NFL Week 14 News and Notes

NFL Week 14 News and Notes


December 3, 2007 -- CHICAGO - The best game of Derrick Ward's career turned into what likely was his final game of the season.

Ward, the productive but injury-plagued running back, finally started in place of Brandon Jacobs yesterday after missing the past four games with groin and ankle problems. By halftime, Ward had 12 rushing attempts, 110 yards and a touchdown.

But with 8:06 remaining in the game, Ward went down and stayed down after a four-yard run.

"I felt a pop and the initial pain," he said.

It was his last carry and X-rays revealed a fractured left fibula that undoubtedly will keep him out the remainder of the season. Ward said the break is more of a crack and not as severe as the season-ending injury to linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, but broken bones need months, not weeks to heal.

Ward finished with 24 carries for 154 yards.

"I'm holding out hope right now," Ward said of returning this season. "We'll see the severity of it."

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McNabb could make return next week

Donovan McNabb's next chance to be the Eagles' quarterback figures to come Sunday against the New York Giants.

"I think there's a pretty good chance," head coach Andy Reid said after the Eagles' 28-24 loss to the Seattle Seahawks yesterday.

McNabb, who has missed the last two games with a sprained right ankle, watched from the sideline at Lincoln Financial Field as backup A.J. Feeley threw four interceptions, including one with seconds remaining that sealed the Eagles' second straight defeat.

Although the loss left the Eagles with a 5-7 record with just four games to play, McNabb still has a chance to lead his team on a possible postseason run. The Eagles remained one game behind in the race for the final wild-card playoff spot.

Minnesota, Detroit and Arizona are all 6-6 and a game in front of the Eagles.

Eagles safety Brian Dawkins was asked if McNabb's return would be a lift for the team.

"I believe it will," he said. "Donovan being healthy and being able to do what he does on the field, hopefully that will be one of the things that allows us to get on a run."

Running back Brian Westbrook also said he looks forward to McNabb's return.

"I hope Donovan comes in and is himself," Westbrook said. "He brings another spark to our offense that already is OK. We're a team that needs a little lift right now."

Sheppard ailing. Cornerback Lito Sheppard was struggling in coverage for most of the game, then left in the third quarter when he aggravated the left-knee injury that has dogged him for most of the season.

"Lito irritated his knee," Reid said. "It looks like it's structurally sound, but we'll have to see how that goes."

After he slowed up on his coverage of Deion Branch on an incomplete pass early in the third quarter, Sheppard was addressed by Reid, defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and secondary coach John Harbaugh.

Cornerback Sheldon Brown said he was trying to help Sheppard in coverage on the Seahawks' next offensive series, which ended with a 45-yard touchdown run by Maurice Morris.

Sheppard suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee on opening day in Green Bay and missed four games after that. The condition of his knee appeared to be improving in recent weeks, but this was an obvious setback. He was not available for comment after the game.

Bunkley out. Defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley missed the game with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, an injury he suffered late in the fourth quarter of the Eagles' loss at New England.

Bunkley, listed as questionable on Friday's injury report, had practiced only in a limited capacity during the week. Reid said the second-year player had suffered hamstring spasms that were related to the knee injury.

It was the first time this season that Bunkley missed a game and the first time in his NFL career that he missed a game because of an injury. Bunkley missed one game as a rookie when he was benched for missing the team charter to Indianapolis.

Kimo von Oelhoffen, a 14-year veteran, started in Bunkley's place, which was surprising because he had not dressed for a game since Week 3 when the Eagles beat the Detroit Lions. The Eagles had dressed just three true defensive tackles in the last four weeks, with LaJuan Ramsey joining Bunkley and Mike Patterson. Defensive end Darren Howard has been playing defensive tackle in passing situations for the entire season; he has seen more time at tackle than he has at end.

As expected, McNabb (sprained right ankle) and safety Quintin Mikell (sprained right knee ligament) were also inactive because of injuries.

Running back Tony Hunt, guards Max Jean-Gilles and Scott Young, defensive end Victor Abiamiri and defensive tackle Montae Reagor were the Eagles' other inactive players.

Turnover deficit. Brown ended the Eagles' 10-quarter turnover drought by forcing a fumble and coming up with an interception in the third quarter.

Brown's interception was the Eagles' first in 16 quarters, dating from the second quarter of their loss to Dallas when Sheppard picked off a Tony Romo pass.

The Eagles still lost the turnover battle to the Seahawks, 4-2, and are now minus-9 in turnover differential for the season. The 2005 season has been the only one during the Reid era when the Eagles have had a negative turnover differential at the end of the season. That team finished minus-7 and went 6-10.

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Detroit WR Roy Williams may miss rest of the season
December 3, 2007

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -Detroit Lions wide receiver Roy Williams is expected to miss the rest of the regular season because of a sprained knee.

Lions coach Rod Marinelli announced Monday that Williams has a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and that he will miss ``several weeks.'' Marinelli said the injury was similar to the one sustained by cornerback Stanley Wilson in the Thanksgiving Day loss to Green Bay, after which Wilson was put on injured reserve.

Detroit also lost reserve safety LaMarcus Hicks to a broken ankle, while cornerback Travis Fisher was undergoing tests on his injured wrist.

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Availability of Fitzgerald, Boldin in question

The Cardinals are not sure if they will have their top two receivers for Sunday's critical game at Seattle.

Larry Fitzgerald missed Sunday's game against the Browns because of a sore groin. Anquan Boldin suffered a dislocated toe on his left foot in the third quarter and did not return.

