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Report: Andrew Luck threw yesterday, no shoulder damage

Andrew Luck AP

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is questionable for today with a shoulder injury, but the news this morning is encouraging.

Luck was able to throw on Saturday in a session with only the Colts’ coaching staff present, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. The Colts’ medical staff also did tests on Luck’s shoulder and found no structural damage. Luck wants to play.

If Luck can’t go today, the Colts would start Matt Hasselbeck and use the recently signed Josh Johnson as the backup. The decision to sign Johnson this week suggests that there’s a real chance that Luck won’t be able to go.

But his ability to throw yesterday is a reason for optimism. We’ll know for sure in four hours when we see if Luck’s name is on the inactive list for the Jaguars-Colts game.

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Ugly loss could indeed doom Philbin

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Last year, a blowout loss to the Dolphins in London got Raiders coach Dennis Allen fired. This year, if the Dolphins are on the other end of a similar outcome against the Jets in the same English stadium, Miami coach Joe Philbin could indeed be gone.

As Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported earlier on Saturday, a blowout loss by the Dolphins to the Jets will indeed put Philbin’s job in grave danger. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, owner Stephen Ross’ high regard for Philbin could give him the benefit of the doubt. However, an ugly, embarrassing loss to the Jets could indeed spark a change.

For now, the Dolphins are focused on securing a victory over the Jets, which would make any talk of Philbin being fired moot — and which possibly would ensure that he’d finish out the season.

Also working in Philbin’s favor could be the absence of a clear in-house candidate to take over on an interim basis. Last year in Oakland, former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano was on Allen’s staff. Philbin has no assistant with head-coaching experience, and the two most obvious choices — offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle — arguably are as much a part of the problem as Philbin.

For now, the Dolphins haven’t crossed that bridge. In large part because they may not have to. With Jets-Dolphins kicking off at 9:30 a.m. ET, everyone will have a better feel for the situation by the time the 1:00 p.m. ET games begin.

If the Dolphins slide to 1-3 by getting tossed around in London like the Bills tossed them around in Miami, Ross will at least be tempted to do something. Whatever he chooses, Ross needs to realize that those four home games in the final five weeks of the season could be very sparsely attended if the Dolphins aren’t competing for a playoff berth.

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Pete Carroll calls Marshawn Lynch a game-time decision

Pete Carroll AP

Officially, Marshawn Lynch is questionable for Monday night’s game against the Lions with a hamstring injury. Unofficially, he’s 40-60 to play. As a practical matter, Lynch’s availability will be determined not long before kickoff.

“We won’t know all the way until game time,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Saturday.

Lynch hasn’t practiced this week, but Carroll seemed to suggest that this wouldn’t keep Lynch from playing.

“We would go with him if he can make it, if he can pop out of it, then we would go with him,” Carroll said. “Just based on that he’s had other weeks when he wasn’t able to practice and played very well. But we’ll have to wait and see.”

They won’t have to wait and see regarding the outcome of the MRI on Lynch’s hamstring. Actually, it sounds like Lynch has had multiple MRIs on the hamstring, even though he wasn’t listed as having a hamstring injury before the Week Three game against the Bears.

“He’s had one last week and nothing showed up, and then after the game he aggravated his hamstring in a different area than anything that he had felt the week before,” Carroll said. “It happened on that play when he caught the ball on fourth down. So we checked it out and there were some findings. So he’s been working hard at trying to get back, he’s done a really diligent job of rehab, and so we’ll see what happens.”

So it sounds like Lynch has had a hamstring problem for more than a week, that the Seahawks hadn’t disclosed it before the Bears game, and that the MRI conducted after the Bears game revealed damage of some sort.

So, basically, there’s a good chance it will be the Fred Jackson and Thomas Rawls show on Monday night.

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Harbaugh: Ravens have ruled out Steve Smith for Week Five

Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh AP

Earlier on Saturday, the Ravens described receiver Steve Smith as “week to week.” Later in the day, coach John Harbaugh ruled Smith out for Week Five.

