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DeShawn Shead takes starting corner job from Cary Williams for Seahawks

DeShawn Shead Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Cary Williams had started 81 straight games, regular and postseason combined, dating back to his time in Philadelphia and Baltimore before he was benched for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Williams was one of seven players declared inactive for Seattle on Sunday. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Deshawn Shead.

Shead held his own against an explosive Steelers passing attack. His 10 tackles were second on the team he recorded four passes defended during the game. In comparison, Williams has just four passes defended all season.

“He played a really good, tough game,” head coach Pete Carroll said of Shead. “He had a lot of challenges and he came through at the point of the ball coming in a number of times. They got him once, but all in all, he played really good. Did a very good job. We were all really proud of him.”

Williams was initially benched last week in the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers after blowing an assignment on a 36-yard completion to tight end Vance McDonald. That led to Shead getting a chance to start against Pittsburgh.

So where does that leave Williams, who signed a three-year, $18 million deal with Seattle this offseason?

“Right now he’s trying to fight for playing time, trying to get back in,” Carroll said. “Shead did a good job and we feel pretty good about DeShawn coming back again this week.”

Shead helped hold Martavis Bryant to just five catches for 69 yards on Sunday. The majority of Pittsburgh’s 480 passing yards came over the middle of the field against Seattle’s linebackers and safeties and slot cornerbacks.

If Shead continues as the starter, it would seem unlikely that Williams would be back in 2016 for the Seahawks. The team could save close to $4 million against the salary cap by releasing him this offseason.

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Maryland pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue declares for draft

COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 18:  Yannick Ngakoue #7 of the Maryland Terrapins rests during a break in the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Byrd Stadium on October 18, 2014 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images) AP

University of Maryland pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue has elected to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft.

The junior finished his career with 21.5 sacks and set a Maryland single season record with 13.5 sacks this season for the Terrapins.

“While the last three years have been unforgettable and I would love nothing more than to come back for another season, I have decided to forgo my final year of eligibility to pursue my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL to compete at the next level,” Ngakoue said in a statement.

Ngakoue is thought to be a second or third round pick in the upcoming draft.

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Browns cornerback Justin Gilbert out with concussion

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 30:  Justin Gilbert #21 of the Cleveland Browns returns a kickoff during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 30, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

Justin Gilbert’s return to the lineup for the Cleveland Browns was cut short on Monday night.

Gilbert was ruled out after sustaining a concussion on a kickoff return in the third quarter. Gilbert took the Justin Tucker kick six yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the Browns 34-yard line before being tackled by Tucker along the sideline.

Gilbert’s helmet bounced off the turf and he was taken to the locker room for evaluation before being officially ruled out.

Gilbert started the game with Joe Haden out and Pierre Desir coming off a rough outing. Gilbert had been inactive for the Browns last game two weeks ago.

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Ravens, Browns trading scores

McCown AP

The Ravens have been in charge, but their lead over the Browns is only 17-10 in the second quarter.

After the Browns had a 14-play drive that ended in a field goal to cut their deficit to 10-3, the Ravens easily went right back down the field with a deep pass from Matt Schaub to Chris Givens and a touchdown pass from Schaub to rookie running back Buck Allen.

The Browns answered with another long drive capped by a Josh McCown touchdown pass to Marlon Moore to make it 17-10. McCown is 11-of-12 for 123 yards on the two drives that have resulted in points.

The fans inside First Energy Stadium serenaded the Browns with boos following Allen’s touchdown, but the Browns’ answer brought cheers.

The Ravens scored first on an 82-yard punt return by Kaelin Clay.

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Clay’s return gives Ravens early lead

John Harbaugh AP

The Browns and Ravens traded punts to start Monday’s game, and Ravens rookie Kaelin Clay took the one he caught 82 yards for a touchdown.

So, the Ravens lead, 7-0, in a game that probably won’t feature many explosive offensive plays. The Ravens got a 49-yard field goal from Justin Tucker later in the quarter to make it 10-0.

