Jacoby Brissett receives clearance to play

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Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett suffered a concussion 12 days ago, against the Steelers. After a bye in Week 11, Brissett wasn’t immediately cleared to play. His removal from the final Week 12 injury report, where he’s not listed as questionable or as doubtful, implies that he has received clearance to play.

Earlier on Friday, coach Chuck Pagano said that Brissett was due to be evaluated by an independent neurologist later in the day.

Brissett’s concussion was diagnosed after the game against the Steelers, even after he’d been cleared to return. The concussion symptoms, per the team, didn’t emerge until after the game.

Brissett took all first-team reps in practice this week, in advance of a Week 12 visit from the Titans.

Preston Smith fined $18,231 for roughing Drew Brees

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Thanksgiving night was a good one for linebacker Preston Smith and the rest of the Redskins as they beat the Giants 20-10 to improve to 5-6 on the season.

That record would be even better had they been able to hold onto a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Saints last Sunday. They couldn’t, however, and Smith’s day turned out to be even worse when he got a fine from the league this week.

PFT has confirmed with the the league that Smith was fined $18,231 for a roughing the passer penalty he picked up while hitting Saints quarterback Drew Brees after Brees had delivered an incomplete pass in the first quarter. The penalty gave the Saints a first down and Mark Ingram ran for a 36-yard touchdown a couple of plays later.

Saints cornerback P.J. Williams also picked up a fine for a hit on a quarterback. Williams was fined $9,115 for hitting Kirk Cousins after Cousins slid at the end of a run.

Report: Marshon Lattimore, Ken Crawley won’t play Sunday

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The Saints won’t have their top two cornerbacks Sunday against the Rams. Both Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley will miss the game with injuries, via Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

Lattimore (ankle) and Crawley (abdomen) missed practice all week.

Lattimore injured his ankle last week against Washington, while it is unknown when Crawley was injured.

The Saints added cornerbacks Sterling Moore and Dexter McDougle earlier this week, a sign they had concerns about the availability of their top two corners. P.J. Williams likely starts at one of the spots.

Crawley’s 482 snaps — 76.4 percent of the team’s defensive snaps — are the most of any of the Saints’ cornerbacks. Lattimore has played 477 snaps.

Vance Joseph on fights in practice: Fun to see players competing

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The Broncos were called soft by General Manager John Elway in reference to the way they’ve been competing with their opponents in recent weeks, but there was no backing down on the practice field Thursday.

Wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie fought with cornerback Chris Harris, who said that the rookie needs to “always respect the vets.” McKenzie said that it “wasn’t anything too serious, too personal” and that he does respect Harris. Offensive lineman Connor McGovern and defensive lineman Zach Kerr also exchanged the kind of unpleasantries sometimes found around a Thanksgiving table, but coach Vance Joseph said he didn’t mind people failing to get into the spirit of the holiday.

“Just guys competing and wanting to win,” Joseph said, via KUSA. “It was competitive yesterday for a Thanksgiving practice. It was my first time experiencing that kind of practice on Thanksgiving. But that speaks to our guys wanting to win – and how hard they’ve worked. It was fun to see in my opinion, guys competing for the ball and trying to make plays. It gets heated sometimes. That’s OK.”

A little of that fire would serve the Broncos well as they try to snap their six-game losing streak against the Raiders on Sunday.

Marcus Gilbert fined $9,115 for facemask

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Marcus Gilbert hasn’t had a good week. On Monday, the NFL suspended the Steelers right tackle for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

That cost Gilbert $1 million salary.

Now, comes word that the NFL has fined him $9,115 for a facemask penalty against the Titans, via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Gilbert yanked the facemask of Derrick Morgan, dragging him to the ground, as Morgan closed in on Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter. The Steelers, who were at the Tennessee 8 before the penalty, settled for a field goal.

Josh Gordon felt no rust in his return to practice

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Browns receiver Josh Gordon is back at practice and closing in on a potential return to game action in only nine days, after a suspension under the substance-abuse policy that lasted nearly three years. So he was surely knocking off rust this week, right?

“None that I felt,” Gordon told reporters on Friday. “None that I was told about. I felt pretty good. I think I knocked that rust off prior to getting back into the building so that was what I was looking forward to do. I think I accomplished that. First day of practice with the team, I adjusted pretty quickly, being in shape and making it through.”