Boldin's toe was put back into place Sunday, but there is a danger it could pop out of place again. Boldin underwent an MRI on Monday and was in a walking boot.

He and the Cardinals medical team are still discussing how to treat the injury.

"That's what we're trying to decide," Boldin said, "if I'm going to need surgery. If not, what can we do to prevent it from happening again. It's hard to put a brace on a toe, but if there's any way to put something in my shoe to prevent that from happening . . . "

Boldin said he thinks the injury happened in the third quarter when he caught a pass. As he came off the line on the next play, Boldin pulled up after a step or two.

He couldn't believe it when he was told his second toe was dislocated.

"To me, it was kind of funny," he said, "so I'm laughing about it like I can't believe it."

Getting better

Entering training camp, one of the Cardinals' greatest concerns was the quality of play they could expect out of the tight end position.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt made it a point Monday to single out improvement by second-year man Leonard Pope and rookies Ben Patrick and Troy Bienemann.

"You always want to see your draft picks do well," Whisenhunt said. "They are all getting better."

More praise

Another key to the Cardinals' successes this season has been the kick returning of rookie Steve Breaston, who has gained confidence every week since returning a punt for a touchdown against the Steelers in a Week 4 victory.

"He's a strong runner, a hard guy to bring down and I think that's the Number 1 thing that makes him effective," Whisenhunt said.

"He's not afraid to hit a crease. . . . He's taken some shots, taken some hits, but he knows he's going to pop one."

Extra points

Edgerrin James' 114 rushing yards Sunday gave him 11,307 in his career, moving him into 14th place on the NFL's all-time list ahead of O.J. Simpson (11,236) and Corey Dillon (11,241).

• Arizona's 14 first-quarter points against the Browns were a season high. The Cardinals had scored 26 points, total, in the first quarter during their first 11 games.

• Kurt Warner's two touchdown passes Sunday gave him four consecutive, multitouchdown games, his most since his NFL Most Valuable Player season of 2001, when he did it six times in a row to finish the regular season.

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Coughlin expects Jacobs to return vs. Eagles

There's never a good time for a running back to suffer a season-ending injury, much less one in the midst of the game Derrick Ward had Sunday in Chicago. But help may be on the way.

Ward is likely headed to injured reserve with a fractured left leg, suffered with 7:44 left in a 21-16 win in which he had a career-best and Giants season-best 154 rushing yards. But Tom Coughlin said yesterday he anticipated that Brandon Jacobs, out the last two games with a strained left hamstring, would be ready to return Sunday against the Eagles in Philadelphia.

"[Jacobs] was scheduled to be back anyway," Coughlin said when asked if Jacobs would rush back with Ward out. "If Jacobs can come back and play through the end of the season without further injury, we'll be in good shape."

Jacobs and Ward have been out with injuries for stretches this season, with Ward missing four games and Jacobs five. Coughlin did not sound as if he thought the Giants needed to add a running back with Jacobs, Reuben Droughns and Ahmad Bradshaw still in the lineup.

"We had four ballcarriers, three involved every week," Coughlin said. "I think we'd be OK if Jacobs could stay on the field."

Danger at safety

If Ward goes on IR, look for the Giants to pick up a safety. Gibril Wilson missed Sunday's game after a knee injury suffered against the Lions two weeks ago flared up last week, and James Butler aggravated a hamstring strain on the Bears' first play from scrimmage.

Butler returned to the game, pretty much out of necessity, because the other safeties the Giants dressed were rookies Michael Johnson and Craig Dahl.

"Hopefully we'll get [Butler] back," Coughlin said, "and [Wilson] will have all kinds of tests to determine where they are on that."

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Redman could start as Falcons' QB

Petrino leaves option open for Monday Night game

Flowery Branch — Falcons coach Bobby Petrino declined to disclose the team's starting quarterback on Monday, leaving open the possibility that Chris Redman could take over the job Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich have been unable to secure.

The Falcons host New Orleans on Monday night. Petrino said he did not want to say anything publicly because players were off Monday and he did not have the chance to speak to them. However, he spoke glowingly of Redman's fourth-quarter performance in Atlanta's 28-16 loss to St. Louis Sunday.

"It was impressive and it started with him hitting hands and being very accurate," Petrino said of Redman's most extended action since the 2003 season he was in Baltimore. "He made good decisions, the protection got better. Jerious [Norwood] popped a couple big plays for us, we scored quickly, which gave us some time on the clock to give us a chance to win."

Though coy about his plans at quarterback, Petrino was very open about his plans for Norwood, whose usage, or lack thereof, has been a point of debate for much of the season. Norwood has 442 yards on just 69 carries and is coming off a 94-yard rushing game in which he ran the ball eight times.

"We have to get Jerious touches," Petrino said. "When you watch the video, he's the most explosive player out there for us. His speed shows up. He makes big plays, whether it's catching the ball or running the ball; so it is a situation where we have to get him more touches one way or the other."

Though not addressing Redman's playing status, Petrino was highly complimentary of his former University of Louisville pupil. He did not mention Harrington or Leftwich, who served as the No. 3 quarterback against St. Louis.

If Redman is elevated, there is a chance that Harrington, who has started 10 of 12 games, could be demoted to the third quarterback behind Leftwich. Harrington has lost his starting status four times this season.

The potential change at quarterback and utilization of Norwood and starter Warrick Dunn at running back follow Petrino's switch from longtime starter Kynan Forney to D'Anthony Batiste at right guard and leaving once highly regarded defensive back prospect Jimmy Williams inactive against the Rams.

