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Browns may use Manziel in a specialty package

Manziel AP

For a guy who lived through the Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow debacle in New York, Browns coach Mike Pettine doesn’t seem to be concerned about his quarterback competition in Cleveland becoming a potential two-man show.  In fact, it looks like that’s what Pettine wants.

During his interview with Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com, Pettine said that the team is considering using Manziel as a Wildcat-style change-of-pace in his rookie year.

We’ve already talked about it,” Pettine said regarding the possibility of using both Manziel and Brian Hoyer in the same game.
“We’ve already installed elements of it in the spring.  We ran some of the zone-read stuff in practice and Kyle [Shanahan] incorporated some of the mobile quarterback elements of what he did in Washington.  We’re still going to go back to the beginning in pads, but as we get going, some of the stuff that’s more game-plan-specific that we don’t want to show, we might work on in our walk-throughs as opposed to a public practice.”

Pettine wisely didn’t point to the Sanchez-Tebow experiment as justification for doing it.

“That’s how Colin Kaepernick got his start in the NFL, as a package quarterback,” Pettine said of the former 49ers backup.  “On the other side of the ball, I’ve seen that give defenses some trouble.  I think there’s positives and negatives to it.  You’re taking your starter off the field.  You have his rhythm and continuity to take into account, but at the same time defensively you’re now forcing a team to basically come up with two game plans.  I mean, there are pluses and minuses to it and it’s something I’m sure will be discussed at some point.”

In theory, the Jets wanted Tebow because of the pressure that preparing for two quarterbacks puts on a defense.  And if former offensive coordinator Tony Sporano had any faith at all in Tebow, the Jets may have actually used him.

The Jets and Pettine nevertheless got a first-hand look at the challenge of dealing with two quarterbacks in September 2012, when Kaepernick rushed five time for 50 yards and a touchdown coming off the bench and showing the Jets how to properly employ a two-quarterback system.

If the Browns could pull it off, the dilution of the ability of the opposing defense to fully prepare for each guy could help both guys thrive.  The only downside is that, as Manziel has more and more success, more and more fans will be clamoring for him to be something other than a part-time player.

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DeMarco Murray has no doubts he can keep up workload

DeMarco Murray AP

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray continues to lead the NFL by a wide margin in both rushing attempts and rushing yards and he also leads the league in questions about whether he can keep up his current pace without slowing down or breaking down.

Murray has run the ball 268 times this season, leaving him on pace for 390 carries after 16 games. Murray said Tuesday that he has no doubts that he’ll be able to continue working at that pace for the rest of the year and that he’s actually feeling better now than he was during the early part of the season.

“As the year goes on, you feel better,” Murray said, via the Dallas Morning News. “I feel like I’ve gotten stronger throughout the year, so I have to continue to work hard during the week and it’ll show up on Sundays.”

Injuries can strike at inopportune moments, of course, but Murray certainly hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down to this point. He keeps churning out similar performances behind the Cowboys’ high-performing offensive line and there’s little reason to predict otherwise as long as those holes keep opening with regularity.

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Rex Ryan sounds like a man who knows what’s coming

Rex Ryan AP

Boastful Rex Ryan is so much more fun, with all his jokes and playoff promises.

Beat-down-by-life Rex Ryan’s kind of depressing, watching him acknowledge that’s almost certainly fired.

Ryan’s tone was downcast when he met with Jets reporters yesterday, following their latest catastrophe, a 38-3 loss to the Bills.

We’re running out of tomorrows,” Ryan said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.

Ryan has to know what’s coming, because he called this a month ago. When the Jets were 1-4, he said in a radio interview that “if… we don’t get this thing on the right track, I don’t think for a minute I’ll be here.”
They’ve gone 1-5 since then.

“My thoughts haven’t changed,” Ryan said Tuesday. “I know we have to clearly get better.”

With the Jets mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, and Ryan admitting it’s time to play some younger guys, it’s hard to see how that’s going to happen.