Clay was a sixth-round pick of the Buccaneers last spring out of Utah. He spent time on the Buccaneers and Lions practice squads before landing with the Ravens on Nov. 17

All of the Ravens’ still-healthy receivers are playing for jobs over the next six weeks, and Clay made a pretty strong impression with his return.

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Browns say CB Gilbert starting tonight

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

The Browns are listing second-year cornerback Justin Gilbert as a starter for Monday night’s game vs. the Ravens.

A first-round pick in 2014, Gilbert has been in coach Mike Pettine’s doghouse at various times in two seasons and has played little defense this season. With Joe Haden out and Pierre Desir having struggled in the Browns’ last game, the Browns made Desir inactive Monday and are listing Gilbert as a starter opposite Tramon Williams.

Gilbert was a healthy scratch for the Browns’ last game on Nov. 15.

The Browns are also starting John Hughes at defensive end in place of Randy Starks and rookie Cam Erving at guard in place of the injured Joel Bitonio.

Both teams are making quarterback changes. The Browns benched Johnny Manziel, though he’s active, and will start Josh McCown. Matt Schaub starts for the Ravens due to Joe Flacco’s torn ACL.

For the Ravens, defensive end Brent Urban is active and will make his NFL debut. A fourth-round pick in 2014, Urban spent last season on injured-reserve and last summer tore a bicep during training camp. He was activated earlier this month.

As expected, the Ravens are without offensive line starters Eugene Monroe and Kelechi Osemele. James Hurst is slated to start at tackle for Monroe and John Urschel should start at guard in place of Osemele.

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Kubiak “real concerned” about the number of hits Osweiler has been taking

Brock Osweiler AP

Now that an injury to Peyton Manning has opened the door for quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Broncos don’t want the door to be slammed shut repeatedly on Osweiler’s leg.

Osweiler has taken plenty of hits in two games, and coach Gary Kubiak is concerned about it. How concerned?

“Real concerned,” Kubiak told reporters on Monday. “I think Brock has been sacked I want to say 11 times in his 10 quarters — maybe 10 times — so that’s way too many. Some of those are his that we’ve got to get corrected. A couple of those are protection issues, but [the Patriots] came after us, especially in the second half they came after us, blitzed us a little bit more and he’ll learn from that. Yes, protecting him and doing a better job—that’s important right now. It really is.”

It is because the physics are simple. The more hits a quarterback takes, the more likely he is to break. Or to sprain. Or to rupture. Or to lacerate.

Beyond the hits Osweiler is taking, Kubiak seems to have no concerns about the guy who has now started two career games.

“I think the No. 1 thing that’s impressed me is I think he understands exactly what he needs to do for the team to be successful,” Kubiak said. “What I mean by that — sometimes guys will get put in situations and they’ll try to do too much. I think he understands he’s on a good football team. If he’ll just do his job, handle the ball well, handle the team well, then our football team will have a chance to be successful. I’m really impressed with how he’s approached that. He’s very comfortable in his preparation, his work and obviously he’s confident in his abilities. I really think just understanding the situation he’s in and handling it might by the No. 1 thing.”

And so he continues to be the No. 1 quarterback indefinitely. Which definitely means he’ll be playing as long as he keeps doing those things.

And as long as nothing breaks, sprains, ruptures, or lacerates.

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Pagano: “Ridiculous” to think Luck won’t start once he’s healthy

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 29: Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts gets his team fired up before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts moved to 4-0 in games started by Matt Hasselbeck by beating the Buccaneers 25-12 on Sunday and Hasselbeck turned in another good performance to help lead the team to the victory.

Hasselbeck completed 26-of-42 passes for a season-high 315 yards and two touchdowns in a performance that was as good as the best that the team’s seen from Andrew Luck when Luck has been healthy this season. That performance and the team’s record in Hasselbeck’s starts may have some wondering whether the Colts will continue to roll with him when Luck has been cleared to return from kidney and abdominal injuries.

