Pete Carroll: Seahawks are still exploring options on Kam Chancellor

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Amid reports that safety Kam Chancellor may be out for the year due to a neck injury, coach Pete Carroll pushed back on Saturday against the perception that Chancellor definitely is done.

“We’re still looking at what our options are, and we’ll continue to do that and re-evaluate what’s going on,” Carroll told reporters on Saturday. “We’re working very closely with him on that. That’s it.”

Asked whether the injury could possibly extend even before 2017, Carroll was vague.

“We’ll wait and see, we’ll just wait and see,” Carroll said. “We’re working through it like I said, and we’re hanging together, and just trying to talk our way through it and not have to do anything any faster than we have to. We’ll just wait and see.”

Chancellor is out for Monday night’s game. Beyond that, it could be a week-to-week proposition, with a sense for now that Chancellor could indeed be out every week for the rest of the year.

Earl Thomas returns on Monday night

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With cornerback Richard Sherman done for the year and safety Kam Chancellor reportedly in the same boat, the Seahawks are getting one of the key fixtures in their secondary back on Monday night, after two games missed with a hamstring injury.

Safety Earl Thomas has exited the injury report in advance of Monday’s game against the Falcons. Thomas was limited in practice on Thursday, and he fully participated in practice on Friday and Saturday.

Chancellor (neck) is officially out for Seattle, as are guard Luke Joeckel (knee) and linebacker Michael Wilhoite (calf). Questionable for the Seahawks are tackle Duane Brown (ankle) and defensive tackle Jarran Reed (hamstring).

Running back Eddie Lacy (groin), quarterback Russell Wilson (jaw), and defensive end Michael Bennett (heel) are among the Seahawks players who appeared on the injury report during the week but who have no label in advance of Monday’s game. Which means they’re good to go.

Falcons officially rule Devonta Freeman out for Monday night in Seattle

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Falcons running back Devonta Freeman won’t be with the team in Seattle on Monday night.

The Falcons officially ruled Freeman out today for the game against the Seahawks. That was expected as he hadn’t practiced all week after suffering a concussion.

Tevin Coleman will handle most of the workload in Freeman’s absence, and the Falcons said during the week that they expect Coleman to be able to do most of the same things Freeman does in their offense.

Freeman is the Falcons’ leading rusher this season, with 116 carries for 515 yards and five touchdowns. Coleman has 83 carries for 399 yards and two touchdowns.

Dede Westbrook has big goals for his NFL debut

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The 6-3 Jaguars will try to stretch their winning streak to four games with a fourth-round pick who has huge goals for his NFL debut.

Receiver Dede Westbrook has been added to the active roster after missing all of the regular season, to date, with a core muscle injury. And he plans to do big things for Jacksonville.

“Expectations are high, I always set the standard high,” Westbrook told Sports Radio 990 in Jacksonville, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “For me — and this has nothing to do with the Browns at all — but my expectation is a 200-yard receiving game. However I got to get that, of course that’s going to come with me and Blake [Bortles] being on the same page most of the game but at the end of the day that’s the expectation that I have for myself this weekend.”

The Jaguars also activated safety Calvin Pryor from injured reserve, making Westbrook and Pryor their two recipients of the annual designation for return.

To make room for the two players, the Jaguars released receiver Jaelen Strong and defensive tackle Sheldon Day.

Westbrook won the Biletnikoff Award in 2016, but he fell in the draft due to off-field issues. The Jaguars surprised many by taking a chance on him, especially given their glut of receivers. But Allen Robinson was lost for the year in Week One, and Westbrook’s skills — if they translate — can’t hurt a team that can take over first place in the AFC South with a win against the Browns.

Broncos cut A.J. Derby a year after trading for him

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Last year the Patriots traded tight end A.J. Derby to the Broncos just before the trade deadline. That netted New England a fifth-round draft pick, which they used to get running back Mike Gillislee from the Bills.

Now Derby is done in Denver.

The Broncos announced today that they have released Derby, who has 19 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns this season. To take Derby’s spot on the roster spot, the Broncos brought up tight end Austin Traylor from the practice squad.

If Traylor gets on the field for the Broncos, he might find himself catching passes from Paxton Lynch soon: Mike Klis of 9News.com reports that Lynch has been promoted to No. 2 on the Broncos’ quarterback depth chart, and Trevor Siemian will be inactive tomorrow against the Bengals. Brock Osweiler remains the starter, but with Lynch getting healthier and the Broncos needing to try anything to spark the offense, it won’t be surprising to see Lynch getting a shot at running the offense soon.

Saturday one-liners

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Bills scouts are expected to eyeball Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen on Saturday.

Dolphins LT Laremy Tunsil is playing better than he was earlier in the season.

Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore ignored the criticism, which in recent weeks has dissipated.

How much influence will the next six games have on the future of Jets coach Todd Bowles?

Ravens CB Anthony Levine isn’t feeling nostalgic as he returns to Green Bay, where he launched his career as an undrafted rookie.

Should the Bengals play QB A.J. McCarron?

Here’s a look at some memorable games the Browns have played against Jacksonville.

Steelers DL Cam Heyward would love to make it to the Pro Bowl.

Texans QB Tom Savage is motivated by the efforts of his coach to motivate him.

Here’s what Colts QB Andrew Luck is trying to accomplish by going to Europe.

Add the Jaguars to the list of teams that want to host the draft.

When handing out letter grades to the Titans for Thursday night’s game, bring extra Ds.

Apart from LT Garrett Bolles, the rest of the Broncos’ rookie draft class hasn’t done much.

Chiefs CB Marcus Peters will distribute 250 turkeys (plus fixings) to people in need in Kansas City.

The Chargers know they need to get the ball more often to TE Hunter Henry.

The Raiders have faith in S Obi Melifonwu when it comes to the challenge of covering Rob Gronkowski.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett admitted to making a mistake when not giving LT Chaz Green help last week.

Giants TE Evan Engram says his team will beat Kansas City on Sunday.

Even with RB Jay Ajayi present, the role of Eagles RB Corey Clement isn’t expected to diminish.

To improve the team’s performances on Sundays, Washington S D.J. Swearinger is urging his teammates to work better on Wednesday through Friday.

The Bears plan to overhaul Halas Hall.

Despite an injury that is keeping him from playing, Lions DT Haloti Ngata is spending time around the team and trying to help teach the players.

The Packers will have a tough decision to make about OT Bryan Bulaga in the offseason.

The Vikings hope to rattle L.A. QB Jared Goff.

The Falcons are very happy that DE Adrian Clayborn didn’t retire after the 2016 season.

Here’s a look back at the first 10 weeks of the Panthers’ 7-3 season.

Rookie CB Marshon Lattimore is becoming one of the team’s best tacklers.

The Buccaneers’ offensive linemen claim they’re ready to face Ndamukong Suh.

The Cardinals need rookie Budda Baker to play like something other than a rookie.

Rams C John Sullivan, who started his career in Minnesota, is thinking only about getting his current team to 8-2.

As the 49ers take their bye, which players will be taking their leave, permanently, in 2018?

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll dancing? Seahawks coach Pete Carroll dancing.

Dolphins will release Rey Maualuga after arrest

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.