“I think he’s gonna be OK in the long run,” Harbaugh told CSN Mid-Atlantic from the Michigan-Maryland game. “He’s got some small microfractures in his back from what I’ve been told. They’ve ruled him out for the Cleveland game, but after that I think we’ve got some hope that he’s gonna be back.”

That’s a lot more information than the team released, and it provides some short-term clarity as to Smith’s situation. Specifically, he won’t be playing against the Browns in Week Five.

Harbaugh also called the breaks in the back “microfractures,” which sounds less ominous than the reports that previously surfaced. Still, a fracture is a fracture and Smith has plural — fractures — so it’s no surprise he’ll miss at least one game.

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Needing a lineman, Chargers dump running back Donald Brown

Donald Brown, Kenneth Acker AP

The Donald Brown experiment has ended in San Diego. To not really much of a surprise.

The 2009 first-round pick of the Colts, who did enough in his contract year of 2013 to merit a three-year, $10 million deal in free agency (with $4 million guaranteed) was cut by the Chargers on Saturday in order to create a roster spot for offensive lineman Michael Ola.

Brown had appeared in no games in 2015. Last year, he had 85 carries for 223 yards, an average of only 2.6 yards per attempt.

The former Connecticut tailback had largely been a disappointment early in his career, but he finally became moderately productive after Indy traded for Trent Richardson early in the 2013 season. Brown finished that year with 537 yards rushing on 102 carries, with eight total touchdowns.

He now becomes a free agent, able to sign with any other team.

Ola’s elevation comes prior to a game against the Browns that sees guard Orlando Franklin (ankle) out, tackle King Dunlap (concussion) and center Chris Watt doubtful, and guard D.J. Fluker (ankle, chest) questionable.

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Unofficially, Marshawn Lynch is 40-60 to play

Denver Broncos v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

On Saturday, the Seahawks will issue their final injury report in advance of Monday night’s game against the Lions. Running back Marshawn Lynch likely will be listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, which will mean there’s a 50-50 chance he plays.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the current estimate is that Lynch’s chances of playing are more like 40-60.

Because the NFL has only three categories that range from virtually certain (probable) to 50-50 (questionable) to 25-75 (doubtful), there’s no way to accurately reflect other percentages.

If there’s any doubt about Lynch’s availability, it could make the most sense to go with Fred Jackson and Thomas Rawls, especially since Rawls, an undrafted rookie from Central Michigan, rushed for 104 yards on 16 carries last week against the Bears.

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Steelers change kickers: Josh Scobee out, Chris Boswell in

Senior Bowl Getty Images

After two missed field goals in the fourth quarter led to an overtime loss on Thursday night, the Steelers are making a change at kicker.

Chris Boswell tried out for the Steelers and will sign, Adam Caplan of ESPN reports. That means Josh Scobee, who has gone just 3-for-7 on field goals beyond 40 yards this season, is on the way out.

The Steelers have had a tough time finding a kicker who can last this year. Kickers Shaun Suisham and Garrett Hartley are both on injured reserve.

After going undrafted out of Rice last year, Boswell spent time under contract to both the Texans and Giants but has never played in a regular-season game. The Steelers have to hope he’s ready to go, and to kick well. Or at least kick better than Scobee.

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Report: A blowout loss Sunday could cost Philbin his job

Joe Philbin, Tony Steratore AP

As PFT noted this week, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is on very thin ice. Now a new report out of Miami indicates that Philbin could lose his job as soon as Monday.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports that if the Jets blow out the Dolphins on Sunday in London, Philbin’s job will be in jeopardy during the bye week, which starts Monday.

An NFL team firing its coach during a Week Five bye after a Week Four loss in London would not be unprecedented: That’s exactly what the Raiders did last year, when they fired Dennis Allen after a loss to the Dolphins in London. Perhaps Dolphins owner Stephen Ross saw that move, and sees now that the Raiders appear to be heading in the right direction, and thinks his team should do the same.

