Sterling Shepard back at practice for Giants

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The Giants may be a little deeper at wide receiver than they were in last Sunday’s victory over the Broncos.

Shepard sprained his ankle in the team’s Week Five loss to the Chargers that also saw Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris depart with what turned out to be season-ending injuries. He missed the Broncos game, but multiple reports from Giants practice on Wednesday say that he was back on the field.

The Giants completed two passes to wide receivers against Denver as their offensive plan focused on running the ball and throwing to tight end Evan Engram. Shepard’s return would give them another option against the Seahawks this week.

Center Weston Richburg remained out of practice with the concussion that’s kept him on the sideline for the last two games and cornerback Eli Apple missed the session for a personal matter.

Mike Tomlin: Martavis Bryant hasn’t said anything about being unhappy

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Amid talk that Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant is unhappy and wants to be traded, coach Mike Tomlin says he hasn’t seen it.

Asked if Bryant has expressed anything about being unhappy in Pittsburgh, Tomlin answered, “He hasn’t.”

Tomlin said he and Bryant speak regularly and he thinks Bryant was as happy as anyone to get a big win over the Chiefs on Sunday.

“I’ve had good, fluid communication with Martavis throughout this process, like I have with all of the other players,” Tomlin said. “He was a big contributor to our efforts on Sunday. He was excited like everyone else. I don’t know where these reports come from. Sometimes they come from family members or people close to them, sometime they might come from agents. I don’t judge him or my relationship with him based on things said by others. He appears to be happy and focused, so it’s a non-issue for us.”

Bryant’s own girlfriend appeared to confirm that he was unhappy in Pittsburgh, so it seems hard to believe that the report he wanted out materialized out of thin air. But whatever the issues have been, both Bryant and Tomlin have now said they want to stay together in Pittsburgh. It appears Bryant isn’t going anywhere.

Chiefs rule out three for Thursday night

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The Chiefs have turned in their final injury report ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Raiders and three players have been ruled out.

Running back Charcandrick West will not play after suffering a concussion in last Sunday’s 19-13 loss to the Steelers. He’ll have an extended stretch to clear the concussion protocol before the Chiefs face the Broncos on Monday night in Week Eight. C.J. Spiller was signed to the 53-man roster this week to bolster the backfield in West’s absence.

The Chiefs have also ruled out center Mitch Morse and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Both players have missed multiple games, but were practicing this week so they may also be able to get back for the Broncos.

Wide receiver Albert Wilson is questionable after missing the Steelers game with a knee injury.

Ravens’ passing attack sputters under Mornhinweg, Flacco

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When the Ravens added Greg Roman to the coaching staff, he was described by some (maybe us; I can’t recall) as the team’s next future interim offensive coordinator. The future soon could be the present, if coach John Harbaugh decides yet again to make a change.

Despite his recent support for current offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Harbaugh has to be concerned by the bottom line for the offense in the bottom-line business that is the NFL.

As noted recently by Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, the Ravens currently average 159.7 passing yards per game, down sharply from last year’s full-season average of 256.3 yards per game. That’s a decline of nearly 100 yards per game.

The last time teams experienced such a drop, via Hensley, came in 2011, when the Colts were adjusting to life without Peyton Manning and the Broncos were adjusting to life with Tim Tebow.

Mornhinweg isn’t the only problem. Quarterback Joe Flacco has a career-low passer rating of 66.1. Deep throws specifically have been an issue; Flacco has completed only five of 23 passes that traveled at least 15 yards in the air.

There’s not much the Ravens can do with Flacco, who parlayed a Super Bowl win into a market-level contract that had a three-year trigger into, eventually, a market-level restructuring. As of next year, cutting or trading Flacco would cause $28.475 million to hit the cap. And while keeping him costs only $12 million in case, his cap number will be $24.75 million.

So the Ravens have no option but to stick with Flacco, at least through 2018. After that, they could move on for a total cap charge of $16 million, and that could be split between two years.

However it plays out, his career is beginning to feel as played out as the “is Flacco elite?” joke.

Mike Zimmer: We don’t know what Teddy Bridgewater’s return will lead to

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Wednesday is a big day for Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

He’s practicing for the first time since injuring his knee 14 months ago, which starts the clock on a three-week window to add him to the active roster. That’s an exciting development for Bridgewater, but coach Mike Zimmer wants to “put the brakes” on anyone getting ahead of themselves when it comes what will happen with the quarterback.

“We still don’t know where that’s going to go, what’s that going to lead to,” Zimmer said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.

While Bridgewater tries to round himself back into form, the Vikings have Case Keenum, Sam Bradford and Kyle Sloter at quarterback. Bradford did not play against the Packers last Sunday due to a knee injury and Zimmer said he’s feeling better, but didn’t say whether he will practice this week. That doesn’t provide much reason to think his chances of playing are any better than Bridgewater’s when the Ravens come to town on Sunday.

