Sean Payton, Pete Carroll fined $10,000

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The NFL warned teams this week that “significant discipline” could be coming for coaches who cross the line with officials.

Now we can quantify what the league considers to be significant.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, Saints coach Sean Payton and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll were each fined $10,000 for “improperly entering the playing field.”

Both have big salaries and can afford such a penalty, but the league apparently levied the same punishment to Jaguars assistant coaches Pat Flaherty and Keenan McCardell for the same offense.

Payton was flagged on the field for coming out to argue with officials last Thursday, while the Seahawks and Jaguars were involved in some ugly late-game altercations last week.

Making an example of coaches in addition to players should help drive the NFL’s message home, and encourage coaches to emphasize the league’s point of emphasis.

Washington rules Zach Brown out

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Washington linebacker Zach Brown has played through some injuries lately, but when he stacked an illness that kept him off the field all week on top of them, it proved too much.

The team announced that Brown and safety Montae Nicholson (concussion) have been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Cardinals.

Brown is listed “illness/Achilles/toe/hip” on the report, and any one of those might be enough to keep a guy out of a game between 5-8 and 6-7 teams.

Such that you believe that raw tackles are a viable statistic, Brown has more of them than anyone in the league this year (the statistic is flawed, Brown not so much).

Left tackle Trent Williams (knee) is questionable again, as he usually has been this year, along with linebacker Ryan Anderson (ankle), tackle Morgan Moses (ankle), wide receivers Ryan Grant (ankle) and Maurice Harris (concussion), center Chase Roullier (hand), and defensive lineman Terrell McClain (toe) questionable for the contest.

Cardinals activate Aaron Brewer from injured reserve

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The Cardinals activated long snapper Aaron Brewer from injured reserve/designated to return.

The move was expected after Arizona waived Justin Drescher earlier this week.

Arizona placed Brewer on injured reserve on Oct. 9. He broke his wrist in a Week 5 game against Philadelphia.

Brewer joined the Cardinals in 2016 and played in 13 games last season. He spent the first four years (2012-15) of his career with Denver after signing as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2012 out of San Diego State.

Brewer snapped in all 64 regular-season games and eight postseason contests with the Broncos.

Bengals put Kevin Minter on injured reserve

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The Bengals will be without all three of their starting linebackers for Sunday’s game against the Vikings and one of them won’t be back before the year is out.

Linebacker Kevin Minter has been placed on injured reserve after injuring his hamstring in last weekend’s loss to the Bears. Minter, who missed four games earlier this season with an elbow injury, has 32 tackles on the year.

Vontaze Burfict has been ruled out for Sunday with a concussion and Nick Vigil is out with an ankle injury, so the Bengals promoted Brandon Bell to round out the linebacker group for the matchup with the Vikings.

Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick will also miss the game with a concussion. Running back Joe Mixon has also been dealing with a concussion recently, but he was a full participant in Friday’s practice before drawing a questionable tag for the game.

Riley Reiff, Kyle Rudolph doubtful for Sunday

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The Vikings expect to get a pair of starting offensive linemen back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Bengals, but it looks like they’ll be without left tackle Riley Reiff.

Reiff was a limited participant in Friday’s practice after sitting out the last two days with the ankle injury he suffered last weekend, but the team listed him as doubtful to play this week. Rashod Hill is the likely replacement, especially with right tackle Mike Remmers expected back after missing the last five games with a concussion and a back injury.

The Vikings also expect to have center Pat Elflein back in action. Elflein sat out last week with a shoulder injury.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph missed his third straight practice with an ankle injury and joined Reiff in the doubtful category. The Vikings called Kyle Carter up from the practice squad to go with David Morgan, who is expected to play after recovering from a concussion.

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who has a rib injury, is the only player ruled out for Minnesota.

Chiefs place Mitch Morse on injured reserve

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The Chiefs won’t get starting center Mitch Morse back this season.

Morse was ruled out for Saturday’s game against the Chargers with a foot injury and the team announced on Friday that he’s been placed on injured reserve. Morse also missed last Sunday’s win over the Raiders and has played in just seven games overall this season.

Zach Fulton has moved from left guard to replace Morse at center with Bryan Witzmann taking over for Fulton at his former spot.

The Chiefs filled Morse’s roster spot by promoting cornerback Keith Reaser from the practice squad. Reaser played 29 games for the 49ers over the last three seasons after being selected in the fifth round of the 2014 draft.

Kyle Rudolph misses third straight day of practice

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The Vikings promoted a tight end from the practice squad this morning, and they didn’t do it for no reason.

According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph missed his third straight day of practice with an ankle injury, which explains their adding tight end Kyle Carter this morning.

Rudolph isn’t expected to play this week against the Vikings, which would clear the way for David Morgan to start.