At 1-2, the Dolphins still have plenty of time to turn their season around. But if they look as bad tomorrow against the Jets as they did in last week’s 41-14 loss to the Bills, it would be hard to see the Dolphins as anything other than a last-place team in the AFC East. And if the Dolphins are doomed to a last-place finish in the AFC East, it’s hard to justify Philbin keeping his job.

Ross isn’t saying anything publicly about his plans, but he can’t be happy with what he’s seen from his team in the last two weeks. If Ross isn’t happy with what he sees on Sunday, that could cost Philbin his job on Monday.

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Ravens call Steve Smith “week-to-week” with a back injury

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

In response to a report that Ravens receiver Steve Smith has four broken bones in his back and another report that those four broken bones are ribs, the Ravens have provided information beyond the confines of their weekly injury reporting obligations.

“While the Ravens do not give specifics about injuries out of respect to the men on our team and HIPAA laws, we want to dispel rumors and stories currently being reported about Steve Smith Sr.’s injury,” Ravens spokesman Kevin Byrne said in a statement. “He does have a back injury. It is not a surgical issue. His status is currently week-to-week.”

It’s unclear why the Ravens opted to say anything about Smith’s situation; uncertainty and misinformation only keeps opponents guessing. The Ravens had no obligation to disclose any information about Smith until Wednesday, and the only requirement at that point would have been to say whether and to what extent he practices, with a label applied to his injured body part.

The reference to HIPAA seems a bit unusual; the entire injury-reporting function necessarily violates the privacy rights of players. Of course, some players welcome the disclosure of information about their injuries, since it can provide an explanation for poor performance. With some teams, the no-comment mandate given to players by the coaching staff creates tension, if players are being criticized for poor performance without anyone knowing that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weakened.

With Smith, the spirit is always willing. Any injury that would be bad enough to keep him off the field in his final NFL season must be pretty bad. Otherwise, he’d ice up and suit up and then proceed to mess someone up.

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London solution could be a team that splits its home schedule

1-concorde-get Getty Images

Prior to 1995, the Packers split their home games between stadiums in Green Bay and Milwaukee. Eventually, another team could be doing that — with the two venues a lot farther apart.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the London solution could entail a team dividing its games between an American location and England.

That possibility arises in large part from the biggest logistical hurdle associated with moving a team to London: Staging a postseason game there.

“The easiest example to think about in terms of a problem that I’m not sure we have a solution for is a playoff game — maybe a West Coast team has to play a playoff game in London,” an owner told Breer. “There are things like that that I don’t know if we have the answer to yet. That’s why I’m hesitant to talk very much about a relocation.”

This time of year, when the NFL returns to London for its annual series of games there, few are hesitant to talk about relocation, since it continues to be a vague carrot, perpetually dangling at some point far enough in the distance to be impossible to grab but close enough to seem plausible and capture the imagination of UK residents.

One key factor is travel time, which as Breer notes has resulted in a group of NFL executives meeting Friday with Virgin Airlines in an effort to figure out when and if the days of Concorde-style speed ever will return.

Even if the travel can be shortened, plenty of hurdles remain when it comes to assigning a team on a full-time basis to London. And anything the NFL does to balance out the competitive disadvantage will be viewed as a competitive advantage, if/when that team becomes a consistent contender or champion.

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Jerry Jones says Cowboys have big receiving threats, beyond Dez

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Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones says the roster he built has a lot more good receiving threats than just Dez Bryant.

In an interview on 105.3 The Fan, Jones said receiver Terrance Williams, who may be the No. 1 target with Bryant out, compares to Hall of Fame Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin in the way he competes. And Jones wants to see Williams get plenty of targets in the coming weeks.

“I know how driven he is,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News.I know Michael Irvin, and [Williams] is Michael Irvin-driven. He’s Michael Irvin-work ethic. He can really compete. I expect him to compete. I know what was bothering him, that he didn’t feel like he got a chance or didn’t compete. I think we should expect to see him get some balls. He knows how to compete.”

Jones also said he wants to see more balls thrown to tight end Gavin Escobar.