Petrino said he is trying to find ways to finish the final four games with players who will help the team win and are on board with his program. There are so many holes, though, despite the temporary patchwork, it could be hard for the Falcons (3-9) not to continue taking on water.

The inability to develop consistency at quarterback, while having to constantly adjust the injury-depleted offensive line has been crippling, Petrino said.

Atlanta has allowed 39 sacks this season. It has surpassed 100 yards rushing only four times this season to rank 22nd in the NFL, a radical fall from the No. 1 spot it held for the previous three seasons.

"It's been difficult to be consistent and difficult to score enough points," Petrino said.

There could be at least one new quarterback and a slew of new offensive linemen, as well as a new tailback shortly after the NFL draft and free agency next year. Age, injury, ineffectiveness and improper fits for the scheme Petrino prefers to run necessitate change.

By pairing the newcomers with holdovers that Petrino hopes improved while taking their lumps this season, the coach hopes to develop a nucleus that will make this painful season a footnote. Petrino said that he hoped enough of a foundation was established this season so wholesale personnel turnover wouldn't be needed.

"I've been studying Green Bay quite a bit and seeing that they didn't make all that many changes," Petrino said. "Guys know the system better. They're going to play better the second year. They're going to better understand what the different movements are that you're going to see from defenses."

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Re: NFL Week 14 News and Notes

Garcia to start if back improves

The veteran QB - if healthy - will return in favor of McCown, Gruden says.

TAMPA - Thank you very much, Luke McCown.

Now get ready to return to your spot on the sideline Sunday.

That basically was the message Bucs coach Jon Gruden sent his backup quarterback Monday, one day after McCown threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-23 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Injured starter Jeff Garcia will play Sunday at Houston if his sore back shows enough improvement during the week.

Gruden said the fact that the Bucs have a commanding three-game lead in the NFC South with four games to play will not be a factor in the decision to start Garcia.

"We feel like he's making improvement, and that's a good thing," Gruden said of Garcia. "I want him to tell me he's ready to go and see him move around pain-free. He's getting better, and for the time being, we'll continue to work with Bruce (Gradkowski) and Luke."

Garcia was the inactive third quarterback against the Saints and moved gingerly during warmups. But Gruden reiterated there is nothing structurally wrong with Garcia's back and he has another day of rest before the Bucs begin preparations Wednesday for the Texans.

Although the Bucs have a handle on the division, they have an outside chance to gain the No.2 seed in the NFC and possibly a first-round bye in the playoffs.

"He's a needed guy on our football team," Gruden said. "We need to win another game. We're in the fight of our lives to win every Sunday, and this week will be no different. If Garcia's cleared to play, he'll play."

McCown, who completed his first 15 passing attempts and connected with 10 receivers, said he supported Gruden's decision to return to a healthy Garcia.

"That's not my decision. That's Coach's decision," McCown said. "Jeff is the starter. He's the reason we're in this position. He's the reason that we've gotten this far. He's played extremely well, so there's no reason for me to say I would be disappointed. I understand my role right now on this team and that's to do whatever I can, whether it be practice or play, to help us win."

But there is a strong likelihood that Garcia could miss practice time or perhaps another game, so McCown could get plenty of reps with the first-team offense again this week.

"I'm going to approach this week like I approach every week, preparing as I have throughout training camp and throughout the season," McCown said. "I'm sure Jeff will be ready to go. He certainly seems like it. You always have to be prepared to play. That's been my mind-set from day one of training camp."

Gruden was effusive in his praise of the performance by McCown, who helped the Bucs rack up 466 total yards of offense in a noisy Superdome.

"He showed a lot of poise," Gruden said. "That was a very loud, difficult place to play for any quarterback. They were jacked up. The Saints are at full strength, getting (defensive linemen) Charles Grant and (Brian) Young back. I thought he showed tremendous poise and great command, and he also made a lot of plays. Those three things stood out in my mind."

McCown, who had been the Bucs No.3 quarterback since Week2, said he didn't leave Sunday's game thinking he had proved somebody wrong.

"I felt like it was an opportunity to play," McCown said. "The game will speak for itself, but my focus is going in to help this team win. I wasn't out there trying to prove a point. I wasn't trying to prove anybody wrong.

"I was trying to win a championship, and if any one person goes out there and says I'm going to prove you wrong, I'm going to prove this guy wrong or the rest of the league wrong - that's the wrong mind-set. Then, we're not collectively on the same page. So my mind-set was, 'Let's go win the game.'"

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Texans scramble to fill QB, OL holes

Schaub and running back Green may join Weary, White on team's injured reserve list

The Monday morning meetings keep getting longer for Texans coaches and scouts. With four games left in the season, the Texans are in dire need of a quarterback, right guard and center.

Just like the hottest toys of the holiday season, the most desired players are owned by someone else in early December. Shoppers must be ambitious and creative. The Texans are trying to be both as they tinker with their roster.

They plan to sign guard Mike Brisiel from the practice squad to the active roster this week, and re-sign center/guard Drew Hodgdon, who spent two seasons with the Texans before being cut Aug. 31.

Brisiel and Hodgdon will fill the roster spots of right guard Fred Weary (leg) and guard/center Chris White (knee), who are headed to injured reserve.

"(General manager) Rick (Smith) and I spent a ton of time trying to decide where we're going to go with this group, especially up front," coach Gary Kubiak said. "There are many, many issues to deal with right there, along with our quarterback issue, trying to decide where we go this week if Matt (Schaub) is unable to go. So a lot of things, a lot of decisions that we've got to make real fast as we get ready to play Tampa Bay."

