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NFLPA lines up lawyer Richard Smith to represent any Dolphins who need it


As NFL investigator Ted Wells prepares to visit South Florida to interview Dolphins players who may have knowledge about the accusations of tackle Jonathan Martin, the NFL Players Association has taken extra steps to protect them.

Per a league source, the NFLPA has retained attorney Richard Smith to represent the interests of any players who ultimately face accusations of wrongdoing as a result of the investigation.

Smith had been retained by the union last year to represent any players accused of wrongdoing in connection with the Saints bounty scandal.  Via a series of successful legal maneuverings, all player discipline ultimately was scrapped by former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

The source says that suspended guard Richie Incognito separately has retained attorney Mark Schamel.  Most recently, Schamel represented Broncos linebacker Von Miller in connection with his effort to negotiate a six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.  Miller reportedly conspired with a sample collector to pass drug tests.

Multiple sources have confirmed that Wells will commence the process of interviewing Dolphins players in the coming week.  It’s presently unclear which other Dolphins have been accused of harassment; Martin presumably named names during his seven-hour Friday meeting with Wells.

The decision to hire Richard Smith arises from the NFLPA’s effort to balance the inherent conflict of interest that arises for any union when one member of the union accuses another member of the union of workplace misconduct.  Having Richard Smith involved allows NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and general counsel Tom DePaso to avoid creating the impression of taking sides.

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Steelers essentially rewarded Blount for quitting on team

Blount Getty Images

Six days ago, running back LeGarrette Blount was preparing to face the Titans as a member of the Steelers.  Now, he’s preparing to face the Lions as a member of the Patriots.

The transition happened after Blount quit on the Steelers, was cut by the Steelers, passed through waivers unclaimed, and made a beeline for the Patriots.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette takes a great look at what transpired.  While there’s no evidence to suggest that Blount did what he did to engineer a return to the Patriots, the Steelers made it easy by giving Blount exactly what he apparently wanted.

Why not suspend him for a week or two without pay?  Why not deactivate him for a few weeks?  By cutting him, the Steelers gave Blount a chance to land with the team that currently has the inside track to do what it failed to do when he was a member of the Patriots in 2013 — get to the Super Bowl.

Whether it’s the Steelers cutting Blount or the Browns cutting Ben Tate, teams that abruptly dump unhappy players set a potentially dangerous precedent.  Other players who want out down the road may now try the same maneuver, which apparently requires something far less intricate than shirtless driveway situps.

At some point, a team needs to make it harder for a guy to get away to a preferred destination.  For the Steelers, they probably should have made it harder for Blount to get back to New England.

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Detroit gets another chance to welcome back Jim Schwartz

Schwartz AP

If former Lions coach Jim Schwartz had any idea he’d be playing another game in Detroit this year, he probably would have found a way to resist the urge to be carried off by players after the Bills won there in October.

Schwartz returns on Monday night to a free-ticket sellout crowd that may not be supporting the home-away-from-home team, given Schwartz’s employment by it.  Indeed, there’s a chance that a large chunk of the price-is-right-for-me crowd has opted to gobble up the free seats for no reason other than to heckle Schwartz into oblivion.

Schwartz’s reception in Detroit for this unexpected second trip becomes one of the top story lines for Monday night’s game, next to perhaps only the bizarre fact that a game between to AFC East teams is even being played in Michigan due to a major Buffalo snowstorm in November.

Ultimately, moving the Jets-Bills game to Detroit was the right call.  Ultimately, it wasn’t the right call for Schwartz to want to be carried off the field after a regular-season win against the team he used to coach.  And it’s hilarious that he now must return to the scene of the crime.

Said Lions receiver Golden Tate once he learned that the spontaneous gesture was premeditated:  “It was planned?  That’s a total douche move.”

Perhaps the only thing that would make Schwartz’s unlikely return to Detroit even better would be Tate attending the game, too.

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Report: 20-30 plays for Josh Gordon in his return

Gordon AP

With Josh Gordon finally free, the next question is when he’ll get loose.