“Escobar does it differently, but he’s got a huge [catch] radius, which means a wide way to throw it,” Jones said. “Escobar, at 6-7, with a significant leaping ability and those arms should be able to contest balls right and left. That answers your question right there. He’s certainly got the speed to get in the routes, so yes, I’ve always thought the real best answer for not having Dez out there is a combination of things, but included Escobar.”

In Sunday’s loss to the Falcons, Escobar and Williams combined for zero catches. Jones wants to see that change.

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Ryan Kerrigan off to slow start after signing big contract

Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Hoyer AP

Washington pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan got a $16 million signing bonus as part of a five-year, $57.5 million contract this offseason, which makes the start to his season disappointing.

Kerrigan, who had 13.5 sacks last year, has just half a sack this year. He acknowledged that he feels it’s particularly important to him to play well this year to prove he’s worth the money he’s making.

“Absolutely,” Kerrigan said, via ESPN. “That’s a lot of personal pride. I got that big contract and I want to show I’m worthy of it. Of course you want to justify it, but it’s not something like I wake up every day and say I’ve got to [justify] it.”

Kerrigan does think he’s putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but he’s being paid the big bucks to sack the quarterback.

“I’ve been close a number of times, but close doesn’t cut it,” Kerrigan said. “I have to win my one-on-ones more and win them quicker. I’ve been close a lot of times, but I have to win it quicker and make things happen quicker.”

On Sunday Kerrigan will try to put pressure on Philadelphia quarterback Sam Bradford, who has been sacked just twice while throwing 117 passes this season.

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Officially, Drew Brees is virtually certain to play

Drew Brees, Henry Melton AP

On Friday, Saints coach Sean Payton said that the plan for Sunday night was to start Drew Brees at quarterback. Later in the day, the Saints made it official.

By listing Brees as probable with a right shoulder injury, the Saints have declared that Brees is a virtual certainty to be available for normal duty.

Some still believe that “probable” means that a player is only 75-percent likely to play. It doesn’t. While “questionable” means 50-50 and “doubtful” pegs the percentage at 25, “probable” is as close to 100 percent certain as a guy can be.

So look for Brees to suit up and play on Sunday night, as the Saints try to avoid falling to 0-4 and running their home losing streak to seven games.

It won’t be easy, even without quarterback Tony Romo playing for the Cowboys. But the Saints typically perform well in prime time at the Superdome, and this could be their last chance to keep pace with the Falcons and Panthers, both of whom could be 4-0 by the time the Saints game starts.

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Week Four injury report roundup

Andrew Luck AP

Over the course of the week, there are a lot of posts about the most prominent injured players but we know that you might not see all of them and that some others may fall through the cracks. As a result, we’ll comb through all the injury reports every Friday afternoon so that there’s one stop for all the news from every team playing on Sunday. So, without further delay, the injury report roundup for Week Four of the 2015 season.

Jets vs. Dolphins (in London)

The Jets will wait until Sunday to make a call on wide receiver Eric Decker (knee), but cornerback Darrelle Revis (knee) and running back Chris Ivory (groin) are both expected to play. Guard Willie Colon (knee) and tight end Jeff Cumberland (concussion) are both out. Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert (hamstring) is expected to miss the game after being listed as doubtful. Tight end Dion Sims (concussion) is out and it will be game-time decisions for tight end Jordan Cameron (groin) and running back Jonas Gray (calf).

Texans at Falcons

The Texans will reveal Sunday whether left tackle Duane Brown (hand) and running back Arian Foster (groin) make it back to the lineup. Quarterback Ryan Mallett (chest) is probable after three limited practices and safety Lonnie Ballentine (knee), linebacker Akeem Dent (hamstring) and running back Jonathan Grimes (knee) have all been ruled out. Safety Ricardo Allen (knee), running back Tevin Coleman (ribs), wide receiver Devin Hester (toe) and tight end Jacob Tamme (concussion) have been ruled out for Atlanta, but linebacker Brooks Reed (groin) is expected back in the lineup.

