Dolphins will release Rey Maualuga after arrest

Getty Images

The Rey Maualuga era is over in South Florida.

Per a league source, the Dolphins will be releasing Maualuga on Saturday, in the aftermath of an overnight arrest in Miami.

A second-round pick in 2009 who spent eight years with the Bengals, Maualuga joined the Dolphins after rookie Raekwan McMillan tore an ACL in the preseasons. Maualuga appeared in six games, starting four.

His role had expanded to include a cameo appearance at fullback. Now, all of that will be ending as Maualuga will find himself first on the waiver wire and, if unclaimed, a free agent again.

Bengals promote Hardy Nickerson, waive Pat Sims

Getty Images

The Bengals signed linebacker Hardy Nickerson off the practice squad Saturday. They waived defensive tackle Pat Sims in a corresponding move.

Cincinnati cut Nickerson, a rookie out of the University of Illinois, on Tuesday and re-signed him to the practice squad Wednesday after he cleared waivers. He originally signed with the Bengals as a college free agent this year.

Nickerson has played in seven games, making two tackles on special teams. He spent Weeks 4 and 5 on the Bengals’ practice squad.

Sims, a 10-year veteran, has played in eight games this year with seven starts. He has made 19 tackles. A third-round pick of the Bengals in 2008, Sims spent his first five NFL seasons in Cincinnati (2008-12), then spent 2013-14 with the Raiders before returning to the Bengals in ’15. His career totals include 124 games, 48 starts, 336 tackles and 8.5 sacks.

Giants add Sterling Shepard to injury report

Getty Images

The Giants may be without their best remaining receiver when the Chiefs come to town on Sunday.

New York has added receiver Sterling Shepard to the injury report as questionable with an illness. Shepard had not previously been on the report.

Shepard leads the team in receiving yards with 475, and he’s second in receptions with 38. If Shepard doesn’t play, receivers like Roger Lewis, Kalif Raymond, and Travis Rudolph would get more opportunities to help the Giants get their second win of the year against a team coached by a guy who is virtually unbeatable after a bye.

Shepard, a second-year player, became the No. 1 receiver after Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall were lost for the year in October.

Clinton-Dix: Martellus Bennett quit on us

Getty Images

If the Packers accomplish what a couple of weeks ago would have seemed to be unthinkable — staying in the playoff hunt with Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan at quarterback until Aaron Rodgers returns to clinch a berth — maybe they can point to the moment Martellus Bennett forced his way out as the thing that brought them together.

“I think it definitely has the power to galvanize a locker room,” linebacker Clay Matthews said this week regarding the defection of Bennett, via Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. “Because it shows you — especially going through difficult times — it shows you who’s in and who isn’t. We’ll obviously discover that more and more as the season goes on dealing with our starting quarterback being hurt and having a few losses. But you’re absolutely right: It brings guys together, like a refocus. It lets you know, ‘All right, get rid of the dead weight, and let’s focus on our locker room.'”

Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix minced no words regarding Bennett’s departure.

“Me, personally? I thought he quit on us,” Clinton-Dix said. “I don’t fault him, but I did think he quit on us. He let us down — as a teammate. For a guy that came in, of his caliber, his leadership quote-unquote, I expected more from him. I held him to a higher standard, me personally. But he handled it the way he wanted to handle it.”

It seemed fairly obvious that Bennett decided to tap out once Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone, musing about retirement before citing a desire to have season-ending shoulder surgery instead of playing through a shoulder injury. Once released by the Packers and claimed on waivers by the Patriots, Bennett resumed playing.

“I honestly think winning on Sunday [against the Bears] gave us a motivation to go out every week and compete,” Clinton-Dix said. “That was the hump we needed to get over — winning a game, first and foremost. That Marty stuff, I’m glad we got it out of the way. It’s time to move on.”

The Packers move on with a 5-4 record and a schedule that points possibly to an 8-6 record entering the final two games, a rematch against the Vikings and Lions to end the season.

Ravens activate Danny Woodhead

Getty Images

Ravens running back Danny Woodhead is finally ready to get back on the field.

The Ravens activated Woodhead to the 53-player roster today, meaning he should be good to go tomorrow against the Packers.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh had been cautious about saying when Woodhead would be ready to return, but it appears that day will be tomorrow. He represents a good change of pace in a backfield where Alex Collins has emerged as the bell cow.