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J’Marcus Webb tweets he’s signing with Vikings

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After hosting free agent tackles J’Marcus Webb and Eric Winston for workouts on Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings have apparently made a decision on their replacement option for injured right tackle Phil Loadholt.

Webb tweeted Tuesday night that he is re-signing with the Vikings.

Webb appeared in eight games for Minnesota in 2013 while making one start. Webb had played his first three seasons for the Chicago Bears before joining the Vikings last season.

The Vikings will likely turn to Mike Harris to take over as the starter in place of Loadholt with Webb replacing Harris as the backup tackle.

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Kam Chancellor hated watching player he was earlier this season

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Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor couldn’t stand watching the player he was at times earlier this season.

Bone spurs in his ankle, coupled with a nagging hip issue left him unable to recognize the player he saw on film each week. The enforcer of Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” just wasn’t able to be the player he came to expect week in and week out.

“Yeah, definitely. It was tough,” Chancellor said. “I hated watching film. I hated watching myself. Just hated it.”

Chancellor was ultimately sidelined for two weeks due to a groin issue to go along with the ankle and hip injuries he played through the first half of the year. They were only the second and third games Chancellor had missed due to injury since assuming the starting safety job alongside Earl Thomas in 2011.

“It comes with the territory. It comes with football and you’ve just got to find way to get through it and push forward,” Chancellor said.

The silver lining was that the downtime helped alleviate the ankle and hip issues as well for Chancellor. His performance the last two weeks against Kansas City and Arizona appeared to be the best two games Chancellor had played since Seattle’s season opener against Green Bay.

“It definitely helped me out a lot. I feel a lot better (now),” Chancellor said.

Chancellor has 60 tackles in nine games this season with an interception and a forced fumble.

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Griffin is surely done in D.C.

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Well, that escalated quickly.

Only nine days ago, quarterback Robert Griffin III remained entrenched as the starter in D.C.  After nearly beating the Vikings in his return from a dislocated ankle, Griffin had two weeks to get ready for a gimme putt against the Buccaneers.

And then Tampa won by 20, Griffin looked horrible in the process, and coach Jay Gruden launched a public campaign against Griffin that laid the foundation for Tuesday’s news that Gruden had benched Griffin — even though Gruden said after a closer-than-expected game in San Francisco that Gruden had “every intent” to start Griffin at Indianapolis.

With the report that Griffin has been benched for the second time in less than a year comes the news (from the same reporter) that Griffin “still appears to be a significant part” of the team’s “long-term plan.”

Sure he is.  He’s a significant part of the team’s long-term plan because the long-term plan is to trade him for draft picks who will become part of the long-term plan.

There’s no way the bridge can be rebuilt again in 2015, not after former coach Mike Shanahan cast Griffin aside and now current coach Jay Gruden has done the same thing.  Unless Gruden gets fired after one year (it’s not as outlandish a proposition as it would seem), Griffin won’t want to return to Washington next season, where at a minimum he’ll have to win via open competition during the offseason, training camp, and preseason a job his head coach currently thinks he isn’t suited for.

So look for Griffin to quietly begin clamoring to be traded or cut.  Trading him makes the most sense, because if he’s cut it’s likely he’ll land in Philly with Chip Kelly, with a strong incentive to do everything possible to make Washington look like it made a mistake with the guy on whom Washington made a mistake by giving up three first-round picks and a second-round pick.

And if the team resists given Griffin what he wants, maybe he’ll decide to finally share his personal opinion about the team’s nickname.

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Bruce Arians says Cardinals needed a bigger back in backfield

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With a rushing attack that ranks 31st in total yards and dead last in yards per attempt, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians knew the Cardinals needed a different piece in their backfield for the stretch run.

A bigger back is a piece the Cardinals have been lacking since Jonathan Dwyer was placed on the non-football injury list after a domestic violence arrest in September. After a failed waiver claim on Ben Tate, the Cardinals elected to turn to Michael Bush instead, working him out and signing him to a deal on Tuesday.

