Anthony Barr not fined for hit that injured Aaron Rodgers

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In the debate about Anthony Barr‘s hit that injured Aaron Rodgers, the league office has ruled: It was legal.

The NFL did not fine Barr, the Vikings pass rusher who may have ended the Packers quarterback’s season on Sunday by driving him to the ground after a pass. Barr was also not flagged on the play, so there’s little doubt that it was legal — although perhaps it shouldn’t be.

Barr and the Vikings insisted the hit was clean, while some Packers have said they thought it was dirty. In the eyes of the league office, it was clean.

The NFL did fine Barr $9,115 for head butting Davante Adams. That incident did draw a 15-yard penalty.

Keenan Allen questionable after fall in practice

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Wide receiver Keenan Allen fell on his shoulder during Thursday’s practice, and the Chargers list him as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Broncos.

“He wants to play, but we’ve got to do what’s best for Keenan,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said, via Eric Williams of ESPN.

Allen missed 23 games with injuries the previous two seasons combined but played in the first six this season with 33 receptions for 446 yards and a touchdown. He did not practice Friday.

The Chargers also list offensive tackle Joe Barksdale (foot) and defensive tackle Corey Liuget (back) as questionable after they missed practice Friday.

Jason McCourty questionable after tweaking ankle in practice

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Browns cornerback Jason McCourty might not play against his old team after all.

According to Dan Labbe of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, McCourty tweaked his ankle in practice Thursday, and will be listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Titans.

McCourty spent his first eight years with the Titans, and has been one of the more reliable members of a bad team.

Safety Jabrill Peppers (toe) has also been listed as questionable, and when coach Hue Jackson was asked about the status of his secondary, he replied: “We will see.”

Wide receivers Kenny Britt (knee/groin) and Sammie Coates (hamstring) also listed as questionable. Linebacker James Burgess (knee) is out.

Jeremy Lane doubtful, Michael Bennett questionable

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The Seahawks ruled left guard Luke Joeckel out for Sunday’s game, as expected. Joeckel will miss several weeks after undergoing knee surgery during the team’s bye week.

Seattle also could play without cornerback Jeremy Lane. Lane is doubtful with a groin injury, although he was a full participant in Friday’s practice.

Defensive end Michael Bennett is questionable with a plantar fascia foot injury, but he said earlier this week he expects to play. He was a full participant in Friday’s practice.

Defensive end Marcus Smith (ankle), running back C.J. Prosise (ankle) and defensive tackle Nazair Jones (knee) also appear to have a chance to play despite being questionable. They also were full participants.

Safety Earl Thomas missed Friday’s walk-through for personal reasons but is expected to play.

Seahawks make it official, place Cliff Avril on IR

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The Seahawks made the move official Friday, placing defensive end Cliff Avril on injured reserve.

He continues to explore his medical options after injuring his neck during an Oct. 1 game against the Colts. He said earlier this week he is not considering retirement.

On injured reserve, Avril will miss at least the next eight games. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Thursday he didn’t know whether Avril would return this season.

The team did not make a corresponding roster move but could promote a player off its practice squad before Sunday.

Colts place Robert Turbin on IR

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Colts running back Robert Turbin suffered an elbow injury in the team’s loss to the Titans on Monday night and initial word out of Indy was that it would end Turbin’s season.

It looks like that will be the case. The Colts placed Turbin on injured reserve Friday.

Turbin, who joined the Colts last season, had 23 carries for 53 yards and nine catches for 56 yards this season. He also scored one touchdown.

The Colts promoted Josh Ferguson from the practice squad to fill the open roster spot. Ferguson played in all 16 games for the Colts last season, but failed to make the team out of training camp this year.

Rookie Marlon Mack is expected to see more action behind Frank Gore with Turbin out of the picture. The Colts also have Matt Jones on the roster along with Ferguson.

Mike Pouncey questionable after full practice Friday

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Dolphins center Mike Pouncey left last Sunday’s game with a concussion, but his chances of playing against the Jets this Sunday are looking pretty good.

Pouncey was listed as a full participant in practice on Friday, which shows he’s made good progress through the concussion protocol over the course of the week. The team stopped short of calling his presence in the lineup definite by listing him as questionable for the game, but the way things played out suggest he’s on the likely side of that listing.

Wide receiver DeVante Parker probably won’t be joining him. Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said on Thursday that Parker would need to make a Lazarus-like return in order to face the Jets because of the ankle injury and Friday showed no signs of biblical intervention as Parker remained out of practice.