Jerry Jones didn’t try to dominate Tuesday’s meeting

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had become, whether deliberately or not, a lightning rod in the anthem controversy. From his efforts to dominate past ownership meetings to his stand-for-the-anthem mandate to multiple public comments that served only to inflame the situation, Jones was regarded as someone who could end up trying to recruit other owners to change the current policy and require players to stand.

Those fears were ultimately unfounded. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Jones didn’t try to dominate the session among owners that followed the meeting between roughly a third of the owners and multiple players.

In the end, no change to the policy was proposed or adopted. Standing remains optional, and players technically can’t be punished for kneeling or sitting during the anthem.

As of last Tuesday, that seemed like an unlikely outcome. Between Jones and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, signs were emerging that owners were becoming exasperated with the situation and wanted to solve it.

It’s still not solved, which means that not solving it may be the solution, at least for now. The hope seems to be that, over time, players will become sufficiently impressed by the league’s efforts to promote the underlying causes to choose to stand for the anthem.

Falcons IR linebacker LaRoy Reynolds begins practicing again

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As the Falcons get healthier, they’re taking a look to see if one of their guys on injured reserve can come back.

Via the team’s official website, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds is returning to practice this week. He was put on IR with a chest injury in September, and when he returns to practice, he opens a two-week window to be activated.

He could return in Week Nine against the Panthers if they decided to activate hi,.

He played in every game last year, with his primary role on special teams. He’s also played for the Jaguars and Bears.

The Falcons are also getting wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw back on the field after multi-week injuries, which could only help as they try to snap a two-game losing streak Sunday night against the Patriots.

Browns promote Cody Kessler to second string, demote Kevin Hogan to third string

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The Browns have made DeShone Kizer their starting quarterback again after a one-week benching in favor of Kevin Hogan. But if Kizer loses his job again, it won’t be Hogan who replaces him.

Cody Kessler has been promoted to second string in Cleveland, and Hogan has been demoted all the way down to third string, according to Adam Schefter and Field Yates of ESPN.

The move isn’t a huge surprise, considering that Hogan looked worse in Sunday’s loss to the Texans than Kessler looked when he was starting for the Browns last year. But it will fuel continued discussions of whether the Browns know what they’re doing at the quarterback position, as they almost seem to be arranging their depth chart by drawing names out of a hat.

Recent Browns history suggests that it’s unlikely Kizer will keep the starting job for the rest of the season. So there’s a good chance that Kessler will be under center at some point in 2017.

Report: Jonathan Allen to miss rest of season

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Word from coach Jay Gruden early this week was that Redskins rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen would hopefully miss three or four weeks after suffering a Lisfranc injury in his foot during last Sunday’s victory over the 49ers.

Allen’s absence from the lineup is apparently going to be a lot longer than that, however. John Keim of ESPN.com was the first to report on Wednesday that Allen is expected to miss the remainder of the season because of the injury.

Allen was the 17th overall pick of the draft this year, which was lower than many had projected. Shoulder problems while at Alabama may have contributed to that drop, but they haven’t been in evidence during his time in Washington.

Allen started all five games this season and had 10 tackles and a sack in those appearances. Terrell McClain, Ziggy Hood, Stacy McGee and Matt Ioannidis have been the other players to see time on the defensive line this season.

Report: 2018 NFL Draft is heading to Dallas

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The NFL has managed to turn the draft into a road show.

So it stands to reason that the league’s showman-king wants in on the action.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the league is sending the 2018 NFL Draft to Dallas (technically Arlington), where the Cowboys will host at AT&T Stadium.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made his interest in hosting the event known early on, and it seemed like an obvious fit for a thing that keeps growing, a show that has long since overtaken the substance of what’s happening on the stage.

This year’s draft was in Philadelphia, after a two-year run in Chicago.

Jaguars say no practice for Leonard Fournette

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Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette gave everyone a good scare when he left last Sunday’s game against the Rams after his leg gave out when he was trying to change direction while running with the ball, but his reaction after the game quieted nerves.

Fournette said after the game that he was fine after twisting his ankle and indications were that he could have returned to the game had the opportunity presented itself. The Jaguars appear to be doing what they can to ensure the ankle won’t be a problem for a player who has touched the ball on nearly 38 percent of their offensive plays.

The team announced on Wednesday morning that Fournette is not expected to practice when the team gets on the field for the first time to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Colts. We’ll see if they remain cautious with Fournette over the rest of the week.

Wide receiver Marqise Lee and center Brandon Linder are the other players the Jaguars don’t expect to have at practice. Linder has missed the last two games with an illness while Lee is listed with a knee injury.

On “fairness,” NFL can’t have it both ways

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Tuesday became a significant day for the NFL, for multiple reasons. In the morning in New York City, some of the NFL’s owners met with players so that owners could convince players that owners care about fairness in society. Later that same day, and also in New York City, some of the NFL’s lawyers marched into court and argued that the NFL’s owners are not bound by fairness when disciplining players.

The unintended nature of the irony makes it even more glaring. The owners are committed to fairness for all when it comes to persuading all players to stand for the anthem. The owners are committed to fairness for none when it comes to suspending any players for as long as the NFL decides to suspend them for.

