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Justin Tuck: Giants need someone who will “light a fire under people”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants reacts after he recorded a sack against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Giants won 21-17.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Giants make a push for their first postseason appearance since winning Super Bowl XLVI, a key member of a pair of championship teams in New York believes the Giants are lacking one key ingredient to winning their third NFL title in a decade.

“Just from being in that locker room before, I think one thing they’re truly missing is that guy or those guys that can light a fire under people,” Tuck told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “They’re talented. I know the players on that roster. It’s a super-talented group of guys. I don’t know, maybe they need a wake-up call? I don’t know if that’s the right word. It’s something off where I don’t feel like this team is headed in the right direction for this season.

“Normally when Giants teams are in contention, they tend to get better and more together as the season goes on,” Tuck explained. “Maybe a couple losses wouldn’t be a bad thing for them. I’m speculating. I don’t know this. I’m going from the perspective of being an outsider, but everybody gets all caught up with going into the playoffs with a hot record or high seed. I never wanted to be the top seed. I wanted to be the guy that was overlooked and playing hot at the time.”

Both times the Giants won the Super Bowl with Tuck on the team they were overlooked, running the table as the No. 5 seed in 2007 and the No. 4 seed four years later. In 2008, as the No. 1 team in the NFC, they had a one-and-done playoff experience, losing at home to the Eagles, 23-11.

It’s hard not to regard Tuck’s words as a shot at quarterback Eli Manning, a guy who never has been wired to be demonstrative or demanding like his older brother, Peyton.

“I hate to use the word ‘leader,’ because there are guys that lead in certain aspects on that football team, but every team [I was on] could point to a guy or couple guys . . .  and I don’t know if I see that right now,” Tuck said.

Tuck seems to hope that he’ll provide the spark, from outside the building.

“If I have to be the bad guy, so be it,” he said.

Currently, the Giants are on track to once again be forced to try to get to the Super Bowl the hard way. Even if they finish the sweep of the Cowboys on Sunday night, they’ll need to make up two games with three to play. Which means that they’ll be hitting the road in the wild-card round, heading to a place like, say, Tampa.

Of course, Tampa is where the 2007 Super Bowl run began, followed by trips to Dallas and then to Green Bay. It could play out that same way for the Giants in 2016 — possibly culminating in a third Super Bowl rendezvous with the Patriots.

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Dolphins Laremy Tunsil “hurting bad” with shoulder injury

FILE -  In this Friday, Aug. 19, 2016 file photo, Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil takes instructions on the sideline in the second half of an NFL preseason football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. With three starters hurt, the Miami Dolphins will likely have a patchwork offensive line when they try for their sixth consecutive win Sunday against the 49ers. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File) AP

Miami Dolphins rookie guard Laremy Tunsil is trying to stay on the field despite significant pain from a shoulder injury.

I mean, I’m hurting,” Tunsil said Thursday,via Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post. “I’m hurting bad, but you know I’m going to fight through it. I’m going to give it all I’ve got.

The injury forced Tunsil to miss the Dolphins game against the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago. He returned to play on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens and managed to play all 62 offensive snaps despite the injury.

“At the end of the day, I’m here to help the team any way I can,” Tunsil said. “We’re trying to win games. We’re trying to get to the playoff spot, so whatever I can do, I’m going to help.”

Tunsil has started 10 games for Miami this season.

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Raiders get early turnover, big defensive stand

Khalil Mack, Sio Moore AP

It’s cold in Kansas City, and Thursday night’s Chiefs-Raiders game is off to a strange start.

After a puzzling challenge by the Chiefs and then an automatic turnover review two plays later, the Raiders kept the ball — the original call was a catch and fumble by Amari Cooper — and then got a 44-yard field goal from Sebastian Janikowski to take 3-0 lead.

The Chiefs came right back, getting a 39-yard pass to Chris Conley to move into Raiders’ territory, but then turned the ball over on downs following two rather lame and predictable runs right into the middle on third and fourth downs.

The Raiders went three and out to open the game, but Chiefs rookie Tyreek Hill fumbled the ensuing punt and Raiders backup linebacker James Cowser recovered at the Chiefs’ 38-yard line.

Janikowski has not missed from under 45 yards this season.

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Jordan Reed thinks he can deal with the pain, play Sunday

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10: Tight end Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins reacts to a play against the Green Bay Packers in the first quarter during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Redskins tight end Jordan Reed was again a limited practice participant Thursday, and after practice Reed told reporters he’s “optimistic” about his chances of playing Sunday at Philadelphia.