Given the Lazarus comparison, doubtful seems like something of an understatement but that’s the listing that Parker got on Miami’s final injury report of the week.

NFL asks court for Ezekiel Elliott’s injunction hearing next week

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The NFL wants Ezekiel Elliott off the field, and ASAP. The league filed a motion to expedite the injunction hearing in the Southern District of New York before the Cowboys’ game against Washington on Oct. 29, according to Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News.

As it stands now, the injunction hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. ET on Oct. 30. That would allow the Cowboys star running back to play not only this week against the 49ers but next week, too.

A U.S. district judge in New York granted Elliott a temporary restraining order Tuesday night, again blocking the NFL’s six-game suspension of Elliott. On Oct. 12, a federal appeals court allowed the NFL to start enforcing the suspension immediately, but that lasted only four days.

The sides head back to court in the coming days to continue their fight.

In the meantime, Elliott will play in his sixth game Sunday. The league suspended him six games Aug. 11.

Anthony Barr: “I don’t play dirty”

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Much has been written and said this week about the hit that led to the fracture of the clavicle of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Linebacker Anthony Barr, now cleared from his concussion and able to talk to reporters, defended his actions on Friday when talking to reporters.

“I don’t play dirty,” Barr said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We don’t preach that around here. It’s unfortunate, the injury. I hate to see anybody get hurt.”

So why are people calling it a dirty hit?

“I think it’s a dirty play in some people’s eyes because of the injury. I think if he gets up we’re not having this conversation,” Barr said.

Barr is right. The hit was neither illegal, nor dirty. Rodgers had exited the pocket, and he chose to try to make a throw on the run with Barr closing in. Rodgers could have thrown it away the instant he saw Barr accelerate toward him. Rodgers could have hit the gas and run out of bounds. He could have slid or simply taken a dive.

Instead, he waited for tight end Martellus Bennett to break open a bit more before floating the ball in his direction, knowing full well that Barr was closing in, and that Rodgers was going to absorb a hit.

Rodgers may have underestimated the force of the hit. He surely assumed he wouldn’t hit the ground in a way that would break his collarbone. Regardless, there was nothing about the Barr hit that suggested driving him into the ground, hitting him unnecessarily late, or otherwise giving him the business.

If the NFL decides to change the rules to make roughing the passer the same as roughing the kicker, then it would be a different issue. Until there’s a rule that says quarterbacks out of the pocket can’t be touched if the ball is away, there will be nothing dirty about the hit that Barr applied to Rodgers.

Still, Barr understands the criticism — because if it had happened to a Vikings quarterback, Barr would be doing the criticizing.

“I think if it happened to my quarterback I probably would say it was illegal and the same thing just because you’re trying to defend your guy and you don’t want to see your player get injured,” Barr said, adding that he respects the opinion of Packers coach Mike McCarthy that the hit crossed the line.

The hit didn’t cross the line. It’s unfortunate that Rodgers was injured, but he took a calculated risk to willingly absorb a hit after throwing the ball, in order to give his intended receiver a little more time to not only catch the ball but also to run with it.

Adam Jones doubtful to face Steelers

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Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown didn’t have much success against the Bengals last season as he caught seven passes for 97 yards in two matchups with Cincinnati.

The Bengals had cornerback Adam Jones in the lineup for each of those games, but it looks like they will be going without him when the Bengals take on the Steelers this Sunday. Jones has been listed as doubtful with a back injury that kept him from practicing each of the last two days.

That could turn out to be a good thing for Brown, who heads into the game as the league’s leader in both receptions and receiving yards. The Steelers also have running back Le'Veon Bell coming off a big game against a Bengals defense that had two strong outings before taking a bye last week.

Cincinnati listed rookie wide receiver John Ross as questionable with a knee injury, but he practiced every day this week and may be ready for his second appearance of the season as a result. If that can help the Bengals put some points on the board, any missing defensive pieces may not loom quite as large.

DeMarcus Lawrence can expect big pay day with big season

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With at least one sack in all five games this season, Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence was asked about how big of a disappointment it would be to finish a game without one.

The expression on Lawrence’s face gave the answer before he did. “It ain’t happening,” he added for clarity.

Lawrence has a league-leading and career-best 8.5 sacks so far this season, so at least 11 more would rank him among the team’s best single-season sack leaders. Although sacks didn’t become an official NFL statistic until 1982, the Cowboys still recognize the 23 sacks Harvey Martin had in 1977 as their team record. DeMarcus Ware had 20 in 2008 and 19.5 in 2011.

