official. The team announced on Wednesday afternoon that Bridgewater has been placed on injured reserve. While teams can hold off on designating a player to return thanks to a rule change this season, the player must be placed on IR after the cut to 53 players so Bridgewater will spend the foreseeable future rehabbing with 2017 in his sights.

Minnesota also formally announced the expected return of Brad Sorensen to the quarterback room. Sorensen was waived this week, but reports after Tuesday’s injury indicated he would come back if he cleared waivers.

Sorensen joins Shaun Hill and rookie Joel Stave on the active roster while Taylor Heinicke remains on the non-football injury list after hurting his foot while kicking a door.

The Vikings also placed defensive lineman Scott Crichton and defensive back Antone Exum on injured reserve after they passed through waivers unclaimed.

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Exclusive video of the Tim Tebow baseball showcase!

Former NFL quarterback, Tim Tebow does a 60-yard run for baseball scouts and the media during a showcase on the campus of the University of Southern California, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016 in Los Angeles. The Heisman Trophy winner works out for a big gathering of scouts on USC's campus in an attempt to start a career in a sport he hasn't played regularly since high school. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) AP

So with two hours of radio on NBCSN every day, we’ve got four break segments per hour that require a little filler. One of today’s segments was supposed to include highlights from the Tim Tebow baseball showcase a/k/a one-man fantasy camp.

And so when we came back to air the folks in the control room rolled the footage. But it wasn’t the footage that we’ve now seen ad nauseum of Tebow shagging flies like a non-alcholic-beer-league softball player or running 60 yards in a straight line with the form of the Oregon mascot or swinging a bat but never seeing where the ball goes.

No, they tricked me with something I didn’t expect. It made me laugh. It possibly will make you laugh, too.

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Justin Forsett is back to 100 percent

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 1: Running back Justin Forsett #29 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on prior to a game against the San Diego Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ravens running back Justin Forsett became a late bloomer in NFL circles two years ago, when he rushed for 1,266 yards during his first season in Baltimore. Now approaching 31 and coming back from a broken arm that shortened his 2015 campaign, Forsett is ready to build on what he did in 2014.

Appearing Wednesday on PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN, Forsett said he’s 100 percent again. He also said that he’s feeling great and fresh because, for most of his early years, he didn’t have the same wear and tear that other running backs experience. He also has noticed something positive about being an experience (i.e., older) player in the NFL.

“The game is just so much slower than it was when I was 24,” Forsett said. “Coming into the league, your head’s kinda spinning and things are happening fast on and off the field. Now I kind of got a little more wisdom underneath me and the game has slowed down and I can anticipate things before they happen.”

He said that he noticed the change in his third or fourth year, “where you really start to understand not only what you do as a professional, as a running back, but you start understanding schemes [and] you start understanding what the guys around you are doing and it kind of makes your job easier.”

Forsett pays plenty of attention to what one guy around him (his quarterback) does, and Forsett thinks Joe Flacco looks the same following a torn ACL suffered last season.

“I haven’t noticed any difference as of late,” Forsett said. “I mean he’s been in the pocket, standing strong, getting the ball out, he’s been leading the same way. Joe is Joe, man, I mean there’s no high or low he’s even keeled in all situations. So even after the injury Joe’s remained the same.”

Steve Smith is still the same guy he’s always been. For a story from Justin Forsett about the intensity and competitive nature of Smith, check out the video accompanying this blurb.

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NFL to announce Philadelphia as 2017 draft host city

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 18:  A detailed photo of the football on the tee prior to the start between the Arizona Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC championship game on January 18, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 2017 NFL draft will be in Philadelphia.

The league announced today that Philadelphia and NFL officials will have a joint announcement at City Hall tomorrow. Although the league hasn’t officially announced that Philly is the draft host, it’s obvious that is what will be announced, after months of reports that Philadelphia was the front-runner for the 2017 draft.

After hosting the draft in New York City for decades, the NFL moved it to Chicago for the last two years. Now the league is looking to turn the draft into a traveling road show that will draw big crowds across the country. Several NFL teams have said they want to host the draft in their towns.

One drawback to Philadelphia as the 2017 host is that the Eagles don’t have a first-round pick, after sending their 2017 first-rounder to Cleveland in the Carson Wentz trade. That might dampen some local interest in the draft, but the NFL still thinks Philadelphia will be a good host.

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Report: Bills claim Patrick Lewis

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) passes as center Patrick Lewis (65) blocks Arizona Cardinals' Calais Campbell (93) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

The Bills have claimed center Patrick Lewis via waivers, NFL Network reported Wednesday.

The Seahawks waived Lewis Tuesday. He started nine games at center last season but this summer had fallen to second on the depth chart behind Justin Britt.

With the Bills, Lewis will presumably compete with Fernando Velasco for the backup center job behind Eric Wood.

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Pete Carroll: “Many scenarios” where Brandon Browner could return

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 08:  Brandon Browner #39 of the Seattle Seahawks lines up against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on August 8, 2013 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks ended Brandon Browner’s second stint with the team when they released him this week, but coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday that there could be a third tour of duty at some point.

Seattle was working to convert Browner from cornerback to safety after bringing him back this offseason. Carroll said Wednesday that the team “ran out of time getting him ready” and that it was tough to keep him on the roster given the presence of other players who were ready to fill the safety jobs.

