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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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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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Reggie Bush limited in practice with ankle, back injuries

Bush Getty Images

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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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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Titans release Shaun Phillips, place Brian Schwenke on injured reserve

Brian Schwenke AP

Reports on Tuesday morning indicated that the Titans were going to part ways with veteran linebacker Shaun Phillips and they came to fruition in the afternoon.

Phillips has been waived, which makes him available to any of the league’s 31 other teams if they choose to make a claim. Phillips wasn’t overly productive in Tennessee this year, but he had 10 sacks for the Broncos in 2013 and there’s not a lot of available players with Phillips’s history as a pass rusher at this point in the season.

The Titans also announced that they have placed center Brian Schwenke on injured reserve. Schwenke hurt his knee during last Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, which also saw him catch a deflected pass and then fumble it as his career as a center didn’t set him up well for the role of ballcarrier.

Tennessee signed offensive lineman Eric Olsen to help fill the void left by Schwenke. Left tackle Taylor Lewan also suffered a sprained ankle against Philly, so there might be multiple starters missing when the Titans face the Texans this week.

Linebacker Dontay Moch was promoted from the practice squad to round out the set of moves for the day.

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Matt Ryan on Mike Smith: We’ve got to make him right

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Falcons coach Mike Smith said Monday that he felt he didn’t give his team the best chance to win based on the way he handled the clock during the team’s final offensive drive in a 26-24 loss to the Browns, echoing criticism from many corners that didn’t do anything to help Smith’s job security.

Quarterback Matt Ryan said Tuesday that he thought Falcons players were angry at themselves in the wake of the loss, but that their anger didn’t extend to Smith. He also said that the players’ job is to make Smith’s decisions the right ones on the field.

“There’s nobody that takes more responsibility than Mike,” Ryan said on 680 The Fan, via ESPN.com. “And that’s one of the reasons, as a player, you love him. He is the first to say, ‘Listen, I wish we would have done that one differently.’ So from a player’s perspective, we’ve got to make him right. We can’t worry about anything else other than we’ve got to convert that third down, we’ve got to get a first, we’ve got to be able to make them burn their timeouts and then kick it in the uprights and win that game. I feel for [Smith] because he’s ‘the man’ when it comes to that. He will stick his neck out there for us and take the brunt of the responsibility. But, from a player’s standpoint, we’ve got to make him right.”

Ryan’s loyalty to his coach is clear, but it’s less clear how much loyalty owner Arthur Blank will show Smith once the season comes to a close. Finding a way to finish atop the NFC South would help and Ryan correctly points out that the Falcons control their own destiny in that regard. So would Ryan finding a way to cut down on interceptions against the Cardinals, who visit Atlanta this week, after throwing nine of them in two games against Arizona the last two years.

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Aaron Rodgers swears he wasn’t squeezing Vikings with grape soda

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In these cynical and sarcastic times we live in, many folks saw Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers drinking a Grape Crush soda after beating the Vikings and thought there was a message.

As it turns out, he just really likes grape soda.

Rodgers cleared up the social media-generated flap during his weekly radio show with Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com, insisting he wasn’t trolling the Vikings.

He apparently eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and drinks the same soda after every game, which makes seem like he’s a 9-year-old even if he’s not going for juvenile humor.

Seven years. To all the idiot trolls out there, seven years,” Rodgers said. “PBJ and Grape or Orange Crush. It’s been grape for the last five, the first couple years it was orange or grape. Seven years.”

While it’s hardly a controversial topic, he seemed offended at the perceived lack of respect for opponents.

“Anybody who knows, any of the local media or anybody who’s seen me after a game, I’m always carrying that around with me. That’s probably the only soda that I ever drink – right after the game, when you’ve got to get those nutrients back with you,” Rodgers said. “So that’s my post-game [snack] – PBJ and the Grape Crush. I do like it, contrary to anybody who thinks I was trolling anything. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s comical.

“I don’t do those kind of things.”

Now, if he beats the Patriots this week and walks to the podium with a Sam Adams, we will be able to call shenanigans on him.

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Broncos cut kicker Brandon McManus, sign Connor Barth

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The Broncos have made a change at kicker.