With Weary and White being added, the Texans have an NFL-high 16 players on injured reserve.

Schaub, whose left arm was in a sling Monday, and running back Ahman Green remain candidates for the injured reserve, but Kubiak is hopeful they will still play this season.

When Schaub missed the Oakland game with a concussion, the Texans signed Craig Nall as a backup to Sage Rosenfels. But they released him Nov. 21, and the Packers signed him Sunday.

Packers sign Nall

"That was our first option, as you could well imagine, but that's out the door right now, so thankfully we've got Shane (Boyd) here," Kubiak said.

Boyd, an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky in 2005, has been on the Texans' practice squad since Oct. 24. He likely will be added to the 53-man roster as well.

Brisiel has spent the past two seasons on the practice squad. He will be thrown into a three-man competition at right guard with rookies Brandon Frye and Kasey Studdard.

Studdard replaced White at the end of the Titans game, seeing his first action of the season on offense. Frye, who recently was converted from tackle to guard, has never been active for a game. Brisiel has never been on the 53-man roster.

Hodgdon was cut in training camp after struggling to make the transition from center to guard. With eight career starts at center for the Texans, Hodgdon will return as the primary backup to Mike Flanagan.

"You can't sit around here and feel sorry for yourself," Kubiak said. "You've got to go right back to work, and we'll plug the guys in and we'll find some more players because of our issues. Before the season's over, we're going to have a new starting right guard."

'Heart and soul' lost

There will be no time for anyone to ease himself into the job. The Texans play the Buccaneers on Sunday at Reliant Stadium. The Bucs have the fifth-best defense in the NFL.

"Somebody is going to have to step it up for Fred (Weary)," said Rosenfels, who will make his fourth career start. "Fred was a class act on this team. One of the hardest-working guys — always in the weight room, always doing stuff before and after practice. He was the quiet heart and soul of our offense."

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McNabb seems likely to return to face Giants

After missing the last two games with thumb and ankle injuries, Donovan McNabb is expected to practice tomorrow, Andy Reid said yesterday. Barring a setback, it looks like McNabb will be ready to play when the Eagles host the New York Giants in a must-win game Sunday.

McNabb's return can't come soon enough.

The Eagles have lost two straight games with A.J. Feeley as the starting quarterback, both by less than a touchdown and both after Feeley ended the Eagles' hopes by throwing interceptions. In 10-plus quarters of work since McNabb came out of the Miami game, Feeley has thrown eight interceptions, including four against the Seahawks. McNabb had thrown six in 10 games, although he had four in his last three games.

Amazingly, even after losing to Seattle on Sunday, the Eagles have a decent shot of grabbing the last wild-card spot in the playoffs. By winning at Chicago, the Giants improved to 8-4, the best record in the conference among those teams not leading their division. Eight teams are either 6-6 or 5-7. That last spot is truly up for grabs, and it's conceivable that 8-8 or even 7-9 will be good enough to get into the postseason.

Not that Reid wanted to discuss that possibility yesterday. He wanted the players, whom he made come in to watch the film and have a team meeting yesterday, to stay focused on the task at hand - the Giants - and not on any playoff possibilities.

"We still have an opportunity here to win some football games with four games left and put ourselves in a nice position here for postseason play," Reid said. "It's important, however, that we focus in on the Giants. I know a lot will be said about the wild-card position and all that. It's important for our football team and our coaches to focus in on the one-game-at-a-time approach, and that we get some of these guys back healthy here and ready to play. That's where our emphasis will be."

On the injury front, Reid said cornerback Lito Sheppard, who left the Seahawks game in the third quarter, has inflammation in his oft-injured left knee. He struggled throughout the game, and couldn't pinpoint when he aggravated the injury. Reid said he pulled him out of the game because it was apparent Sheppard couldn't get the job done.

Also, defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley had an MRI exam on his left knee yesterday. He missed the Seattle game with a sprained medial collateral ligament, an injury he suffered late in the loss to New England. He said Bunkley will be "OK" but didn't provide any more details.

Safety Quintin Mikell is "getting better" with his MCL sprain, but Reid would not provide a timeline for when Mikell might return to the field. He has missed the last two games.

It apparently was Reid's decision to keep McNabb on the sideline Sunday. He would not discuss his thought process, and said only that he consulted with the team doctors and trainers about whether McNabb was ready to go. Reid said that McNabb "worked as hard as you can work with still having an injury" last week to maintain his timing. He watched Sunday's game from the sideline.

"The one thing about Donovan is Donovan's always going to want to go," Reid said. "He loves playing the game. Most players do. And so you've got to make a decision there if you're putting him in a bad position, both he and the football team in a bad position, and that's something between the doctors and trainers and myself that we have to evaluate."

Reid said McNabb might wear a brace on his right hand. He now can firmly grip the football. The bigger concern is how mobile can he be on the sprained ankle. Reid said that while McNabb "might" be rusty against the Giants, he should be back to where he was before the injury - relatively healthy while still gaining strength in his surgically repaired right knee.

"I've seen him come off of injuries before and play pretty well," Reid said. "I would expect him to do that. . . . I thought he moved around well last week. As the week went on, he got a little bit better. I think the couple days' rest here has helped him."

The Birds could use a lift from their starting quarterback. It certainly couldn't hurt.

"Listen, I don't want to take anything away from A.J.," Reid said. "Some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL have gone through days like this. It was a bad day to have a bad day, but those things happen and it's important that he learns from it.