We really miss (Dwyer),” Arians said in an interview with Alex Marvez and Takeo Spikes on Sirius XM NFL Radio. “I like our backs but we need a guy who’s going to pound it in there and close out some games in short yardage and goal line situations. Michael is in great shape.”

Bush has not played for anyone since the Bears released him in March after two years with the team. He ran for 608 yards and eight touchdowns on 177 carries during his time in Chicago.

The Cardinals have been held to less than 65 rushing yards as a team in their last three games against Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis.

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Report: Washington to start Colt McCoy on Sunday

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Robert Griffin III’s return to the starting lineup lasted all of three games.

Griffin is being benched in favor of Colt McCoy for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Tuesday night.

Washington coach Jay Gruden initially indicated Griffin would likely start against the Colts, but Gruden made it clear he reserved the right to change his mind. Now, on the eve of Washington’s first practice of the week, comes word McCoy, not Griffin, will be getting the first-team reps.

Since returning from an ankle injury in Week Nine, Griffin has been sacked 17 times in three games, and he completed just 11-of-19 passes for 106 yards with a lost fumble in Sunday’s loss at San Francisco.

According to Schefter, a club source indicated Griffin is still regarded as a key part of the club’s future. Nevertheless, this is no small setback for Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. And it will invite further speculation that Griffin faces an uncertain future in Washington.

For McCoy, the return to the lineup is another high point in a comeback season for the former Browns starter. In his lone start for Washington, McCoy helped lead an upset of Dallas on October 27.

Six days later, Griffin was back as Washington’s starter to begin November. But now, two days before Thanksgiving and five weeks before the end of the season, Griffin has been demoted, another chapter in a hard-to-believe story.

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Rams promote TE Justice Cunningham from practice squad

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The Rams added yet another tight end to their roster Tuesday, signing Justice Cunningham from the practice squad. The transaction was disclosed in the NFL’s personnel notice.

Perhaps best known for being the final pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, the 23-year-old Cunningham spent the 2014 offseason and preseason with St. Louis before being placed on injured reserve on September 1. The Rams re-signed him to the practice squad in late October.

Cunningham (6-3, 258) appeared in one 2013 regular season game for the Colts, his original team.

Cunningham’s addition gives the Rams five tight ends on the roster. Two tight ends — Jared Cook (back) and Cory Harkey (quadriceps) — were on the Week 12 injury report, but both played in the loss at San Diego. The Rams had all four tight ends active vs. the Chargers.

With Cunningham arriving, the Rams waived wide receiver Damian Williams, who appeared in two games as a reserve with St. Louis this season. He was inactive vs. the Chargers.

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Kyle Fuller, Lance Briggs could be game-time calls

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Two of the Bears’ key defensive starters were listed as non-participants in Tuesday’s  practice.

Outside linebacker Lance Briggs (groin) and cornerback Kyle Fuller (knee) didn’t take part in today’s workout, according to the injury report. However, the Bears held just a walk-through, according to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune.

Briggs and Fuller both departed Chicago’s 21-13 win vs. Tampa Bay on Sunday with injuries, leaving them less than four days to heal before Thursday’s matchup with the Lions in Detroit.

Bears coach Mark Trestman indicated the availability of Briggs and Fuller might not be determined until Thursday morning, according to the Tribune.

Five other Bears didn’t practice on Tuesday: offensive lineman Brian De La Puente (ankle), defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (knee), defensive end Trevor Scott (knee), linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring) and wide receiver Chris Williams (hamstring).

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) was limited, with right tackle Jordan Mills (ribs) a full participant for Chicago (5-6).

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Hernandez double-murder trial delayed

Hernandez AP

The second of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s two murder trials has been postponed.

Originally set for May 28, the case regarding the July 2012 shooting deaths of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado had been scheduled for May 28.  It has been delayed indefinitely.

Hernandez faces trial in January 2015 for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.  Hernandez has been jailed without bond on all charges since his late June 2013 arrest for killing Lloyd.

Jury selection in the Lloyd murder case is due to begin on January 9.