Woodhead has played just three games in the last year and a half. In addition to missing every game but one this year because of a hamstring injury, last year Woodhead suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week Two.

Compensation Committee received a blank check in May

Getty Images

The NFL planted the seeds for what became the Commissioner’s pay poison ivy patch in May, voting unanimously to authorize the six-member Compensation Committee to enter into a new contract with Roger Goodell. As Cowboys owner Jerry Jones continues his crusade against what he perceives as a sweetheart deal, the best way to understand the fight is to go back to the moment the mandate was given.

So here’s the question that previously has gone unanswered: What authority did the full ownership delegate to the Compensation Committee in May? More specifically, did the resolution that authorized negotiation and finalization of the deal contain a range (most importantly a limit) regarding Goodell’s salary, bonuses, benefits, etc?

The answer: The committee received full and complete authority, with no pre-set ceiling.

“By 32-0 vote the ownership authorized the compensation committee to negotiate and enter into an agreement with the Commissioner to extend his contract,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told PFT by email on Friday. While it’s possible that some discussion occurred regarding the structure of the deal (for example, its duration), the Compensation Committee was charged with getting the deal done.

A league source with knowledge of the situation confirmed, and elaborated, on the situation. The resolution, per the source, has no specificity. The source also described it as “one of the most vague and generalized resolutions on the books,” with no commentary in the official minutes regarding the process that culminated in the vote.

There was “very limited discussion” of the authority of the Compensation Committee, the source said, with the only point of any real substance being that the Compensation Committee planned to push for terms that would make the maximum compensation discretionary.

The current problem for Jones is that he voted for the resolution, regardless of its breadth and ambiguity. Multiple sources have informed PFT that Jones actually spoke out in favor of the move before the unanimous vote.

On one hand, his enthusiasm for the procedure came before Ezekiel Elliott was suspended. On the other hand, Jones had flagged his concerns before the May meeting. As PFT reported in the aftermath of the annual meeting in March, Jones argued generally for limiting Commissioner compensation (among other things) in an owners-only session.

While this information moves the situation no closer to resolution, it crystallizes the basis for the ongoing fight. The Compensation Committee essentially received a blank check, and Jones has been resisting the manner in which they plan to fill it out.

This makes his agreement to the approach even more confusing. One source suggested that he believed an ad hoc seat on the Compensation Committee would allow him to ensure that the contract didn’t become too bloated. That hasn’t worked, and it’s obvious that the push against the pay package became more pronounced once Goodell suspended Elliott.

Given what transpired in May, the best approach would seem to be for Jones to persuade at least 23 other owners to retract or rescind the May resolution, and to provide the Compensation Committee with clear, obvious limits — or to require the final proposed contract to be approved by 24 or more of the group. The manner in which Jones has combated the issue, with suspected instigation of complaints from Papa John’s and threats of litigation, will as a practical matter make it harder for him to rally enough support.

NFL: A receiver going to the ground can have control, take four steps, it’s still not a catch

Getty Images

Maybe some day the NFL will have a catch rule that the fans can understand. But that day has not yet come.

The most recent example of that came in last week’s Seahawks-Cardinals game, when Cardinals running back Andre Ellington grabbed a pass, took multiple steps, went to the ground and dropped the ball. On the field, that was ruled a catch and a fumble.

But on instant replay, the ruling was reversed to an incomplete pass. In the league’s weekly officiating video, NFL V.P. of Officiating Al Riveron explained why he reversed it, and said it doesn’t matter how many steps a receiver takes with control of the ball: If he’s going to the ground while he’s taking all those steps, he needs to maintain control when he hits the ground.

“We see the receiver control the football and then immediately, just prior to him turning, he starts to go to the ground,” Riveron said. “Control, he’s now going to the ground, two, three, maybe even four feet down. But he’s going to the ground. If in the process of completing the catch, the receiver is going to the ground, whether he’s going to the ground on his own or whether he’s touched by another player, he must maintain control of the football upon his initial contact with the ground. And as we see here, the minute he hits the ground the ball comes loose. Therefore it’s an incomplete pass.”

That won’t satisfy everyone. But it’s the answer the NFL is sticking to.

