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NFL morning after: Filling in the playoff picture

Detroit Lions v Chicago Bears Getty Images

Ten NFL Sundays down and seven to go, and I know who’s making the playoffs.

OK, I might be wrong about a few, and in seven weeks you might remind me of this column and point out all the places where I was wrong and make me eat my words. But I actually think that as you go through the NFL standings right now, you can get a pretty accurate picture of how the final standings are going to look seven weeks from now. Let’s go through it:

NFC East: Dallas. Despite Sunday night’s massacre in New Orleans, I still favor the 5-5 Cowboys over the 5-5 Eagles, largely because the Cowboys have already won at Philadelphia. The Cowboys and Eagles meet in Week 17 in Dallas, and I think the Cowboys will complete the season sweep and seal the division title on the last day of the season.

NFC North: Detroit. The Lions’ win over the Bears gives Detroit a one-game lead, and considering how easy the Lions’ schedule is, plus the fact that the Packers are down to Scott Tolzien at quarterback, we can pencil in the Lions to win the North.

NFC South: New Orleans. The 7-2 Saints, whose offense looked amazing on Sunday night in Dallas, will hold off the 6-3 Panthers.

NFC West: Seattle. After San Francisco lost to Carolina on Sunday, the Seahawks have a two-game lead over the 49ers, and Seattle has a head-to-head win over San Francisco as well. This is Seattle’s division.

NFC wild cards: Carolina and San Francisco. The 49ers and Panthers are currently a game ahead of the pack at 6-3, and I’ll be shocked if they don’t end up as the two NFC wild card teams. The 5-4 Bears, Packers and Cardinals are all in the mix, as are the 5-5 Eagles, but the Panthers and 49ers are pretty clearly the two best in the wild card chase.

AFC East: New England. The Patriots lead the Jets by two games in the standings and will win this division for an amazing 11th time in Tom Brady’s 12 years as their starting quarterback.

AFC North: Cincinnati. The Bengals missed a golden opportunity to put the division away on Sunday in Baltimore, but they’re still a game and a half ahead, and they’re going to win this division.

AFC South: Indianapolis. The Colts looked terrible against the Rams on Sunday, but Indianapolis is still two games ahead of Tennessee, and Houston and Jacksonville have no shot. It’s the Colts by default.

AFC West: Denver. This is the only division that I don’t think the current first-place team will win. I expect the 8-1 Broncos to sweep the 9-0 Chiefs, winning this week in Denver and then winning in Kansas City in Week 13, and Denver will win this division.

AFC wild cards: Kansas City and New York Jets. The second-place team in the AFC West will be the top wild card team, so let’s pencil the Chiefs in for that spot. The biggest question mark on the board is the sixth and final AFC playoff spot: As of right now the Jets would get it, and I think they’ll hold onto it holding off the Dolphins, Chargers, Browns, Ravens and Titans.

A lot can change in the next seven weeks, especially if a key player is injured. (It’s worth noting that before Aaron Rodgers went down, I thought the Packers had a very good chance of getting to the Super Bowl, and now I’m picking them to miss the playoffs.) But I’m feeling pretty confident that I’ve got this whole playoff picture figured out. Here are the rest of my observations from Sunday:

Another terrible game for Trent Richardson. With five carries for two yards in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, Richardson now has 88 carries for 250 yards, an average of 2.8 yards a carry, in seven games as a Colt. It’s looking more and more like the Browns fleeced the Colts when Indianapolis shipped a first-round draft pick to Cleveland in the Richardson trade.

Another terrible game for Ray Rice, too. Rice had 18 carries for 30 yards in the Ravens’ win over the Bengals on Sunday. He’s now averaging 2.5 yards a carry this season. That’s a stunningly bad average for a three-time Pro Bowler who had never averaged less than 4.0 yards a carry in any season of his career before. Rice has no room to run behind a terrible Baltimore offensive line.

The Seahawks’ secondary is sensational against tight ends. One of the things that really stands out when you watch Seattle is the way strong safety Kam Chancellor and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner cover tight ends. On Sunday Seattle played one of the best tight ends in the league, Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, and totally kept him in check: Gonzalez didn’t catch his first pass until it was basically garbage time, with the score 26-3 Seattle in the third quarter, and Gonzalez finished the day with just three catches for 29 yards.