Coach Chuck Pagano shot down that notion on Monday. Pagano said, via Andrew Siciliano of NFL Media, that it is “ridiculous” to think that the team would leave Luck on the bench once he’s deemed healthy enough to play. There’s no word on when that might be beyond Luck saying he “definitely” expects to be back before the season is over.

Coming into this season, it would have seemed just as ridiculous to even entertain the thought but this year has not played out the way anyone was expecting in Indianapolis. Still, Luck is the player the Colts have built their franchise around and he’ll continue to be the centerpiece as long as he’s fit enough for action.

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Report: Manziel will be active for MNF

Johnny Manziel AP

Johnny Manziel pulled off the rare feat of getting named starter then demoted during the Browns’ bye week. With that demotion came a statement from Browns coach Mike Pettine that said Manziel would be the third quarterback for the Browns’ next game, which is Monday night vs. the Ravens.

Monday afternoon, Mary Kay Cabot of reported that Manziel will be active for the game. That’s interesting because Pettine specifically stated that Josh McCown would start and that Austin Davis would be the No. 2 quarterback, and Manziel being active leaves open the possibility that he could still be in the plans for the Ravens game.

The Browns generally make just two quarterbacks among their active 46 players.

Maybe the Browns went through their list of available players and gameplan and decided they had a spot for a third quarterback. Or, maybe, the punishment for Manziel’s latest social media appearance and being less than truthful about it was simply not starting and he’ll be available if needed or even in a special situation. It’s always something with Manziel, so stay tuned.

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Report: Dont’a Hightower suffered sprained MCL

Dont'a Hightower, Ryan Fitzpatrick AP

Tight end Rob Gronkowski’s knee injury commanded the lion’s share of the attention coming out of Sunday night’s Patriots loss, but he wasn’t the only key member of the team to leave the contest with an injury.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower also departed early with a knee injury. Like Gronkowski, Hightower appears to have avoided a severe injury but may join the tight end on the sideline in the near future.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that Hightower suffered a sprained MCL. There’s no timetable given for how long he might be out, although such injuries typically keep a player out for at least a little while.

Before Hightower went out on Sunday night, Denver had 43 yards on 15 carries. Ronnie Hillman scored on a 19-yard run a couple of plays after he left the game and the Broncos would go on to put up 136 yards on 17 carries overall with Hightower out of the game. The Patriots were missing Jamie Collins at linebacker as well and it’s probably not a coincidence that the Broncos were able to run so well with those two missing from the lineup.

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Broncos will be without T.J. Ward, Sylvester Williams this week

T.J. Ward AP

They might not be Rob Gronkowski-level players, but the Broncos also left last night with some injuries that will take some key contributors out.

According to Mike Klis of KUSA, the Broncos will be without strong safety T.J. Ward and defensive tackle Sylvester Williamsfor a while” after they suffered high ankle sprains on the same play last night.

The two of them even shared a cart ride from the sidelines to the locker room, after being helped off following a first-quarter run.

“Got rolled with Sly on the same play, in the same area on the same tackle,” Ward said.

Missing two key pieces will force the Broncos to adjust, but they have put together a deep defense, and have been able to withstand the absence of pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware.

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Report: Marcus Williams sprained MCL filling in for Revis

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 29:  Marcus Williams #20 of the New York Jets intercepts a pass intended for Kenny Stills #10 of the Miami Dolphins on November 29, 2015 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets cornerback Marcus Williams got bumped up to the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins with Darrelle Revis out with a concussion, but the Jets may have to look elsewhere if Revis isn’t cleared in time to play in Week 13.

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that Williams suffered a sprained MCL in the victory over Miami, leaving his status as “week-to-week” for a return to the lineup.

Williams had an interception of Ryan Tannehill early in the victory, which gives him a team-high five for the season. Those interceptions have come in less than 250 defensive snaps, so the Jets will be without a playmaker in their secondary as long as Williams is out of the lineup.

With or without Revis and Williams, the Jets secondary should have its hands full next Sunday. Odell Beckham will be lined up across from them and the Giants have not been shy about feeding their most dynamic offensive player this season. That habit is unlikely to change with the Giants in serious need of a win in the battle for MetLife Stadium bragging rights.