“He could play for us, which he did in games,” Carroll said, via the Seattle Times. “But I think there was still aways to go and I thought in respect to him, give him more time to find a place with somebody else. There are many scenarios where we would ask him to come back, so we left with that exchange. I love that guy and his competitiveness and toughness and all of that. But it was a big request. We weren’t making him play safety and faking it we needed him to play to be on the roster and help us and the other guys were just ahead of him.”

Browner didn’t look too good at cornerback in New Orleans last season, which is a stumbling block to finding work at that position with another team and, given where we are in the calendar, a continued transition to safety is going to be difficult. That may leave him available should the Seahawks’ needs change, although it seems clear they think they’re better off without Browner in the secondary this year.

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Steelers claim quarterback Zach Mettenberger off waivers

Zach Mettenberger AP

Despite a career record of 0-10, which may or may not be his fault, there is still a market for quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

And it’s not one of the teams that had been previously linked to the former Tennessee starter.

According to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com, the Steelers have claimed Mettenberger off waivers from the Chargers. The Bengals and Giants had put in claims for him when he was cut by Tennessee earlier this offseason.

The Steelers seemed previously content with Landry Jones as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup, and they may still be. But after veteran Bruce Gradkowski suffered a torn hamstring, they were perilously thin at the position, with just Bryn Renner on the roster.

Jones also hasn’t been very good in the preseason, beyond the four-interception game against the Eagles.

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Would Tony Romo have trade value?

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 25:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys lies on the turf after being injured in the first quarter during a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

If, as the Cowboys possibly hope but won’t admit, quarterback Dak Prescott becomes the next Tom Brady and makes Tony Romo the next Drew Bledsoe, the next order of business will be to figure out how best to separate from Romo. In 2002, the Patriots finagled a first-round pick from the Bills for Bledsoe. So what trade value would Romo have?

I recently reached out to various league executives and coaches with the question of Romo’s worth on the market. More than a few of them quickly said that Romo, given his age and injury history, would have no trade value at all. A few suggested that he could fetch a mid-round pick, maybe a fourth-rounder that possibly would become a third-rounder based on playing time or other performance-based factors.

Any trade would hinge on Romo getting healthy. Still, even when he’s healthy, there’s a chance he quickly won’t be healthy again, once he re-enters a fray occupied by younger and stronger men who for the most part are far less frail than a 36-year-old quarterback with a collarbone that keeps breaking and a back that keeps getting injured.

Plenty of teams have far worse options at quarterback. The lure of a year or two with a late-career Romo, like Brett Favre with the Jets in 2008 or the Vikings in 2009-10, could prompt someone to make a move. The fact that Romo may have little or no value to another team on the trade market underscores the question of whether the Cowboys should be looking to move on, if Prescott ends up playing in the regular season like he has in the preseason.

It’s still a very big “if,” but it’s an eventuality for which the Cowboys should have a plan, in the event their unspoken wish to find their next franchise quarterback comes to fruition with Prescott.

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NFL apparently had no proof of PED use beyond the claims of Charles Sly

al-jazeera-america Getty Images

The statement clearing Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and James Harrison admits that the NFL found “no credible evidence” of a PED violation by the players. Which confirms that the NFL insisted that the three players submitted to interviews without “credible evidence” that they had done anything wrong.

And that leaves an important question unresolved about the circumstances that allow the NFL to compel players to provide evidence that could be used against them under the PED policy — apart from the agreement that they periodically will provide a urine sample. How much evidence is needed to require a player to show up and sit down and answer questions? Can it be a tweet from someone who makes the claim of PED use? A Facebook post? A tip provided to the league office, either anonymously or with a name attached to it?

Like so many other things the NFL does (and doesn’t) do, this one seems to be driven by P.R. Because the Al Jazeera report implicated Peyton Manning and in turn became a national sensation, the NFL felt compelled to explore the rabbit hole even after determining that the person making the accusations, former Guyer Institute intern/employee/whatever Charles Sly, was not credible as to Peyton Manning.

For the league, which justified its four-game suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady by comparing an arguable equipment violation (for which there would have been only a fine) to a PED violation, failing to interview the players would have given those who think the Patriots were railroaded a large helping of raw meat for making persuasive claims of inconsistent treatment. If the Al Jazeera report hadn’t become such a big deal, the NFL could have looked the other way, regarding Sly’s claims as hollow and unsupported. But because everyone knew about the allegations made against Matthews, Peppers, and Harrison due to the attention given to the allegations made against Manning, the league felt compelled to check the boxes before closing the books in order to sidestep a claim that they weren’t investigating potential cheating with the same zeal they did when the Patriots were accused of it.

In this case, it all worked out for the players. But what about in future cases? What if the league has no credible evidence of guilt, but the player actually has violated the policy is forced to incriminate himself based on a whisper or a whim? That’s why the NFL Players Association resisted the interviews for so long, and it’s why at some point the question of whether the PED policy allows the league to mandate player interviews without hard evidence of a PED violation eventually needs to be resolved by an arbitrator, a special master, or a judge.

Without a standard being established, the NFL can bring a guy in for a PED interview pretty much whenever it chooses to do so. And one of these times, a fishing expedition may end up catching a fish.

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