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Sharper charged with sexual assault in Arizona

Sharper Rape Charges AP

If, as it appears, former NFL safety and NFL Media employee Darren Sharper will be spending plenty of time behind bars, those potential sentences could be served in various different states.

According to the New Orleans Advocate, Sharper has been indicted in Arizona on two counts of sexual assault and three counts of administering dangerous drugs.  A grand jury issued the indictments on Tuesday.

Sharper also has been charged in California with two counts of rape, and authorities in Louisiana have accused him of two more counts of rape.

Other allegations have been made in Las Vegas and Miami.  All cases arise from the claim that Sharper provided victims with drugged shots of alcoholic beverages and, in many cases, then had sex with them after they were passed out.

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Jets could delay decision on Rex, who isn’t happy about that

Rex Getty Images

The Jets keep on doing Jets things.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that the Jets may not fire coach Rex Ryan until a new G.M. is hired.  Owner Woody Johnson, per Mort, wants the G.M. to make a decision on Ryan.

According to Dom Cosentino of NJ.com, Rex Ryan isn’t happy about that.

Rex is livid right now,” a person with knowledge of Ryan’s thinking told Cosentino.  “He hasn’t talked to Woody yet, but he wants to talk to him and say, ‘Fire me [bleeping] today.  Fire me whenever.  I’m not going to hang around and miss out on [another job opportunity].'”

This assumes that Rex will have another job opportunity.  Perhaps he will; a guy like Rex would make plenty of sense for a team like the Bears, Falcons, Raiders, each of who have a quarterback but who each need the kind of defensive enema Rex would provide.

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J.J. Watt has two sacks already, as Texans take early lead

J.J. Watt AP

The Texans’ playoff chances are about as big as the likelihood defensive end J.J. Watt comes away with the league MVP.

But there’s still a chance.

Watt has a pair of sacks already, and the Texans are off to a 7-3 lead over the Jaguars.

Watt now has 19.5 sacks on the season, and is as dominant as any player in the league right now. Whether that translates into MVP votes remains to be seen, but his impact is hard to understate.

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Chase Daniel looks good as Chiefs take early lead

rivers AP

Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel passed his first test as a starter in place of the injured Alex Smith today, leading Kansas City down the field on a scoring drive the first time he got the ball.

Coach Andy Reid is playing it safe and limiting Daniel to short, easy passes, but Daniel did what he needed to do on those passes, completing 5-for-5 for 25 yards. The Chiefs’ offense covered 54 yards on 11 plays before settling for a field goal.

That gave Kansas City an early 3-0 lead in a very big game in the AFC wild card race: If the Chargers win, they’re in the playoffs. If the Chiefs win and the Texans and Ravens lose, the Chiefs are in the playoffs.

Right now, the Chiefs are winning 3-0.

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Big plays abound in Washington-Dallas game

Robert Griffin III AP

It might not have been exactly epic, but it was a better start for Washington than most are accustomed to.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III was sharp early, and just hit DeSean Jackson for a 69-yard touchdown pass for a 7-3 lead over the Cowboys.

It was their first opening drive touchdown on the first possession in 13 games.

Griffin completed his only other pass for 9 yards, so his rating is a perfect 158.3 at the moment.

The Cowboys were driving early, but Tony Romo’s attempt to throw a pick-six was dropped by Washington linebacker Keenan Robinson, and they settled for a field goal.

But then Dez Bryant responded with a 65-yard touchdown, which put the Cowboys back up 10-7.

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Giants, Jets pay tribute to NYPD on Sunday

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Thousands turned out for the funeral of New York City police officer Rafael Ramos on Saturday and the two teams that play their home games across the river from the city Ramos helped protect paid tribute to the New York Police Department on Sunday.

Jets coach Rex Ryan is wearing a NYPD hat on the sideline as the Jets take on the Dolphins in Miami and Giants coach Tom Coughlin is doing the same in New Jersey as the Giants close their season against the Eagles.

Several members of the Giants organization wore NYPD hats as they warmed up before their season finale with the Eagles, pairing them with shirts reading “Peace.” Coughlin sent the same messages last Sunday when he wore a peace sign and black ribbon on his lapel a day after Ramos and officer Wenjian Liu were shot dead in their patrol car.

[Photo via Giants punter Steve Weatherford’s Twitter account]

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Could Chase Daniel beat the Chargers?

Daniel Getty Images

Once the Chiefs unexpectedly scratched quarterback Alex Smith with a lacerated spleen, many assumed the Chargers could go ahead and punch their ticket for the postseason, since they’ll be facing Chase Daniel.

But could Chase Daniel surprise the Chargers?  Maybe.

The Chiefs gave him a three-year, $10-million contract in 2013 as a free agent.  And Daniel performed fairly well in a Week 17 loss at San Diego, completing 70 percent of his passes, protecting the ball, and generating a passer rating of 99.3.

Then there’s the Andy Reid factor.  The original Quarterback Whisperer, Reid had a history in Philly of getting the most out of whoever played quarterback.

So maybe there’s still hope for the Ravens, who need the Chargers to lose and who need to beat Connor Shaw to get to the playoffs.

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Report: Hakeem Nicks needs TD catch for $250,000 bonus

Hakeem Nicks AP

After catching no touchdowns in 56 receptions for the Giants in 2013, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has four TDs in just 35 catches for the Colts this season.

