Aaron Rodgers said his strained left calf felt "a little bit worse" after Sunday’s playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys, but it was a whole lot better on Monday than it was the day after the Green Bay Packers quarterback re-injured it in the regular-season finale two weeks ago.
And with just six more days until Sunday's NFC Championship Game at the Seattle Seahawks, that's an encouraging sign for the Packers given that he had two weeks between the Week 17 game against the Detroit Lions and the playoff opener against the Cowboys.
"Aaron made it through the game very well," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "Saw him today. He's getting better. I think he feels better at this time this week than he did last week."
The Buffalo Bills are putting the finishing touches on a five-year deal that will make Rex Ryan their next head coach, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Ryan and the Bills are expected to hire 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman to the same position in Buffalo, sources told ESPN. Ryan and Roman previously worked together as assistant coaches with the Ravens.
The Bills also have said they would like to keep Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator and pair him with the best head coach possible. Ryan already has spoken to Schwartz about staying as Buffalo's defensive coordinator, a league source told ESPN. But Schwartz runs a 4-3 defensive scheme with a wide-9 front -- used consistently this year only by the Bills and Lions, according to a source -- while Ryan prefers a hybrid 3-4 scheme.
Somewhat surprisingly, Ryan stays in the AFC East. He inherits a great defense and a suspect offense with major QB issues. Roman's offense was somewhat disappointing given the weapons in San Francisco.
Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray hasn’t suffered any setbacks with his surgically-repaired left hand. The NFL’s rushing leader doesn’t expect to do anything different when he prepares for Sunday’s game in Green Bay. He’ll use the same padded glove he’s used the previous three games.
“It’s been good,” Murray said Thursday. “It’s a lot better than any other injury I’ve had. It’s not bad. I’m blessed.”
“I’ve worn the same thing, because it feels comfortable for me. I haven’t changed anything. I’m not going to change anything now, because it’s working for me.”
Has Murray’s hand been a factor in terms of his workload the last couple of weeks?
“No, it really hasn’t,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said. “If practice is any indicator of how the game is going to get played out, he’s certainly proven that. When he goes to practice he’s catching it, he’s running it, he’s doing everything he needs to do as a back, so I don’t think there’s any hesitancy whatsoever on our part or his part, putting him in there whether it’s protection or whether it’s in the passing game as a receiver, or we’re just running the ball.”
Murray saw 22 touches against the Lions in the Wild Card round, which accounted for 55 percent of his team's touches. On the season, he has handled 53.7 percent of the Cowboys' total touches. Even though his raw touches were down against Detroit, that was more about the opponent than how OC Scott Linehan was calling the game. Expect another big workload against Green Bay this week.
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers returned to the practice field for the first time since re-injuring his calf on Dec. 28 against Detroit, and during the team’s 11-on-11 work on Thursday, he took 50 to 60 percent of the snaps, according to Mike McCarthy.
“Aaron practiced in the team periods. He looked good,” McCarthy said. “He went down and did everything we asked him to do today. It’s always a better practice when he’s out there.”
The 50-60 percent was the target McCarthy set for Rodgers. He was officially listed as limited on the injury report.
According to Adam Schefter, Rodgers is dealing with a "slight tear" in addition to a "significant strain" in his calf. While it is worrisome that Rodgers hasn't practiced until today, he should be able to play at a high level against the Cowboys since he finished the game against the Lions and has 10 days of treatment and rest for his sore calf.
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Suh "unnecessarily stepped on [the] opponent's unprotected leg as he lay on the ground unable to protect himself," according to a statement released by the NFL.
Lions center Dominic Raiola, who himself returned from a one-game suspension Monday, defended Suh's actions.
"He was getting pushed back, you know," Raiola said. "... There's no way at that point in the game that he did something like that on purpose."
Lions safety James Ihedigbo said missing Suh will create a large void on defense.
"I don't know if you can put it into words," Ihedigbo said. "He's a dominant force in our defense. He's kind of the key centerpiece. We have faith in guys that can step up and fill that void and do the best job they can to get this win and help us out.
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Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle, probable) took full practice reps on Friday after being limited earlier in the week and is probable for Week 17. Megatron won’t miss a showdown with Green Bay for the NFC North title.
Packers beat writer Rob Demovsky on the team's willingness to stick with the run against the Lions:
Coach Mike McCarthy isn't going to bang his head against the wall and run, run, run if it's not working. If you think that means he's too quick to abandon the running game, then so be it. So it probably will depend on how Eddie Lacy fares early. If Lacy can rip off a few good runs in the first couple of series, like he has done of late, McCarthy might be more inclined to go back to it later. But here's one thing to look for: If Aaron Rodgers ends up throwing a bunch of dump-off passes or screens, it's probably a sign they don't think they can run the ball, so they'll use the short passing game to simulate the run. There's no shame in admitting you can't run the ball against the Lions. Who has this season?
Lacy has proven that he has the ability to make plays in the passing game, so his owners shouldn't bench him due to an unfavorable matchup. Just don't expect a 100-yard day against a great Lions rush defense that is yielding just 63.8 yards on the ground.
Jason Garrett said Monday that he had no plans of sitting key players Sunday against Washington.
With the Cowboys having already secured the NFC East title, it’s unlikely that a win over Washington will do much in terms of playoff seeding.
The Cowboys will likely host the loser of Sunday’s game between Green Bay and Detroit.
But Jerry Jones is on the same page as the team’s head coach.
“I feel strongly about going all out against the Redskins,” the Cowboys owner and general manager said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “There’s several reasons, but No. 1, I think there’s a bigger concern about losing your edge than there is ever about some of those other issues that are involved. There will be opportunities enough as the game goes along to see if anybody needs to be resting. But we need that win. We could really need it. It could really make a difference. And, so, that’s that.”
Hard to imagine there's any chance Rodgers misses this contest, a game with the Lions at home that will determine the NFC North Division.
Lacy left the game in Week 16 after piling up a TD and 99 rushing yards. It appears he'll be good to go in a tough matchup against the Lions at home that will determine the NFC North winner. Lacy is shaping up to get a full workload.
In yet another surprise twist in a season full of unpredictability, the Bears announced Monday afternoon that Cutler would start their regular-season finale Sunday against the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The move came in concert with the team’s announcement that Jimmy Clausen has been ruled out for the finale after being diagnosed with a concussion.
Clausen took a vicious helmet-to-helmet shot from Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah on the Bears’ final drive of Sunday’s 20-14 loss at Soldier Field. And while Clausen remained on the field for four more plays – three incompletions and a loss-sealing interception – the Bears said in a news release Monday that the 27-year-old experienced delayed symptoms as a result of the collision.
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