Brandon McManus, who was acquired in a trade before the season, has been released. Connor Barth, a free agent who spent the last four years in Tampa Bay, has signed.

The Broncos had high enough hopes for McManus this season that they cut Matt Prater, a Pro Bowler last year, to hand McManus the job. But McManus has struggled and made Broncos fans miss Prater, who has since returned from a drug suspension and signed with the Lions.

McManus missed a 33-yard field goal attempt on Sunday against the Dolphins. That turned out to be his last chance in Denver.

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Michael Bush signs with Cardinals

Michael Bush AP

The Cardinals have added a veteran running back to their roster for the final five weeks of the season.

The team announced on Tuesday afternoon that they have signed former Raiders and Bears tailback Michael Bush. They released Kerwynn Williams to open up a spot on the roster.

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. His best season came in 2011 with the Raiders, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, when he ran for 977 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Cardinals haven’t found a reliable No. 2 back behind Andre Ellington this season and Ellington’s production has sharply declined over the last few weeks. He’s run 47 times for 89 yards in the last three weeks to go with 14 receptions, which makes the interest in a productive backup an easy one to understand. Bush’s work the last two years wasn’t overly impressive, but it wasn’t any worse than what Arizona’s gotten this season.

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Bengals place Andre Smith on IR, sign Jamon Meredith

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The Bengals expected to the worst on right tackle Andre Smith, and it was confirmed today.

The team announced Smith was going on season-ending injured reserve with a triceps injury. He’ll be replaced on the 53-man roster by free agent Jamon Meredith.

They also announced that linebacker Terrell Manning had been signed off their practice squad by the Giants.

Meredith was last with the Packers, and has also spent time with Colts, Buccaneers, Steelers, Giants, Lions and Bills.

Losing Smith is a tough blow for the first-place Bengals, who appeared to have shaken out of an earlier slump and were running the ball effectively again.

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Dolphins bring back cornerback R.J. Stanford

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The Dolphins are short-handed in the secondary at the moment, so they brought back a familiar face.

According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins have signed cornerback R.J. Stanford.

He was with the Dolphins in 2012 and 2013, and has also spent time with the Panthers and Bengals.

The Dolphins are short there, with Cortland Finnegan struggling with an ankle injury and Jamar Taylor expected to miss some time with a shoulder injury.

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Kaepernick thinks Harbaugh will be back in 2015

Harbaugh Getty Images

It’s become almost a given that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh won’t be back next year.  Many believe anything short of a Super Bowl win means he’ll be gone.  Several weeks ago, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that Harbaugh won’t be back, regardless of the outcome to the season.

That perception/reality has yet to permeate the locker room.  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose press conferences have become an exercise in saying as little as possible, was asked on Tuesday whether for a gut feeling on whether his only NFL coach will return for a fifth season.

“I think he’ll be back,” Kaepernick told reporters.

So why does Kaepernick believe that about Harbaugh?

“His resume,” Kaepernick said.

Actually, Harbaugh’s history suggests he doesn’t stay in one place for very long.  Three years at San Diego University.  Four at Stanford.  Now, four with the 49ers.

This, based on Harbaugh’s track record, should be his last season on the job.  Both he and the organization have done a nice job of putting that issue behind the question of whether the team can get back to the Super Bowl and win it, but the reality is that, as soon as the last second of the last game ticks off the clock, the clock will start ticking on what many believe will be an inevitable divorce.

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Report: Michael Vick the choice to start if he’s healthy

Michael Vick AP

After the Jets were crushed by the Bills in Detroit on Monday night, Rex Ryan said he didn’t know whether Michael Vick or Geno Smith would be the team’s starting quarterback against the Dolphins in Week 13.

A pair of reports from Jets beat writers point to Vick being the choice. Both Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News and Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com report that Vick will be Ryan’s choice if his calf is OK after injuring it on Monday. Vick did not think the injury was serious after the game.

Mehta adds the caveat that Vick will be the choice if he’s healthy and if Ryan is the one making the call about the starting quarterback. That suggests that General Manager John Idzik and/or others in the organization might want to see Smith play out the string in hopes of seeing something that Smith didn’t show in 24 consecutive starts over the last two seasons.

That might be an unlikely outcome, but so is meaningful improvement from the offense with either player at quarterback.

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