And should Nicks haul in a fifth TD in Sunday’s game at Tennessee, Nicks will have ample reason to savor the moment.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Nicks will earn a $250,000 bonus if he reaches five TD catches this season.

The Colts are locked into the No. 4 seed in the AFC. However, Nicks is not a starter for Indianapolis, and it’s possible he could see his usual playing time at the least. Per Pro Football Focus, Nicks has averaged about 38 snaps per game. He is fourth on the Colts in targets (62).

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Report: Kenny Vaccaro’s actually injured, not healthy scratch

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

So maybe Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro isn’t a healthy scratch.

But if he isn’t, then the Saints aren’t filling out injury reports accurately.

According to Nick Underhill of the Baton Rouge Advocate, Vaccaro is actually bothered by a quad injury.

Of course, it hasn’t bothered him enough to keep him from practicing, or for him to ever be included on the team’s injury report.

I’m certain it’s a coincidence, or maybe the quad started bugging him at some point after he was benched/or maybe not.

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Protesters show up in Washington over team name

Washington

It’s been largely dormant for most of the season, but the challenge to the Washington team name has found new life on the last weekend of the regular season.

Mike Wise of the Washington Post reports from the scene that one of the largest protests against the team name has unfolded at FedEx Field.  Typically, protests occur when the team plays on the road.

It’s a processing, per Wise, roughly 75 yards in length — with a large banner opposing “racist names or imagery.”

“To the guy who didn’t have decency not to sing team’s fight song in [the] face of an 8-year-old Native American as he marched past, God help you,” Wise tweeted.

The opposition to the name bubbles up from time to time, coming close to reaching critical mass but still not making a change seem inevitable.

[Photo credit:  Mike Wise]

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Raiders not giving up on Harbaugh yet

Harbaugh Getty Images

The latest Yogi Berra/Dr. Seuss-style saying from 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh could be something like, “Nothing is done until it’s done.  And nothing is done, so nothing is done.”

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports echoes the report from Adam Schefter of ESPN that Harbaugh to Michigan is not a done deal.  Both also report that the Raiders have not given up on Harbaugh as the team’s next head coach.

Ultimately, the final decision will be influenced largely by money.  With the top of the NFL head-coaching market not growing much over the last 10 years, Harbaugh has a chance to push the bar higher.

Regardless, it will be impossible to know where Harbaugh is going next until he signs his name on the dotted line.

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Jets manage to Jets up a coaching search that hasn’t started

New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

To date, the Jets have not told coach Rex Ryan he’s going to be fired.

But his agent might have a pretty good idea as to how it’s going to come down.

According to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, the Jets contacted Ryan’s agent (Jimmy Sexton) to gauge the interest of another one of his clients for the Jets job.

So yeah, there’s probably a reason Ryan’s thinking he’s gone, with reports that he’s already cleaned out his office.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported this morning that a potential new General Manager could make the decision on Ryan’s fate. But the fact someone involved in the process is vetting coaching candidates is probably a good indication.

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Ayrault says he’s not joining Bills

Bills Getty Images

Amid plenty of rumors and speculation that NFL agent Brian Ayrault soon will be joining long-time family friend Terry Pegula with the Bills, Ayrault tells PFT that won’t be happening.

Ayrault explained by phone that he’s not taking a job with the Bills.  On his Twitter page, Ayrault suggested that the rumors are aimed at hindering his recruiting efforts.  Currently, agents are lining up their next class of incoming draft picks.

Whether Ayrault is or isn’t (or was or wasn’t) a candidate to join the team, momentum is building toward major changes in the organization, with CEO Russ Brandon, G.M. Doug Whaley, and Senior V.P. of Football Administration Jim Overdorf believed to be in the most danger of being released.

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Bears take out ad thanking fans, says club “won’t make excuses”

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On the final day of a most disappointing season, the Bears took out a full-page advertisement in the Chicago Tribune to thank their fans for their loyalty.

“We Won’t Make Excuses,” the team wrote. On the next line, the team said: “We Will Thank You For Your Support.”

The ad copy concluded: “We’ve got the best fans around, thank you Chicagoland.”

The Bears (5-10) play at Minnesota at 1 p.m. Eastern. Speculation has centered on the future of head coach Marc Trestman, and G.M. Phil Emery has also come under criticism as the team has faltered.

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Kenny Vaccaro’s definitely benched this week, inactive

New Orleans Saints v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Saints coach Sean Payton said this week he wasn’t handling things differently this week, with his team eliminated from the playoffs.

Previously, he said Kenny Vaccaro was not benched.

In perhaps a departure from both statements, Vaccaro is among the Saints inactives today, despite not appearing on the injury report this week and practicing throughout.

Vaccaro has had a rough season, and the 2013 first-rounder was merely one of the reasons the Saints underwhelmed this season.

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Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman inactive for Patriots

Detroit Lions v New England Patriots Getty Images

With homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs in hand, the Patriots will rest multiple starters in Sunday’s game vs. Buffalo, including two of their top pass catchers.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman are among the inactives announced by the club this morning. Edelman was questionable with a thigh injury and a concussion, while Gronkowski was not on the injury report. However, Gronkowski is about a year removed from ACL and MCL tears, so an extra week of rest is certainly prudent.

Cornerback Brandon Browner (groin), left guard Dan Connolly (knee), tailback Jonas Gray (ankle), linebacker Donta Hightower (shoulder), tailback Shane Vereen (ankle) are also inactive for the Patriots, who get a wild-card round bye and will have next weekend off.

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