Reed suffered an AC joint separation in his left shoulder at Dallas on Thanksgiving. Though he returned and finished the game, he didn’t play last week.

Reed, who shares the team lead with 59 receptions, told reporters he’s feeling better and hopes he’ll get the go-ahead to play Sunday as the Redskins need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

It’s painful but something I can deal with,” Reed said.

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Rams have no comment on report of dysfunction

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 11:  Head coach Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams stands on the sidelines during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Thursday began with a bit of a bombshell from Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com regarding the extent of the dysfunction in the Rams organization. Recent comments from coach Jeff Fisher deemed critical of the team’s personnel function became the catalyst for anonymous quotes from an unnamed Rams source criticizing Fisher for an apparent effort to shift blame.

The Rams have no comment regarding the report, pointing out that Fisher likely would address the situation at his next press conference. It’s scheduled for Friday at approximately 3:30 p.m. ET.

Fisher, who faced repeated questions last week regarding Eric Dickerson’s relentless effort to get Fisher fired, surely will be pressed for his reaction to the news that someone in the organization criticized him without attaching a name to it.

“It pissed me off because I knew it was meant as a shot,” the unnamed Rams source told Breer regarding Fisher’s apparent attempt to shirk blame for the quality of the roster. “You see it under that umbrella — ‘We need to do a better job in personnel.’ OK, but you want everyone to think that you have full control. You can’t have it both ways, and it can’t always be the talent. Look at the roster, 2012 to now. In ’12, Jeff did a masterful job with what he was given. But we’ve gotten more talent, and we’ve gotten worse.”

There can be little doubt that Fisher wanted, and acquired, full control in 2012. After Fisher picked the Rams over the Dolphins, he told Michael Silver (then of Yahoo! Sports) that Fisher wanted to be able to run the show.

“At the end of the day I wanted the ability to have final say, with a General Manager I could build something with,” Fisher said.

So, basically, all roads lead back to Fisher, both as to coaching and as to personnel. If there’s a problem with coaching, it’s ultimately on him. If there’s a problem with personnel, it’s ultimately on him.

On Friday, it’ll be interesting to see how questions from reporters about these realities ultimately are answered.

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Cam Newton: I’m not above the law

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game on November 27, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cam Newton doesn’t mind taking the criticism, he’s used to that.

But what the Panthers quarterback couldn’t handle were reports that his benching in Seattle Sunday night was related to something more nefarious than not wearing a tie on the team’s flight from San Jose to Seattle.

I violated the wardrobe [policy] and that’s it,” Newton said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “You don’t have to dig into certain stories that [I] violated curfew, was out at a club, somebody was caught in the room.”

For his part, Newton has owned the fact he broke Ron Rivera’s ties-on-a-plane policy, and hasn’t rebelled against his coach’s punishment. Rivera has said throughout that he was simply being consistent in his enforcement of his dress code, whether it was the reigning MVP or a special teamer.

And Newton seems to understand that.

“That’s just a warning for everybody,” Newton said. “And at no point in time or even still do I think I’m above the law. I never thought that. I’m not that type of player. A lot of people might think that from the outside looking in. It doesn’t bother me because they don’t know me.

“For anybody’s who’s ever known me or was on my team, they would know this situation could have been prevented because of my decision.”

With a little luck, that should put a bow on TieGate for the Panthers, who have knot quite reached their goals this season.

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Report: Patriots signing Griff Whalen

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  Griff Whalen #83 reacts with  Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers after Gates' touchdown against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of a game  at Qualcomm Stadium on November 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola is out with a high-ankle sprain and the hope is that he’ll be well enough to rejoin the team for the postseason, but his absence at present may have spurred a roster move on Thursday.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is signing wide receiver Griff Whalen after he worked out for the team. According to a report from ESPN, former Packers wideout Jared Abbrederis also worked out.

Whalen caught two passes in eight appearances for the Chargers earlier this season. He spent the previous three years with the Colts and caught 45 passes, although Patriots fans may remember him best for his role on the snapper on the Colts’ ill-fated swinging gate fake punt from last season.

Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan are the healthy Patriots wideouts at the moment with both Edelman and Hogan absent from the injury report this week after making frequent appearances over the course of the season.

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Eric Berry moves toward another payday

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs walks off the field after their 29-28 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  Berry returned an interception from a failed two-point conversion for two points and the go-ahead score.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eric Berry’s big year is laying the foundation for another big payday.

