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Ryan Mathews misses another day of practice

Kansas City Chiefs v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

The Chargers got used to being without Ryan Mathews in the past.

But this year, when he’s become both durable and trustworthy, they’re having to get used to it again.

According to the team’s official injury report, Mathews did not participate Thursday, in advance of Sunday’s playoff game at Cincinnati. Mathews also missed Wednesday’s practice, but that’s not the best indicator.

He took two days off last week and responded with 144 yards against the Chiefs, finishing a complete 16-game season for the first time in his career.

If he’s not practicing tomorrow, there could be more of a concern, but this looks like they’re saving him for when they need him the most.

Wide receiver Eddie Royal (toe) was the only other player who didn’t participate. Defensive end Kendall Reyes (ankle) was a full participant after being limited on Wednesday, while defensive tackle Sean Lissemore (shoulder) remained limited.

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Burfict’s three-game suspension upheld

Burfict AP

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s appeal of a three-game suspension to start the 2016 season has been denied, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported Thursday.

Graziano reported that Burfict, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent and Goodell met, and the appeal was denied after that meeting. The NFL considers Burfict a repeat violator of the league’s safety rules.

Burfict and Lewis had worked to secure the meeting. Burfict had filed the appeal last month after being notified of the suspension.

The appeal was heard by Derrick Brooks, who’s appointed and compensated by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Burfict was fined four times during the 2015 regular season, and his hit on Antonio Brown which ended up costing the Bengals their playoff game to the Steeelers brought on the suspension.

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Rick Spielman “very excited” about Teddy Bridgewater heading into third year

during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at TCFBank Stadium on January 10, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Getty Images

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was a guest on PFT Live Thursday morning and one of the main topics of conversation was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Spielman said he’s “very excited” about what the team will see from Bridgewater in 2016. That will be his third year with the Vikings and Spielman said that he’s seen “significant jumps” from other quarterbacks when they reach that point in their careers. Spielman pointed to additions to the offensive coaching staff and the way the offense played in the final weeks of the regular season as reasons for the optimism. 

He also touched on the move indoors as the Vikings take possession of their new stadium for 2016. During an appearance on Pro Football Talk on NBCSN from the Super Bowl last week, Bridgewater said he was looking forward to the move and Spielman feels the same although he adds the caveat that the quarterback will still need to be successful when playing in the elements.

“If you look at Teddy’s stats and how he performed when we were indoors –when we were in Detroit, even out at Arizona, some of those ideal conditions — we feel he’s going to even take another step forward,” Spielman said. “He still has to be able play outdoors. We still have to go to Chicago, we have to go to Green Bay every year.”

To find out everything Spielman said during his visit to the show, check out the video below.

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C.J. Anderson knows he can be a bell cow back

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At no point during the 2015 regular season did Broncos running back C.J. Anderson carry the ball more than 15 times. In the Super Bowl, he had 23 carries and four receptions for a total of 100 yards from scrimmage.

Did that make him think he can do that job more frequently?

“Oh, I know that’s something I can do,” Anderson said during a visit to Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. “You know, we chose to go the two-back route and we chose to split time with me and Ronnie [Hillman] and just try to get a change of pace. You know, keep defenses off balance. But I mean if they want me to touch the ball 25 times, 27 times, 28 times, either way whether it’s all carries or carries and catches I believe I can handle it always, whether it’s being a third-down back catching the ball out of the backfield or picking up the blitz and also being first- and second-down just every-down back.”

Anderson, the unsung hero of Super Bowl 50, had 90 yards rushing, including a 34-yard burst punctuated by his ability to shake off Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. Anderson also scored Denver’s only offensive touchdown. Unlike defensive lineman Malik Jackson, who scored the other touchdown for the Broncos, Anderson didn’t through the ball into the stands.

He could have more footballs to add to the collection, if Sunday’s performance is a sign of things to come.

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Who’s to blame for Michael Oher on ice?

