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Jon Ryan takes issue with league stance punters are “defenseless”

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Punters are still football players too.

That’s the sentiment echoed by Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan in the aftermath of Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber being lost for the season to a broken jaw suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

The league considers all punters and kickers to be defenseless players, even if they are attempting to make a tackle. Dean Blandino, the league’s vice president of officiating, confirmed the distinction on Tuesday.

“Huber, he’s a punter. And the key is he’s defenseless throughout the down,” Blandino said. “So even though he’s pursing the play, he still gets defenseless-player protection. You can’t hit him in the head or neck, and you can’t use the crown or forehead parts of the helmet to the body.”

However, Ryan says punters shouldn’t be considered defenseless.

“Once you go down there and kind of get in on the tackle, I think you’re fair game,” Ryan said.

Ryan agrees that the shot Huber took from Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin wasn’t a clean shot but that doesn’t make him feel as though punters should receive special protection on the field.

“It’s just the way in which he hit him – that was not something I think should be part of the game. But when I go in and try to make a tackle, I think I’m fair game – I’m part of the play. You just hate to see something like that happen to the guy in Cincinnati. It’s pretty rough.”

Ryan and the Seahawks’ punt unit have been stellar this season. As a team, they’ve allowed just 19 punt return yards through 14 games. They are on pace to potentially break the record for fewest punt return yards allowed in a season and Ryan’s punting has been a major factor why.

He’s had to make tackles before – like a shoestring tackle of Devin Hester in the 2010 playoffs to save a potential touchdown – and if called upon again he’s more than willing to put himself in harm’s way. His positional designation doesn’t make him any less willing to make a tackle.

“I don’t think you should just punt the ball and walk off the field. You’re still a football player. I’m not trying to say that it was a clean hit by any means, but once a punter goes down there, he’s fair game,” Ryan said.

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Jordan Reed questionable for Washington

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 09:  Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins runs with the ball in the third quarter during a football game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 9, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) Getty Images

There’s at least a chance Washington tight end Jordan Reed is back on the field, after missing last week with a separated shoulder.

Reed has been listed as questionable for this week’s game against the Eagles, after participating in practice throughout the week. Washington coach Jay Gruden told reporters they wanted to put him through pre-game warmups to make sure he’s ready.

Reed finished the Thanskgiving Day game against the Cowboys after the injury, but was inactive last week.

Washington will be without safety Will Blackmon (concussion/thumb) center Spencer Long (concussion) and defensive end Anthony Lanier (shin), as they try to hang onto their Wild Card chances.

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Chuck Pagano: Participation trophies “ain’t real life”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCTOBER 30: Chuck Pagano, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, watches from the sidelines during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

If the Colts want to win the AFC South this season, beating the Texans this weekend would be a pretty good way to kick off the final four weeks of the regular season.

That was the point that Colts coach Chuck Pagano was presumably trying to make on Friday when discussing the fact that only one team in the division is going to wind up in first place and, barring total collapses by several other AFC teams, in the playoffs.

“There’s no trophies for second place, right? Saw a good YouTube video of a basketball coach explaining that, I think it was the women’s basketball coach from Louisville,” Pagano said, via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “He was talking about our society today and everybody gets trophies. I thought it was pretty good. You can finish fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and everybody goes home happy. That ain’t real life. There’s only one trophy. There’s only one division champ. That’s how they’re treating it, and that’s how we’re treating it.”

Pagano certainly isn’t the first person in the NFL to bemoan the presence of participation trophies in American society. He’s probably the first who could have delivered his diatribe in front of a banner lauding the Colts for participating in the AFC title game after the 2014 season.

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Carr-to-Cooper misfire didn’t hit camera cable

CHAMPAIGN, IL - DECEMBER 29:  Aerial camera hangs on a wire while providing an overhead view of the NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears on December 29, 2002 at Memorial Stadium at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois.  The Buccaneers defeated the Bears 15-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s a post-truth nation, so why shouldn’t it include a post-truth National Football League?

A popular theory has emerged in the wake of Thursday night’s Raiders-Chiefs game regarding an errant fourth-quarter throw from Oakland quarterback Derek Carr to receiver Amari Cooper. Carr, who moved forward from the pocket to escape pressure before spotting Cooper open for what could have been an easy catch and run for a touchdown in an eight-point game, threw a wobbly pass that flat-out missed Cooper.