Clay Matthews looked like Art Jimmerson at UFC 1. Matthews is playing with a massive club on his broken right hand. He’s a tough guy for wanting to be out there, but he looked like he was struggling and had a quiet day in the Packers’ loss.

That’s the Tavon Austin the Rams thought they were drafting. Through the first nine weeks of the season, Austin looked like one of the NFL’s more disappointing rookies, averaging just 6.7 yards a catch. On Sunday, Austin had touchdown catches of 81 and 57 yards and threw in a 98-yard touchdown on a punt return as well. I still have my doubts that Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is the right guy to find ways to get Austin the ball in space consistently, and it’s worth pointing out that Schottenheimer only called four plays for Austin (three passes, one run) all game on Sunday. But there’s no doubt that Austin has game-breaking talent.

Welcome back, Jake Ballard. It was nice to see Ballard catch a pass for the Cardinals on Sunday in his first live game action since the Super Bowl almost two years ago. As the Giants’ starting tight end in that Super Bowl, Ballard suffered a major knee injury in the game and hadn’t been able to get all the way back to 100 percent healthy for more than a year. Both the Giants and the Patriots released Ballard, but he signed with the Cardinals last week and is already contributing to the offense.

Giovani Bernard has some learning to do. Bernard, the Bengals’ rookie running back, is a superb young talent who’s a threat to break off a long gain every time he touches the ball. But he needs to learn that there are times when you just need to lower your shoulders and run straight ahead, and one of those times is when you get the ball on fourth-and-2 in overtime. Bernard tried to dance around after catching a swing pass from Andy Dalton, and he ended up losing 11 yards. Those 11 yards helped the Ravens greatly when they won the game with a 46-yard field goal on the next possession.

What happened to Colin Kaepernick? The 49ers’ quarterback was awful against the Panthers on Sunday. Since throwing for 412 yards in Week One, he’s only reached 200 passing yards once. On Sunday he completed 11 of 22 passes for 91 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception.

Did the Jaguars just cost themselves the No. 1 pick? It’s nice that Jacksonville won a game and assured itself of avoiding the fate of the 0-16 Lions of 2008. But did the Jags cost themselves the chance to draft their franchise quarterback of the future (maybe Oregon’s Marcus Mariota or Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater) with the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft? Actually, I don’t think so. Looking at the rest of the schedule, I think there’s still a good chance the Jags will finish 1-15. And while the Buccaneers are currently winless, they have a few winnable games the rest of the way and should finish more like 2-14 or 3-13. The Jaguars are so far out of the playoff race that they can’t even see the leaders, but they’re still in the pole position in the race for the No. 1 overall pick.

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Raiders rule out RB Latavius Murray

Latavius Murray AP

A concussion will keep one of the Raiders’ promising young offensive players out of the lineup Sunday at St. Louis.

The Raiders have officially ruled out second-year tailback Latavius Murray, who did not practice Friday after putting in limited workouts on Wednesday and Thursday.

Murray played a major role in the Raiders’ 24-20 Week 12 win vs. Kansas City, tallying a pair of touchdowns. However, he left the lineup after racking up 112 yards on just four carries, and he is not yet ready to return for Oakland (1-10).

With Murray out, veteran Darren McFadden could be the Raiders’ primary tailback against the Rams, with Maurice Jones-Drew and Marcel Reece in reserve.

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Seahawks awarded Loucheiz Purifoy on waivers

Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The Seahawks have added some secondary and special teams depth.

Seattle has been awarded rookie cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy on waivers, the club announced Friday. The Colts had parted ways with the 21-year-old Purifoy on Thursday.

A Florida product, Purifoy (5-11, 188) appeared in all 11 regular season games for Indianapolis, notching five tackles (two solo) on special teams. His addition gives the Seahawks six cornerbacks.

With Purifoy arriving, the Seahawks placed rookie linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis (shoulder) on injured reserve. Pierre-Louis notched 13 tackles in seven games. He had missed the last two contests for Seattle (8-4).

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Baalke apologizes to Roman for daughter’s tweet

Baalke Getty Images

After the 49ers lost to the Seahawks on Thursday night, the daughter of 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke posted on Twitter with the following statement directed at 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman: “The 49ers don’t want you no more.”

