Friday, January 2, 2015, 5:04pm
Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart returned to practice Wednesday and having the day off on Tuesday, and he’s expected to start and get the majority of carries when the Panthers face the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday in the wild-card playoff game.
There’s been discussion on how the Panthers would split the carries between the red-hot Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, who’s recovering from a broken bone in his hand. Stewart didn’t seem concerned about that Wednesday.
“Whatever the offensive coordinator (decides) and whatever the plan is for the game, that’s how we run things,” Stewart said. “You just do your part and just worry about that.”
Stewart was the #10 fantasy running back from Week 13 to Week 17, and averaged 5.3 yards per carry in that span. Williams has been out for a while and averaged just 3.5 YPC on 62 carries this season.
It's not a good sign that Green isn't practicing today, though (for what it's worth) beat writer Coley Harvey said that he thinks he'll be cleared by Sunday. If Green can't play, then Mohamed Sanu should be a nice start. He averaged 5.5 catches for 96 yards and 0.5 TD in the four games that Green missed this season. He also posted a 3-84-1 in a game against Atlanta in which Green only played 7 percent of the snaps.
Cardinals HC Bruce Arians confirmed what seemed like was coming all week as quarterback Drew Stanton couldn’t practice with a bad knee: Stanton will not be able to play Saturday against the Panthers, and Ryan Lindley will start. Stanton always seemed like a longshot to go anyway as the week went on.
This is why the Panthers are our top-ranked defense this week.
Larry Fitzgerald does not expect to be back with the Cardinals next season, a source familiar with the situation told FOX Sports Arizona on Wednesday. That could make Saturday's wild-card playoff game in Charlotte, N.C., the final game of the Valley icon's Arizona career.
Last week, general manager Steve Keim confirmed a Pro Football Talk report that the Cardinals had no plans to cut Fitzgerald despite an unworkable $23.6 million cap number next season, which would account for about 17 percent of the projected $141 million salary cap.
"I don't think it's any secret that we've said all along it's our intent to have Larry Fitzgerald retire a Cardinal," Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "I don't want to get into it too deep, but with planning purposes, financially, from a cap standpoint, all those sorts of things, we have Larry's number already baked into our numbers."
"We've had ongoing talks with (Fitzgerald's agent) Eugene Parker, and we will continue to have ongoing talks," Keim added. "Even though it's still not 2015, it's my job to look at 2015, '16, '17 and years beyond, and we have to make good business decisions."
Fitzgerald's numbers don't justify his massive contract, but maybe the two sides can work out a deal that can keep him in Arizona for a while longer.
Harris had just nine carries for 16 yards in five regular-season games, but the 5-11, 210-pounder ripped off a 59-yard run last Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"Josh is ready," said Bell, who did some light running and rode a stationary bike on Wednesday. "I’ve been watching him all year and I know what he’s capable of. You got a little glimpse of him (in) the Bengals game. He’s explosive. He knows all of his assignments. He’s not out there thinking any more. He’s just playing football. He’s only going to get better."
The Ravens are tough to run on, so we have Harris projected for about 74 yards on 18.7 touches.
Bengals Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green returned to practice Thursday morning in a limited capacity, but he remains under concussion protocol.
According to a Bengals official, Green still has to see a neuropsychologist and an independent neurologist before Sunday afternoon's wild-card-round playoff game at Indianapolis. Once he clears evaluations from both, he'll move beyond the protocol and will be allowed to play.
He will see the neuropsychologist Friday and the neurologist Saturday.
It sounds as if Green is on track to play, though he still has a few hurdles to clear.
All involved with the Giants are breathlessly awaiting the pairing of Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz as 2015 targets for Eli Manning, but general manager Jerry Reese has sounded the alarm that he cannot unequivocally count on vintage Cruz next season.
“You’ve got to prepare as if, ‘What if Victor Cruz doesn’t come back?’ ’’ Reese said Tuesday. “If you are a personnel guy, or a general manager, that is always in the back of your head. What if this guy doesn’t come back and be the player that we think he is?’’
Cruz had surgery to repair a torn patella tendon in his right knee suffered Oct. 12 in Philadelphia and the estimated recovery time was put at nine months. Cruz has vowed to return to his past form, but Reese spoke of him in a tone similar to the one Reese took a year ago when running back David Wilson was dealing with a neck injury that ultimately forced him to retire.
If quarterback Drew Stanton wants to play in Arizona's Wild Card game Saturday at Carolina, he has to practice at least one day this week, coach Bruce Arians said.
That’s it. Just one. It doesn’t matter if it happened Tuesday or comes Wednesday or Thursday. That's all Arians wants to see from Stanton before he hands him the ball against the Panthers.