The Browns have opted to be coy about their intended use of the man who led the league in receiving yards last year despite missing the first two games due to a suspension.  Back with the team in 2014 after a 10-game suspension, the days preceding Gordon’s return to the field have included mixed messages about whether they’ll take it easy or throw him into the fray without restrictions.

The latest piece of evidence in a conflicting stew of signals comes from Adam Schefter of ESPN, who cites an unnamed league source in support of the notion that Gordon will participate in only 20-30 plays on Sunday against the Falcons in Atlanta.

Unless Gordon has shown up out of shape (and there’s no indication of that), I’ll take the over.  Once the game gets rolling and everyone becomes reminded of the reality that Gordon possesses a special kind of talent, the Browns — who find themselves in the very unusual position of having very realistic playoff chances in late November — will use Gordon.  Especially if the game is in question and if there’s no question about Gordon’s ability to get open and likewise to attract so much attention that the rest of the offense will open up.

So while folks close to Gordon may be tapping the brakes because they’d prefer to see the player get eased back in, the folks whose jobs ultimately hinge on winning more games than they lose will have a hard time not using Gordon if he’s making a clear difference in his first game back.  And Gordon, who surely has missed playing this season, likely won’t complain if that 20-30 becomes 30-40 or 40-50.

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Bengals-Texans game carries significant playoff implications

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Houston Texans Getty Images

There may be no game on today’s schedule that has a great chance of affecting both teams’ chances of making the playoffs than the Bengals-Texans game that will kick off in Houston at 1 p.m. Eastern.

At the moment, the Bengals are in first place in the AFC North at 6-3-1, while the Texans are way down in the AFC playoff picture at 5-5. Today’s result could either solidify both teams’ positions, or knock the Bengals way down in the AFC pecking order while establishing the Texans as wild card contenders.

If the Bengals win, they remain in first place in the AFC North. But if they lose and the Browns win today and the Ravens win tomorrow, the Bengals would drop all the way down to last place in the division. Cincinnati’s remaining schedule isn’t easy (four of their five remaining opponents have winning records), so dropping into last place with five weeks to go would put Cincinnati in a precarious position.

If the Texans win, they would certainly be wild-card contenders, and perhaps even contenders to win the AFC South as well. Although that division feels like it’s been all but locked up by the Colts, the Texans are only a game behind and still have a Week 14 meeting with the Colts to play. The Texans don’t have much of a margin for error, but if they can continue to play like they did last week in beating Cleveland, they can remain in the AFC playoff hunt.

At the moment, the Bengals appear more likely to be a playoff team than the Texans. By the end of the day today, that may no longer be the case.

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NFL Weather Watch — Week 12

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The weather forecasts suggest snow is unlikely to be seen in any of the outdoor NFL games on Sunday.

However, fans of a certain age might have occasion to hum a few bars of “November Rain.”

Precipitation is possible for Buccaneers-Bears in Chicago and Packers-Vikings in Minneapolis. Meanwhile, the strongest winds could be experienced in Denver for Dolphins-Broncos. And if you like sunshine beaming from the television, Rams-Chargers and Washington-49ers are your best bets.

Here’s a quick look at the game-time weather conditions expected for Sunday’s NFL outdoor games. Forecast data is cited from

Titans and Eagles (1 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 51 degrees.

Wind: Six mph out of the south-southwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: None.

Lions at Patriots (1 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 52 degrees.

Wind: Eight mph out of the southwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: One percent.

Packers at Vikings (1 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 41 degrees.

Wind: Six mph out of the west-northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: 24 percent (increasing as game goes on).

Buccaneers at Bears (1 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 52 degrees.

Wind: 13 mph out of the south.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: 24 percent (increasing as game goes on).

Cardinals at Seahawks (4:05 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 50 degrees.

Wind: 10 mph out of the south-southwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: 18 percent.

Rams at Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 73 degrees.

Wind: 14 mph out of the northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: None.

Dolphins at Broncos (4:25 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 38 degrees.

Wind: 19 mph out of the northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: 16 percent.

Washington at 49ers (4:25 p.m. ET)

Temperature: 64 degrees.