Giants at Bills

Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers (ankle) has a shot of returning to the lineup after getting a questionable tag. Defensive end Robert Ayers (hamstring), wide receiver Victor Cruz (calf), tight end Jerome Cunningham (knee) and defensive tackle Markus Kuhn (knee) have all been ruled out. The Bills have several players ruled out as well. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (ribs), running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring), guard John Miller (groin), wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) and safety Aaron Williams (neck) will all miss this weekend’s action.

Raiders at Bears

Oakland will go into Soldier Field without defensive end Benson Mayowa (knee), cornerback Keith McGill (foot) and defensive end C.J. Wilson (calf). Safety Charles Woodson (shoulder) is questionable. Tackle Jermon Bushrod (concussion, shoulder) has been ruled out by the Bears, who will wait to decide if quarterback Jay Cutler (hamstring) and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) will play.

Chiefs at Bengals

The Chiefs are in good shape after playing on Monday night. Wide receiver Albert Wilson (shoulder) is questionable and four players are probable. The Bengals have decent health as well. Safety George Iloka (ankle) is doubtful while defensive tackle Marcus Hardison (knee) and cornerback Adam Jones (elbow) are questionable.

Jaguars at Colts

Jacksonville continues to be banged up with wide receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring), guard Brandon Linder (shoulder), defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks (knee), running back Denard Robinson (knee) and tight end Julius Thomas (hand) all ruled out of the lineup. Safety Sergio Brown (calf) is doubtful to play, so the list will likely grow on Sunday. The Colts listed quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder) as questionable after a week of limited practices and the arrival of Josh Johnson on the roster. Tight end Dwayne Allen (ankle) is questionable after missing last week and cornerback Greg Toler (neck) remains out.

Panthers at Buccaneers

Linebacker Luke Kuechly (concussion) will miss his third straight game for the Panthers. Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (ankle), guard Amini Silatolu (ankle) and tackle Daryl Williams (knee) have also been ruled out, but running backs Jonathan Stewart (tibia) and Mike Tolbert (groin) are both probable to play. The Buccaneers didn’t rule out cornerback Johnthan Banks (knee), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder), center Evan Smith (ankle) or tight end Luke Stocker (hip), but all are doubtful to play. Running back Doug Martin (knee, quadricep) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (shoulder) are both questionable after practicing on Friday.

Eagles at Redskins

Linebacker Kiko Alonso (knee) was ruled out by the Eagles during the week and defensive linemen Taylor Hart (shoulder) and Cedric Thornton (hand) will join him on the sideline. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring), running back DeMarco Murray (hamstring) and left tackle Jason Peters (quad) are all questionable to play. The Redskins ruled out cornerback DeAngelo Hall (toe), wide receiver DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and linebacker Perry Riley (calf), but they hold out hope that cornerback Chris Culliver (knee, questionable) will be able to play.

Browns at Chargers

Cleveland ruled out defensive end Desmond Bryant (shoulder), linebacker Craig Robertson (ankle), linebacker Scott Solomon (ankle), running back Robert Turbin (ankle) and cornerback K’Waun Williams (concussion) on Friday. Safety Tashaun Gipson (groin) is questionable and cornerback Joe Haden (ribs, finger) is probable for Week Four. Guard Orlando Franklin (ankle) is out, tackle King Dunlap (concussion) and center Chris Watt are doubtful and guard D.J. Fluker (ankle, chest) is questionable, so the Chargers are going to be scrambling on the offensive line. Safety Jahleel Addae (ankle), wide receiver Jacoby Jones (ankle), cornerback Craig Mager (hamstring) and linebacker Tourek Williams (foot) are also out this week. Tight end Ladarius Green (concussion) and cornerback Jason Verrett (foot) have been listed as questionable.

Rams at Cardinals

Safety Maurice Alexander (groin) and defensive end Eugene Sims (knee) will miss the game for the Rams. Running back Chase Reynolds (knee, doubtful) is expected to join them. Running back Andre Ellington (knee) is questionable to return for the Cardinals, but wide receiver J.J. Nelson (shoulder) is out.