"On the other hand, I think it's very important that you have as many starters out, especially down the last part of the season, last quarter of the season, that you can and that you are getting healthy and they are playing efficiently."

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Marcus Stroud's return could help Jags' struggling D-line

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud rejoined the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday after completing a four-game suspension for violating the league's steroid and related substances policy.

The Jaguars (8-4) went 3-1 without the 6-foot-6, 310-pound defensive linemen, but his return was a welcome sign for a team that has struggled to pressure quarterbacks without blitzing.

Jacksonville sacked Indianapolis' Peyton Manning once and hit him a few more times in Sunday's 28-25 loss, but the defense didn't do enough to prevent the Colts from converting 10 of 13 times on third down and scoring their first three touchdowns on the crucial down.

''I didn't think we played smart enough,'' coach Jack Del Rio said Monday. ''We had too many penalties and too many breakdowns, in particular in our secondary, where we got them in third-and-14, third-and-16, third-and-10 and allowed them to have big plays, in some case touchdowns, and really let them off the hook.''

Stroud has 33 tackles and three sacks in eight games. And given four weeks to rest his troublesome right ankle, the one that required micro-fracture surgery in the offseason, the Jags expect him to be rejuvenated.

''He'll be hungry because of the time he missed,'' Del Rio said. ''His body ought to feel great because he had a little bit of a break. I'm sure he'll be anxious to get back and get back to work.''

Stroud was not available for comment Monday. He was suspended four games without pay Nov. 4, nearly a week after reports surfaced that he had tested positive for banned supplements.

Stroud said the supplements were part of his rehabilitation following the surgery, but said he didn't know they contained banned substances. He accepted responsibility for the positive test and didn't appeal the suspension.

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Broncos RB Henry wins appeal
December 4th, 2007

Englewood, CO (Sports Network) - Denver Broncos running back Travis Henry has won his appeal of a year-long suspension for a positive drug test.

The NFL made the announcement on Tuesday, more than two weeks after Henry's appeal was heard in Phoenix.

Henry tested positive for marijuana in early October, and faced a one-year ban because of prior positive drug tests.

The Florida native was suspended four games by the NFL in 2005 while playing for the Tennessee Titans for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

The Broncos signed Henry to a five-year deal this offseason and he has rushed for 629 yards and three touchdowns in eight games.

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Broncos wave veteran DT Adams
December 4, 2007

DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Broncos waived veteran defensive tackle Sam Adams and cornerback Jeff Shoate on Tuesday.

Adams, in his 14th year in the NFL, signed with the Broncos as a free agent on June 4 after spending the previous season with Cincinnati. He was part of the Baltimore team that won the Super Bowl for the 2000 season.

Denver selected Shoate in the fifth round of the 2004 NFL draft.

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Dolphins' Thomas to miss rest of season
December 4, 2007

Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) -- If the Miami Dolphins are to win a game this year, they'll have to do it without Zach Thomas.

The seven-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker was placed on injured reserve against his wishes Tuesday, meaning he'll miss the rest of the season. He has been sidelined the past five games because of nagging migraines.

"I'm disappointed with the decision," Thomas said in a statement released by the Dolphins. "I expected to come back this season, and still think I can. However, I respect the team's decision and look forward to playing next year."

The Dolphins, who take an 0-12 record into Sunday game at Buffalo, decided they could no longer afford to have a spot on the roster taken up by an idle player.

The 34-year-old Thomas has had issues with concussions and migraines in recent years, but he has said he expects to return for a 13th season with Miami in 2008.

The Dolphins signed linebacker Kelvin Smith and offensive tackle Julius Wilson off their practice squad. They placed safety Cameron Worrell on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in Sunday's 40-13 loss to the New York Jets, and they waived receiver Kerry Reed.

Thomas missed two games in September with a concussion. He was involved in a car crash following a loss to the New England Patriots on Oct. 21 and has been sidelined since, unable to receive medical clearance to play.

He had hoped to return soon, perhaps even Sunday, his agent said.

"He is getting closer, but I guess the progress was not enough for the team," agent Drew Rosenhaus said. "I don't think there's any doubt that at some points this year he would come back and play, and the doctors feel that way, too. But the Dolphins didn't have the luxury of waiting for that to happen.

"We have no doubt Zach will be back next year, and this issue will be behind him."

Channing Crowder has been starting for Thomas, moving to middle linebacker from outside linebacker. The Dolphins rank third-worst in the NFL in points allowed.

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Texans put two OLs on IR, sign two more
December 4, 2007

Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) -- The Texans placed offensive linemen Fred Weary and Chris White on the injured reserve on Tuesday and signed Drew Hodgdon and Mike Brisiel.

Weary broke his right leg and White suffered a knee injury against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Weary, a six-year veteran, had started all 12 games this season. White, a backup, had appeared in six games.

Brisiel, a guard, has been on the Texans practice squad for the past two seasons. He played with the Hamburg Sea Devils in NFL Europe last season.

Hodgdon, a fifth-round pick in 2005, started eight games for the Texans from 2005-06. He was released during training camp.

The team also signed guard Dan Stevenson to the practice squad.

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Re: NFL Week 14 News and Notes

Browns place Griffin on injured reserve
December 5th, 2007

Berea, OH (Sports Network) - The Cleveland Browns placed linebacker Kris Griffin on injured reserve Wednesday with a knee injury.

Griffin, a key member of Cleveland's special teams, sustained the injury during the opening kickoff of last Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

The Browns inked linebacker Colby Bockwoldt to take Griffin's spot on the roster.