Wind: Eight mph out of the north-northwest.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: None.

Cowboys at Giants (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC)

Temperature: 46 degrees.

Wind: Five mph out of the south.

Precipitation chance at kickoff: Two percent.

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Cuban calls opposition to gambling “hypocritical”

Cuban AP

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently expressed public support for sports wagering.  Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has now echoed Silver’s view that the time has come for legalized gaming on America’s various athletic games.

I agree 100 percent,” Cuban said Saturday, via Tim MacMahon of  “I think we’re the world’s biggest hypocrites when we say, ‘Oh, we don’t want you betting on our games,’ and then we get all excited about the sports betting line and people go to Vegas on trips won from the NBA or NFL.  I mean, it’s hugely hypocritical.”

Cuban, who made waves in the NFL earlier this year by suggesting that the league’s hoggish tendencies will eventually lead it to the slaughterhouse, predicted that widespread legalized gambling is coming.

“I think over the next three to five years, it will change,” Cuban said.  “And it’ll be interesting to see how the NFL reacts as well, because they’ve still so far said that they’re adamant against it because I guess they have data that says the NFL doesn’t benefit from gambling.”

Cuban pointed to a specific revenue stream that would come from legalized gambling.

“We’ll charge the casinos for information sources, video sources,” Cuban said.  “All you’ve got to do is look overseas.  You can go and legally bet on the NBA in the U.K. and a bunch of other countries, and they’re actually big customers of NBA video. . . .  So you’ve got a template already that’s legal in the rest of the world other than America.”

The NFL remains staunchly opposed to legalized gambling, possibly/probably because the NFL realizes that the pressure to improve officiating and to ensure full integrity of injury reporting would increase dramatically with the legalization of sports wagering.  Likewise, the federal authority charged with regulating gambling would be keenly interested in any irregularities, including a late call that doesn’t change the outcome of the game but that results in significant dollars changing hands by affecting the application of the point spread.

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Jameis Winston not ejected despite contact with official

jameis AP

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston remains the most talked-about college football player in America, for good and for ill, and today he’s added another item that will be recited on the “con” side of the ledger in the NFL draft.

During Florida State’s win over Boston College, Winston moved an official aside as Florida State was trying to get a play run while the official was allowing Boston College’s defense to substitute. It wasn’t a hard shove and Winston wasn’t penalized, but former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira says that Winston should have been kicked out of the game.

“I’ve looked at this play several times, and in my opinion, Winston should have been penalized for shoving Webster not once, but twice. In fact, I feel he should have been ejected,” Pereira says.

Taken alone, this wouldn’t be a big deal as teams evaluate Winston for the draft. In fact, if a player with a clean image (like the other top quarterback prospect in next year’s draft, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota) did the same thing, people would probably say it just shows what a fiery competitor he is.

But when it’s Winston — who always seems to find a way for his behavior to overshadow his brilliant play — it raises questions once again about whether NFL teams will worry that the headaches he creates are too much to tolerate. Winston is a great college quarterback, but one whom a lot of NFL teams may view as the last person they want to be the face of their franchise.

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Doug Marrone: Fred Jackson likely to play vs. Jets

Fred Jackson AP

The Bills are planning on having their elder statesman in the lineup against the Jets.

Tailback Fred Jackson (groin) is expected to play in Monday night’s game in Detroit, Bills coach Doug Marrone said Saturday, according to Mike Rodak of Jackson was listed as questionable on the club’s Friday injury report.

The 33-year-old Jackson has missed two out of the last three games because of the injury. He’s third on the team in rushing yards and carries, gaining 249 yards and a touchdown on 58 attempts. His 37 catches are second on the club, and he’s accumulated 300 receiving yards and a TD reception.

A major winter storm forced the Jets-Bills game to be moved from Orchard Park, New York on Sunday to Detroit on Monday night.

The Bills (5-5) are currently 1.5 games out in the AFC wild-card race.

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Week 12 skill-position injury report — final

Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman AP

For fantasy football participants, here are the skill-position players listed on the final Week 12 injury report, with both Monday-night games (Jets-Bills, Ravens-Saints) included. Key fantasy starters are bolded.