Gordon made it clear that he’s been able to make the adjustment because he’d worked hard during his absence.

“I have been training from almost a year straight prior to coming back so I have been working out pretty crazy,” Gordon said. “Even getting here, the strength and conditioning staff has been on top of it. They have exhausted every resource as far as recovery and things of that nature — massages, treatments and everything I need to do to stay on top of it. I have to make sure I do it. For the most part, I am in real good shape.”

Gordon’s adjustment was aided by the fact that he was practicing in Hue Jackson’s system last year, before his attempt at reinstatement became derailed.

“It has helped a great deal being here last training camp, offseason and preseason,” Gordon said. “It is all pretty familiar. Most of it is the same, a few different words and terminology, but it has come back to me pretty quickly. It does not take me too long to pick up on offense.”

Gordon hasn’t played much football since joining the team as a second-round pick in the supplemental draft in 2012. In 35 career games, however, he has 161 catches for 2,754 yards and 14 touchdowns. In 2013, Gordon racked up more than 1,600 receiving yards in 15 games.

If he can get back to that level of performance quickly, he could help the Browns eventually win a game or two in 2017.

NFL fines Tahir Whitehead for stepping on Charles Leno

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Lions linebacker Tahir Whitehead insisted he didn’t purposely step on Bears offensive lineman Charles Leno on Sunday, but the NFL apparently didn’t buy his explanation.

The league fined Whitehead $9,115 for stepping on Leno.

Although Whitehead wasn’t flagged at the time, there was much discussion of the play afterward as the video circulated online. Some called it as dirty as similar moves made by former Lions Ndamukong Suh and Dominic Raiola, both of whom were suspended for stepping on opponents. Others said Whitehead just stumbled as he was clearing a pile.

Whitehead said he approached Leno to tell him the step was not intentional.

Everson Griffen tried to get back to Minnesota for birth of son

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The third son of Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen wasn’t due to arrive until December 16. But a routine visit to the doctor on Wednesday revealed that it was time for the baby to be born.

Griffen, calling from the hospital on Friday morning, explained during a visit to PFT Live that he tried to get back to Minnesota for the birth of the baby, and then to get back to Detroit for the game.

And so he witnessed the birth of his boy via FaceTime from Ford Field, and then he displayed after his first of two sacks a message on a T-shirt asking for help in naming the child.

There’s still no name for the baby, but his dad keeps making a name for himself, tying a career high in sacks (12.0) with five games to play. Griffen explained that he spent time in the offseason doing some soul searching and focusing on getting more out of his pass-rushing skills. And he is.

For the full Griffen interview, check out the show at Apple Podcasts, where you should subscribe to the show, rate it, and review it.

Chargers rule out ACL injury for Mike Williams

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The Chargers got confirmation of what they expected and hoped: Wide receiver Mike Williams did not tear his ACL.

Coach Anthony Lynn told reporters Friday that an MRI ruled that out. The Chargers will continue to evaluate him.

Williams has played in six games, making nine catches for 84 yards.

Williams was limited in practice this week with a knee injury before being carted off early in Thursday’s victory over the Cowboys.

The Chargers also will continue to monitor kicker Nick Novak, who had to leave Thursday’s game with lower back and hip pain. He was scheduled to have an MRI on Friday as well, and Lynn said the team might have to bring in kickers for a workout as insurance.

Los Angeles, though, does have extra days to heal. The Chargers don’t play again until Dec. 3.

Steelers won’t have JuJu Smith-Schuster for Sunday night

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The last time the Steelers were on Sunday Night Football, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had a big night with seven catches for 193 yards and a touchdown in a 20-15 Pittsburgh win over the Lions.

The Steelers are going to be back on NBC against an NFC North squad this Sunday, but Smith-Schuster won’t have an encore against the Packers. According to multiple reports, Smith-Schuster has been ruled out for the game because of the hamstring injury he’s been dealing with all year.

Smith-Schuster’s absence will open up the door to more playing time for Martavis Bryant, who did not play against the Lions in Week Eight because he was serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules. He’s returned to catch five passes for 72 yards in two games since being reinstated.

Smith-Schuster had nine catches for 144 yards in those outings.

Titans continue to believe in DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry

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Titans fans have criticized DeMarco Murray for some of the holes he chose to run through in the team’s November 16 loss to the Steelers. But the team’s coaches aren’t about to second-guess Murray’s decisions.