Now Baalke has apologized.

“My daughter and I both regret that her feelings got the best of her after last night’s game and that she chose social media as an avenue to express her feelings. We have apologized to Greg for this unfortunate matter. While disappointed, as a father I will use this as a teachable moment to help my daughter grow,” Baalke said in a statement.

Baalke can apologize, but he can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. And whether he likes it or not, Baalke’s daughter’s tweet strongly suggests what she has heard negative things about Roman from her father. Which is one more piece of evidence that there’s a rift in San Francisco between Baalke and those loyal to him, and Jim Harbaugh and those loyal to him. Harbaugh and Roman are close, and have been since before Harbaugh was the coach of the 49ers — Roman was also Harbaugh’s offensive coordinator at Stanford, and Harbaugh brought him along when he took the 49ers job.

Harbaugh may very well take Roman along when he takes another job. Perhaps as soon as a month from now, when the 49ers’ season comes to an end, and Harbaugh and Baalke can go their separate ways.

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Dolphins bring back Don Jones

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Dolphins are reuniting with one of their picks in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Miami has been awarded safety Don Jones on waivers from New England, the claiming club said Friday.

In a corresponding roster move, the Dolphins waived first-year cornerback Lowell Rose.

The Dolphins waived the 24-year-old Jones after the preseason, and the Patriots claimed him the next day. In nine games with New England, Jones was credited with eight special teams tackles, according to club statistics.

The Dolphins selected Jones in the seventh round in 2013. The Arkansas State product has appeared in 25 regular season games, including 16 with Miami as a rookie.

The Dolphins and Patriots meet on December 14 in Foxborough. The Dolphins won the first matchup between the clubs in Week One.

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Ginsberg takes aim at Goodell

Goodell AP

In recent years, lawyer Peter Ginsberg has become a major agitator as it relates to the NFL’s ability to impose discipline against players.  From the StarCaps case to the Saints bounty scandal to the Ray Rice case, Ginsberg has become a fairly large thorn in the NFL’s legal underbelly.

In the wake of the ruling overturning Rice’s indefinite suspension, Ginsberg issued a statement that takes aim at Commissioner Roger Goodell.

“On the heels of Bountygate, Commissioner Roger Goodell has shown once again that he does not follow the rules in his treatment of players and that his judgment cannot be trusted” Ginsberg said.  “Under his leadership, the NFL ignored for years the need to create a stronger and more constructive program to address domestic abuse. As we all know, the Rice incident is not an isolated one.  It was only in the face of a public outcry, however, that the NFL finally took a step in the right direction with its new domestic violence policy.

“But rather than admitting he had been ignoring the domestic violence issue for years, and had failed to subject past violators to real scrutiny, Commissioner Goodell turned his own failings on Ray by punishing him a second time for an offense about which Commissioner Goodell had been fully and completely aware when he imposed the original suspension.  That action threatened to end Ray’s career.  And in so doing, Commissioner Goodell ignored the basic principle that every worker must be treated in a manner consistent with past punishments and in accordance with published procedures.

“Second punishments for the same conduct are unprecedented and not permitted as a matter of basic and fundamental principle. Perhaps now, finally, NFL owners will give real thought to whether the ‘NFL shield’ should tolerate a leader who fails to lead in important areas like domestic violence and who time and again ignores the League’s workers’ due process rights and the right to be treated with fundamental fairness. There are many lessons to be learned from this unfortunate event – Ray is well on his way to learning his from this awful event.  Time will tell whether the NFL and NFL owners are learning theirs as well.”

It’s unclear whether the Rice ruling will trigger specific action by NFL ownership.  However, the decision sets the stage for a potentially scathing report from former FBI director Robert Mueller, whose analysis could end up wreaking real havoc at 345 Park Avenue.

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Lance Briggs goes to IR, and his days in Chicago may be over

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs is done for the season. And perhaps done for Chicago.

Briggs, the veteran who has spent his entire 12-year career with the Bears and been chosen to seven Pro Bowls, was placed on injured reserve today. That means the groin injury that has hampered him this season will now end his season.