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As we continue to be amazed by the Madden-glitch Vine that has Panthers tackle Michael Oher skating backward in Super Bowl 50, it’s still not clear who bears the blame for the failure of Oher’s shoes to grab the grass.

The potential universe of culprits is small. Either the NFL, which is responsible for the field at all Super Bowls, did a poor job preparing the turf or the Panthers equipment staff did a poor job outfitting Oher with cleats.

Oher isn’t the only guy who had issues with the field. Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib called the footing on the field “terrible.”

Predictably, NFL field guru George Toma has defended the field, even though players from both teams had problems with it. Panthers coach Ron Rivera has called the field “outstanding,” but we’ll assume that this is likely an extension of Rivera’s decision to take the high road and to make no excuses for the fact that his team lost the game.

And so for now it’s unclear whether the blame falls to the NFL or to the equipment managers of both teams, given that players from both teams had problems with the turf. Regardless, it’s hard to remember an offensive lineman sliding 10 feet backward in any prior Super Bowl. Or in any game at any time.

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Report: Vontaze Burfict to meet with Goodell in next week

during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Getty Images

At his press conference in San Francisco last Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that he would like to see the NFL adopt a rule that would see players flagged for two personal fouls in the same game ejected.

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict would not have been ejected from the team’s playoff loss to the Steelers if such a rule was already in place because the only personal foul he received was for the shot to the head he delivered to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown late in the fourth quarter. Burfict was suspended for the first three games of next season in the days following the game, however.

Burfict’s suspension came because of repeated violations of player safety rules — he’s been flagged for 16 personal fouls in the regular season and playoffs since 2012 — and he’s reportedly going to talk to Goodell about a possible reduction to that ban. Coley Harvey and James Walker of ESPN.com report that Burfict is expected to meet with the commissioner in the next week.

Given the proposal for stiffer penalties for players crossing the line during games, it would be a surprise to see the league pull back on the punishment handed out to a habitual offender like Burfict.

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Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham is now officially an American citizen

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 09: Kicker Shaun Suisham #6 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the New York Jets during a game at MetLife Stadium on November 9, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Shaun Suisham has another title today, beyond “injured Steelers kicker.”

Now, he can call himself “American.”

The 34-year-old Suisham was sworn in as an American citizen yesterday as part of a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in Wilkins, Pa.

I have grown to love the United States of America; specifically, Pittsburgh,” Suisham said, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And it has become our home.

“I have been here for my entire adult life, and the United States has provided me and my family with wonderful opportunity. And I’m extremely grateful for that.”

Suisham was born and raised in Wallaceburg, Ontario, Canada, but came to the U.S. in 2000 on scholarship to kick at Bowling Green. He then met his wife, and they have two daughters.

“I couldn’t stand the thought of ever being separated for any reason from my girls,” Suisham said, “and that was the catalyst for going through this.”

And because he’s a bit of a local celebrity, he gave a brief speech at the ceremony where 31 others became citizens.

“[The speech] was really a cool moment of reflection of the past 15 years and what it has meant to me,” Suisham said. “It is pretty cool to see it on paper, and it’s been an awesome journey. I’m looking forward to continuing it.”

He joked that he’s lost his Canadian accent, meaning he now merely sounds like a Pittsburgher.

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Duane Brown off crutches in recovery from torn quad

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 03: An injured Duane Brown #76 of the Houston Texans is carted off the field while playing agains the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter on January 3, 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans played without left tackle Duane Brown in their playoff loss to the Chiefs last month after Brown tore his quadriceps in the regular season finale.

While his presence probably would not have been enough to overcome the team’s poor play at quarterback, Brown’s absence was a blow to the Houston offense in a game they needed just about everything to go right to win. It doesn’t look like the injury will leave them to play without him once they get to next season, though.

“Coming along great, man,” Brown said, via the team’s website. “Tomorrow will be five weeks out of surgery. Off of crutches, which is a big step for me. It’s healing pretty well. I’m pretty amazed at the recovery I’ve had so far. Long road ahead of me, but just taking it one day at a time and looking forward to getting back.”

