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University of Minnesota wants Washington to wear throwbacks on November 2

Throwback AP

The University of Minnesota wants the Vikings not to mention the name of the Washington franchise in connection with that team’s visit to the Land of 10,000 Lakes on November 2.  The landlord of the stadium in which the Vikings will play for the next two seasons also has a request for the Washington team.

Bring your throwbacks.

According to Ian Shapira of the Washington Post, the University has requested that Washington not wear its current jerseys, since they bear the name and logo regarded as offensive by some in the Native American community.  The University of Minnesota apparently wants the team to wear not the current throwbacks, but a prior version with white shirts and yellow helmets containing an “R” as the logo.

Those offended by the current name and logo include the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, which donated $10 million toward the construction of the stadium.  That group issued a statement on Thursday explaining that it and other tribes oppose the name, and that the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is working with the University of Minnesota to “minimize the damage that could be done by invoking the name in a place that respects and honors the Minnesota Native American community.”

Apart from asking Washington to not wear its usual uniforms, the University of Minnesota wants the Vikings to not sell Washington apparel or paraphernalia at the stadium, that the team’s name not be mentioned by the public address announcer, that the team’s name not appear on the scoreboard at the stadium, and that the team’s name be omitted from the program and other materials relating to the game.

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Andre Johnson’s not up on all this pay cut talk

Tennessee Titans v Houston Texans Getty Images

It’s a good thing Christmas is over, because the next family reunion might not be so pleasant for one NFL wide receiver.

After Andre Johnson’s uncle/adviser Andre Melton told the Houston Chronicle that Johnson “doesn’t mind having a pay cut,” Johnson himself had a different take.

Who said that?” Johnson said, via Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com, who was then helpful enough to point out it was good old Uncle Andre.

“Really?” Johnson said. “I don’t know where that came from. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”

Johnson’s $10.5 million base salary might need adjusting for him to have a future with the Texans, but he said he hasn’t had any conversations about it.

“I never made any statements about no pay cut or anything because nobody ever approached me about a pay cut,” Johnson said. “Like I said, I’ll cross that bridge whenever it comes. . . .

“I don’t know where that story came from. It wasn’t, did it say that I said it? I can’t speak for nobody else. I only can speak for what I say. I didn’t make that statement.”

Now it’ll be interesting to see how many more statements his uncle makes, or whether he gets thrown out to the curb with the old Christmas tree.

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Tough break: Sharp bettors reportedly backed K.C. before Smith’s injury

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

More than any other factor, injuries to starting quarterbacks move point spreads.

No surprise, then, that the Chargers-Chiefs point spread moved about a field goal toward San Diego on Friday after Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith was ruled out with a lacerated spleen.

The Chiefs, who were 3.5- to 4-point favorites vs. the Chargers, are now just one-point favorites at most Nevada sports books, per VegasInsider.com line movement records.

However, here’s a more interesting element of the story: per Micah Roberts of “The Linemakers” of the Sporting News, professional bettors wagered on Kansas City just before Smith’s injury was announced this morning, driving up the point spread. Then, the Smith injury news hit, and down the line went, leaving early bettors with tickets at the higher prices in an unenviable spot.

It’s clear sharp bettors had no idea Smith was hurt; if they knew he were out and wanted to play the Chiefs all the same, they would have waited to get a better price.

“It’s one of the strangest examples of bad time timing I’ve seen,” William Hill U.S. head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich told Roberts. “It was a legitimate move by sharp money on the Chiefs. They were moving it everywhere. This is just another example of the crazy stuff that routinely happens in Week 17.”

Chase Daniel will start in place of Smith for Kansas City (8-7), which needs a win, a Baltimore loss vs. Cleveland and a Houston loss or tie vs. Jacksonville to make the postseason.

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Houston, Watt, Dumervil vie for Deacon Jones Award

Justin Houston AP

The Deacon Jones Award, which goes to the player who leads the NFL in sacks, is a three-man race.

