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Colts sell out playoff game, thanks to sponsor buying 1,200 tickets

Wild Card Playoffs - New York Jets v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

The NFL has avoided the black eye of a blackout in one of the three cities facing unexpected difficulties when it comes to selling playoff tickets.

The Colts have announced that corporate partner Meijer has purchased the remaining 1,200 non-premium tickets to Saturday’s game against the Chiefs, making it a sellout.  The tickets will be donated to local military families.

It’s not uncommon for teams and sponsors to buy unsold tickets.  During the regular season, those tickets can be purchased for 34 cents on the dollar.  In the postseason, the extra tickets can be bought at full price only.

The Colts had obtained an extended extension through Friday afternoon to sell all remaining non-premium tickets.  The Bengals and Packers have done the same.  Some believe that the league office grants extensions only if a private commitment has been made to purchase any remaining tickets.

If true, it makes the sense of urgency created by the issuance of an extension entirely false.  Unless, of course, there’s a chance that the NFL would give extensions without a commitment that the tickets will be purchased.

Which means that folks in Cincinnati and Green Bay may have to buy tickets in order to see the game.

As to folks in Indy, it’s unclear why there suddenly has been an issue with the purchase of tickets.  It could be that the locals don’t have the same confidence in this edition of the Colts that they had in the teams led by Peyton Manning, which seemed to be serious Super Bowl contenders each and every year.

Which would mean that, despite the signs in the picture accompanying this item, Colts fans really aren’t “all in.”

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Jared Allen doesn’t see leadership void with Bears

Chicago Bears v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

The Bears’ 3-4 start and angry locker room after last weekend’s loss to the Dolphins have left people discussing whether the Bears have a leadership void on the team that will lead them to a disappointing finish to this season.

Defensive end Jared Allen has weighed in on the question and the veteran doesn’t see an issue with the leadership on hand in Chicago. Allen said that there’s no problem with the kind of “raw” emotions that the team aired following the loss, but that good leadership, which he thinks the Bears have, isn’t synonymous with making fiery speeches all the time.

“I don’t want this to sound bad. But when you’re talking about a leader, what does that look like to people? I think we have great leaders here. I mean leaders don’t necessarily have to stand up at the podium and make some big speech. As a matter of fact, if someone gets up every week and has to have a ‘Coach is out. Let’s have [a big meeting].’ That’s lame. Honestly. What’s that going to do? That’s rah-rah,” Allen said, via the Chicago Tribune. “Leadership comes from the guys who show up every week, go out and work during practice. They’re in their playbook, they know what they’re doing and they go out on Sunday and give it everything they got.”

The issue of whether or not the leadership on the Bears is sufficient is going to be settled by the way the rest of the season plays out. If they beat the Patriots this week and then take out the Packers after the bye, wide receiver Brandon Marshall’s postgame comments will be deemed just what the team needed while more losing will make it easy for people to draw the opposite conclusion. Neither one will be entirely true, but, as always, the on-field results will drive the narrative the rest of the way.

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Michael Vick: Percy Harvin “won’t be a monster” with Jets

Percy Harvin AP

Negative stories have accompanied wide receiver Percy Harvin out of both Minnesota and Seattle, leading some to wonder if the Jets are going to get a player who helps them on the field more than he becomes a divisive figure off of it.

The top two quarterbacks on the depth chart would surely prefer that Harvin’s impact come on the field and both of them say that they are confident that Harvin’s troublemaking won’t be an issue on his new team. Geno Smith said that he guarantees Harvin “cleans his act up while he’s here” and Michael Vick said the one-time participant in Vick’s football camps sent a similar message.

“He won’t be a monster here,” Vick said, via the New York Post. “He won’t be a monster here. I can assure all the fans of that…That won’t take place here.”

Vick didn’t offer many specifics as to why Harvin won’t be a monster, but his own experience with facing a moment when his future football career hinged on being a good teammate and doing the right thing could account for the optimistic view. Vick was able to do that and the Jets figure to give Harvin every chance to show he can make the same commitment because their offense could use someone who creates trouble for defenses without causing any for the Jets.