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Re: NFL Week 14 News and Notes


CHICAGO at WASHINGTON (Thursday, December 6)...Bears have covered 3 of last 4 as visitor TY, while Skins have covered just 1 of last 7 (1-5-1 vs. number). Gibbs just 1-6-2 vs. line last 8 at FedEx Field. Tech edge-Bears, based on recent Skins home woes.

CAROLINA at JACKSONVILLE...Panthers were in a funk, no wins or covers in 5 straight, scoring just 50 points those games (10 ppg), before last week’s win over 49ers. Panthers "under" 8-4 TY. Jags are 20-12-2 vs. spread last 34 as host. Del Rio has also covered his last 4 as chalk in '07. Tech edge-Jags and "under," based on team and "totals" trends.

DALLAS at DETROIT...Dallas 9-3 vs. line TY (4-1 vs. line away). Cowboys also "over" 9-3 TY ("over" 5-0 away), "over" 12-5 last 17 since late '06. Lions no wins or covers last 4 in '07. Tech edge-Cowboys and "over," based on recent trends.

MIAMI at BUFFALO..Bills 6-1 SU, 7-0 vs. line last 7 in series. Dolphins 3-2-2 vs. line away TY (counting London game vs. Giants), also "under" 4 of last 5 in '07. Jauron 15-6 vs. spread last 21 on board, but just 1-0 as rare chalk (½-point cover vs. Dolphins) this season. Tech edge-"Under" and slight to Bills, based on "totals" and series trends.

NY GIANTS at PHILADELPHIA...Teams have split reg.-season spread decisions past 2 seasons, and Giants won and covered first meeting TY. Giants 4-1 vs. line on road TY, 11-4 vs. number last 15 as visitor dating to late '05. If Eagles favored, note Andy just 6-11 last 17 in role. Birds also "under" 8-5-1 last 14 as host. Tech edge-Giants, based on team trends.

OAKLAND at GREEN BAY...Super Bowl II rematch! Despite Dallas loss, Pack still 9-2-1 vs. line TY, 12-4-1 vs. spread last 17 on board since late '06. Raiders 4-2 vs. line away in '07. Tech edge-Pack, based on recent trends.

PITTSBURGH at NEW ENGLAND...Patriots "over" 10-2 TY, "over" 15-3 last 18 since late '06. Last five in this series "over" since '01. Pats 6-1 vs. spread last 7 as host. Steel just 1-3 vs. number last 4 on road. This will be Pittsburgh's first game as dog TY, although Steel was notoriously tough as short for Cowher (12-6 last 18 as dog for Cowher). Tech edge-"Over" and slight to Patriots, based on "totals" and team trends.

SAN DIEGO at TENNESSEE...Norv 2-4 vs. line away TY, and Bolts 2-6 vs. spread their last 8 as visitor since late LY. Bolts also "over" 5-1 away TY, "over" 10-2 last 12 as visitor. Tech edge-"Over" and Titans, based on Bolts' "totals" and road trends.

ST. LOUIS at CINCINNATI...Rams "under" 5-0 away TY. They've also covered their last 2 away after dropping first four road spread decisions TY. Marvin Lewis 6-7-1 vs. line at home since LY, 11-20-2 last 33 as host. Tech edge-Rams and "under," based on recent trends.

TAMPA BAY at HOUSTON...Gruden has won and covered last 4 TY. Bucs also now "under" 19-10 last 29 on road. Texans continue mostly pattern-less tech trends. Tech edge-slight to "under," based on "totals" trends.

ARIZONA at SEATTLE..."Overs" 6-1 last 7 in series, Cards "over” 4-2 away TY, "over" 21-8-1 away since '04. Cards 5-1-1 as dog TY, 10-2-1 last 13 in role, although they've only covered 1 of last 4 in Seattle (and have lost SU those last 4 at Qwest Field). Seahawks have won and covered last 3 as host TY, now 16-8-1 vs. line last 25 as host. Tech edge-"Over," based on Cards' "totals" trends.

MINNESOTA at SAN FRANCISCO...Ugh! 49ers "under" 4-1 as host TY, but only 1-3-1 vs. spread at home in '07. Vikes "under" 5-2 last 7 on road. Tech edge-"Under" and slight to Vikings, based on "totals" trends.

CLEVELAND at NY JETS...Browns have covered 6 of last 7 and 9 of last 11 in '07. Romeo also "over 9-2-1 TY. Jets just 4-7-1 vs. spread in '07, although they have covered their last 2 as home dog. Tech edge-Browns and "over," based on recent Romeo trends.

KANSAS CITY at DENVER...Shan has covered 2 of last 3 at home TY after dropping previous 9 spread decisions at home. Broncos have won last 6 at home vs. Chiefs and covered 5 of those. Herm, however, has managed to cover last 4 on road TY. Chiefs "under" 9-5-1 last 16 on road, although Broncos "over" 5-1 at Invesco Field at Mile High TY. Tech edge-slight to Broncos, based on extended series trend at home.

INDIANAPOLIS at BALTIMORE...Ugh! Ravens 2-10 vs. line TY. Last 4 in this series "under," including playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium LY. Colts 6-2 vs. line last 7 TY. Dungy "under" 4-2 away TY, Colts "under" 10-5 last 15 dating to late LY. Tech edge-Colts and "under," based on team and "totals" trends.