Kansas City’s Justin Houston leads the NFL with 18.0 sacks heading into Week 17. He’s followed closely by Houston’s J.J. Watt at 17.5, and Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil at 17.0. One of them will almost certainly finish the season as the sacks leader; fourth place Connor Barwin, at 14.5 sacks, is probably out of range.

Watt led the league in sacks in 2012 and Dumervil led the league in 2009, but the Deacon Jones Award was only created last year after the death of Jones, a Hall of Famer recognized as not only one of the greatest pass rushers ever but as the man who originated the term “sack.” The inaugural winner last year was Robert Mathis of the Colts.

Houston might seem to be the favorite to earn the award because he currently has the lead, but Watt and Dumervil are well positioned to pass him on Sunday. Houston will face Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who has only been sacked 29 times in 15 games this season. Watt gets to feast on Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, who has been sacked 50 times in 13 games, while Dumervil faces Cleveland’s Connor Shaw, an undrafted rookie playing in his first game on Sunday.

Houston, Watt and Dumervil are all playing for a spot in the playoffs on Sunday as well, so they’re probably not thinking much about individual recognition. But one of them will get the recognition that comes with the top spot on the sack list for the 2014 season at the end of the day on Sunday.

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Todd Gurley will make himself available for the NFL Draft

Todd Gurley AP

Georgia running back Todd Gurley won’t be drafted quite as high now as he would have two months ago.

But after seeing his season ended with a knee injury, he’s not taking a chance on further devaluing of his draft stock.

According to Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt confirmed the anticipated news Friday, saying: “He’ll be moving on.”

Had Gurley declared his intentions when he was suspended for making money off his signature, he’d have likely been a first-rounder. But the torn ACL he suffered in November will cause his stock to plummet.

With memories of Marcus Lattimore’s failed attempt to make it in the NFL fresh in the minds of the league, it’s hard to know how high a pick someone will be willing to gamble. The 49ers rolled the dice with a spare fourth-rounder on the former South Carolina back, who never regained his pre-injury form.

Gurley’s not going to risk such a repeat injury, however, making the only fiscally responsible decision he could.

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William Hayes, Alec Ogletree draw fines after fight with Giants

Alec Ogletree, Andre Williams AP

Earlier this week, Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree said he hadn’t heard from the league about a fine for his late hit on Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham that helped touch off a brawl that led to three ejections in the 37-27 Giants win.

Perhaps the fine letter was on Santa’s sleigh because Ogletree has been fined for the hit. PFT has confirmed with the league that Ogletree was fined $8,268 for hitting Beckham and taking him to the ground out of bounds, something the Giants took issue with in a way that led to punches being thrown. Giants wide receiver Preston Parker and defensive end Damontre Moore were ejected along with Rams defensive end William Hayes.

Hayes has been fined $10,000 for his actions, which is less than the $15,000 penalties handed down to each of the Giant miscreants. Beckham was also fined $10,000 for kicking at Ogletree during the mayhem on the sideline.

With Giants defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins and Rams defensive end Eugene Sims also drawing $16,537 fines for roughing the passer, the game wound up being a costly one for several players on both sides.

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49ers send Alex Boone to IR, sign Trindon Holliday

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Alex Boone got a late start on the 2014 season thanks to a holdout that kept him out of training camp and his year is coming to an early end as well.

Boone won’t play in the team’s final game of the year after being placed on injured reserve because of a knee problem. There’s no indication that the injury will force Boone to miss any offseason work, so he should be back on the field in the spring to play out the final year of the contract he reworked before reporting to work with the 49ers this season.

Boone made 14 starts this year and was named as a Pro Bowl alternate. The 49ers also placed safety Ray Ventrone on injured reserve with a groin injury.

To fill the open roster spots, the 49ers signed kick returner Trindon Holliday and cornerback Cameron Fuller. Holliday spent the summer with the Giants before eventually being released off of injured reserve and played one game with the Buccaneers before getting his walking papers in November. Fuller was promoted from the practice squad.

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Eugene Monroe unlikely to play on Sunday

San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

It looks like the Ravens will be without both of their starting offensive tackles against the Browns on Sunday.