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Bears need a leader to emerge

Trestman Getty Images

As the Bears try to break free from a 3-4 start that we all now know receiver Brandon Marshall regards as unacceptable, it seems they’re desperately in need of one thing they don’t have — a leader who can bring the locker room together.

Marshall seems to be trying; the question is whether his teammates will respond to his locker-room tirade and public comments aimed at getting the team to fulfill its potential. Quarterback Jay Cutler either isn’t wired or inclined to even make an effort to lead the team.

Then there’s coach Marc Trestman, whose position that folks should be “non-judgmental” and “accepting” of post-game popping off from players could result in more of the same. Trestman faces the biggest test of his still-young tenure as head coach. Can Trestman command the locker room and impose his will on the players?

John Mullin of CSN Chicago joined Wednesday’s PFT Live to discuss these issues. And Mullin pointed out a key apples-to-apples fact that currently isn’t lost on Bears fans — G.M. Phil Emery picked Trestman over Bruce Arians in early 2013, and Arians has done a much better job to date, arguably with less overall talent.

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Left side of Ravens offensive line closing in on return

Eugene Monroe AP

The Ravens can score a big divisional win when they face the Bengals this Sunday and their chances of having the starting left side of their offensive line in the lineup are looking pretty good.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe and left guard Kelechi Osemele were both full participants in practice on Wednesday, which should have them on track to get on the field Sunday barring any setbacks in the next couple of days. Monroe has missed four games after having arthroscopic knee surgery and said he’s feeling healthy after his full return to work.

“Yeah, it gets frustrating after a while being in a training room every day,” Monroe said, via the Baltimore Sun. “Missing out on games, man, that was really the first stretch of my career where I was out for consecutive weeks. It was different, but it was needed. I needed to get healthy, and now that’s happened. I’m just glad to be back out there. I feel real good about it.”

Neither player was missed all that much the last two weeks as the Ravens outscored the Bucs and Falcons 77-24 in a pair of easy victories, but their return will be welcomed with a trip to Pittsburgh coming up a week after the Ravens visit Cincinnati.

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Andre Johnson rides to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s defense

Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

When Texans receiver Andre Johnson was staying away this offseason, amid reports he was disturbed about the team’s rebuilding phase, it was natural to assume he wasn’t happy with the quarterback, or lack thereof.

But even as coach Bill O’Brien said Ryan Fitzpatrick made some bad reads and missed Johnson for some big gains recently, the veteran receiver came to the defense of the journeyman quarterback.

“When you don’t win, everybody needs to look at themselves and see what they can do better,” Johnson said, via Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle. “We all need to pick our play up, fix the mistakes we’re making and do what we need to do to win. You can’t dwell on one person or one guy. Head coaches and quarterbacks are going to get the bulk of the criticism because of the positions they’re in.”

Johnson said if anything, “better communication” would fix the problems between himself and his quarterback.

“He has a tough job, a lot to think about on every play,” Johnson said. “You just have to communicate with him, let him know what you’re seeing, stuff like that. Everybody makes mistakes. I make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.”

Of course, if Johnson really wanted more open lines of communication with Fitzpatrick, he had an offseason full of chances to build them, but he declined.

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After being sent home, Revis returned to facility to apologize to Belichick

Revis AP

In New England, the best way to get a day off is to show up late.

But it’s still not regarded as a good thing when Patriots coach Bill Belichick sends a player home for being tardy. After that happened on Tuesday to cornerback Darrelle Revis, Revis was sufficiently contrite that he later returned to the facility to personally apologize to Belichick, via Tom Curran of CSN New England.

Revis reportedly overslept. And Belichick has a history of telling guys who fail to arrive on time to take the day off.

Curran also reports that John Geiger, who serves as the cornerback’s business manager, deleted at the request of Revis tweets that criticized the initial report from Ben Volin of the Boston Globe.

There’s no reason to believe that Revis will face any further discipline, especially as the Patriots prepare to face a Bears team that has several talented pass catchers.

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Anthony Dixon gets first crack, but expects timeshare with Bryce Brown

Anthony Dixon AP

The Bills lost their top two running backs to injury last Sunday, leaving Anthony Dixon to carry the load on the ground against the Vikings.