It may also end his tenure with the Bears. There was already talk in Chicago that he wasn’t always seeing eye to eye with coach Marc Trestman and his staff, and at age 34 Briggs is not the same player he once was. Briggs, who is in the final year of his contract, acknowledged early this month that he’s probably not long for Chicago.

“I know the reality of it and I’m proud of all the years I’ve had here. It’s been great. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation,” Briggs said.

Now it’s time for Chicago to say goodbye to Briggs.

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Week 13 injury report roundup

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week 13 of the 2014 season.

Chargers at Ravens

The Chargers should have running back Ryan Mathews (shoulder, probable), but defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers (elbow) is out and linebacker Andrew Gachkar (knee) is doubtful after missing practice all week. Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) is questionable after missing the last three games. Linebackers Pernell McPhee (elbow) and Terrell Suggs (foot) are both probable.

Browns at Bills

Linebacker Karlos Dansby (knee) will miss another game for the Browns, who are hopeful that tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion, questionable) can play for the first time since Week Eight. Wide receiver Marlon Moore (hamstring) and safety Tashaun Gipson (knee) are also out, while defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (back) and linebacker Jabaal Sheard (foot) are questionable. Defensive end Jarius Wynn (knee), safety Bacarri Rambo (hamstring), tight end Chris Gregg (knee) are out for Buffalo, which brings an otherwise healthy group into Sunday.

Titans at Texans

Titans linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (hamstring) is out. Four players — tackles Taylor Lewan (ankle) and Michael Oher (toe), safety Michael Griffin (shoulder) and defensive back Marqueston Huff (hamstring) — are questionable. The Texans expect running back Arian Foster (groin) back in the lineup, but linebacker Jadeveon Clowney will miss another game with lingering knee pain resulting from his torn meniscus earlier in the season. Linebacker Akeem Dent (neck) is questionable.

Redskins at Colts

Washington brings a slew of questionable players with them to Indianapolis. Tackle Trent Williams (knee,ankle), tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring), defensive end Jason Hatcher (knee), safety Ryan Clark (stinger) and cornerback E.J. Biggers (concussion) are the notable members of that group. Colts tight end Dwayne Allen (ankle) is out again this week and he’ll be joined on the sideline by guard Hugh Thornton (knee), linebacker Andy Studebaker (hamstring) and tackle Xavier Nixon (foot). Cornerback Darius Butler (knee) is questionable after popping up on the injury report on Thursday.

Giants at Jaguars

Offensive lineman Adam Snyder (knee), defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins (calf) and linebacker Jacquian Williams (concussion/shoulder) are all out for the Giants. Right tackle Justin Pugh (quad) and defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka (knee) are questionable. Linebackers LaRoy Reynolds (neck) and Jeremiah George (hamstring) are questionable for the Jags and defensive end Andre Branch (groin, probable) is on track to return.

Panthers at Vikings

The Panthers listed Amini Silatolu (knee) as doubtful, but they’ve already announced Mike Remmers will get the start at right tackle. On the defensive line, Star Lotulelei (ankle) is doubtful and defensive end Charles Johnson (illness) is questionable. The Vikings listed running back Jerick McKinnon (back) as doubtful, but McKinnon ruled himself out on Friday. Tight end Chase Ford (hamstring, foot) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee) are questionable.

Saints at Steelers

The Saints ruled out linebacker Kyle Knox (hand) and running back Khiry Robinson (forearm). Cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee) is probable for the reunion with his previous team. Safety Troy Polamalu (knee) and cornerback Ike Taylor (arm) are probable to return to the lineup for Pittsburgh, although linebacker Ryan Shazier (knee) is less certain to return after being listed as questionable. Cornerback Cortez Allen (thumb) and defensive tackle Steve McLendon (shoulder) are both out this week.

Raiders at Rams

There were some encouraging signs earlier in the week, but the Raiders have ruled out running back Latavius Murray (concussion). Safety Jonathan Dowling (back), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee) and cornerback Neiko Thorpe (hand) have also been ruled out and guard Gabe Jackson (knee) is questionable. Rams cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle), while defensive tackle Alex Carrington (thigh) and safety Lamarcus Joyner (groin) are both questionable. The Rams have not activated defensive end Chris Long (ankle) from injured reserve and will make a call on his status this weekend.