Brown is now working on regaining the full range of motion in his leg and increasing the strength in his quad. He’s set to make $7 million in 2016, which will be his ninth year as a starter in Houston.

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Giants add Martin Mayhew to front office

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 15:  Head coach Jim Caldwell of the Detroit Lions is flanked by General Manager Martin Mayhew, left, and President Tom Lewand, right, after being introduced during a news conference at Ford Field on January 15, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) Getty Images

After hiring Bob Quinn as their new General Manager last month, the Lions hired Matt Harriss away from the Giants to be their vice president of football administration.

That left the Giants with an opening in their front office in Harriss’ former role as their director of football operations. They filled it on Thursday by hiring Quinn’s predecessor in Detroit.

The Giants announced that Martin Mayhew will be their director of football operations/special projects. Mayhew was dismissed by the Lions last November after 15 years with the club and spoke with other teams about positions since the end of the regular season without landing a role.

According to the team, Mayhew will work with assistant G.M. Kevin Abrams on issues dealing with “the salary cap, CBA compliance and player contract negotiations.” He will also work on special projects as determined by General Manager Jerry Reese.

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Hall of Fame voters definitely blocked T.O. for being “so disruptive”

Terrell Owens AP

It was widely believed that the Hall of Fame voters passed over receiver Terrell Owens ostensibly because of his reputation for divisiveness, even if the truth is that they were merely respecting a de facto waiting line that called for Marvin Harrison making it before Owens. On Thursday, one of the Hall of Fame voters admitted that the reason for T.O.’s omission was his inability to work and play well with others.

“I’ll take you inside the room on this, and it was the second longest discussion we had in the room other that Eddie DeBartolo,” Gary Myers of the New York Daily News told The Dan Patrick Show. “The bottom line on T.O. is he was so disruptive. Now with L.T., you don’t count the off-the-field stuff. That’s a mandate from the Hall of Fame. It’s only what you’ve done on the field. The argument that was made in the room, and I agree with this, is what T.O. did in the locker room is part of –”

“That counts?” asked guest host Ross Tucker. “Why don’t you just evaluate what’s inside the white lines?”

“Because I think that the locker room is an extension of that,” Myers said.

“But how do you really know what happened in the locker room?” Tucker said.

“But he tore teams apart.”

“But how do you really know that?”

“He’s a Hall of Fame player that five teams couldn’t wait to get rid of,” Myers said. “So what does that tell you about how disruptive he was?”

Myers then said he believes that Owens will make it in eventually, despite being viewed as a “cancer” by multiple teams.

The biggest problem with this logic is that, if it keeps Owens out once, it should keep him out forever. And Myers admits that it won’t. Instead, it provides the justification for ignoring the possibility that Owens objectively was a better player than Harrison and putting Harrison in before Owens.

The rhetoric used to defend the waiting-line approach separately becomes problematic because it’s overstated. The notion that “five teams couldn’t wait to get rid of” Owens simply isn’t true. In San Francisco, he became a free agent and elected to leave. In Philadelphia, the Eagles decided to cut him only after Owens decided he was going to force his way out because the Eagles wouldn’t renegotiate his contract following a stellar 2004 season.

Besides, not all voters agree with Myers. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, it’s inaccurate to conclude that the entire room accepted the idea that Owens’ on-field achievements should be ignored because of the fact that Owens played for multiple teams and/or had a reputation for being a pain in the butt.

That’s not to say Owens wasn’t actually a pain in the butt. He may have been. But enough voters apparently felt strongly enough that Owens shouldn’t get in on his first try, and that Harrison (whose own candidacy possibly was delayed once or twice by troubling evidence regarding multiple Philadelphia shootings that never resulted in an arrest or prosecution) deserved to get in now.