Dixon was the first back up at Wednesday’s practice and all indications are that he will be in the same position when the Bills meet the Jets this Sunday. Dixon doesn’t think that means he’s going to be a workhorse, however. Bryce Brown is expected to be active for the first time since Buffalo traded a fourth-round pick for him and the team is expected to see what he can do as well.

“Me and Bryce are going to do it together as a combination,” Dixon said, via the Buffalo News. “That’s pretty much how we’re going to get it done. We’re going to compete this week and see who’s got a feel for the plays that [offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett] wants to run, and then on Sunday, we’re going to go with it.”

Dixon said that he wants to “be a hammer” when he gets the ball, which should cast Brown into the home run hitter role that C.J. Spiller was trying to fill before he broke his clavicle. The Jets aren’t the most forgiving defense for their first foray into a shared backfield, but, on paper, the complementary relationship looks like one that shouldn’t lead to too big a change in Buffalo’s offensive approach.

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Kessler and Ginsberg plan to interrogate Goodell

Goodell Getty Images

Roger Goodell’s bad Wednesday has extended into Thursday.

Last night, the appeal officer jointly selected by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to handle the Ray Rice appeal hearing determined that the Commissioner will be required to testify. PFT later learned that there are no pre-set limits on the questioning, and that the interrogator will be longtime NFL nemesis Jeffrey Kessler.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, more recent NFL nemesis Peter Ginsberg also intends to question Goodell.

Ginsberg, who was retained directly by Rice, has handled several cases in recent years against the NFL, including the StarCaps litigation that delayed for many months the suspensions of former Vikings defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams. Ginsberg also represented former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma in the bounty case, which ultimately resulted in former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue overturning all player suspensions — including Vilma’s one-year banishment from the sport.

Ginsberg’s intent to interrogate Goodell doesn’t mean it will be open season on the Commissioner, with Kessler and Ginsberg flailing away at the witness like a WWE tag-team wrestling combo. The NFL’s lawyers will be protecting Goodell with the right to object to any and all questions, and former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones surely won’t allow the witness to be asked the same questions repeatedly or to be badgered by either or both lawyers.

Regardless, the challenge gets a little more challenging if Goodell has to answer questions from both Kessler and Ginsberg.

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Jeremy Kerley goes Oprah: You get a Bentley, and you get a Bentley, …

Chicago Bears v New York Jets Getty Images

Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley just came into a windfall, and he was ready to share the wealth yesterday.

“Yeah, man, I’m going to buy Bentleys for everybody,” Kerley said, via Darryl Slater of NJ.com.

He was kidding, we think. But just in case, I prefer black.

Kerley should be feeling good, however, after signing a four-year deal worth up to $16 million, with $5.4 million guaranteed. Considering his stats in recent years, that’s a pretty good deal comparable to other slot receivers in recent free agency periods.

He said he was happy to get a deal done before needing to hit free agency, as his rookie contract expired this year.

“It feels good,” he said. “It was just good for me and my family, so we got that out of the way. Now it’s just time to go play. It’s been back and forth (on contract negotiations with the Jets) for a little while, but I’m glad that it got done at the time that it got done. It feels good to be here for hopefully another four years. . . .

“I thought that this is a place I call home. I’ve been feeling good since I’ve been here. I didn’t really think about free agency. That’s just how I felt.”

And when all his teammates find their new rides in the parking lot, they’ll feel pretty good about him staying too.

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Ike Taylor returns to practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

It’s been a little more than a month since Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor broke his forearm in a collision with teammate Lawrence Timmons and it appears things have been healing well since then.

Taylor was back on the practice field Wednesday for the first time since getting injured. Taylor was only doing individual drills and said he was a “mutant” when asked if he was recovering ahead of the 6-8 week timeline originally laid down. Even if he’s eligible for membership in the X-Men, Taylor won’t be playing in a game until doctors say his surgically repaired arm is up for the task.

“There’s no timetable. It’s all on the bone, and as soon as the doctors feel it’s strong enough, they’ll give me the OK,” Taylor said, via USA Today. “When the doctor says the bone is good enough for me to go back out there and play, then, we’re going to roll with it.”

Linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was injured in the same game as Taylor, may return to the lineup this weekend and linebacker Jarvis Jones is eligible to play on November 30 against the Saints. They should have a defense pretty close to full strength for the stretch run, although being shorthanded against the Colts and Ravens the next two weeks may leave them with a diminished position when that stretch run gets underway.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Austin Davis AP

The Bills know they need to keep QB Kyle Orton on his feet more.

Ever since their QB controversy, the Dolphins have liked what they’ve seen from Ryan Tannehill.

Patriots QB Tom Brady is trying to be more mobile (whatever).

The Jets are still alarming popular in Alabama.

The Ravens are getting healthier on the offensive line.

Injuries have made a mess of the Bengals’ run defense.

The Browns expect C John Greco to man the middle for another week.

The Steelers didn’t have to go no-huddle as often against the Texans, since they grabbed a quick lead.

Texans rookie OLB Jadeveon Clowney is getting closer to a return.

The Colts got good news from WR Reggie Wayne’s MRI.

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart appears ready to return.

The Titans added TE Richard Gordon.

The Broncos are a perfect example of where the TE position is heading.

The Chiefs were impressed with their latest secondary changes.

Raiders CB D.J. Hayden is doing more and more in practice.

Chargers OLB Dwight Freeney’s hoping to catch up with an old friend — Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett seems to be benefitting from not calling plays.

Giants S Stevie Brown is bouncing back after a rough stretch of games.

Eagles replacement C David Molk better be ready to see anything this week in Arizona.

Washington coach Jay Gruden said he’ll make his QB decision today.

The Bears have communication issues on both sides of the ball.

Lions DT Ndamukong Suh said there’s no bad blood with the Falcons.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy is excited about going home.

Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t been excelling on the deep ball.

Falcons WR Julio Jones is looking forward to some man-to-man coverage.

The Panthers had to shuffle their nickel defense.

The Saints’ search for a second CB has been a disaster from the start.

Buccaneers DE Michael Johnson is frustrated by a lingering ankle injury.

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington is carrying the weight of the offense.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz warns fans not to go overboard over QB Austin Davis.

The 49ers are counting on an improved offense in the second half of the season.

The Seahawks are springing unsuspected leaks on pass defense.

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Hoyer: I don’t even think about getting benched for Manziel

hoyermanziel AP

Rookie quarterback Derek Carr is the starter in Oakland. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles is the starter in Jacksonville. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the starter in Minnesota. And now rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger is the starter in Tennessee. But rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel is firmly planted on the bench in Cleveland.

The man keeping Manziel on the bench, Brian Hoyer, says he’s not worried about that changing. Hoyer said he’s confident in what he’s doing for the Browns, even after Sunday’s ugly loss to the Jaguars, and he believes the coaches are committed to him.

“I don’t even think about it to be honest with you,” Hoyer said, via ESPNCleveland.com. “I know what goes into my preparation. I know that talking to my coaches, that’s the farthest thing on my mind. Yeah, I don’t doubt that [coach Mike Pettine] has my back. I also know that if you have one bad game, I think that people are just going to be calling for your job already. That’s just the way it goes. But I know within this building I feel more than comfortable.”

Hoyer did have one bad game, and people are calling for his job, and Hoyer isn’t happy about that.

“Three weeks ago everyone was saying Tom Brady was done with,” Hoyer said. “He’s the greatest quarterback of all time. He had one bad game, and people are throwing him under the bus. I think when you see that even the great ones have bad games you know you’re going to have a few. Yeah, it sucks. You don’t want to go out there and not perform well. Obviously, we prepare our butts off all week to go out there and execute and play the best of our ability, but sometimes you have a situation where you don’t play great, and the other team plays well. It’s a bad combination. For me, really of all the games I’ve ever played, that was the worst I’ve ever felt after one.”

Hoyer will feel even worse if he has another game as bad as Sunday’s. If he plays like that again this week and the Browns lose to the Raiders, Hoyer will surely lose his job to Manziel.