Bengals at Buccaneers

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (knee) will spend another week on the bench for the Bengals. Defensive end Margus Hunt (knee) is also out and linebacker Nico Johnson (illness) is questionable. So are Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (hamstring), center Evan Dietrich-Smith (illness), defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (hamstring), tight end Brandon Myers (calf), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back), tight end Luke Stocker (concussion) and safety Major Wright (shoulder).

Cardinals at Falcons

It’s a game-time decision for Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee,questionable). Linebacker Kenny Demens (hamstring) and defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) are out. Defensive tackle Paul Soliai (not injury related) and wide receiver Roddy White (ankle) are both questionable for the Falcons, who won’t have cornerback Robert Alford (wrist) this week.

Patriots at Packers

The Patriots listed long snapper Danny Aiken (concussion), guard Dan Connolly (ankle), defensive end Dominique Easley (knee), tackle Cameron Fleming (ankle, finger), defensive end Chandler Jones (hip), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (shoulder), running back Shane Vereen (ankle) and linebacker Chris White (ankle) as questionable. No reason to worry about Tom Brady (ankle), though: He’s probable. Cornerback Jarrett Bush (groin, questionable) and linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder, questionable) are the only injury concerns for the Packers.

Broncos at Chiefs

Cornerback Aqib Talib (hamstring) and tight end Julius Thomas (ankle) are questionable after doing limited practice work this week. Running backs Montee Ball (groin) and Ronnie Hillman (foot) will miss another week and cornerback Kayvon Webster (shoulder) joins them on the sideline. The Chiefs won’t have wide receiver Junior Hemingway (concussion), but Donnie Avery (sports hernia surgery, probable) should be back after a long absence from the lineup. Cornerback Christopher Owens (knee, abdomen) and defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson (calf) are both questionable.

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Lardarius Webb fined $16,537 for horse-collar tackle

Joe Morgan, Lardarius Webb AP

On the second play of Monday night’s Ravens win over the Saints, Baltimore cornerback Lardarius Webb saved a touchdown by dragging Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan down on the 2-yard-line with a horse-collar tackle.

The play was flagged as a personal foul and Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reports that Webb has been fined $16,537 by the NFL for the infraction. It’s a tidy sum of money, but well spent from the Ravens’ perspective.

The Ravens Defense was able to stop the Saints on four straight plays after Webb’s tackle stopped Morgan after a 67-yard run on an end around. The Ravens drove for a touchdown on the ensuing possession, putting them up seven points on the way to a 34-27 victory.

Wilson also reports that neither Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith nor Saints safety Kenny Vacarro were fined for an altercation that saw Vacarro penalized during the game. Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata also avoided a fine for a roughing the passer penalty.

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Ray Rice thanks judge, apologizes to his wife

Ray Rice, Janay Palmer

The NFLPA has every reason to gloat, for what is clearly a big win for the union with the reinstatement of former Ravens running back Ray Rice.

Rice, on the other hand, needs to show a bit more contrition since this whole deal began with him punching his wife in the face.

In a statement sent out by the union, Rice again expressed remorse for assaulting his wife Janay.

“I would like to thank Judge Barbara Jones, the NFL Players Association, my attorneys, agents, advisors, family, friends and fans — but most importantly, my wife Janay,” Rice said. “I made an inexcusable mistake and accept full responsibility for my actions. I am thankful that there was a proper appeals process in place to address this issue.

“I will continue working hard to improve myself and be the best husband, father and friend, while giving back to my community and helping others to learn from my mistakes.”

Whether he plays another down of football, fixing that relationship will be his biggest priority.

Rice said previously that at some point he hoped to be able to become an advocate in the fight against violence toward women.

Today clearly puts him a step closer to that, but only time will tell if his actions match his words.

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NFLPA hopes Rice decision helps “fix a broken process”

Super Bowl XLVIII NFLPA Press Conference Getty Images

Let the gloating begin.

In the wake of Judge Barbara Jones reinstating former Ravens running back Ray Rice, the players union has responded to what it views as a big win.

“This decision is a victory for a disciplinary process that is fair and transparent,” the NFLPA said in a statement. “This union will always stand up and fight for the due process rights of our players. While we take no pleasure in seeing a decision that confirms what we have been saying about the Commissioner’s office acting arbitrarily, we hope that this will bring the NFL owners to the collective bargaining table to fix a broken process.