But time is running out on Stanton. He wasn’t on the field during the part of Arizona’s practice Tuesday open to the media. Since an injury report wasn’t required to be distributed, it's unknown if he participated after practice was closed. Arians said there wasn’t a change in Stanton’s status, meaning Stanton continues to recover from a right knee injury suffered against the St. Louis Rams in Week 15.
The Cardinals will go through a walk-through in Charlotte on Friday, but Stanton would need to go through a full practice in order for Arians to consider playing him. Arizona changed their travel plans to fly to Charlotte on Thursday instead of Friday, as was initially scheduled.
Panthers HC Ron Rivera was coy about the running back rotation before the Week 17 win at Atlanta, as well. DeAngelo Williams was listed as probable, but was held out for the fourth straight game with a broken bone in his right hand.
Jonathan Stewart has rushed for 486 yards over the past five games, beginning with the Nov. 30 loss at Minnesota when Williams was hurt. Rivera said he didn't want Williams to aggravate the injury against the Falcons last week.
"I decided we're in a good spot right now," Rivera said. "We've got guys that are 100 percent healthy, and why expose an injury that's something as simple as a nick that could turn into something worse?"
Williams played in only six regular-season games, while a healthy Stewart had his best season since 2009. But Rivera said he's not worried about disrupting the offensive chemistry by working Williams back in the rotation. "No, he's part of our chemistry," Rivera said, according to the story. But Stewart has excelled as the lead back without Williams around, so it remains to be seen if Rivera reverts back to both RBs. It's not a friendly matchup against the Cards, which could tempt Rivera to change things up.
Robert Griffin III did not do enough to warrant heading into the offseason with the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback job. You can say the same thing about Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy as well. Which is why head coach Jay Gruden said in his season-ending press conference that, as of now, there’s a competition for the starting job.
That’s how it should be given the lack of success by all three passers.
“I’d like to pick one as soon as I could so we could try to work and grind on him and develop him,” Gruden said. “But until that position is earned, you have to have a competition. I anticipate us having a competition at a lot of spots, and quarterback is no different next year.”
The big disappointment is that Griffin did not emerge as the starter considering what the Redskins surrendered for him. Also, the expectation was that he’d improve given a full offseason and one year further removed from his knee surgery. Dislocating his left ankle and missing five games did not help. But even before the injury, there were concerns among the coaching staff about his (lack of) development, the story said. It would also seem to mean Cousins will stick around for a bit. He recently said he wanted to be traded if there wasn't at least a competition for the starting QB job.
They aren’t going to hand him the starting job, however. On Tuesday, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, via Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that the team wants to have Bradford compete for the starting job with a player “not in the building now” this offseason.
It’s not clear whether Shaun Hill and/or Austin Davis, the two quarterbacks who started after Bradford’s injury, would also be invited to take part, the story mentioned. Bradford also spoke to the media and said that he thought about giving up the game immediately after suffering the second tear, but has gotten back on the rehab track. He’s running and said that he has no issues with the Rams making any moves at quarterback, the story added.
Rodgers said Tuesday on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show that he has been getting treatment on his injured left calf muscle "around the clock" and indicated he may not practice until next week.
"I'm going to want to get some on-the-field reps starting next week when we get into our preparation when we figure out who our opponent is," Rodgers said on his show. "So I'm going to need to be on the field doing that, but it's a significant injury so you can't really say either way what percentage it's going to be in the game. I just don't know. But I hope it's going to be feeling better than it was this weekend."
Because they have the bye and don't play until Jan. 11 in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Packers won't have to file an official injury report until next week, so there's a good chance they will be vague about Rodgers' participation in practice on Friday and Saturday.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer made that clear, as part of his season-ending press conference Tuesday at the team's practice facility. Zimmer said the team was fortunate to learn as much as it did about Bridgewater, and his improvement throughout the year should be a sign of encouragement. Zimmer was asked if he'd talked to veteran Matt Cassel, who has one year remaining on his contract, about the possibility of taking a backup role.
He said that he hadn't, and then he gave the rookie his endorsement.
"Teddy is the quarterback, there's no doubt in my mind," Zimmer said.
Bridgewater finished with the third-highest completion percentage for a rookie quarterback, surpassing Russell Wilson's strong 2012 rookie season. Bridgewater also finished 10th in the NFL in deep-pass accuracy. And more than 75 percent of his passes found their target when he was under pressure this season, the best rate in the league. Bridgewater will be on the QB2 radar when 2015 drafts come around.
Ndamukong Suh won his appeal; now allowed to play vs. Dallas.