It also almost certainly guarantees Lawrence a big pay day.

Lawrence, a second-round pick in 2014, is scheduled to become a free agent after this season. The Cowboys could lock him up to a long-term deal before then or tag him, but they aren’t likely to let him leave.

Dallas has not had a defensive end with double-digit sacks since Ware, though defensive tackle Jason Hatcher had 11 in 2013.

Lawrence said he would “love to be a Cowboy for the rest of my life.”

“We’ll talk about that when the time comes,” Lawrence said. “I’m just going to keep racking up my numbers, and we’ve just got to get the job done as a team. If the team wins, we all win. That’s the main thing.”

Tyler Eifert not worried about his playing future

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Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert is recovering from his third back surgery and will end this year having missed 41 of a possible 80 games over the course of his NFL career.

That injury history might give some players second thoughts about continuing to play in the future. That’s not the case for Eifert, however.

“No, I’m not [considering retirement],” Eifert said Friday, via ESPN.com. “Doc said I’ll be recovered to 100 percent, so I was happy to hear that.”

While injuries haven’t caused Eifert to reconsider playing, they will have an impact on his future. The tight end will head into 2018 without a contract and it’s hard to imagine anyone committing much to a player who hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Eifert said that his immediate concern is getting well enough to play under the terms of any deal.

“It’s so far away for me right now. I’m just trying to get healthy,” Eifert said. “I’ll do whatever’s best. Just tell me where to play and when.”

Eifert’s past success is the reason some might hope that he can put it together in future, but the injuries loom much larger in the overall picture of his NFL career.

DeMarco Murray does limited work, questionable for Sunday

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After missing the last two days of practice because of another hamstring injury, getting any amount of work out of running back DeMarco Murray was good news for the Titans.

But they’re still not sure he’s going to be ready to go Sunday.

Via Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website, Murray was limited in practice Friday, and will be listed as questionable for this week’s game against the Browns.

It’s very frustrating, but I have to take it one day at a time,” Murray said. “No matter what the situation is, if it’s something I can play through or fight through I am going to try and do it, and worry about the aftermath when it is done, no matter what the repercussions may be.

“We’ll see how I feel. I’m going to get a good warmup in before the game and see how I feel and then make a decision from there.”

The Titans have had a good blend at the position with Murray and Derrick Henry sharing the load, but might have to adjust that plan, especially with a bye week upcoming.

Also Friday, tight end Delanie Walker didn’t practice because of a calf injury, and he’s listed as questionable as well. Wide receiver Corey Davis and safety Johnathan Cyprien are already ruled out because of hamstring injuries.

Officials shouldn’t “let them play” late in game, if they’re committing fouls

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There’s a common misconception in sports like football and basketball that, late in games, officials swallow the whistle and/or bury the flag. Some players and coaches factor that thinking in to their approach to late-game scenarios.

The Chiefs may have done that last night, to their chagrin.

Why should the rules that apply for the first 58 minutes of a game not apply in the last two? (Except for the rules that specifically apply to the last two minutes of a game, of course.) It shows courage and cajones to throw a flag that could ultimately decide a game in the moments that a game is being ultimately decided.

Last night, the officials were willing to do it on three straight plays — one that wiped off a touchdown, one that gave the Raiders a first untimed down, and one that gave them the untimed down that resulted in the game-winning touchdown. Good for the officials to be willing to do it.

Quibble if you will with the rulings, especially on the two calls against the Chiefs. But if officials aren’t going to keep players honest when the game is on the line, the players eventually will pounce, grabbing and tugging and pulling and generally doing things aimed at keeping receivers from getting open that would draw a flag under normal circumstances.

 

Vikings confirm it’s Case Keenum again this week

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The main focus around the Vikings quarterbacks this week was Teddy Bridgewater‘s return to practice 14 months after the severe knee injury that wiped out his 2016 season and called his playing future into doubt.

Bridgewater’s appearance on the field relegated the issue of who would be starting at quarterback into the background, although there wasn’t actually much suspense on that front. Sam Bradford‘s brief return to action against the Bears in Week Five left him back on the shelf with a knee injury and he didn’t join Bridgewater on the practice field.

So it comes as no surprise whatsoever that the Vikings announced on Friday that Case Keenum will be starting against the Ravens. It will be Keenum’s fifth start of the year.

Coach Mike Zimmer said Friday that he believes Bradford will play again this year, although there’s been no hint of a timeline for when that might happen or what the depth chart will look like if Bridgewater’s practice work goes well over the next couple of weeks.