“It is clear that this decision should force the NFL to embrace neutral arbitration as part of a necessary due process in all cases. The players thank Judge Barbara Jones for her time and thoroughness in this matter.”

While the players had the opportunity to bargain collectively for changes to this system previously, it’s clear that it will be a big issue next time they negotiate, and they’ll use this as evidence that Goodell has too much power.

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Janay Rice: My apology followed the Ravens’ suggested script

Ray Rice, Janay Rice AP

One of the many ugly elements of the Ray Rice domestic violence case was the way the victim, Janay Rice, was treated in some quarters like she deserved blame for the incident. That was exemplified by a press conference hosted by the Ravens in which Janay apologized for her role in the attack, an apology that was promptly trumpeted by the Ravens on Twitter.

The Ravens’ tweet, reading, “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident,” became a symbol of the tone deaf way the Ravens and the NFL handled the Rice case in particular and domestic violence generally. Now Janay Rice has come forward to say it was the Ravens who scripted the apology in the first place.

Janay Rice and ESPN’s Jemele Hill have collaborated on a first-person account of Janay’s perspective of everything that has transpired since the night Ray assaulted her. In that first-person account, Rice says that the Ravens didn’t make her say anything she didn’t believe, but the Ravens did suggest a script, and that when she was apologizing for her role, she was following the Ravens’ suggestion.

“When it was my turn to speak, I said I regretted my role in the incident,” Janay Rice says. “I know some people disagreed with me publicly apologizing. I’m not saying that what Ray did wasn’t wrong. He and I both know it was wrong. It’s been made clear to him that it was wrong. But at the same time, who am I to put my hands on somebody? I had already apologized to Ray, and I felt that I should take responsibility for what I did. Even though this followed the Ravens’ suggested script, I owned my words.”

Janay Rice also said the press conference was something the Ravens wanted, although she also was glad that people could get an image of her other than the only one they had, which was that of her being dragged out of an elevator by Ray.

“The Ravens just said it was something that they felt we should do,” Janay Rice says of the press conference.

That doesn’t speak well of the Ravens. If Janay Rice wanted to speak about this case, she should have been made to feel free to do so in whatever setting she wished. She should not have been pressured by the Ravens to give a press conference at their headquarters, in which they suggested the script.

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Tom Brady is probable for Green Bay, because he always was

Tom Brady AP

Sometimes it seems like the Patriots only bother monkeying around with the injury report for big games.

So naturally, with the Packers this weekend, something has to be wrong with Tom Brady.

The venerable quarterback is listed as probable for Sunday’s trip to Green Bay with an ankle injury, which means of course he’s playing.

The rest of the Patriots injury reports lists defensive lineman Chandler Jones as questionable, along with running back Shane Vereen, wide receiver Brandon LaFell and guard Dan Connolly.

It’s hard to gauge on Jones, who has missed a month with a hip injury, and was considered borderline for this game. So making him 50-50 on the report is about as much intrigue as we’ll actually have.

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Potential landing spots hard to find for Ray Rice in 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Judge Barbara Jones has reinstated former Ravens running back Ray Rice from his indefinite suspension after finding that Rice did not mislead the NFL about striking Janay Palmer Rice and knocking her unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator earlier this year.

The ruling frees Rice to sign with any team to continue his playing career, but a return this year doesn’t look particularly promising. In addition to the sizable baggage Rice carries as a result of hitting his now-wife, Rice is coming off a season that saw him run for 3.1 yards per carry and he would be coming in cold to a new team with little time left in the regular season.

In looking at potential landing spots, we’re eliminating teams out of playoff contention since the benefits of adding Rice wouldn’t make much of a difference to them this season when compared to the negative attention such a move would likely create. Among teams with active playoff hopes, one team jumps immediately to mind but, as if to illustrate the difficulties Rice faces getting work this year, they are reportedly uninterested in Rice’s services.

Colts: The Colts lost Ahmad Bradshaw for the season, leaving them with the underwhelming combo of Trent Richardson and Dan Herron at tailback. Rice could give them some of what they lost in the passing game with Bradshaw gone and he knows Colts coach Chuck Pagano from Indianapolis, but, as mentioned, there have already been reports that the Colts are not interested in pursuing Rice.