The easy explanation is that a quarterback who completed only 17 of 41 passes on the night misfired. But some think the ball hit a wire that supports the camera that hovers over the field.

NBC Sports spokesman Dan Masonson told John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group that “[t]he overhead camera is positioned behind the line of scrimmage, so the cables would not be in play.”

Hickey wasn’t prepared to buy that one completely, arguing that “the wires were still there.”

Even if they were, the image from the camera would have moved if the wire had been struck. Thursday Night Football executive producer Fred Gaudelli tells PFT that the image from the camera showed no disruption during the play.

“The camera would have shaken,” Gaudelli said via email. “On the replay you can see the shot was stable.”

So there’s the truth. Whether that matters in a post-truth nation is a separate issue.

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Bengals rule Green, four others out for Sunday

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 13:  A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals  is tackled by Will Allen #20 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wide receiver A.J. Green is one of five players the Bengals have ruled out for Sunday’s game at Cleveland.

Green will miss his third straight game since suffering a Grade 2 hamstring tear last month. He hasn’t ruled out a return this season but has yet to participate in on-field team activities since suffering the injury.

Also out are wide receiver James Wright, defensive end Wallace Gilberry, safety Derron Smith and tight end C.J. Uzomah. Bengals long snapper Clark Harris is questionable due to a groin injury but was a full practice participant on Friday.

Rookie wide receiver Cody Core made his first career catch last week and should again see extensive action with Wright and Green out.

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Julio Jones listed as questionable for Sunday’s game

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Word out of Atlanta this week was that the Falcons are optimistic about wide receiver Julio Joneschances of playing against the Rams on Sunday, but they aren’t quite optimistic enough to say that he’ll be playing.

Jones has been listed as questionable as the result of the turf toe injury he suffered late in last Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. Jones didn’t participate in practice on Wednesday or Thursday. He wasn’t doing much in the portion of Friday’s practice open to the media, leaving coach Dan Quinn to say that the team will make their call after seeing him running routes during pregame work on Sunday.

If Jones is on the wrong side of that game-time decision, that will leave the Falcons down two wideouts. Mohamed Sanu has been ruled out due to a groin injury and the two injuries explain why the team promoted wide receiver Nick Williams from the practice squad earlier in the day.

Left tackle Jake Matthews has also been listed as questionable after spending the week recovering from a knee injury that knocked him out against Kansas City.

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Luke Kuechly questionable to play, still in concussion protocol

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 30:  Luke Kuechly #59 of the Carolina Panthers looks on during pregame warm up against the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly practiced for the third straight day on Friday, but his return to the team’s lineup for Sunday’s game against the Chargers isn’t a sure thing.

Kuechly, who has missed the last two games, has been listed as questionable for the contest and coach Ron Rivera said on Friday that the linebacker remains in the concussion protocol. He will likely be tested in an attempt to gain final clearance before Sunday afternoon.

He’ll have company on that front. Safety Kurt Coleman, cornerback Daryl Worley and linebacker David Mayo are also in the protocol. Mayo has been ruled out while the other two are questionable, which leaves them in the same boat as Kuechly when it comes to their status for this weekend.

Defensive end Charles Johnson and tackle Daryl Williams have also been ruled out while defensive end Mario Addison is questionable.

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10 NFL cities hope to host Army-Navy

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 12:  Army cadets heckle the Navy Midshipmen cadets on the field before the game between the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen on December 12, 2015 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

One of the biggest rivalries in American college football is never a home game for either team but, technically, always a home game for both teams. Army-Navy, to be played on Saturday in Baltimore, will move back to Philadelphia for 2017. Beyond that, it can be played anywhere.

Via Ryan Sharrow of the Baltimore Business Journal, 10 cities with NFL stadiums have expressed interest in hosting the game. Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk listed Baltimore, Seattle, San Diego, Dallas, Houston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Boston and the District of Columbia as the candidates to play the game at their local pro football venues.

The game must hold at least 70,000, and meetings were due to begin on Friday. Eventually, the game will be awarded for a five-year to eight-year period.

Baltimore will host its 10th Army-Navy game on Saturday. Philadelphia has had the game played in its city 86 times.