And so a sense of order has been preserved, with Harrison getting a bronze bust and a gold jacket now and Owens getting one later. Even if the stated justification for not putting Owens in immediately creates the perception that he should never get in, and unnecessarily (and excessively) characterizes him as a habitually bad teammate.

Why not just say only five modern candidates can get in each year, and with two of the best receivers in NFL history up at the same time, we decided to give the spot to the guy who had been waiting the longest? It’s far closer to the truth, and it can be stated without requiring voters to take shots at a guy who, regardless of his real, embellished, and/or imagined behavior, merits at least some degree of respect for what he accomplished on the field.

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Arthur Blank: Matt Ryan can “absolutely” lead Falcons to Super Bowl

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 27:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons shakes hands with team owner Arthur Blank after beating the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on December 27, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons have a number of problems to address as they try to return to competitiveness in the NFC South.

But according to owner Arthur Blank, quarterback isn’t on the list of things to address, as he thinks Matt Ryan can lead them to the Super Bowl.

Absolutely,” Blank said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “No question about it. But it doesn’t take one player to get there. It takes a lot of players around him and having a lot of talent around him. It’s going to take a lot of players to do that; offensively, defensively, and special teams. And it’s going to take coaches and the coaching staff that will help support that.”

Ryan’s coming off a difficult season, which included 21 turnovers while he stood at the wheel of a team that started 5-0 but finished 8-8. But Blank remains confident that his $100 million quarterback is the right guy, so long as they put the right parts around him and Julio Jones.

“Obviously, we have a great faith in Matt Ryan,” Blank said. “He’s only 30 years old. He’ll be our quarterback for many years to come. As Rich Gannon said to me the other morning — and Gannon was a very competitive player in the league for many, many years and a high-level quarterback — he said, ‘You’ve got a quarterback that about 20 other teams would love to have.’ And I think I would agree with him on that.”

Twenty might be high, but it hasn’t been that long since Ryan looked like a guy who might be worth it the kind of money he’s making. And with so many issues looming, replacing him isn’t anything that comes close to being a priority.

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Report: No decision on LeSean McCoy charges expected Thursday

LeSean McCoy AP

Bills running back LeSean McCoy is waiting to find out what, if any, criminal charges he’ll be facing as a result of a fight at a Philadelphia nightclub over the weekend.

According to a report from Mark Schwartz of ESPN, those charges aren’t likely to come on Thursday. Schwartz, quoting a “high-ranking Philadelphia police official,” reports that prosecutors want to be thorough in their evaluation of the police report and other evidence before making a decision about how to proceed.

Reports on Wednesday indicated that police recommended to prosecutors that McCoy be charged with aggravated assault when they handed the case over. Two off-duty police officers went to the hospital after a fight over a bottle of champagne with four other men, one of whom is believed to be McCoy.

ESPN also reports that attorney Jack McMahon told them that he is no longer representing McCoy. McMahon said that McCoy will now be represented by Larry Krasner, another Philadelphia attorney, in matters related to the incident.

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Most owners wanted to keep Raiders from returning to L.A.

513654557RH00004_Oakland_Ra Getty Images

If the Chargers don’t finalize a move to Los Angeles by the middle of January 2017, dibs on sharing Kroenkeworld with the Rams will slide to the Raiders. But it’s hard to imagine the NFL ultimately allowing the Raiders to make the move.

As explained in a lengthy article from Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta, Jr. of ESPN The Magazine regarding the machinations that resulted in the league’s return to Los Angeles, most owners wanted to keep the Raiders from making the move. Per the report, the owners pointed to bridges burned by the late Al Davis (a dynamic confirmed by Texans owner Bob McNair) and the potential “co-opting of the team apparel by gangs.”

It’s been believed that the Raiders would be welcomed back enthusiastically by fans in L.A., perhaps even more enthusiastically than the Rams have been welcomed back. The notion that owners are concerned that the Raiders would be welcomed back too enthusiastically by a specific type of criminal element, coupled with the linger animosity toward Al Davis, suggests that, even if the Chargers don’t move to L.A., the league will find a way to keep the Raiders from making their way back to town.