Left tackle Riley Reiff returned to practice Friday on a limited basis after missing the rest of the week, so it’s unclear if he’ll be able to go or whether they have to start Rashod Hill there.

Trai Turner out, Devin Funchess questionable for Panthers

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The Panthers will be down a starting guard against the Packers on Sunday.

Right guard Trai Turner has been ruled out for the game after being placed in the concussion protocol earlier this week. Per reporters at coach Ron Rivera’s press conference on Friday, Rivera said that Amini Silatolu will get the start in his place.

The Panthers have also ruled out linebacker Shaq Thompson for the second straight game with a foot injury.

Rivera also said that wide receiver Devin Funchess is being listed as questionable with a shoulder injury, but added that Funchess rested on Friday with the intent of having him in the lineup against Green Bay.

The Panthers are trying to improve to 10-4 on the season with a win. Doing so won’t clinch a playoff spot, but would push them into first in the NFC South if the Saints lose and leave them in strong position heading into the final two weeks of the season under any circumstances.

Bucs OC attacks (and confirms) report of Koetter-Winston tension

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A recent report from NFL Media indicated that tension exists between Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter and Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston. Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken has now both attacked, and confirmed, the report.

“I want to talk a little bit about what we have had to deal with in terms of talking about relationships, OK?” Monken said at his weekly press conference, via JoeBucsFan.com. “I have been here almost two years. From a coach-player relationship, I have never seen anything close to what is being talked about between our head coach and our quarterback. Not one thing.”

So, report refuted. Unless it isn’t.

“What I want people to understand is this,” Monken added. “The majority of players I have ever coached in my life, at some point in our relationship it has been strained. Fact. If you ask any player I have coached, ‘Have you had a strained relationship?’ You bet. Best man in my wedding was my roommate in college. You don’t think we have had strains in our relationship at times? My wife of 26 years, that I wouldn’t be who I am today without her, that we haven’t had times in our life where we’ve had strains in our relationships? And all of a sudden it becomes news? That all of a sudden that there is a strain? You know what the strain is? The frustration of being 4-9. That’s a frustration — when you put everything into it.”

So, report confirmed?

“What you’ve got is a quarterback that is very competitive,” Monken said. “A guy that wants to be great and has had a frustrating year. Probably some things on and off the field. And a head coach that does an unbelievable job coaching our players and our quarterback. And that becomes news? Holy cow. News flash. We’ve got a strain in our relationship. There is not one person that can’t say that that’s ever happened before. [The report] is a flat-out joke that that even becomes news.”

While tension may not be abnormal, it becomes noteworthy given that ownership has a proven track record of dumping coaches. So if the relationship between Koetter and Winston has any signs of dysfunction, that could prompt the team to swap out Koetter for a coach who will be in better position to work with Winston.

A separate question becomes how the report of tension came to be? If leaked by the team, maybe the foundation is being laid to make a change. If leaked by Winston’s camp, maybe the quarterback wants that to happen.

When did NFL start investigating NFLN sexual harassment allegations?

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On Wednesday, Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed for the first time the allegations of sexual harassment made against the league-owned TV operation, indicating that the league “absolutely” has launched an investigation regarding the situation.

We take that very seriously,” Goodell told reporters at the ownership meeting in Dallas. “Those are issues that are important to us. We want to make sure that all of our employees, whether at the NFL Network or at the league office or at clubs, are working in a safe and comfortable environment. Any time that doesn’t exist, we are going to make sure that we deal with that very quickly and very seriously.”

That all sounds good and makes sense. But here’s the problem — although names and specific evidence emerged in an amended complaint that was filed on Monday, the lawsuit originally was filed on October 6.

Here’s the language from first version of the complaint: “Throughout Plaintiff’s employment at NFL, she was also subjected to ongoing and continuing sexual harassment by employees of NFL. They would touch her butt, breasts, point to their privates in front of her, make comments like, ‘I can’t handle your ass, it is so luscious,’ and send her pictures while in their underwear, in the shower, or naked. Such conduct continued throughout Plaintiff’s employment with the NFL.”

It’s possible that former NFLN employee Jami Cantor’s lawyer specifically held withheld details from the original complaint in order to permit settlement talks to occur; obviously, there’s some financial value to the NFL in not having embarrassing details released publicly. If that’s the case, here’s the real question: Would the NFL have taken any action against any of the employees named in the amended complaint if the case had been quietly settled before specific allegations emerged?

There’s a good chance that, if the case had been settled, it would have happened with complete confidentiality, that no one ever would have known anything about any of the allegations, and that no action would have been taken against the three employees (Marshall Faulk, Heath Evans, Ike Taylor) who were promptly suspended after the amended complaint was filed. And so a what-did-they-know-and-when-did-they-know-it vibe has emerged, with fair questions like what, if anything, the league did to investigate the general allegations from the original lawsuit? And what, if anything, did the league know about specific individuals who were accused of misconduct before the names and accusations became public, forcing the NFL’s hand?