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NFL indeed does not fine Raiola

Raiola Getty Images

Sunday’s game against the Patriots included a pair of incidents involving Lions center Dominic Raiola.  He leveled Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore with a blow to the head during a play, and then Raiola took out Moore’s knees on the final snap of the game, because Raiola was unhappy about New England’s decision to score a garbage-time touchdown.

Raiola said on Tuesday that he wasn’t fined.  Per a league source, he won’t be.

It’s unclear why the league has opted to look the other way in both instances, especially in light of the safety-conscious nature of today’s NFL.  And in light of the league’s fine-happy nature on issues that have little to do with safety.  Or, as some would argue, common sense.

Raiola punched Moore in the head and then dove at Moore’s knees on a play when the Lions were taking a knee.  If failing to talk to the media or wearing the wrong kind of headphones or selecting shoes that don’t reflect the proper color scheme justify the withholding of a portion of a player’s paycheck, how do neither of Raiola’s infractions trigger punishment?

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Reggie Bush limited in practice with ankle, back injuries

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Lions running back Reggie Bush intends to play on Thursday against the Bears.  To do so, he’ll need to overcome another injury.

Already dealing with an ankle problem, Bush was limited in Tuesday’s practice with a back injury, too.

He also would have been a limited participant on Monday with both injuries, if the Lions had actually practiced.

Several other Lions were limited in practice on Tuesday as well, including receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle), defensive end Ziggy Ansah (elbow), safety James Ihedigbo (knee), and safety Glover Quin (back).

Tackle Riley Reiff (knee), guard Larry Warford (knee), and defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee) did not practice.

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Dominic Raiola says he has no fine and no regrets

Dominic Raiola AP

Lions center Dominic Raiola took a cheap shot at Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore on Sunday, but Raiola says he hasn’t been fined and doesn’t have any regrets.

There’s no fine,” Raiola said, via Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News. “It’s during the game. I don’t know about regrets, I don’t live life with regrets. I didn’t intentionally try to hurt anybody. I didn’t try to do anything out of the ordinary. I would’ve gotten a FedEx letter [from the league office regarding a fine]. So, just play the game. I didn’t make it a big deal, everybody else did.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick ripped Raiola the day after the cheap shot, pointing out that Raiola was probably sore at the Patriots because he’s been in the NFL for 14 years and has never beaten the Patriots. Raiola declined to get into a war of words with Belichick.

“I don’t really care what he said,” Raiola said. “Not a lot of people beat those guys. I didn’t make it an issue. I just finished the game.”

Raiola may say he was just finishing the game, but he was also taking a cheap shot at an opponent. Just because the NFL says he didn’t technically break the rules, that doesn’t change the fact that what he did was dirty.

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Vikings look at Webb, Winston

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With right tackle Phil Loadholt done for the season due to a torn pec, the Vikings need help at tackle.

They explored getting that help by bringing in veterans J’Marcus Webb and Eric Winston for tryouts on Tuesday, per a league source.

Webb appeared in eight games for the Vikings last year, with one start.  He’s perhaps best known for getting bumped by Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on national television when Webb was Cutler’s left tackle.

Winston, the current NFLPA president, started 16 regular-season games from 2007 through 2013 with the Texans, Chiefs, and Cardinals.  He spent some of training camp with the Seahawks, and he has gotten periodic look-sees throughout the season.

Neither Webb nor Winston have been signed by the Vikings, yet.

Loadholt will be replaced in the starting lineup by Mike Harris, who arrived to the NFL undrafted in 2012 and spent two years with the Chargers.  Harris has 27 regular-season appearances and 12 starts.  Sunday will be his first as a Viking.

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“Without question” Marshawn Lynch plays Thursday night

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Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has been dealing with a back injury.  But that back injury won’t keep the 49ers from having to deal with Lynch on Thursday night.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Lynch “without question” will play in Santa Clara on Thanksgiving night.

If Lynch can get through the short-week game, he’ll have a chance to get some extra rest before the Seahawks head to Philly for a showdown with the 8-3 Eagles.

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