Report: Kam Chancellor expected to miss the rest of the season

Getty Images

The Seahawks are bracing for another big loss in their secondary.

Having lost cornerback Richard Sherman for the season to a torn Achilles tendon, Seattle is now expecting to play the rest of the year without strong safety Kam Chancellor as well.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Network is reporting that Chancellor has been to multiple doctors for an examination of the neck injury he suffered last week against the Cardinals, and the news hasn’t been good: He is likely to miss the rest of the season.

The most recent word from the Seahawks has been that Chancellor was uncertain to play on Monday night against the Falcons. This report sounds a lot worse than that.

The Seahawks are expecting to get Earl Thomas back from a hamstring injury, but the loss of both Sherman and Chancellor would be a huge blow to a team that has grown accustomed to counting on having one of the best secondaries in the NFL.

Sunday’s date with the Giants begins a very easy late-season schedule for the Chiefs

Getty Images

The Chiefs have lost three of their last four games after starting the season 5-0, but there’s good news in Kansas City: The schedule is ridiculously easy the rest of the way.

On Sunday the Chiefs play the 1-8 Giants, and the schedule is only a little bit harder after that: The Chiefs’ next game is at home against the Bills, who are reeling and just benched their quarterback, and the Buffalo game is Kansas City’s only game remaining against a team with a winning record.

According to FootballOutsiders.com, the Chiefs have the easiest schedule in the NFL over the final seven weeks of the season. And even that probably understates how easy the Chiefs’ schedule is, because those ratings are based only on the quality of future opponents, not on home-field advantage, and the Chiefs play more home games than road games the rest of the way.

Given that the Chiefs have a two-game lead over the Raiders and a three-game lead over the Chargers and Broncos, it’s almost impossible to envision them failing to win the AFC West. The Chiefs’ recent swoon doesn’t change the fact that they’re going to win the division.

Mike Mularkey: Media criticize Marcus Mariota’s interceptions, ignore the throws he makes

Getty Images

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota took the blame for Thursday night’s loss to the Steelers, but coach Mike Mularkey is defending Mariota from reporters who are also giving Mariota the blame.

Mularkey said that reporters are focusing too much on Mariota’s four interceptions and not enough on several good throws he made.

“Nobody ever talks about how accurate [Mariota] is with some of the throws that he does make,” Mularkey said. “All [the media] keeps asking are about the throws he doesn’t. There’s a lot of good throws that he makes every Sunday in very, very tight window throws.”

It’s fine for Mularkey to stick up for his quarterback, but the point is, Mariota’s job is to make those throws. When he throws four interceptions, it’s the media’s job to point out that he didn’t play well. When Mariota plays well, the media will say so. But on Thursday night, he did not play well.

Elway on Broncos: “We got a little bit soft”

Getty Images

Earlier this week, we dubbed first-year Broncos coach Vance Joseph this year’s potential surprise firing. It may not be a surprise, based on comments made Friday night by his boss, John Elway.

“I will tell you, I think we got a little bit soft,” Elway said Friday at the Ring of Fame ceremony for late Broncos coach Red Miller and Hall of Fame Broncos running back Terrell Davis, via Mike Klis of 9news.com. “To be dead honest with you, we got a little bit soft. We went 4-0 in the preseason, we started 3-1 we get a bye week and if you exhale in this league? You’re in trouble.

“And you know what, to be dead honest with you, I think we exhaled, and it’s hard to recover from that. It will be a lesson that hopefully we all learned and can prevent it from happening in the future.”

Elway seems to be particularly troubled about the fact not that they’re losing, but that they’re getting blown out, most recently by the Patriots.

“You’re going to lose football games in this league, but the way it’s gone about it, not being competitive is probably the thing that concerns me the most,” Elway said. “I think we have it on our football team. We’ve got to learn to be able to battle through those. Obviously, they’ve come in clumps and we haven’t been able to overcome it. But until we do overcome that, you know, it’s going to tough to win football games.”

It’s also going to be tough for the head coach to remain employed, if the G.M. and the president of football operations believes the team became soft and non-competive. Elway already has moved on from John Fox a year after the team made it to the Super Bowl, and it’s not as uncommon as believe for coaches to have one and done experiences.