Inactives will be posted 90 minutes before game time.

Byes: Steelers, Panthers.


Bears WR Chris Williams (hamstring).

Broncos RB Montee Ball (foot).

Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (foot).

Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion).

Browns WR Marlon Moore (hamstring).

Colts TE Dwayne Allen (ankle).

Eagles QB Nick Foles (collarbone).

Packers TE Brandon Bostick (hip).

Rams WR Damian Williams (hamstring).

Ravens WR Michael Campanaro (thigh).

Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm).

Vikings RB Matt Asiata (concussion).

Washington TE Jordan Reed (hamstring).


Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).


Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin).

Broncos TE Julius Thomas (ankle).

Broncos TE Virgil Green (calf).

Buccaneers RB Charles Sims (ankle).

Buccaneers RB Doug Martin (ankle).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (hip, foot).

Dolphins RB Lamar Miller (shoulder).

49ers TE Vance McDonald (hip).

49ers WR Bruce Ellington (ankle).

Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle).

Rams TE Cory Harkey (quadriceps).

Rams TE Jared Cook (back).

Saints WR Robert Meachem (ankle).

Texans RB Arian Foster (groin).

Titans WR Justin Hunter (knee).

Vikings WR Greg Jennings (rib).

Vikings WR Jarius Wright (hamstring).


Bears WR Alshon Jeffery (hamstring).

Bears WR Brandon Marshall (ankle).

Bears WR Josh Morgan (shoulder).

Bengals RB Cedric Peerman (hip).

Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (hip).

Bills QB Kyle Orton (toe).

Bills RB Frank Summers (neck).

Bills WR Chris Hogan (hip).

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (ankle).

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (groin).

Broncos RB Juwan Thompson (knee).

Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders (concussion).

Cardinals RB Robert Hughes (hamstring).

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee).

Chargers QB Philip Rivers (chest).

Colts RB Trent Richardson (illness).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (not injury related).

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (back).

Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill (left shoulder).

Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry (shoulder).

Dolphins WR Mike Wallace (calf).

Eagles WR Jeff Maehl (foot).

Eagles WR Jordan Matthews (knee).

49ers WR Brandon Lloyd (quadriceps).

Falcons RB Steven Jackson (illness).

Falcons WR Devin Hester (wrist).

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (illness).

Jaguars QB Blake Bortles (left wrist).

Jets QB Geno Smith (right shoulder).

Jets RB Chris Ivory (shoulder).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (knee).

Jets WR Greg Salas (wrist).

Jets WR T.J. Graham (neck).

Lions RB Joique Bell (ankle).

Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Lions WR Golden Tate (hip).

Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle).

Patriots WR Julian Edelman (thigh).

Ravens FB RB Kyle Juszczyk (foot).

Ravens TE Owen Daniels (not injury related).

Saints RB Mark Ingram (shoulder).

Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder).

Saints RB Travaris Cadet (hamstring).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (back).

Texans QB Ryan Mallett (chest).

Texans RB Jonathan Grimes (ankle).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (not injury related).

Titans TE Delanie Walker (concussion).

Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon (back).

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

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Broncos sign RB Jeremy Stewart

Denver Broncos practice at Dove Valley Getty Images

The Broncos have swapped reserve running backs in advance of Sunday’s game vs. Miami, promoting veteran Jeremy Stewart from the practice squad and waiving rookie Kapri Bibbs.

The roster move was announced in the NFL’s Saturday transactions.

The 25-year-old Stewart has appeared in 17 regular season games, all with Oakland from 2012 through 2013. A Stanford product, Stewart (5-11, 215) has rushed 27 times for 103 yards and one TD and has caught 10 passes for 68 yards.

Stewart will back up C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson on Sunday. Stewart has regular season special teams experience, and he could be called upon to cover kicks, too.

The Broncos have ruled out tailbacks Ronnie Hillman (foot) and Montee Ball (groin) with injuries.