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Haslam could still be indicted in Pilot Flying J scandal

Haslam Getty Images

After Pilot Flying J agreed to pay nearly $100 million in fines as a result of the fuel-rebate scandal, most assumed CEO and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam would not face prosecution. After the recent indictment of eight Pilot Flying J employees (including former president Mark Hazelwood), some assumed that Haslam’s absence from the group of defendants for now translates to absence forever.

The truth, as recently explained by John Caniglia of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, is that Haslam could still face charges, especially if Hazelwood strikes a plea deal that includes giving testimony against Haslam.

As Caniglia notes, an FBI affidavit from April 2013 suggested that both Hazelwood and Haslam were aware of the scheme.

The league has said that there’s no evidence Haslam violated league policy in any way. In August 2013, SportsBusiness Journal reported that, if Haslam were forced to step down, his father, Jim, would take over. New Hall of Famer Eddie DeBartolo was forced to transfer the 49ers to his sister after pleading guilty to a felony charge of failing to report an effort by former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards to extort $400,000 from DeBartolo in order to secure a casino license.

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Jeb Bush was pulling for Peyton Manning, for one reason

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 23:  Former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks during the 2015 National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) conference on January 23, 2015 in San Francisco, California. Bush, who now owns a private consulting firm in Florida, recently announced that he is actively seeking support for a potential 2016 US presidential campaign. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Peyton ManningTom Brady rivalry will continue beyond their playing careers, and straight into the upcoming Republican primaries.

While Brady has refused to back off his support of lightning-rod candidate Donald Trump, Manning apparently supports a more mainstream candidate on that side.

During a campaign appearance in South Carolina, former Florida governor Jeb Bush risked the wrath of the home crowd by admitting he wasn’t pulling for the Panthers Sunday.

“I know that y’all probably maybe had some leanings toward Carolina,” Bush said, via Colin Campbell of the Raleigh News and Observer. “I was for Denver, not because of the Broncos, but because Peyton Manning wrote me a check.”

Campaign records show that Manning donated $2,700 to Bush’s campaign.

Bush said he also respected the Broncos quarterback for being “the adult in the room” in the NFL — which might just mean that Manning’s old, but is probably also the descriptive Bush is shooting for as well.

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Blandino, Blakeman inconsistent on Cotchery catch ruling

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Referee Clete Blakeman stands on the field in the first quarter between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The most controversial call of Super Bowl 50 happened in the first quarter, when Panthers receiver Jericho Cotchery bobbled a ball on the way to the ground. The officials on the field ruled it incomplete, and referee Clete Blakeman, with the assistance of NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino, ruled on instant replay that the call on the field would stand.

Blakeman made it clear in announcing the ruling that the replay did not confirm the call on the field, only that the call stands. That meant there was no conclusive view of the play that could show definitively that Cotchery always had his hands between the ball and the ground, and so the Panthers would lose their challenge.

NFL Films has now shown the footage of Blakeman’s review and his subsequent discussion with Panthers coach Ron Rivera, and the discussion makes clear that Blakeman did not feel there was a definitive replay angle.

“We’re gonna go stands,” Blakeman said. “There was not enough confirmation. We couldn’t overturn it.”

Rivera asked Blakeman, “If you’d called it complete, it would have stayed complete, right?” Blakeman answered, “Yes.”

But that doesn’t quite align with Blandino’s explanation. Blandino wrote on Twitter that “the ball touched the ground and slid up his body. Not enough evidence to change the call on the field.”

If Blandino is sure that the ball touched the ground, then Blakeman should have explained to Rivera that the ball touched the ground. Instead, Blakeman just said that there was no definitive replay angle. At the end of a season in which officials, players, coaches, fans and reporters all struggled to figure out what constitutes a catch, the NFL struggled to explain why Cotchery’s catch was not a catch.

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