The Chiefs safety, to whom the team applied the franchise tag after his prior contract expired, didn’t sign a long-term deal before July 15. It means that the Chiefs soon will have to decide whether to apply the tag to Berry again, or to sign Berry to a long-term deal.

The tag won’t be cheap. At $10.806 million for 2016, Berry will be owed a 20-percent raise under the tag for 2017. That’s $12.96 million for one season at the safety position, nearly $500,000 more per year than safety Tyrann Mathieu is getting under his top-of-the-market deal.

It becomes even harder to negotiate a long-term deal, since Berry can force his way to the market in 2018, unless the Chiefs plan to give him the quarterback version of the franchise tag to keep him in place for another year.

Berry, who turns 28 later this month, showed on Sunday how important he is to the Chiefs defense. Apart from his contributions on the field, his leadership and personal story of overcoming serious adversity make him even more valuable.

The challenge becomes attaching the right value to his contract, and ultimately finding a way to bridge the gap between what he wants and what the Chiefs will pay.

Here’s the simple reality: If the Chiefs won’t pay him what he wants, someone else possibly will. Like, for example, the team in his home state of Georgia that Berry singlehandedly defeated with a pick six and a game-winning pick two.

Berry gets another chance to demonstrate his value to the Chiefs tonight, in a prime-time matchup with the Raiders. Which only happens to have the AFC West crown essentially hanging in the balance.

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Mathis, Geathers still absent from Colts’ practice

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 27: T.Y. McGill #67 and Robert Mathis #98 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrate sacking Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins during a game  at Sun Life Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colts defensive end Robert Mathis and safety Clayton Geathers missed practice again Thursday and could miss a second consecutive game Sunday.

Geathers has a neck inury and Mathis has a bicep injury. Those two and starting cornerback Patrick Robinson missed last Monday’s rout of the Jets. Robinson has been a limited participant this week due to the same groin injury that kept him out of the Jets game.

If Robinson returns Sunday against the Texans but Geathers doesn’t, the Colts could be free to use cornerback Darius Butler at safety in some situations. The defense will again be shorthanded with usual signal-caller and inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson serving a four-game suspension.

That suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy was announced earlier this week. Jackson would be eligible to return for the postseason if the Colts qualify.

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Mario Williams out of practice on Thursday

FILE - In this Aug. 25, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) is pressured by Miami Dolphins defensive end Mario Williams (94) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Orlando, Fla. After racking up 38 sacks between 2012-14, Williams had just five sacks in 909 snaps last season. He was released by the Bills following a disappointing year playing linebacker in Rex Ryan's 3-4 system. Miami is banking on Williams being more comfortable in the 4-3, but Williams' best days could be in the past.    (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File) AP

Dolphins defensive end Mario Williams has been dealing with an ankle injury for some time and he was listed as limited in Wednesday’s practice due to the issue.

Thursday’s practice saw Williams take a step in the wrong direction. He didn’t practice at all as the team continued their preparations for Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.

Williams has missed one game this season and has seen limited playing time in several other games. He played on 50 percent of the team’s defensive snaps last weekend and has picked up 1.5 sacks on the year with the full sack coming in the season opener.

Linebackers Kiko Alonso and Jelani Jenkins were also out of practice for Miami. Alonso is dealing with a broken thumb and hamstring injury with the hamstring injury thought to be the bigger stumbling block to his presence in the lineup. Alonso said on Thursday, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, that he feels good, but doesn’t know if he’ll be able to play.

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Marcus Allen remembers having bullets thrown at him in Chiefs-Raiders rivalry

230922 Getty Images

No one knows the Chiefs-Raiders rivalry better than Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen; he spent 11 seasons with the Raiders and five with the Chiefs.

Appearing on Wednesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN, the man who played for the L.A. (but not Oakland) Raiders recalled going to Oakland for a game with the Chiefs. Fans were given free admission in exchange for turning in guns.

The only problem? They kept the bullets — and then threw them at the Chiefs players.

But Marcus holds no grudge against Oakland. He said he prefers that the team stay there, with a second choice of returning to Los Angeles over moving to Las Vegas.

For the full interview, which includes Marcus forcing me to sing (if you can call it that) the Kay Jewelers jingle, click the thing in the thing.