The team listed left tackle Eugene Monroe as doubtful to play in the regular season finale because of an ankle injury that left him in a walking boot after last Sunday’s loss to the Texans. That designation is used for players that have a 25 percent chance of playing and, as you’d expect, most players given that tag wind up inactive on Sunday.

The Ravens placed right tackle Rick Wagner on injured reserve with a foot injury early in the week, so they’re looking at a lot of shuffling up front. James Hurst played in place of both tackles last week and the Ravens has him at left tackle with Marshal Yanda at right tackle and John Urschel at right guard at one point. That could be the alignment again this weekend, although left guard Kelechi Osemele has also played some tackle.

Baltimore will open the day with a shot at a Wild Card spot in the AFC. They need to beat the Browns and have the Chargers lose to claim that berth.

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Cards could get Warner, but only by cutting him

Warner Getty Images

It remains unlikely that former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner will return to the team after five years away.  And it wouldn’t be easy for them to get him, if he perhaps decided while under the influence of egg nog to expose his noggin to further physical contact.

But it wouldn’t be impossible.  Sure, it’s too late for the Cardinals to reinstate Warner from the reserve/retired list.  But there’s a way to make it happen.

Per a league source, the Cardinals could release Warner from the reserve/retired list and then re-sign him.  However, Warner would first pass through waivers, which would allow any other team to disrupt the arrangement by making a claim for his contract.

That’s precisely what happened 12 years ago, when Deion Sanders wanted to unretire and climb aboard the Oakland bandwagon.  After Washington released Sanders from the reserve/retired list, the Chargers (coached at the time by former Washington coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose arrival prompted Sanders to quit in the first place) claimed Sanders on waivers, short-circuiting Deion’s desire to help the Raiders win a Super Bowl.

Any other team could do the same thing to the Cardinals, if they were to release Warner’s rights.  The Rams and coach Jeff Fisher could be inclined to do it, especially after that 8-8 remark from Bruce Arians a couple of weeks ago.

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Arians announces Lindley will start Sunday, doesn’t rule out Stanton for playoffs

Ryan Lindley AP

The Cardinals are turning back to Ryan Lindley at quarterback.

Lindley, not rookie Logan Thomas, will get the start Sunday at San Francisco, head coach Bruce Arians said Friday, per Darren Urban of AzCardinals.com.

Thomas did not practice well on Wednesday, opening the door for Lindley to get a second consecutive start, Arians indicated, according to the club’s website. Lindley struggled mightily in the Cardinals’ Week 16 loss to Seattle.

In other Cardinals QB news, Arians is optimistic Drew Stanton will be available for the postseason, according to AzCardinals.com. Stanton recently had surgery to combat an infection in his knee, which has seemingly clouded his status going forward.

UPDATE 3:45 p.m. ET: Of Stanton, Arians said, per Urban: “He’s on schedule for next week.”

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DeMarco Murray good to go for Sunday

Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was out of commission because of an illness on Christmas, but he was back to work on Boxing Day.

Murray participated in practice on Friday and drew a probable tag on the injury report, leaving him in line to play against Washington in the regular season finale. The Cowboys have locked up the NFC East title and will likely wind up as the third seed, but they can grab a first-round bye with the right combination of results.

Owner Jerry Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan that the possibility was enough for the Cowboys to go all out with Murray and everyone else healthy enough to play.

“It would be a catastrophe if we walked up there and, for whatever the reason, of our own volition, of our own decision making, pulled back a little bit and then had a chance to get that first-round bye,” Jones said, via the team’s website.

Assuming Jason Garrett sticks to the plan laid out by the guy signing the checks, Murray should end Sunday as the Cowboys’ new leader in single-season rushing yards. He’s 29 yards behind Emmitt Smith, who ran for 1,773 yards in 1995.

Right tackle Doug Free is doubtful to play with the ankle injury that kept him out last week. Jermey Parnell will likely start again.

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Bears extend Roberto Garza through 2015

Chicago Bears v New England Patriots Getty Images

The Bears found something to like about the 2014 season.