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Reggie Bush is targeting Thanksgiving for return

Bush Getty Images

A lingering ankle injury caused Lions running back Reggie Bush to miss last Sunday’s loss in Arizona.  He’s currently expected to miss Sunday’s game at New England.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Bush intends to return on Thanksgiving, when the Lions host the Bears.

Bush practiced all week on a limited basis, fueling optimism that he’ll help pump up an offense that mustered only six points against the Cardinals.  Officially questionable for Sunday, it’s looking like he won’t be ready to go until Thursday.

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Glenn Dorsey won’t be back for at least a few more weeks

Dorsey Getty Images

Five days ago, the 49ers activated defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey from injured reserve with designation to return.  Per a league source, Dorsey nevertheless remains a few weeks away from being ready to play.

Dorsey suffered a torn biceps in August; he’s listed as out for Sunday’s game with a forearm injury.  Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said recently that Dorsey’s recovery has plateaued.

The problem for the 49ers comes from the decision to activate Dorsey.  He would have remained on IR/DFR until ready to play.  By activating him, they had to make a move to permit Dorsey to count toward the 53-man roster.

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Is Henderson independent? As usual, NFL and NFLPA can’t agree

Peterson Getty Images

The NFLPA wanted Commissioner Roger Goodell to delegate the ability to resolve the appeal of Adrian Peterson’s suspension to a neutral, third-party arbitrator. Goodell instead delegated the case to former NFL executive Harold Henderson.

While not the kind of independence the NFLPA envisioned, Henderson isn’t currently a direct employee of the league office. Sure, he’s routinely appointed by the league to handle hearings involving player discipline, and he’d presumably like those assignments to continue. But a buffer definitely exists between Goodell and Henderson that wouldn’t apply if Goodell had appointed someone like general counsel Jeff Pash to decide the Peterson appeal.

Henderson has handled 87 player appeals since 2008, and he serves as president of the NFL Player Care Foundation, which is funded jointly by the NFL and the NFLPA. Still, the NFLPA wants the league to treat appeals under the personal conduct policy the same way most appeals are now treated under the substance-abuse and PED policies — with a truly neutral and disconnected entity handling the appeal. The fact that Goodell handed the baton to someone to whom he has handed the baton many times before shows that the Peterson case will be handled the same way most cases have been handled in past years. The union believes the issues raised in this case require independence of the kind that was obtained in the Ray Rice appeal.

To legitimize the disciplinary process, the NFLPA wants true independence in every case. The decision to give the Peterson appeal to someone who falls within the bubble of people to whom Goodell is comfortable delegating appeals shows that the league doesn’t want the same kind of independence.

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Pierre Thomas is poised to return, after more than a month

Thomas Getty Images

As the Saints try to avoid falling three games under .500 and in turn losing three straight games at the Superdome for the first time since 2001, they’ll have some extra help in the backfield.

Running back Pierre Thomas appears as probable on the injury report with a rib and shoulder injury.  Thomas last played on October 19 at Detroit.

For the season, he has 133 rushing yards and 204 receiving yards in six games.

Also probable are running back Mark Ingram (shoulder) and running back Tavaris Cadet (hamstring).  Running back Khiry Robinson (forearm) remains out.

The Saints host the Ravens on Monday night, in the normal Monday night slot of 8:30 p.m. ET.  The Jets and Bill play in Detroit, starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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Charles Woodson wasn’t pleased with Sio Moore’s celebration

Woodson AP

Raiders linebacker Sio Moore is lucky his excessive third-down celebration didn’t prevent Oakland from winning for the first time in 17 tries.  If that had happened, Moore would have had a problem beyond the Raiders falling to 0-11.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Woodson said, via Michael Wagaman of  “That was the first time I had ever seen somebody celebrate for a whole 40-second clock. That was ridiculous, and they know it. I told Sio he’s lucky we got the win because we really probably would’ve had to fight, and I would’ve seen exactly what kind of fighter he is.”

Moore has apologized for lingering so long in celebration that a timeout had to be taken, because he and Khalil Mack were well behind the Kansas City backfield as the Chiefs prepared to snap the ball.

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