Philip Rivers cleared to play Sunday

Getty Images

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers will play Sunday, the team announced Friday.

An independent neurological consultant cleared Rivers from concussion protocol. He self-reported concussion symptoms Monday, a day after the Chargers’ loss to Jacksonville.

Rivers practiced on a limited basis Wednesday before fully participating Thursday and Friday. The team had listed him as questionable on the status report, but coach Anthony Lynn expressed optimism the Chargers would have their starter against the Bills.

Rivers has started 185 consecutive regular-season games, the second-longest streak of any current quarterback after Eli Manning (208).

Clearing the air on Goodell’s jet request

Getty Images

A recent report from ESPN claimed that Commissioner Roger Goodell has asked for the use of a private jet for life, as part of his new contract. That’s generally accurate, but it’s missing one key fact: Goodell is willing to pay for it.

Per a league source, Goodell has asked for access to the NFL’s private plane arrangements through NetJets, with an understanding that he would reimburse the league in full for all costs incurred.

The benefit for Goodell comes from the reduced rate that the league pays, due to its extended use of the service. So Goodell basically would continue to utilize the service, and he’d pay whatever his flights cost the NFL. Which would be less than what it would cost him directly.

It’s unclear why ESPN has omitted this fairly important fact from it’s reporting. The practical impact is that it tends to make Goodell look unreasonably greedy. Which is likely what those opposing Goodell’s extension want to accomplish.

Sheldon Richardson calls fine for low hit on Drew Stanton “extortion”

Getty Images

Seahawks defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is adamant his hit on Drew Stanton was not illegal, calling the NFL fine he received for it “extortion.”

He has appealed the $18,231 fine for what the league deemed a low hit on the Cardinals quarterback. Richardson said he lost his balance when he was pushed by Arizona left tackle Jared Veldheer.

“It’s kind of just extortion really,’’ Richardson said Friday, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “Guy pushes you in the back and trips you on the play and you are catching your balance the whole time and then you just happen, I don’t know. They said ‘avoid him,’ but he still has the ball. It’s like what do you do?’’

Officials penalized Richardson for roughing the passer. Stanton sprained a knee on the play but stayed in the game. He will miss Sunday’s game because of the injury.

“There is no way you should be taking any of my money because it wasn’t a dirty hit,’’ Richardson said. “I didn’t try to hit him in the legs or nothing, and once again, people fail to realize it’s still football. Pretty sure they are just fining guys for every personal foul and not even looking at the film and not even making the consideration of did I try to avoid the guy.’’

Jerry Jones: “I have the NFL’s best interest in mind”

Getty Images

Even at a time when the NFL seems to be embroiled in its most contentious and public bout of dysfunction in decades, the guy at the center of it continues to be willingly to speak publicly about it.

In the second of his two-per-week appearances on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones received a blank check to add anything he wants to share about the issue of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s proposed contract extension. And despite allegations from some of his colleagues that he is engaged in conduct detrimental to the league, Jones said he’s acting in the best interests of the NFL.

“[J]ust assure that everything I’m doing, it would be madness to think that everything I’m doing isn’t in the best short- and long-term interest of the NFL,” Jones said. “I love this league and I love this game. And the men that are involved, the [Compensation] Committee and the owners, really are good men. And they’ve been in it almost as long as I have. But I’ve been knowing some of these people for going on 30 years. And they know I have the NFL’s best interest in mind. And so goes the NFL, so go the Cowboys.”

Jones’ mindset makes talk of the other owners kicking him out of the club even more confounding.

“It’s really amusing to me when I hear someone say that Jerry may not — they may do something to make him not have the Cowboys,” Jones said. “That is absolutely ridiculous.”

Jones continues to insist he’s simply providing a check against the power of the Commissioner, regardless of who it is.

“The one great time, because we give our Commissioner such power, the one great time the owners have their biggest input is when you are either first-time hiring him or extending him,” Jones said. “And when you do it in such a way as you don’t have any input over the issues, you disenfranchised them from what you want them to do. Now, I was put there. There were things of concern. I saw it. And that’s why we’re having this conversation right now.”

There’s no clear idea as to when the conversation end, or what the outcome will be. Regardless, a league that so desperately wants to get back to football currently can’t get out of its own way on the path back to football.