“No, no,” Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie said, via Paul Kuharsky of paulkuharsky.com. “I played running back. Certainly, I wasn’t the caliber of [Murray or Derrick Henry]. I played for a couple of years. I coached a guy named Bo Jackson; I coached a guy named Marcus Allen.

“You don’t dare tell them where to run; you don’t dare tell them they missed a hole. No chance. And the same thing with these two guys. You don’t tell them, ‘Hey, put your head down and run in that hole over there.’ [Henry] won the Heisman by doing what he does. Maybe he’s going to miss one, but he’s going to hit five of them. Great runners, you let them run.”

Tennessee gained only 52 yards on 21 carries against Pittsburgh.

Murray, who has played through some hamstring issues, has 117 carries for 443 yards and four touchdowns this season. He has 6,958 yards in his career. Henry has 101 carries for 441 yards and three touchdowns this season.

“I’ve never [played running back], and I’m sure most of those people making those comments haven’t either, to tell our backs how to run, especially DeMarco Murray,” coach Mike Mularkey said. “He’s got 7,000 yards of hitting holes the way he does. I know if we block it better, we should’ve had bigger runs. We had opportunities for much bigger runs than we had [against the Steelers] if we block it better.”

Kelvin Benjamin listed as questionable

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Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin didn’t practice at all for the Bills this week, but they aren’t ruling him out of Sunday’s game against the Chiefs yet.

Benjamin was given a questionable designation on the team’s final injury report of the week due to the knee injury he suffered early in last Sunday’s loss to the Chargers. That was Benjamin’s second game with the team as he did not play in a Thursday night game in Week Two that kicked off a couple of days after he was acquired in a trade with the Panthers.

Jordan Matthews and Deonte Thompson are also listed as questionable along with tight end Charles Clay, so Tyrod Taylor‘s return to the starting lineup could take place with a skeleton crew of receiving targets. All three have practiced this week, however, so chances would seem to be good that someone will be trying to reel in Taylor’s throws.

Left tackle Cordy Glenn, running back Mike Tolbert and guard John Miller are out for Buffalo.

Devonta Freeman remains in concussion protocol, won’t play Sunday

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Falcons running back Devonta Freeman remains in concussion protocol and will not play Sunday against the Buccaneers, coach Dan Quinn said, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Freeman returned to practice on a limited basis this week, but an independent neurologist has yet to clear Freeman for full football activities. He was injured in the first quarter of the Falcons’ victory over the Cowboys on November 12.

Freeman also was in concussion protocol for two weeks in August.

Running backs Tevin Coleman and Terron Ward replaced Freeman last week, and the Falcons rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Freeman is the team’s leading rusher with 515 yards and five touchdowns on 116 carries.

The Falcons expect the return of linebacker Duke Riley this week. He missed the past four games after undergoing knee surgery.

Riley, a third-round pick, started five of the first six games and made 19 tackles.

Panthers activating Greg Olsen for Sunday’s game

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Tight end Greg Olsen was in the broadcast booth last Sunday, but he’ll be on the field this Sunday.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Friday that the team will activate Olsen from injured reserve ahead of their Week 12 game against the Jets. Olsen returned to practice on Monday after missing the last eight games with a broken foot.

Rivera said the plan is to work Olsen back into the lineup “judiciously” this week. Ed Dickson gives them a capable option at the position, although one imagines Olsen could wind up seeing more time than expected if he looks comfortable in the early going.

Rookie wide receiver Curtis Samuel will be placed on injured reserve to make room for Olsen on the 53-man roster. Samuel, who had 15 catches for 155 yards in nine games, injured his ankle in Week Nine.

Mike Williams getting MRI on injured knee


Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams left Thursday’s win with a knee injury and it may be a while before he’s back in the lineup.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Williams is going to have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury on Friday. Per Rapaoport, the team has “real concerns” about the severity and expect him to miss time but do not believe Williams tore his ACL.

Depending on how much time and how things play out for the Chargers in the AFC playoff race, that could mean we’ve seen the last of Williams for his rookie season. If so, it would be an early end to a rookie year that got off to a late start after Williams recovered from a back injury.

Williams has played in six games and has nine catches for 84 yards in those appearances. That’s not what the Chargers were hoping to get from their first-round pick, but he’ll get a chance to show better health and production in 2018 regardless of how long he’s out with his current injury.