And here’s where it gets fun. You can post a video of yourself singing the Kay Jewelers jingle with the #SingforStJudeDonation hashtag, and Kay Jewelers will donate $100 to St. Jude’s Children Research hospital for each video posted. There’s a limit of one video per person, but Kay Jewelers will donate up to $50,000 — so 5,000 of you should do it.

So do it. Trust me; your effort will be no worse than mine.

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John Fox: I love saying Jim Bob Cooter’s name

Detroit Lions Training Camp Getty Images

Bears coach John Fox is just like us.

Fox’s team will be playing the Lions this weekend, which meant he did a conference call with Lions media on Thursday to discuss the game. As you’d imagine, the subject of the Detroit offense came up during the call and he praised the work that offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has done since being bumped up into the top job last season.

As you’d also imagine, Fox gets the same kick out of saying and/or thinking about Cooter’s name as everyone else who has had the good fortune to come across it.

“I love the name,” Fox said, via the Detroit Free Press. “He and [Vikings cornerback] Captain Munnerlyn. I recruited Captain way back when I was in Carolina. Those two are right up there, player and coach. But I love saying Jim Bob’s name.”

Fox had Cooter on his staff in Denver and tried to hire him with the Bears when he took the Chicago job in 2015, but the Lions blocked the move. Cooter was promoted to his current job later in the year and the Lions are 14-7 since that point, which goes to show that the coach brings more than just a good name to the table.

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Jets place Nick Mangold on injured reserve

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 02:  Brandon Marshall #15 of the New York Jets celebrates a second quarter touchdown with teammates Nick Mangold #74 and Brent Qvale #79 of the New York Jets against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on October 2, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

A report on Thursday morning had the Jets shutting center Nick Mangold down for the season after he got a second opinion on the ankle injury that’s kept him out of four games this season.

The Jets confirmed that’s the case later in the day by placing Mangold on injured reserve. Wesley Johnson is expected to start in Mangold’s place and the Jets signed safety Doug Middleton off the practice squad to take his place on the roster.

The eight games Mangold played this year are by far the least he’s ever played during an NFL season. Mangold played at least 14 games in each of his first 10 years with the team and he started all of them to become a fixture under three different Jets coaches.

Some have suggested that the Jets may look to bring in another coach after this disappointing season comes to an end, but the Jets will have a decision to make on Mangold whether they part ways with Todd Bowles or not. Mangold is set to make $8.475 million in salary and bonuses next season, which is a lot for a player turning 33 in January who plays for a team in need of widespread improvements to their personnel.

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Jadeveon Clowney practiced Thursday, considered day-to-day

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 16: Robert Turbin #33 of the Indianapolis Colts dives for extra yardage as Brian Cushing #56 of the Houston Texans makes the tackle in the fourth quarter during the NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 16, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans practiced without defensive end Jadeveon Clowney on Wednesday because of the elbow and wrist injuries that kept him from playing against the Packers last Sunday, but the news from Thursday’s practice was more positive.

Clowney was able to get on the field with his teammates, a development that brightens his chances of playing against the Colts in a game that quarterback Brock Osweiler said the Texans “must win.” Coach Bill O’Brien isn’t ruling Clowney in or out of the game at this point, however.

“He practiced today. I would still put him in the day-to-day,” O’Brien said.

Clowney started the first 11 games of the year for the Texans, a number that’s equal to the amount of starts he made during his first two injury-filled seasons. He has been a key part of their defense against both the run and pass and was missed as the unit broke down late in Green Bay.

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Sheldon Richardson says he’s appealing fine for late hit on Andrew Luck

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 02: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks makes a pass against Sheldon Richardson #91 of the New York Jets in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on October 2, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

In Monday night’s blowout loss to the Colts, Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson didn’t have any tackles, sacks or any other positive plays that showed up on the stat sheet at the end of the night.

He did have one 15-yard penalty for hitting Colts quarterback Andrew Luck with what officials judged to be a late hit after a scramble down the sideline. Richardson didn’t specify the fine amount, but the NFL’s schedule of fines for this season calls for $9,115 penalty for a first offense.

Richardson said, via Brian Costello of the New York Post, that he plans to appeal the fine.

Richardson played a season-low 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps against Indianapolis. Coach Todd Bowles chalked it up to the team’s game plan rather than his play, although the game continued a fitful season for Richardson either way. He was suspended for the opener and spent the first quarter of another game on the bench after being disciplined by Bowles.

Jets right tackle Breno Giacomini also said that he received a fine from the league after being penalized for unnecessary roughness in Monday’s loss.

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