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DeMarco Murray shows offensive linemen some love

Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray AP

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is the first player in league history to open a season with seven straight 100-yard rushing games and he knows that he hasn’t been gaining all of those yards all by himself.

Murray is running behind what’s been the most impressive offensive line in the league and he recognized their efforts in a material form on Wednesday. Starting linemen Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free returned to their lockers to find brand new iMac desktop computers waiting for them.

“That just shows how much respect he has for us, how much he appreciates us, so it’s a great gift,” Leary said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The computers retail for $1,300 and such gifts usually come at the end of a big season, as when Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin bought Rolexes for Jets linemen after leading the league in rushing but it seems Murray wanted to get a jump on things in light of his historic start to the year. It’s not a bad way to keep the linemen motivated, either. If seven 100-yard games get you a computer, what will Murray do if he cracks the 2,000-yard mark for the season?

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Bengals trying to teach Vontaze Burfict to play safer (so he can play)

Vontaze Burfict AP

The Bengals are obviously better on defense when Vontaze Burfict is on the field.

But they might want him to play differently in the future, in hopes of actually staying there more often.

Burfict’s reckless, head-first style has resulted in him finishing one game this year, between a concussion, last week’s “cervical strain” and other vaguely diagnoses “head injuries.”

He does us no good sitting on the sideline after five snaps every week,”  Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “It does us no good. It does us more harm than good. So he’s got to learn how to do [tackle better] for him and the team and everybody involved.”

Of course, trying to teach an adult NFL player to do things differently at this stage in his career might be difficult.

“I tell him to keep his face up,” Guenther said. “I tell him that he’s my quarterback. Like you need to tell a quarterback to slide and to not get hit, I tell him to keep his head up so he can stay in the game. When he starts the game and he comes out, it affects everything. It affects me, it affects the unit, it affects the linebacking crew. . . .

“I’ve said this a million times: He’s my quarterback on the field,” Guenther said of Burfict. “I communicate with him, ‘Hey, tell the corner this.’ And he knows exactly what I’m thinking. Being his [former] position coach, I’ve trained the guy. It’s easier when you have a guy that you’ve trained who can understand that these are the ins and outs of what I’m thinking about. He settles the group down when he’s playing. He brings energy.”

They have other injuries at linebacker which complicate things as well, but when he leaves the game, it puts the formation-setting responsibilities on backup Vincent Rey.

Guenther’s point is a valid one, and they do need to re-train Burfict to keep him on the field. But much like Marvin Lewis’s tone-deaf remarks about concussions, it almost sounds like the Bengals are as worried about having a valuable employee available to play as much as they are about Burfict’s health and welfare.

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Lions started game-planning for the Falcons weeks ago

Lions London Football AP

Not only are the Lions five hours ahead of you right now, they’re also weeks ahead in terms of game-planning for the Falcons.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions adjusted the way they prepared for this game because of the time difference and travel lag. In addition to talking to military officers and a sleep specialists about the adjustment, they also changed the way they prepared a game-plan.

Coaches were given the option of staying late on Fridays and Saturdays, typically the shortest afternoons of the week, to work ahead on Falcons tape as opposed to cramming this week while they were flying and getting adjusted to the new schedule.

(Jets quarterback Geno Smith was not apparently consulted on this.)

“It does take quite a bit of preparation and time and you hope it doesn’t take away from the preparation of the present team that you were playing,” Caldwell said. “And I don’t think it hurt us a bit in that regard.”

In fact, the Lions have won two in a row, so any time they took away from previous weeks to get ready for the Falcons was obviously not a hindrance.

That allowed them to set up shop at a resort there, and have what amounts to a normal week of practice.

“You always have a few glitches here and there, but for the most part, it’s in place,” Caldwell said. “We have to work through a few bugs and I think we’ve gotten those worked out. But the difference is, anytime you relocate it’s bit of a challenge, right, logistically? But if you can adapt and adjust, you’ll be better for it. Our guys adjust very, very well.”

They didn’t talk to players about the Falcons at all until this week, but the fact coaches were willing to buck the “one game at a time” mantra shows an impressive flexibility on Caldwell’s part.

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