Cardinals: Arizona currently ranks 31st in the league in rushing yards per game and they signed Michael Bush off the street this week, so they are looking for help alongside Andre Ellington in the backfield. Bush wasn’t any more productive than Rice last season, but he does look like a better fit as a more power-oriented back since Ellington has been fairly effective catching passes out of the backfield.

Falcons: The Falcons haven’t been much better on the ground than the Cardinals, but their issues on the offensive line make it hard to believe that Rice would be able to do much more than Steven Jackson, Devonta Freeman and Jacquizz Rodgers offer the team.

Lions: In the event that Reggie Bush’s ankle injury continues to keep him on the sidelines, the Lions could be in the market for backfield help. There’s no sign that’s the case at this point, however, and Joique Bell and Theo Riddick were effective on Thanksgiving.

Broncos: Continuing along the theme of teams dealing with injuries, the Broncos are waiting to get Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball back in the lineup. Their offense isn’t an easy one to pick up, though, and C.J. Anderson appears to have it down pat, which doesn’t leave much reason to go down the Rice road.

Chargers: The Chargers rank near the Cardinals and Falcons and were once victimized by a Rice catch-and-run on 4th-and-29, so they saw first-hand what he can do with the ball in his hands. They also just got Ryan Mathews back from injury and they have run for 270 yards in the last two weeks, leaving them much less likely to be in the market for backfield help.

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Rice had second video, and NFL never asked for it

Rice

It’s taken nearly three months, but finally a conclusive answer has been provided to one of the most basic questions in the Ray Rice case:  Could the NFL have gotten the elevator video from Rice himself?

Answer:  Yes.

In her 17-page ruling announcing the reversal of Rice’s indefinite suspension, former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones concludes that Rice had obtained the video from the prosecution as part of the discovery process in his criminal case, and that the NFL (which supposedly was doing everything in its power to get the video) didn’t ask Rice for a copy of the video.

From page four of the written decision, “Rice had received this video in discovery during his criminal case, but the NFL never asked Rice for the second video.”

That’s a point that was first raised in this space on August 4, more than a month before the second video was released.  At a time when everyone assumed that the NFL had seen the video of the strike that knocked Janay Palmer Rice out, Jay Glazer of FOX said on The Dan Patrick Show that the NFL hadn’t seen the video.  Alarmed by that disclosure, I determined the NFL hadn’t seen the video, but that it could have gotten the video easily.

The topic was revisited on September 8, after the video emerged, the Ravens cut Rice, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely.  But the league had never publicly addressed whether it asked Rice for the video.

Privately, some have pointed to a strong likelihood that Rice’s lawyer wouldn’t have allowed him to produce the tape.  Those concerns appear nowhere within Judge Jones’ ruling, and for good reason.  Rice, as the client, owns the contents of the lawyer’s file.  Rice, as the client, has the power to tell the lawyer what will and won’t be shared with, for example, Rice’s employer.

Regardless of why the NFL didn’t ask for the video, the truth is that:  (1) Rice had it; and (2) the NFL never said the magic words.

That simple failure by the NFL makes everything else regarding the case irrelevant.  Either the league office didn’t want to see the video or it failed to exercise any degree of reasonable diligence in attempting to get it.  Regardless of the explanation, it’s not the kind of outcome that the stakeholders in professional football should expect, or tolerate.

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Jordan Cameron practices again Friday, listed as questionable

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The Browns could have tight end Jordan Cameron back in the lineup as they try for their eighth win of the season in Buffalo on Sunday.

Cameron practiced for the third straight day on Friday, leading the team to list him as questionable to play in his first game since suffering a concussion in Week Eight. Cameron has missed four games as a result, although the Browns have won three of those four contests.

Earlier this week, coach Mike Pettine said that Cameron had to string together a few practices without any concussion symptoms before he’d have a chance of playing this weekend. Now that he’s done that, you’d expect to see him on the field come Sunday unless there’s something holding him back from getting the final green light to emerge from the concussion protocol.

If Cameron does play, it will be the first time this season that the Browns will have him and Josh Gordon in the lineup at the same time. That should be a boost to both their offense and their chances of making the playoffs.

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