How could any NFL player find this dichotomy anything but troubling? Fairness isn’t a part-time proposition. People are either fair, or they’re not. They’re either committed to fair processes and procedures, or they believe in maintaining a results-driven, P.R.-motivated kangaroo court.

The NFL, as it relates to the disciplinary procedures that resulted in the six-game suspension imposed on Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, believes that fundamental fairness is not required. That’s the league’s threshold, silver-bullet position, which it believes (or, perhaps more accurately, believed) flows from the ultimate outcome in the Tom Brady case. The federal judge that issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday evening described the NFL’s interpretation of the Brady precedent as “quite wrong.”

He meant “wrong” as in “inaccurate.” It’s also “wrong” as in “not right.” The NFL should be committed to fairness in all things that it does, and the mere argument that it’s not required to be fair confirms that, from time to time, it isn’t fair.

It should be fair, at all times. To Elliott. To Brady. To the Patriots in #Deflategate. To the Saints in the bounty scandal. To the Chiefs when taking away draft picks for talking directly to a player who is about to become a free agent. To Washington and Dallas when they dared treat the uncapped year as uncapped.

Most importantly, every player should be able to go about his job — which entails taking significant physical risks on a regular basis — without worrying about the possibility of: (1) becoming the subject of potentially false allegations; (2) being branded guilty by the league office without sufficient proof of guilt; and (3) having no way to effectively proof his innocence due to the NFL’s failure to use fair procedures when giving the player and his lawyers access to information and witnesses.

It’s that simple. While the NFLPA agreed to allow the NFL to control the disciplinary process regarding matters of off-field misconduct, the NFLPA most definitely didn’t agree to allow the NFL to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, however it wants, without the player getting a fair and reasonable chance to defend himself. So if the National Football League won’t voluntarily provide basic fairness to its players, it’s on the American justice system to do it.

And if the American justice system isn’t ultimately committed to fairness, then we need to come up with a different word than “justice” to describe it.

Browns have changed quarterbacks 20 times in last 43 games

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Breaking news: The Browns can’t find a quarterback.

Today’s announcement that Cleveland will go back to DeShone Kizer after a one-week experiment with Kevin Hogan means the Browns have now changed quarterbacks 20 times in their last 43 games.

Those 20 changes have involved nine different quarterbacks. Here’s the full list of Browns starters going back to the 13th game of the 2014 season:

Brian Hoyer for Game 13 of 2014
Johnny Manziel for Games 14 and 15 of 2014
Connor Shaw for Game 16 of 2014
Josh McCown for Game 1 of 2015
Johnny Manziel for Game 2 of 2015
Josh McCown for Games 3-8 of 2015
Johnny Manziel for Games 9 and 10 of 2015
Austin Davis for Game 11 of 2015
Josh McCown for Game 12 of 2015
Johnny Manziel for Games 13-15 of 2015
Austin Davis for Game 16 of 2015
Robert Griffin III for Game 1 of 2016
Josh McCown for Game 2 of 2016
Cody Kessler for Games 3-7 of 2016
Josh McCown for Game 8 of 2016
Cody Kessler for Games 9-11 of 2016
Josh McCown for Game 12 of 2016
Robert Griffin III for Games 13-16 of 2016
DeShone Kizer for Games 1-5 of 2017
Kevin Hogan for Game 6 of 2017
DeShone Kizer for Game 7 of 2017

The Browns are changing quarterbacks, on average, almost every other week. We’ll see how long Kizer’s second stint lasts.

Broncos promote wide receiver Hunter Sharp from practice squad

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The Broncos were down to three healthy wide receivers by the end of last Sunday night’s loss to the Giants, so it’s no surprise that they have opted to add to that number ahead of this weekend’s game against the Chargers.

Wide receiver Hunter Sharp tweeted on Wednesday morning that he is “officially active.”

Sharp signed with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent and was among the final cuts the team made in September. He had six catches for 92 yards and a touchdown during the preseason.

Sharp’s arrival fills one of the two roster spots the Broncos opened on Tuesday by releasing defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin and placing offensive lineman Billy Turner on injured reserve. The other could also go to a wideout as the Broncos will be without both Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie for at least this Sunday’s game due to ankle injuries.

Report: DeShone Kizer to be reinstated as Browns starter today

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Last week, the Browns benched rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer. This week, he’s back.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says via Twitter that she expects Kizer to be reinstated today as QB1, and that they’ll “ride with him as long as possible.”

It’s unclear what Kizer did or Kevin Hogan didn’t do to get the job back. But the idea that Kizer was yanked to the bench for only one game underscores the perception (reality) that the Browns wanted to avoid an apples-to-apples, DeShone vs. Deshaun showdown in Houston.

Why else would Kizer be benched for only one game? The one game that provided a stark reminder of how the Browns blew it by passing on Deshaun and taking DeShone.

Of course, the Browns are taking plenty of heat for passing on Deshaun this year and Carson Wentz last year — regardless of whether DeShone played in the game that the Browns lost to Deshaun.