The league was at least on notice of a potential problem in early October. PFT asked the NFL on Thursday when the investigation began, but the NFL has not yet responded.

If the league didn’t immediately investigate after receiving the initial complaint, the league looks like it didn’t take the situation seriously. If it investigated but took no action against any of the accused employees before the filing of the amended complaint, the league looks like it was hoping to make the case go away quietly and keep everything under wraps permanently.

Whatever the truth (and we may never know), this situation became news to everyone but the NFL on December 11. During the two months before that, what did it do?

Leonard Fournette misses third straight day of practice, questionable

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If the Jaguars are going to continue their push for a playoff berth — and maybe more — they might have to do it without running back Leonard Fournette.

The team announced that he’s questionable for Sunday’s game against the Texans, but he missed his third straight day of practice with a quad injury.

Fournette has been sidelined all week after his 24-carry, 101-yard game against the Seahawks last week.

By listing him as questionable, they’ll at least fuel some speculation about whether he’ll be active for the Texans game Sunday, or whether they’ll have to rely on T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory.

 

Johnny Hekker named this week’s NFLPA Community MVP

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Wildfires in California have impacted many of the state’s residents and Rams punter Johnny Hekker has worked to help out those who have been affected.

Hekker and his wife donated diapers, clothes and other goods to a shelter in Ventura County and then went on to organize other relief efforts with the Rams, his teammates and fans in order to provide as much help as possible.

“The Los Angeles wildfires were happening in my back yard, so taking action was a simple way to extend a helping hand to my neighbors in need,” Hekker said.

The NFLPA has named Hekker as their Community MVP for Week 14. Hekker will receive $10,000 for his foundation or a charity of his choice and will join this year’s other winners in becoming eligible for this year’s Byron “Whizzer” White Award.

Vikings promote TE Kyle Carter from practice squad

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All three of the tight ends on the Vikings’ active roster were dealing with injuries this week, which led to speculation that the team would make a move to add a healthy body before Sunday’s game against the Bengals.

The Vikings did exactly that on Friday. The team announced that Kyle Carter has been promoted from the practice squad. Carter spent the last two summers with the Vikings, but this is his first time on a 53-man roster.

He’ll take the spot of Blake Bell, who was placed on injured reserve after missing practice this week with a shoulder injury. Bell had three catches for 19 yards while seeing time in all 13 games this season.

The Vikings have also been without Kyle Rudolph at practice as the starter deals with an ankle injury that forced him to the bench late in last Sunday’s loss to the Panthers. David Morgan has been practicing, but has yet to receive final clearance from the concussion protocol.

Pitt T Brian O’Neill declares for draft

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A third player from the University of Pittsburgh has declared for the 2018 NFL Draft.

Left tackle Brian O’Neill announced his intention to enter the draft in a statement through the school on Friday. He joins wide receiver Quadree Henderson and safety Jordan Whitehead as Panthers players throwing their hat into the ring next year.

O’Neill started his Pitt career as a tight end and redshirted as a freshman before playing at tackle for the last three years. The position switch didn’t take him completely out of a ball-handling role, however. O’Neill scored two rushing touchdowns on gadget plays during the 2016 season.

That doesn’t tend to be part of the job description for NFL tackles, but O’Neill’s athleticism could help him as teams break down the prospects on the offensive line in the weeks and months to come.

Sammy Watkins found out winning is more fun than chasing statistics

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Wide receiver Sammy Watkins moved to a new team this summer when the Bills traded him to the Rams and he’s been part of the major turnaround that’s taken his team from the bottom of the barrel to the thick of the playoff race.

Watkins says that he’s undergone a big turnaround as well. Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report recounted covering Watkins early in his time with the Bills and listening to the wideout complain about needing “the ball at least 10 times” a game.

That kind of attitude is nothing new for an NFL wide receiver, but it is one that has evolved over the last few years and Watkins’ move to Los Angeles has him realizing that individual numbers aren’t the only thing in life.

“I was more of a statistics guy then,” Watkins said. “That’s what I was chasing. That’s what I thought the league was about. I had to learn because when you’re losing, things tend to creep into your mind: I should be getting the ball more. If I do get the ball more, we’d be winning. But half the times I did have two touchdowns and 170 yards, we’re losing. I found out that, hey, the fun is in the winning.”

Watkins has 34 catches in 13 games, so he’s well off that pace he desired earlier in his career. He’s scored seven touchdowns, though, and his presence has helped turn the Rams offense from the butt of jokes to an attack that can beat you in a multitude of ways. He’s also been healthy after missing eight games last season and the combination of all those factors seem to have put Watkins in a better frame of mind as his fourth NFL season winds down.