The team announced Friday that they have signed center Roberto Garza to a one-year contract extension. Garza signed a one-year deal to return to the Bears before the start of the season and the team’s obviously been pleased with the work he’s done on the field this season.

Next year will be Garza’s 15th in the NFL and his 11th with the Bears. He has started all but five of the team’s games since the start of the 2006 season and will join kicker Robbie Gould as the longest-tenured members of the organization if linebacker Lance Briggs and cornerback Charles Tillman both leave the team.

Garza will be turning 36 next year, so the Bears should probably have an eye out this offseason for a player who can follow Garza in the middle of the line.

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Robert Griffin III practices, expected to play against Cowboys

Robert Griffin III AP

Washington won’t be adding to the list of backups or backup-to-the-backup quarterbacks starting this weekend.

According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, Griffin was able to practice Friday with no soreness in his right shoulder, per coach Jay Gruden.

Griffin was limited Wednesday, but is now expected to be ready to start in Sunday’s finale against the Cowboys.

“The big thing was we wanted to make sure he didn’t have a lot of pain when he threw and he didn’t today, so that’s the great thing,” Gruden said. “He looked good, made all the throws today. I think everything’s all systems go with him.”

He should also have protection, as left tackle Trent Williams practiced in a limited role after missing the previous two practices with a shoulder injury. He’s listed as questionable, but said he expects to play as well.

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Mike McCarthy: No concerns about Aaron Rodgers

Green Bay Packers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Backup quarterbacks are going to be starting in several games with playoff implications this weekend, but the matchup between the Lions and Packers won’t be one of them.

Matthew Stafford has no injury issues for the Lions and any worries about Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s calf have disappeared along with the cookies left for Santa Claus. Rodgers practiced again for the Packers on Friday and drew a probable listing on the injury report that sounded like a definite when coach Mike McCarthy addressed the quarterback’s status.

“I don’t have any concerns today based on conversations with Aaron and how he’s feeling,” McCarthy said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Tomorrow a big indicator, just watching him move around and do different things. I don’t have high concern.”

There aren’t any real injury concerns for the Packers headed into their NFC North title game with the Lions. Cornerback Davon House is out with a shoulder injury for the third straight game and the team’s been targeting the postseason for his return to the lineup. Everyone else is probable or not listed on the injury report at all.

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Given his history, Stanton’s infection creates heightened concern

Stanton Getty Images

The news that Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton has an infection in his injured knee creates serious short-term problems for the team — and long-term problems for Stanton.

NBC Sports Medicine Analyst Mike Ryan points out that, given Stanton’s history, the infection could become a significant problem.  The infection, per Ryan, could damage an ACL graft Stanton received a decade ago.  Combined with a potential impact on the articular cartilage, the infection could lead to joint instability and accelerated joint arthritis.

Then there’s the possibility that the infection could spread, creating a potentially serious health situation for Stanton.

Regardless of what happens going forward, it would be a surprise if Stanton plays again this season.  Making it a major surprise if the Cardinals get beyond the wild-card round.

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Browns name Connor Shaw their Week 17 starter

Cleveland Browns v Detroit Lions 8-9-2014 Getty Images

Connor Shaw is a roster move away from his first NFL start.

Browns coach Mike Pettine announced Friday that Shaw will start the season finale against the Ravens on Sunday. That decision is the expected one with Brian Hoyer out of practice all week with shoulder and bicep issues and Johnny Manziel on injured reserve, but the Browns still have to formally add Shaw to their 53-man roster from the practice squad to put him in the lineup.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that a deal with Shaw is in place to make that happen, so the Browns can concentrate on getting Shaw ready for Sunday. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said that he thinks Shaw will do well, although he allows that no one was expecting the rookie to play this soon.

“Connor’s going to get some experience that we really weren’t counting on,” Shanahan said.

The Ravens stand to benefit if Shaw doesn’t do as well as Shanahan thinks he will, although a win isn’t enough to get them into the postseason. They need the Chiefs to beat the Chargers and Kansas City will also be going with a backup in Week 17.

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