Vikings at Broncos

The Vikings will be without wide receiver Charles Johnson (ribs) and Jarius Wright (hand) may leave them even thinner at the position after being listed as questionable. Cornerback Jabari Price (shoulder), safety Andrew Sendejo (knee) and defensive end Justin Trattou (foot) have also been ruled out, but cornerback Xavier Rhodes (concussion) is expected to play. Rookie left tackle Ty Sambrailo (shoulder) is out for Denver and tight end James Casey (knee) and linebacker Todd Davis (ankle) are both questionable.

Packers at 49ers

The Packers will be without right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee) again this week, and cornerback Demetri Goodson (hamstring) and linebacker Jake Ryan (hamstring) are likely to join him after drawing doubtful tags. Wide receiver Davante Adams (ankle) and safety Morgan Burnett (calf) are both questionable. The 49ers aren’t expected to have tight end Vernon Davis (knee, doubtful), but don’t have other pressing injuries on the active roster.

Cowboys at Saints

The Cowboys will remain without defensive end Randy Gregory (ankle) again this week, but Jeremy Mincey (concussion) is expected back after missing last week’s game. Guard Ronald Leary (groin) is also expected back for Dallas. The Saints plan on starting quarterback Drew Brees (shoulder) and also listed safety Jairus Byrd (knee), linebacker Dannel Ellerbe (toe) and cornerback Keenan Lewis (hip) as probable. Guard Jahri Evans (knee) was ruled out for the second straight week.

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NFL confirms no fine for Mark Barron

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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn’t think the hit he took from Rams safety Mark Barron on Sunday was dirty. The NFL agreed.

The league office has confirmed that Barron will not be fined for the hit on Roethlisberger.

The NFL adopted rules protecting quarterbacks from getting hit in the knee after injuries suffered by Carson Palmer and Tom Brady. But Palmer and Brady had already thrown their passes when they were hit and injured their knees. Roethlisberger still had the ball when Barron hit him.

Maybe next offseason the NFL will expand the rules once again, to provide further protection to quarterbacks’ knees. But right now, the league office is OK with Barron’s hit on Roethlisberger.

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NFL investigated possibility Roethlisberger was using cell phone

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 01:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers uses his phone as he is up on the pdium during Super Bowl XLV Media Day ahead of Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 1, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV on February 6, 2011 at Cowboys Stadium.  (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots fans aren’t the only ones who noticed Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger using what appeared to be a cell phone device during Thursday night’s game against the Ravens. The NFL noticed, too. And the NFL looked into the situation.

Via Tom Curran of CSN New England, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said league operations employees took a photo of the thing Roethlisberger was handling.

The team and the league separately have told PFT it was a wristband with the team’s offensive plays on it. While still images have raised suspicions of cell phone use, the several seconds of CBS video (starting with 2:58 left in the second quarter) show an item that is curved and appears to be laminated on top.

In fairness to those who suspect foul play, Roethlisberger seems to be looking around after shoving the thing back in his sweatshirt, almost as if to see whether anyone saw what he had been doing. However, it seems clear at this point that he wasn’t using a phone in violation of league rules during a game.

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NFL considering a game in Germany or Mexico next year

San Francisco 49ers vs Arizona Cardinals - October 2, 2005 Getty Images

The NFL will continue to play multiple games in London every season, for many years to come. But London is not the only foreign market the NFL wants to capture.

Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that the NFL is considering the possibility of playing in Mexico or Germany in addition to three or four games in London in 2016.

If the game is in Mexico, it will be in Mexico City, where the NFL had a 2005 regular-season game that drew more than 100,000 fans. If the game is in Germany, where the league had a small but loyal fan base for the now-defunct NFL Europe, there are options of playing in Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt or Hamburg.

“We feel confident in what we’ve learned in the U.K. to where we can look at adding a game and applying the model into another market,” said Mark Waller, who is spearheading the league’s international efforts. “In the next few weeks, we’ll decide on adding an extra game, going somewhere else, or both. We feel good about the U.K., but the idea of moving forward with other countries is attractive, too.”