The biggest expense for the host city will come from paying the cost of getting 4,500 students from the Naval Academy and another 4,500 students from West Point to the site of the game.

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Colts list five starters out for Sunday’s game vs. Texans

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 22: Jeremy Langford #36 of the Chicago Bears runs the ball near the goal line against Clayton Geathers #42 of the Indianapolis Colts in the second half of a preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 22, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts are in a crucial game for the AFC South title Sunday, and they’ll be without 22.7 percent of their planned starters for it.

Via Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, the Colts have ruled out safety Clayton Geathers, defensive tackle Zach Kerr, defensive end Robert Mathis, guard Denzelle Good and cornerback Patrick Robinson for Sunday’s game against the Texans.

That doesn’t even count linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who was suspended this week for the final four games of the regular season.

Of course, dealing with injuries has been par for the course for the Colts this season, so they at least ought to be used to it.

The Texans won the first meeting between the 6-6 teams, so a win Sunday would even the head-to-head but give the Colts a game advantage in the standings with three to play. The Colts also have a tiebreaker over the also-6-6 Titans, so a win this week would be a huge step for them.

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Browns officially activate RG3

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 06:  Robert Griffin III warms up before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns have officially activated quarterback Robert Griffin III, who will make his first start since Week One on Sunday vs. the Bengals.

The move was strictly procedural. Browns Coach Hue Jackson had already announced that Griffin would start after being cleared from a shoulder injury that forced the Browns to put him on their injured-reserve list in September.

Offensive lineman Matt McCants was waived to create a roster spot for Griffin. McCants had been claimed via waivers last week when the Browns placed starting right guard John Greco on their injured-reserve list. Former Patriots first-round pick Jonathan Cooper is expected to start at right guard.

That means the Browns will go with four quarterbacks on the active roster and presumably didn’t want to risk losing rookie Kevin Hogan on the waiver wire. Jackson said earlier this week that rookie Cody Kessler will be the No. 2 quarterback Sunday ahead of Josh McCown and Hogan.

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Jerry Jones: I don’t want to risk injury by playing Tony Romo

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 15:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on November 15, 2015 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on Thursday that he believes he can convince Tony Romo to stick around as Dak Prescott’s backup for the 2017 season, but it doesn’t appear that part of his argument will include pushing for Romo to get some playing time late this season.

There’s been some discussion about whether it might be a good idea for the Cowboys to give Romo some work in the final weeks in order to knock off rust and have him ready to go in the event Prescott is knocked out of a game. While Jones said Thursday that he believes Romo “is going to get his opportunity” to help the team on the field this year, he said during a Friday appearance on 105.3 The Fan that he doesn’t think the reward of putting Romo on the field for anything other than necessity outweighs the risk.

“Certainly I don’t want to knock the rust off and risk injury,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “As sharp as he looks in practice, there’s no rust I’m interested in knocking off. He’s so sharp out there [in practice] it’s unbelievable. He picks it apart.”

Jones previously said that the team isn’t planning to rest starters if they should wrap up the NFC East and the top seed in the conference, so the comments about Romo wouldn’t be a surprise even if they weren’t couched around the risk of another injury for a player who has seen them take him out of the picture for almost all of the last two years.

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Saints signing linebacker Travis Feeney off Steelers practice squad

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 14:  Linebacker Travis Feeney #41 of the Washington Huskies during the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 14, 2015 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Huskies 27-17.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Saints can use all the help they can find on defense, and they’re apparently looking for Pittsburgh for their latest import.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Saints are planning to sign linebacker Travis Feeney off the Steelers practice squad.

Feeney was their sixth-round pick from Washington, his stock falling because of multiple shoulder surgeries.

But his athleticism made him an intriguing prospect, as he ran a 4.5-second 40 and had a 40-inch vertical leap at 230 pounds. Only Jets first-rounder Darron Lee was faster among linebackers at last year’s combine. He had 8.0 sacks last year.

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Lions finally expecting DeAndre Levy back on the field

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 19:  DeAndre Levy #54 of the Detroit Lions celebrates 24-23 win against the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field on October 19, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Greg Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Before last season, the Lions signed DeAndre Levy to a four-year, $33.8 million contract. Since then, Levy has played in two games and missed 26 games with injuries.