NEW ORLEANS at ATLANTA (Monday, December 10)...Last 3 and 6 of last 8 "under" in series. Saints have covered 4 of last 6 at Georgia Dome, and remember this was once the big visitor series (although trend dissipated somewhat in late '90s, and was really prominent when Falcs visited New Orleans). Saints have covered 3 of last 4 away TY and are 10-5 vs. spread as visitor since LY, and they're 3-1 as road chalk since LY. Falcs 2-4 vs. line at Georgia Dome TY, and they're "over" 4-2 as host in '07. Tech edge-Saints and slight to "under," based on team and series trends.

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Re: NFL Week 14 News and Notes

Vikings' Edwards suspended four games for alleged steroid use

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy on steroid use.

Edwards has been a starter for most of the season, but was replaced by Erasmus James for last Sunday's game against Detroit. Coach Brad Childress said that decision had nothing to do with Edwards' violation.

Childress said he was disappointed in Edwards and could not comment further because of the confidentiality surrounding the policy.

The Vikings will turn to James, rookie Brian Robison and Jayme Mitchell to fill in during Edwards' absence. The Vikings next game is at San Francisco.

Edwards is in his second year out of Purdue. The fourth-round draft pick has been one of the Vikings' most consistent performers at defensive end. He is eligible to return to the team after the Dec. 30 season finale against Denver and could play if the Vikings (6-6) make the playoffs.

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Re: NFL Week 14 News and Notes

McNabb returns to Eagles, preps for Sunday showdown with Giants

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb returned to the practice field with the Philadelphia Eagles on Wednesday, working out with teammates for the first time since spraining his right ankle and jamming a thumb two weeks ago against Miami.

''I do feel like I am ready to play,'' McNabb said as the Eagles prepped for the New York Giants, moving their practice indoors because of a light snowfall.

McNabb missed two games, heartbreaking but not season-breaking losses to the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. He returns to a team that, at 5-7, must beat the Giants on Sunday to keep any hopes of a postseason berth alive.

A.J. Feeley handled the quarterback duties in McNabb's absence. His strong showing in the team's 31-28 loss to New England overshadowed his three interceptions.

Against Seattle, Feeley struggled, throwing four interceptions, including a pick down the stretch for the second straight week that cost the Eagles a chance at a victory.

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Re: NFL Week 14 News and Notes

NFL poolies’ cheat sheet for Week 14

Chicago at Washington -3

Why Bears cover: Are second in the NFL in interceptions and third in sacks. Redskins are 1-4 ATS at home and have only covered once in their last seven games while losing four straight.

Why Redskins cover: Clinton Portis has rushed for 457 yards in three career games against Chicago. Bears have the league’s worst yards per rush average (3.2) and allow opponents to rush for 4.4 yards per carry, 28th in the NFL.

Total (37): Under is 13-6-3 in Washington’s last 22 versus NFC.

Carolina at Jacksonville -10½

Why Panthers cover: Have won last two meetings. Are 6-2 ATS in their last eight road games. They have held running back Fred Taylor to 49 yards rushing per game in his career.

Why Jaguars cover: Have covered in four straight games and eight of last 10. Get DT Marcus Stroud back from suspension this week. Have rushed for almost 1,700 yards and get to face the Panthers’ 17th-ranked rush defense. David Garrard has yet to throw an interception this season.

Total (38): Over is 4-1-1 in Jaguars’ last six games on grass and 5-0-1 in their last six overall.

Dallas at Detroit +10½

Why Cowboys cover: Are 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between these two teams. Detroit is on a major slide losing four straight while failing to cover each time. WR Terrell Owens has six TDs and 444 yards receiving in his last five games against Detroit. Lions’ top receiver Roy Williams is out with a knee injury.

Why Lions cover: Jon Kitna threw for 306 yards and four TDs in his only career game against Dallas. Need to win to keep in the NFC wild-card race.

Total (51½): Both have powerful passing games and, combined, average over 55 points per game.

Miami at Buffalo -7

Why Dolphins cover: Have given up least amount of passing plays in the NFL. Only two teams have given up more offensive yards than Buffalo. With Baltimore, New England and Cincinnati left, this could be Miami’s best chance at winning a game.

Why Bills cover: Have won last three meetings and six of last seven. Are 4-1 with Trent Edwards as the starting quarterback. Fred Jackson had 151 combined yards against Washington while filling in for the injured Marshawn Lynch. Dolphins are 0-6-1 ATS in their last seven meetings and 1-4 ATS in their last five meetings in Buffalo.

Total (36½): Under is 4-1 in the last five meetings.

N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia -3

Why Giants cover: Get starting running back Brandon Jacobs back from injury. League-leading pass rush could contain a hobbled Donovan McNabb. Underdog is 5-0 ATS in these teams’ last five meetings.

Why Eagles cover: McNabb has thrown for 1,376 yards and has 10 touchdowns (one rushing) in his last five games against New York. Eli Manning has throw seven interceptions in his last five games against Philadelphia and 17 on the season, most in the NFL.

Total (42): Over is 6-2-1 in the last nine meetings in Philadelphia.

Oakland at Green Bay -10½

Why Raiders cover: Have won two straight games against tough AFC opponents Denver and Kansas City. Are averaging 27.7 points per game in their last three contests. Brett Favre will play with an injured throwing elbow and a recently separated left shoulder.

Why Packers cover: Are 10-2-1 ATS in their last 13 games. Favre has thrown for 922 yards and nine TDs in three career games against the Raiders.

Total (42): Over is 4-1 in Packers’ last five games.

San Diego at Tennessee pick

Why Chargers cover: Have won the last five meetings between these teams. Lead the league with 33 takeaways. LaDainian Tomlinson has rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns in two career games against Tennessee. Titans leading rusher LenDale White has a dislocated finger.