The NFL is already so popular in the United States that it’s hard to imagine it getting much bigger. If the league is going to continue to grow, it’s going to grow in other countries. And the league is committed to making that happen.

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Andrew Luck not at practice, Colts close to a rare substitution

355472 Getty Images

The Colts have been fortunate to know who was under center for them for most of the last two decades.

But it’s very uncertain at the moment who will be taking snaps for them Sunday.

Via Mike Chappell of, Andrew Luck was not out with the other quarterbacks at the start of practice Friday. He was limited both Wednesday and Thursday with a shoulder injury.

If he can’t go, the Colts would start veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who hasn’t started a game since Nov. 4, 2012. They signed journeyman Josh Johnson today since they were carrying only two on the active roster going into the week.

It was also be a speed bump in what has been a mostly smooth road for the Colts.

Other than the lost season of 2011 following Peyton Manning’s neck surgery, the last time the Colts had to make a switch at quarterback because of health was Nov. 9, 1997, when an injury to Paul Justin led to Kelly Holcomb starting against the Bengals.

Roll those two names and that date around in your head for a minute, and realize how fortunate that franchise has truly been to have fallen into Manning and Luck.

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Steelers: Roethlisberger wasn’t using a phone on the sideline

Ben Roethlisberger, John Harbaugh AP

In the post-#DeflateGate NFL, Patriots fans are looking for any and all evidence of other teams breaking the rules. On Thursday night, they thought they’d found some.

The CBS broadcast of the Ravens-Steelers game showed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger using what some thought was a smart phone. According to the Steelers, it wasn’t.

Team spokesman Burt Lauten tells PFT that Roehtlisberger was consulting his black, plastic wristband that contains the play calls for the game. Roethlisberger kept the wristband in his sweatshirt, removing the device throughout the game to examine it.

The explanation meshes with the images from the game. Besides, with the use of cellphones prohibited on NFL sidelines during games (even if they’re being used solely to block people on Twitter), common sense suggests that no one would be using one so blatantly and obviously during a game.

If any team understands this, it’s the Steelers. Four years ago, former Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu was fined $10,000 for using a cell phone during a game. The fine was overturned on appeal, based on the explanation that Polamalu (who had left the game in question with concussion-like symptoms) was simply calling his wife to tell her that he was fine.

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Alfred Morris spends his pregames hanging out with stadium staff

Alfred Morris AP

NFL teams are huge operations that include not only the high-profile players, but also low-profile employees like janitors and secretaries and groundskeepers and parking lot attendants. Most of the time, the players are put on a pedestal, and the low-paid workers know they’re not supposed to bother the millionaire athletes.

And then there’s Washington running back Alfred Morris, who regularly interacts with the staff at FedEx Field. And that doesn’t just mean he’ll stop for a minute to sign an autograph or take a selfie. As detailed by Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post, Morris gets to every home game early so he can spend significant time hanging out with the stadium staff, getting to know them, talking to them as if their contributions to the franchise are every bit as important as his, and then joining them in a pregame prayer before he heads to the locker room and they head off to sell popcorn or show fans to their seats.

“I mean, I’m a person just like anybody else. You’re a person; I’m a person; but just because I play a game, they elevate me,” Morris told Steinberg. “I’m a normal, everyday person; I just happen to play football in the NFL. . . . I ain’t no better than the next person. That’s just the way I look at life, man. In God’s eyes, we’re all equal, so why should I act like I’m better than anybody else when I’m not?”

Morris has been spending time with the people he calls his “Stadium Fam” since his rookie year, and now they’re used to catching up with him on Sunday mornings just like any two co-workers chitchat before work.

“My first reaction was, ‘Dang, this is Alfred Morris.’ You know what I’m saying?” a 45-year-old stadium worker named Campbell McKenneth said. “But seeing how cool and relaxed he was in talking to us, it made us feel cool and relaxed and easy talking to him.”

Morris has long been known as a good guy who isn’t impressed with himself, doesn’t much care for the trappings of fame and fortune in pro football, and rides his bike to practice. Add his pregame ritual to the list of reasons that Morris is a special player.

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