But the Lions are finally looking to get some return on their investment: Levy has been practicing this week, and multiple reports out of Detroit indicate that this is the week the Lions are expecting him back on the field.

Whether Levy is 100 percent or not remains to be seen, but if he’s even close to the player he was in 2014, that would be a huge boost to the Lions’ hopes of making a playoff run. Levy played very well in 2014, which is why the Lions gave him that contract in 2015. All indications have been that the Lions still believe Levy can be a big contributor to their defense once he returns.

Having Levy on the field Sunday against the Bears would be some welcome good news for a Lions defense that played one of its best games of the season in last week’s win over the Saints. Things seem to be trending up with the defense in Detroit.

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Kyle Williams may miss Sunday’s game with back injury

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 30:   Kyle Williams #95 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the game against the New England Patriots at New Era Field on October 30, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills injury report brought some good news over the course of the week as wide receivers Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins were both practicing and in line to play in the same game for the first time since the second week of the regular season.

Nothing has changed on that front and coach Rex Ryan said Friday, via Mike Rodak of, that both wideouts are “ready to roll” for Sunday’s game against the Steelers. The big question mark now is whether defensive tackle Kyle Williams will also be in the lineup.

Williams wasn’t on the injury report on Wednesday or Thursday, but he did not practice on Friday after his back locked up on him on Thursday night. Ryan said he is “concerned” that Williams, who has been listed as questionable, will not be able to play.

That would be a boost to a Steelers offense that is coming off a strong game against the Giants and will be trying to lead the team to a fourth straight win as they push for the AFC North title.

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Ryan Mathews, Jordan Matthews questionable for Eagles

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Jordan Matthews #81 of the Philadelphia Eagles walks on the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles haven’t been officially eliminated from playoff contention yet, but they are more likely to spoil someone else’s playoff chances at this point than actually make it to the postseason themselves.

Their first chance to do that comes this Sunday when they face the Redskins, who need a win to snap a two-game losing streak that leaves their postseason hopes in a precarious position. The Eagles’ chances of making that happen will increase with a full complement of players on hand, something they didn’t have last week when running back Ryan Mathews and wide receiver Jordan Matthews missed their loss to the Bengals.

Both players have been listed as questionable to play this weekend. Mathews seems likely to play after full participation in practice all week and Matthews joined him at that level on Thursday after getting in a limited session on Wednesday.

Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is also listed as questionable, but he missed the first two days of practice with an oblique injury so he may not be as good a bet to play as his teammates.

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Jerry Jones thinks he can talk Tony Romo into staying next year

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  (L-R) Owner Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys talks with Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers before a game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones still suspects that Tony Romo will play an important role for his team on the field this season.

And Jones thinks he can talk Romo into coming back next year, even though many suspect Romo would rather go someplace else to finish his career as a starter.

“I do,” Jones said, via Gary Myers of the New York Daily News. “I think if I ask Tony to go with us on that and let’s try to win a championship, I think, yes, he will.

“Tony is investing in his teammates. Everybody understands while he’s excited to be part of the team and he’s excited for the team, that he’s dying inside not to be out there competing. I underline the words dying inside. There are plenty of examples where high profile quarterbacks didn’t go down gracefully and step off the field gracefully. Lots of example of it. It’s just hard for that kind for competitor to do that.”

But if Dak Prescott has truly turned Romo into the new Drew Bledsoe, and keeps the job forever, there’s always the possibility of injury. So Jones is glad that he has Romo now, and thinks he still may play a role this season.

“I think Romo is going to get his opportunity,” Jones said. “I don’t want it to happen. But I think he may get his opportunity to get us a Super Bowl. While that’s a mixed bag when I think about it — that means you don’t have Dak out there — but it means, what a story, one for the ages, if he’d step in there and this year help us win a Super Bowl on the field with his skill. That can happen here. We’re not talking about a bus driver out there. We’re talking about a guy who can go out there and move our team.”

Jones maintained that it was “my intention,” to keep Romo next year regardless. The fact he can’t re-do Prescott’s contract until after three seasons makes it easier from a salary cap standpoint, but keeping Romo happy with a backup role might be a hard sales job, for someone who lives to make big deals.


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