Why Titans cover: Are limiting opponents to an average of 17 first downs per contest, second best in the league. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth returned from injury last week to boost a sagging rush defense. Tennessee was 0-3 ATS without him in the lineup.

Total (40½): Over is 9-2-1 in Chargers’ last 12 road games.

St. Louis at Cincinnati

Why Rams cover: Have won last three meetings. Should have starting QB Marc Bulger back from a concussion suffered in Week 12. They’ve won three of last four games after starting the season 0-8. Held Rudi Johnson to 2.7 yards per carry for 30 yards in his only game against St. Louis.

Why Bengals cover: Have one of the league’s most feared passing attacks. Rams have allowed 29 touchdowns in 12 games. Rams are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games on grass.

Total: Under is 5-1 in Rams’ last six road games.

Tampa Bay at Houston

Why Buccaneers cover: Have won six of these teams’ last seven meetings. Jeff Garcia is expected to return from a back injury. Earnest Graham has rushed for over 100 yards in three of his last four games. Only the Patriots have fewer giveaways than the Bucs.

Why Texans cover: Are 5-2 ATS in their last seven home games. In five games this season Andre Johnson has 535 yards receiving and five touchdowns.

Total: Buccaneers are holding opponents to 15.6 points per game.

Arizona at Seattle -7

Why Cardinals cover: Have  won last two meetings. Edgerrin James has rushed for 567 yards and five scores in his last five games against the Seahawks. Only two teams have allowed more rushing touchdowns than Seattle.

Why Seahawks cover:  Shaun Alexander has rushed for 548 yards and eight TDs in his last five games against Arizona. Home teams is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings and have won seven of last eight. Arizona could be without both starting receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.

Total (44½): Over is 6-1 in the last seven meetings.

Minnesota at San Francisco +8½

Why Vikings cover: Have rushed for 430 yards more than any other NFL team. San Francisco is last in the league in yards per game, first downs and passing yards.

Why 49ers cover: Have 21 rushing touchdowns. Home team has won last nine meetings and is 5-0 ATS in their last five meetings. Minnesota has the NFL’s worst pass defense.

Total (39½): League’s worst offense faces league’s top run defense.

Cleveland at N.Y. Jets +3½

Why Browns cover: Are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games. Kellen Clemens has the worst rating of any quarterback not playing for the 49ers.

Why Jets cover: Coming off 40-13 whooping of the Dolphins. Cleveland’s defense is giving up 389.9 yards per game, easily worst in the NFL. Jamal Lewis only has one TD and averages 2.5 yards per carry against New York.

Total (47½): Over is 9-2-1 in Browns’ last 12 games.

Kansas City at Denver -6½

Why Chiefs cover: Are fourth in the league with 16 interceptions. Jay Cutler has thrown at least one pick in all but three games this season. Running back Kolby Smith has filled in admirably for the injured Larry Johnson and gets to test the league’s 31st-ranked rush defense.

Why Broncos cover: Home team is 10-3-1 ATS in their last 14 meetings. Travis Henry won his appeal for substance abuse and will play for the rest of the season. Chiefs are 1-5 ATS in their last six meetings in Denver. Kansas City is only averaging 14.3 points per game.

Total (37½): Over is 9-3 in the last 12 meetings.

Pittsburgh at New England -10½

Why Steelers cover: Have the league’s stingiest defense, holding opponents to 230.8 yards and 12.9 points per contest. Road team is 6-2 ATS and underdog is 7-1 ATS in their last eight meetings. In two career games against New England, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown four TDs and no interceptions.

Why Patriots cover: Only Jon Kitna has been sacked more times than Roethlisberger. Steelers are 1-6 ATS in their last seven meetings. Tom Brady has thrown for 937 yards and five touchdowns in three career games against the Steelers.

Total (49½): Over is 5-0 in the last five meetings between these two teams.

Indianapolis at Baltimore +9½

Why Colts cover: Won last four meetings. Have only fumbled three times all season. Baltimore leads the league in fumbles and has five more than the next worst team. Ravens are 2-11 ATS in their last 13 games.

Why Ravens cover: Are holding opponents to 2.8 yards per rushing play, tops in the league. Willis McGahee has scored a touchdown in seven straight games. Lost to the Patriots by three points as 19-point underdogs.

Total (43½): Under is 4-0 in the last four meetings.

New Orleans at Atlanta +4½

Why Saints cover: Have won three straight meetings and are 5-2 ATS in their last seven meetings. Need to win to stay in the NFC wild-card race. Falcons are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 home games.

Why Falcons cover: Jerious Norwood has taken over as the starting running back and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Saints have one of the NFL’s worst rushing attacks. Underdog is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.

Total (42½): Under is 6-2 in the last eight meetings.

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Re: NFL Week 14 News and Notes

Bulger returns for Rams; Hill's out
December 5, 2007

Sporting News Staff Reports

Marc Bulger passed his medical tests Tuesday and is set to start against the Bengals, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

Bulger had been benched against the Falcons because he was still showing effects from a concussion sustained November 25. His return this week means the Rams will not have to sign free agent Todd Bouman; Brock Berlin is the backup quarterback. Gus Frerotte could be the emergency backup, though he suffered a shoulder injury against the Falcons.

Rams cornerback Tye Hill is out for the season. He had surgery Tuesday after injuring his left hand in the game against Atlanta. Ron Bartell will start in Hill's place against Cincinnati.

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