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Tom Coughlin expects Geoff Schwartz to be placed on injured reserve

Odell Beckham Jr. AP

After guard Geoff Schwartz left Sunday’s game with a leg injury, the Giants initially said that he would be able to return to the game before updating his status to say that he would miss the rest of the game after fracturing his leg.

Given the point we’re at in the season, it sounded like a season-ending injury but Schwartz held out hope on Twitter that he would be able to return to the team this season. Coach Tom Coughlin didn’t sound anywhere near as hopeful when he spoke to the media on Monday, however. While the coach didn’t rule anything out, he said he’s preparing to lose Schwartz for the rest of the year.

“No, but it’s not good,” Coughlin said, via Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News. “He has a fracture above the plate on his leg. I’m sure he’ll have to be put on IR.”

Schwartz started at left guard Sunday as the Giants covered for the absence of Justin Pugh by flipping Schwartz to that side and starting John Jerry at right guard. Bobby Hart entered the game after Schwartz’s injury.

The Giants were also starting Dallas Reynolds at center in place of Weston Richburg, which could leave the Giants with a lot of patchwork to do against the Jets this week. Coughlin says he hopes to have at least one of them back this week, but that he doesn’t “have any evidence” that will be the case at this point.

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Chiefs stepping up as a group without Jamaal Charles

Chris Conley, Knile Davis, Spencer Ware AP

“Next man up” is an easy thing for coaches to say, when inevitable injuries or bad news starts to pile up.

But the players who actually have to implement that slogan are still human beings, and sometimes it takes weeks for it to become a reality.

So the Chiefs don’t mind admitting it took them a moment to overcome the shock of losing running back Jamaal Charles to a torn ACL, or any of the other hurdles they’ve overcome along the way to five straight wins and the thick of the AFC playoff race.

“Without a doubt. You look at how much we’ve used Jamaal Charles, and he’s the focal point of this offense, it kind of left us with our palms up like, ‘Where do we go from here?’” tight end Travis Kelce said, via Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. “But Charcandrick [West] has done an amazing job and Spencer Ware’s done a phenomenal job stepping in for both of them. It’s fun, it’s exciting when you see a guy step up into the shoes of Jamaal Charles. It just makes it that much more fun when you have success and win.”

The Chiefs were en route to a 1-4 when Charles went down with a torn ACL. But after a week for the shock to subside, they began playing the way they were capable of with one of the most dynamic runners in the game. Much of that has to do with West, but he missed yesterday with a hamstring injury and Ware ran for 114 yards and a touchdown. But it took some getting used to.

“Knowing that Jamaal isn’t back there, you start to concentrate a little more knowing you don’t have a guy as special and things like that,” Kelce said. “Not saying you don’t block your tail off for Jamaal, but there’s that consciousness in the back of your head that, ‘OK, if someone goes down, we have to make something out of it.'”

Of course, there’s also a pretty good role model for bouncing back still on the field with them as well.

“We just keep fighting,” said safety Eric Berry, who has come back after being diagnosed with lymphoma last year. “A lot of us have been through a lot of different things, on and off the field, and we just bring those experiences to the field and just keep pushing on and something is going to crack.”

So far, it’s the people the Chiefs are playing, five weeks in a row.

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Kelly denies any contact with USC

Chip Kelly AP

We know that USC isn’t hiring Chip Kelly to be its football coach, and Kelly said Monday that he never was going to be.

During his usual Monday press conference, the Eagles’ head coach said he never spoke to anyone connected with USC, which Monday announced that interim coach Clay Helton will become the school’s full-time coach. Kelly refuted a prior report that someone connected to USC had met with Kelly in Philadelphia last Friday to gauge his interest in the job.

“I wasn’t even in Philadelphia Friday,” Kelly said.

This is all part of the business and of the coaching carousel. Kelly said he understands that but reaffirmed his commitment to the struggling Eagles by saying he’s never been involved with any other job since taking over the Eagles in early 2013.

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